Whatever their political views, most people would regard the two stories below as somewhat cynical double standards by the Daily Mail.
In 2015, the then Labour leader Ed Miliband put forward a manifesto pledge to force developers to use land they were hoarding and build new houses. In 2018, Theresa May put forward the same idea for same reason, to ease the housing crisis.
This is how the Daily Mail handled the same story when put forward by a party they oppose and then by a party they support.
It doesn’t require much analysis to root out the double standards, but it we get past the extreme nature of the two approaches, we can see a technique that is used all the time when writing articles.
And while we wouldn’t advocate suchcyn ical swings in attitude, there are lessons on how law firms can target different sectors when promoting services to clients.
Let’s take a look at another example that’s a little closer to home for solicitors.
The Daily Telegraph recently carried a story about a large rise in the number of people making claims to employment tibunals. How would you imagine such a story would be written?
Well, a simple, factual approach might be something like: There has been an increase in the number of employment tribunal claims …
That’s the sort of dry approach taken by the Employment Tribunal Service itself in its press release. It’s a bit boring though. How could it be spiced up?
Here’s how the Telegraph approached it:
Bonanza for lawyers in tribunal cases
Rocketing employment tribunal numbers prove a windfall for lawyers but bad news for employers who feel compelled to settle out of court whatever the merits of the claim.
Another line says: ‘Claimants are said to be opting for legal representation to improve their chances of winning bigger awards …’. the implication being that there’s something unfair about hiring a lawyer to protect your interests.
The article continues in that vein of the poor oppressed employer, greedy worker and even greedier lawyers who are ‘benefiting from a big increase in business’.
It’s not for me to speculate about the Telegraph’s agenda but clearly they didn’t think the bare facts of the story were sufficient to grab the reader’s attention.
Their response, as will always be the case with the media, was to find an angle that would appeal. In this case, they focused on bonanza time for lawyers. On another day or if another one of their staff had written the story, they might have concentrated more on the claimants themselves – along the lines of whether they are playing the system with bogus claims.
They could find any one of a dozen different angles but they will all have one thing in common – they will try to inspire an emotional reaction. It could be anything from anger to aspiration but it will always be there because emotion engages people and makes them want to read on.
As a solicitor, you might want to bear this in mind when writing blog posts or website articles to market your firm?
Let me say straightaway that we’re not advocating any distortion or twisting of the facts here. I’m just pointing out that in most major legal developments there are numerous themes to be explored. It makes sense that you should concentrate on the theme that matters most to you and reflects the legal services you offer.
For example, if you are an employment lawyer who specialises in representing claimants then the tribunal statistics offer you a good marketing opportunity. Your angle might be along the lines of: ‘More and more people are seeking legal advice when threatened with redundancy or unfair treatment at work’.
This puts the concept of seeking legal advice in people’s minds. It offers them the comfort of knowing that lots of other emplyees are consulting solicitors so why shouldn’t they? Your article could go on to quote the figures and then discuss the benefits of consulting a specialist solicitor when faced with a problem at work. A solicitor will increase their chances of getting a better settlement – and so on.
The emotions being aroused include reassurance that approaching a solicitor is the right thing to do and the aspiration that getting legal advice means a better pay-out.
Of course, if you specialise in representing employers then you may take a different angle and inspire different emotions. You could try something like: ‘Employers need to protect themselves against the increasing threat of costly tribunal claims.’
This time, instead of the employee’s aspiration to win a big settlement, you evoke the employer’s dread of having to pay out money he can scarcely afford at a time when his business may already be struggling.
You can explain how you can help him put employment policies in place to reduce the risk of costly claims.
Whatever angle you take, the facts remain the same and they aren’t distorted in any way. They’re just approached from different points of view depending on the kind of client you are targeting.
This approach can be applied to any article and make your writing much more effective when marketing your legal services.
This is an updated version on an article that first appeared in the Law Gazette.