MakovskyMonday, May 12, 2014
Aggressive communications and public relations is a new concept for many of the more established law firms in the U.S. Not long ago, the largest, most respected law firms could count on a steady stream of new and sustained business by referral – picking and choosing the work that best fit their partners and brand identity.
Now, in the wake of the Great Recession and a new realty evidenced by the collapse of firms with more than 1,000 attorneys, the approach to business development and communications has changed dramatically. According to a recent article in The New Republic, the “Golden Age” of law firms in America is over, and attorneys now face increased headwinds in terms of corporate budget cuts, outsourcing, legal software and unprecedented competition.
For law firms that previously had to make hard choices on what clients to accept, switching to a proactive marketing communications model can be a difficult transition. Here are some important steps to take to fortify your business development and thought leadership program for your law firm to beat out the competition:
Reputational Audit – Before you increase your firm’s exposure, take stock of threats or misperceptions that exist to partner and firm reputation.
Intellectual Capital Assessment and Strategy – Many law firms are sitting on a wealth of intellectual capital that can be repurposed as insightful marketing materials. Speeches, presentations, white papers, articles, transcripts and correspondence can and should be mined for opportunities to project your firm’s value proposition. Social media channels offer an ideal way to communicate this thought leadership as well as enhance employee communications. Unfortunately, recent studies point to a lack of planning and ineffective content marketing strategies at U.S. law firms despite the abundance of intellectual capital. This element of a law firm’s communications and PR program may be the most critical.
Social Media Analytics – Even if your firm is not actively participating in social media, other stakeholders and influencers may be contributing to an active conversation about your firm on Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and other channels. See who is driving the social conversation about you and issues central to your firm’s prosperity. Determine the tone of the discourse and take control of your digital profile. Even if your firm has been active with social media for quite some time, this process reinvigorates communications programs and keeps them highly efficient. Don’t forget to conduct the same analytics on you major competitors by practice to determine the opportunities and threats. Avoid firms that offer a cookie cutter approach or templates. This is custom work and needs an analytics pro to review and analyze the data.
Brand Narrative – Another essential step is to actually determine your firm’s specific brand promise (which may have changed recently) and promote it through your marketing and communications program. What differentiates you from the competition, how have you solved your client’s biggest issues, what is your track record, and what are the emerging issues should concern your clients? Probably the most powerful answers to these questions will come from your clients, the account you did not win or a past client.
– Mike Goodwin