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Bar News - April 15, 2011

Leadership Academy, Class of 2011: Speaking Up, Speaking Out: Media Relations, Legislative Process

Tips for More Effective Media Relations

NH Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin and James Moir of Moir & Rabinowitz offered the following tips in a panel discussion moderated by Sheila Burnham of Tower & Crocker in Jaffrey, a member of the Leadership Academy Steering Committee.

1. Always respond to press inquiries. Stressing the difference between "responding" and "talking" to the press, Jeffrey Strelzin says itís vital to maintain open channels with members of the press. Even if you have no comment, respond to the inquiry to let them know that you have no comment.

2. Have a sound bite ready. Criminal defense attorney James Moir says that reporters generally use only a small piece of what is said during an interview. If you can boil down your points into a couple of distinct sound bites, he says, itís easier to convey your message accurately.

3. Make interactions educational. Most of the time, Strelzin says, reporters are just trying to understand how the legal system works. Providing explanations of court process rather than giving details of a specific aspect of a case can help build rapport and help to make coverage more accurate.

4. Use reporters as resources. If a reporter is covering a trial and asking you questions, ask some of your own. Ask reporters what they thought of a witness or what they think are the strengths of the case. You will benefit from an outsiderís perspective and you will enhance your relationship with reporters by asking their opinion.

5. Take your time, but not too much time. When you return a call, ask the reporter what they want to know, and when they need to know it. Even if they are on an immediate deadline, you donít have to always give them an immediate answer. Tell them you will get back to them, take five minutes to think about your answer, and call them back. If you promise to call them back, ALWAYS call them back.

The NH Barís inaugural Leadership Academy (LA) program featured sessions on media relations/social media, and the legislative process last month.

Meanwhile, participants continued to work in teams on service projects to be unveiled at the NH Bar Foundation Annual Dinner on May 5.

Media Relations/Social Media Module

Active participation and interaction spiced up presentations by leading figures in the legal community and the news media in the March 18 media program, which had been postponed from January due to a snowstorm. The LA participants were primed by homework assignments that required them to interview local members of the news media in their communities.

Criminal prosecutor Jeffrey Strelzin, on a furlough day from the highly publicized Christopher Gribble trial, and James Moir, an experienced criminal defense attorney, provided insights into working with the media in high-profile trials. (See sidebar for media relations tips.) A second panel, featuring Felice Belman, editor of the Concord Monitor; and Kevin Flynn, a former WMUR reporter, who is now author of two books, and is communications director of the NH Community Development Finance Authority, provided insights into how to work effectively with the media to promote an event or cause.

The session concluded with a presentation by Shelagh Michaud, at CullenCollimore on ethical traps and challenges posed by social media participation.

Legislative Module

On March 25, LA participants met with Bar members who have served in the legislature. Sen. Matthew Houde, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and associate director of career services at Vermont Law School, and David L. Nixon, a member of the NH House and a Manchester attorney, served on a legislatorsí panel with Judge Edward M. "Ned" Gordon, justice of the Franklin District Court and a former senator and representative.

The lawmakers and Judge Gordon talked about differences between the two chambers, the current legislative session, and offered pointers on how to effectively interact with legislators.

The legislative module was

Far right: Legislative panel includes Kevin Collimore, moderator; Sen. Matthew Houde, Judge Edward M. Gordon (former legislator), and NH Rep. David Nixon (also once was NH Senate President).
highlighted by a mock legislative session, presided over by Bonnie Packard, who served seven terms in the NH House, including tenure as Chair of the House Commerce Committee. Packard, now director of government relations for the Orr & Reno law firm, discussed legislative protocol and offered advice on making presentations to legislative committees. LA participants served roles as committee members and as witnesses taking positions in support and opposition to HB 609, which the Leadership Academy members had studied in advance.

Two members of the Leadership Steering Committee, Joshua Pantesco, an associate at Orr & Reno and Kevin Collimore, of CullenCollimore, developed the session.

Scenes from Leader Academy Sessions

The NH Barís inaugural Leadership Academy program featured two sessions in February. The first, on media relations/social media, taught participants how to work with the press effectively. The second covered the legislative process and featured member-legislators past and present.

Adam Hescock reviews notes.

 Lisa Wolford at  the media relations session.

Steering Committee co-chair Richard Uchida briefs participants.

NHLAP: A confidential Independent Resource

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