If savvy banking and finance legal commentators were to name the most important thing for when they talk or write for the media, what would that be? As a legal PR specialist, I work with a lot of excellent public speakers in the sector, and I have seen many times how well they can adjust their narrative and language to suit their readers. This, I believe, is the key: to know the readers’ interests and the level of detail they expect to get.
Different publications are made for different audiences. It is up to the commentator to know how to adopt the lexicon of the publication they are commenting in. For example, Financial Times has done a great job of making the most complex financial topics more digestible for non-specialists. Therefore, when commenting to the FT, banking and finance lawyers will need to use fewer technical details and no legal jargon when explaining the importance and relevance of the subject to a wider business audience. Many experienced legal commentators know how difficult it can be to get outside of their comfort zone and away from the default professional talk. This is crucial, however, when they try to explain complex banking and finance topics in simpler terms. Their ability to succeed in this makes a good public speaker.
There will be a slightly different challenge when commenting to specialist publications. Instead of simplifying the comment, banking and finance lawyers will need to make it more relevant to the professional readership. For example, Debtwire and Creditflux speak about leveraged finance and securitization the way specialists feel particularly comfortable with. Indeed, readers turn to these titles, among other trade publications, for in-depth information far beyond what they can get from many other media sources. Therefore, legal commentary will need to be very technical as it will cover breaking news and developments in credit investment markets and corporate debt.
There are other trade publications whose language is purposefully complex, but the narrative will be different from the ones above. Legal commentators will be considering the interests of the readers who resort to these titles. For example, Global Risk Regulator and Risk.net, though very different editorially, both talk about regulation and supervision of international financial markets and institutions. With this, they address a global audience of bankers, asset managers, insurers and other financial sector professionals. What they expect from legal commentary will still be different not only in content, but also in the level of complexity of the language they will prefer their commentators to speak.
Thompson Reuters Regulatory Intelligence and inCOMPLIANCE that target compliance professionals in the financial services market are also interested in news and developments around regulation. However, in contrast to the above, the way they expect their experts to discuss those stories will differ. Legal jargon will not be welcome here either though.
How can an aspiring legal commentator learn what to say to different publications? There is no better way to get to know ‘your’ media than to read or at least flick through them regularly. How do you choose which publication to read? The easiest way is to ask your PR team. Another is to query the client. Given their sector, the type of project you are doing together and their work objectives, what do they read to learn about the developments? This is how many legal PR specialists who work with varied sector and practice teams know the most widely read titles within those specialist fields.
Another way for lawyers to get familiar with a larger number of relevant titles is to seek commentary opportunities in a wider variety of specialist publications. When securing a pertinent commission with a new publication, a PR specialist will guide their speaker or writer on the expectations of the editor and the readers. Apart from the brief on the story and its angle, the media relations consultant will give details about the publication. This will include the title’s editorial positioning, the variety of topics it covers, its readership, and the level of complexity its readers expect.
It is easy for lawyers, when commenting, to default to the language they are used to, just because they are exposed to a lot of professional documents with a certain structure and wording. But media demand something entirely different – and each title has its own expectations. This is why it is extremely beneficial to read sector specific articles in media outlets that lawyers want their names to appear in. There are many specialist publications that report for and about the financial sector. Each will have its own editorial focus and distinct ‘voice’. Banking and finance lawyers will just need to get familiar with their requirements to provide a meaningful and impactful commentary.