Steal This Idea: Spotlight On Service

Melissa Higgins

Iowa State Bar Association


Looking to kill two birds with one stone: easy publication content, and the chance to make your members feel appreciated? About a year ago, the Public Relations Committee of The Iowa State Bar Association came up with an idea to spotlight the good work Iowa attorneys are doing OUTSIDE the profession of law with a new monthly feature in The Iowa Lawyer magazine called “Spotlight on Service.” It’s a mini-article, typically with an accompanying photo collage, about an attorney or group of attorneys doing charity or non-profit work in their communities.

Logistics: It’s easy!

Our P.R. Committee meets telephonically monthly, and Spotlight on Service nominations are a standing issue on the agenda. Usually a couple names pop up during the meeting every month, and I keep a running list. I’ll follow up with the nominator for details and contact info of the individual or group he or she is nominating. Then I’ll shoot an email to that person asking for his/her blessing to be featured and requesting a “resume” of charitable outreach. I also ask for a couple of quotes about his/her most meaningful volunteer endeavor (as well as photos), and perspective on why attorneys should be more involved in their communities. I weave that info into a 400-some word story and call it good.

 It has been easy getting names, easy getting people to agree and easy whipping out the stories very quickly. It’s our newest regular “column” in the magazine, and has been a very popular one. The people featured always feel extremely appreciative and typically “pay it forward” by nominating somebody else. So, the recognition pipeline is never-ending!

This also gives the P.R. Committee something else to hang its hat on. We’ve discussed the idea of creating an annual “Spotlight on Service” P.R. Committee award that would go to an ISBA member that the committee would select from our years’ worth of magazine-featured nominees. That person would be honored during our ISBA Annual Meeting, and I would send out a media release to the person’s hometown in hopes he or she would get some recognition there too.

Unexpected benefit: A very sharable piece of digital content!

We post most every article that runs in our magazine to our social media channels, and the Spotlight on Service column has quickly become one of the most shared items. Lawyers like reading stories about other lawyers. And, of course, the attorney(s) featured always share it on their personal and firm pages, so the digital reach grows exponentially once family, friends and colleagues start sharing it.