Leveraging Your Reputation: PR 2.011

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 tc@tcpr.net.

We started with Public Relations 1.0, the basics of PR and traditional, off-line methods for getting attention for your brand. Then we moved to Public Relations 2.0, when social media and an online-focus took over the scene. Now we come to Public Relations 2.011, a time of endless possibilities (and predictions) for PR in 2011 and beyond.

The legal public relations industry is definitely seeing its fair share of forecasts. Formal press releases have seemingly disappeared while social networks and real-time updates have become commonplace for law firms’ strategic-marketing plans. Consider these suggestions for your own legal marketing plan as we move into another decade.

Meeting the Man — or Woman — Behind the (Social) Media

Arranging meetings between attorneys and newspaper reporters or television news producers is not out-of-the-ordinary in this business. In fact, we very much encourage these meetings and try to make them happen as often as possible to establish relationships between reporters and informed and personable legal sources (you). But what about those reporters who only use social media platforms, such as legal bloggers? Because they are social media-centric, is face-time off the table? Not at all. There is a human attached to those typing fingers, and that blogger still needs quality sources, fresh content and new ideas. Think about the media in your social network. Identify the ones in the same city as you and reach out to suggest a face-to-face meeting.

Renewing the Focus on Crisis Communications and Reputation Management

YouTube videos can tally millions of views within hours of being uploaded, while one tweet from Rhode Island can be re-tweeted across all 50 states in less than 15 minutes. Now that the speed at which information is shared tops the speedometer, attorneys and law firms must be ever mindful of potential crises and their online and offline reputation. Especially with the emergence of Wikileaks this past year and a public demand for freedom of information, attorneys should be mindful of their legal documents and what to share with or guard from the public. A firm’s public relations professionals must be strategic counselors to determine what can go right and wrong in a matter of minutes, and become skilled at expecting the unexpected. Have a plan in place and you’ll be ahead in the race.

Taking the Daily or Weekly Temperature of Media Exposure

I’ve seen many firms who do not place much importance on the specific value of the exposure they receive. Rather, they only care that exposure WAS received. But no public relations effort can be valuable unless it can be measured. There’s a big difference between “warm” and “room temperature,” so make sure you measure your media to get hot – it can increase your firm’s website hits and even client count. Law firms and attorneys should expect their PR agencies to measure the value of all placements achieved and report the results each week. But first of all, it is important to determine the types of results that matter most to your firm—whether it is website visitors, Twitter followers, blog comments, LinkedIn connections, stories in print media or clients gained. Doing so early on makes it easier to assess the true value of your media exposure. And the forecast for 2011 – hot, hot, hot!

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