Leveraging Your Reputation: What’s the value of public relations?

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 midsize 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

Law firms value public relations differently and success is measured in different ways.  Some PR professionals evaluate their success through ad rate equivalency, the number of LinkedIn connections, website hits, referrals, followers on Twitter and more. But the best way to assess value is in the hearts of attorneys.

When attorneys invest in public relations, they should ask themselves these types of questions:

  1. What will the attorney invest? When an attorney’s phone does not ring with potential clients, public relations and marketing staff inside law firms can end up losing their jobs. However, sometimes attorneys drop the ball by not following up on leads or not making an effort to mingle at conferences. Even if the PR person reminds them to act, or sets up important connections, the attorney has to buy into the process. So they have to work with the PR professional to make the relationship worthwhile.
  2. Where does it fit into the business development plan? A marketing strategy is important whether an attorney ends up being quoted in the New York Times, appears on a TV show, or speaks at a convention. If the plan includes five speaking engagements a year, which eventually yields hundreds of thousands of dollars of new business, then the work that the PR person did might justify their salary.
  3. Will PR people be used tactically or strategically? Some attorneys consider their internal public relations and marketing staff as part of their administrative staff. They might just have them order business cards, update their websites, or write press releases to post online. For those tasks, it would be better to hire an English major who knows basic HTML. However, when a law firm sees their internal marketing people as part of a business development strategy, they can be included in managing partner meetings to decide how to best bring in new business. When they are operating at such a level, then they would be paid more as well.

Overall, it’s important for attorneys to know what they want, and to find the people who are worth hiring to get the value that is desired.

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