Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and mid-sized law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A public relations plan executed properly can propel your firm to the peak of prosperity (how’s that for alliteration?). The communications industry has been around for a long time, although its true value is not always realized. In addition to managing your firm’s reputation and highlighting your cases in the media, the goal of public relations is to ultimately increase your firm’s business. And it is possible.
Of course getting situated online is no longer an option— the current age demands it. Why? Because it’s where your current and potential clients are. Expanding your online presence takes time to make connections, build a following and capitalize on strong new business leads. It won’t happen overnight, but the leads are out there. Think about all the platforms available that you can be a part of: the World Wide Web as a whole through your firm’s website with a clear picture of who you are, what you do and why you do it; a Twitter account to highlight media coverage, give real-time updates of cases, and provide links to other pages that demonstrate your expertise; Facebook to personally connect with firm “fans;” and LinkedIn to associate and connect with peers and prospects and further establish professional relationships (even ask for referrals). Also consider Flickr to share photos of firm personalities and events or Wikipedia to create a landing page of information on your firm on a third-party site.
Business does not happen in a vacuum; you need to know the answers to many different questions. What are your competitors doing? How do clients view your firm? What’s happening in your firm’s industry? What’s going to happen in your firm’s industry? What are the leading media outlets in the legal industry and your practice areas? The answers to these questions are invaluable to you as you then use them to develop public relations tactics. Laying this foundation is necessary to help you develop the right messages to reach the right audiences and ultimately, reach your firm’s objectives.
Getting in front.
Complacency is the enemy of firm growth, so don’t settle for being average—get out in front of the pack. Keeping an eye on breaking industry news will help you stay in front and be one of the first to comment as an expert or thought-leader. Participate in legal industry events, either by attending or by being the featured speaker. Often times programs are planned a year in advance so remember, if you want to stay ahead, you have to think ahead. Capitalizing on these opportunities will build your reputation as an expert, give you and your firm exposure and connect you with potential clients.