This is the first in an occasional series on “media awareness” for paralegals. From time to time, I will explain some aspect of news media, so that paralegals who may not be familiar with the media landscape can gain a better understanding.
“Consider the source.” This is a good idea with anything you read. But it can be easier said than done, especially with online media that are not always blatant about their funding, their motives and their purpose.
You may find yourself wondering, “Who wrote this, and why?” That is a good starting point.
Public Relations Company
A service such as The Advocate Daily offers those who can afford it, a way to control their online image. All content is paid content, sort of like a “vanity press.” These services do not cover events, do not report on issues, do not generate articles and are not accredited as independent media. That’s not their purpose.
Such services provide members with customized, fee-based articles and video content. Only paid members can contribute articles. These are featured on the site, after the client approves the final product. Content created and promoted by a publicity firm includes media releases and suggested story ideas for actual news outlets.
So, from an image-control standpoint, if a licensee wants to carefully control what is said about them and their business, a paid service such as the Advocate Daily is the way to go.
Legitimate Media Outlet
If a licensee is more interested in providing information to an impartial media, letting their record and comments stand for themselves, then a real news publication is the choice.
A desire to ensure that impartial news is available to the profession, and to the public we serve, also comes into play. This can determine whether a paralegal chooses to provide comment and background to social media, to a lawyers’ publication, to a privately held public relations firm, to a community news outlet, to a mass-media outlet, or to a paralegal niche publication.
For example, SCOPE is an online magazine that covers all things paralegal, without fear or favour. SCOPE is not supported by any association, organization, corporation, individual or legal firm. Paralegals who contribute to SCOPE with comment, background, articles and advertising, help to make the magazine possible.
Accredited by the Law Society, SCOPE is the only media reporting on paralegal issues at Convocation. SCOPE is the only media that consistently reports on changes to paralegal-related legislation, case law affecting the scope of practice, and significant events at tribunals and adjudicative boards.
Here’s how it works, with professional news media, where impartial reporters and editors rely on old-fashioned reporting and news sense. This is how the majority of SCOPE’s more than 500 articles came to be:
- Attending Convocation and other events, doing research and reading relevant material
- Articles are developed from news releases from provincial ministries and legal organizations
- Paralegals submit or are encouraged to contribute articles and story ideas, working with the editor on focus and content. In exchange, the author gets to promote themselves, their business, or school, with links that appear in the item. Authors can claim CPD Requirement Hours for their writing time
- Reports at CanLII, legal feeds, blogs and legal information sites provide the basis of articles that range from features, to Legal Words of the Day and additions to the extensive resource lists
- Careful analysis and research on a particular topic within the scope of practice; dissecting relevant decisions
- SCOPE reaches out to lawyers and non-licensees who work in related fields, to contribute well-written content on niche areas related to the scope of practice
Content at SCOPE is well-researched, vigorous and focused. It sets, and meets, a high standard. Articles elevate professionalism and encourage access to justice. They demonstrate good writing and news sense.
Anyone who runs a business — whether a lemon-aid stand or a Multi-Discipline Practice — wants to earn an income from the venture. Pro bono and volunteer efforts have their place, but even the non-profits within the paralegal community generate revenue in various ways.
In addition to the ads that run in the right-hand sidebar at each page of SCOPE, I run occasional articles that have been sponsored. These are related to events or products that provide a direct benefit to paralegals. These articles bear the tag line “So-and-so is a proud sponsor of SCOPE,” although I am not obligated to do so.
Sponsors and advertisers know that they are buying an ad or a service; they are not buying me, and they are not buying special treatment.
SCOPE’s Sponsored Election Material
Consider the source, when you hear claims that SCOPE fees have been kept secret, or that only a “select group” of Candidates have access to the service.
The fact is, SCOPE’s election strategy and fees for a unique service have been promoted since last fall. I took the time to consider various ways to handle the election and ensure fairness — to myself, to the Candidates and to the voters. I did not need, nor did I ask for, “permission” from anyone, to take ads.
In an abundance of caution, I ran my election plan by the Law Society and signed an agreement with them in October. I take my oath seriously, so the assurance to ensure civility and professionalism in all election-related content was never difficult.
But I did secure permission to use the LSUC-copyrighted election logo — not just because intellectual property rights are close to my heart, but because it is not lawful to use the logo without permission and credit.
Weekly Q&As are identified as sponsored. The service is available to all Candidates and will continue to be, until March 31. Every Candidate was invited to participate. Whether to use the listing service and Q&A is a decision each Candidate makes for themselves. Ten of the 25 Candidates have used the service; five bencher seats are available.
So, there you have it — the truth about paid publicity, bona fide news sources and sponsored content.
Future Media 101 articles will cover issues such as how to write a news release, how to speak to a reporter, and how to maintain a professional presence in online media.
If there is a particular subject that you want to learn more about, contact me, at:
- Elizabeth LeReverend
Paralegal, Publisher – Paralegal SCOPE Magazine
Paralegal SCOPE Home Page