Category Archives: Tom Ciesielka

Fire up your pictures

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has more than 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 is on the Public Affairs Committee of the Chicago Bar Association, where he has spoken at CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net

I’ve been saying for a while that one way to promote yourself is through photos, and I was reminded of their importance when I saw a fire. Actually, I didn’t see a real fire where I live or work, but I’ve been following the story about a big fire in Bridgeport. Even though we hear about fires throughout Chicago, we might not pay much attention to them, unless they’re part of a case that an attorney is working on or if there is a lot of drama surrounding them.

Since that fire in Bridgeport was in an abandoned building, it didn’t seem like a big deal, but then I saw photos of it popping up on Facebook and other social media. What got people’s attention was the aftermath of the fire. The firemen spent hours in frigid temperatures fighting the blaze, and the water they used ended up freezing so that the building looked beautiful.

At first, stunning photos were posted on the Chicago Tribune website. Then the social news site BuzzFeed posted “amazing photos of [the] beautifully icy aftermath” that were taken by photographers from various media services. After that, news websites around the world posted photos, including the Wall Street Journal. Who would’ve thought that a fire in an area of the city that isn’t visited by many people would become worldwide news?

I often talk about the speed of modern media, and how attorneys have to be ready to respond because the news cycle happens in hours and even minutes. When you have a serious case that is getting a lot of publicity, you might feel pressure to act responsibly so that you don’t get negative press. However, in other parts of your life, such speed could work in your favor. Even if you simply see a really beautiful bird on your vacation, take a picture and post in on your website and in other social media. You don’t need the fancy cameras that professional photographers have; you can just use your phone. After all, you never know where your photo might end up and what attention it can get to help your reputation.

A new year for goals

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has more than 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 is on the Public Affairs Committee of the Chicago Bar Association, where he has spoken at CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

Now that the new year has arrived, it’s time to set promotional goals for you and your firm so that you’ll stay on track throughout the year. Avoid regret later in the year when you realize that you haven’t done anything to promote yourself by starting out with at least one of the following goals below:

1 – Evaluate your website and update your bio. During the past year, you probably had more speaking engagements, new clients and wrote fresh articles and blog posts. Look at your website to see if your information reflects your latest accomplishments, and change it if it seems outdated. Even if you don’t have an appearance or article planned yet, update your bio while you still have time. That way, you won’t have to worry about it when a speaking or writing opportunity comes up. This is advice I’ve followed myself; I recently updated my bio because I realized that my focus had changed, and there were presentation topics I’d covered that were not included in my previous bio.

2 – Decide which social media is right for you. Social media websites and apps are constantly being introduced, so it’s understandable that you might feel overwhelmed by it all. If you feel like you need to change your social media promotional strategy, now is the time to do it, while the year is still fresh. You might find that you can get rid of something or add something new. For instance, if you’ve been advised to create a Twitter account but are having a hard time maintaining it because your LinkedIn discussions are getting more attention and responses than your tweets, delete your Twitter account. Be honest about what’s working for you, and how much time you have; you don’t have to be everywhere online if it isn’t effective.

3 – Create a calendar. I’ve talked about creating a publicity calendar before, and it really works. It keeps you consistent and helps enhance your reputation because you’re implementing your publicity plan throughout the year.

4 – Repurpose. You probably created new content last year. Instead of spending the time to create even more new content this month, look at what you’ve already done and “recycle” it as a blog post, video, or even as an infographic on a social media site. If you’d like to get ideas on how to repurpose an article you’ve written, for instance, see the post I did here about 10 ways to do that.

I’m still in the process of setting my goals for this year, but so far, I feel good that I at least created a promotional calendar, updated my bio, and arranged an article and speaking engagement for later this year. We’re all busy, but it’s still important to set goals, or else our publicity plan will fall by the wayside.

The world and bad publicity didn’t end

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has more than 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 is on the Public Affairs Committee of the Chicago Bar Association, where he has spoken at CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

Dec. 21 is long gone, and the world didn’t end, as the Mayans supposedly predicted. Even though that day is history and people have continued their routines, I still think the topic is interesting, especially when attorneys are involved. I read about one attorney in the article “UFO lovers, light-seekers and lawyers await Maya end of days”, by Alexandra Alper, who got caught up in the hype because she traveled to Mexico from Brazil to see how the world would change on that day. She seemed sincerely inspired and impressed when she saw people meditating around her, and the other participants were excited, too.

I can understand why people would want to go there, especially if they’re younger and want some kind of adventure, but I was surprised an attorney would take the event so seriously. Once her pilgrimage was over and she went back to Brazil, what did her clients and coworkers think? It seems like it would tarnish her professional image, not just for believing what others were calling a “hoax,” but whom she was hanging around with as well. Some people were expecting UFOs there, and others saw this as part of their lifelong quest. Since the attorney was quoted along with the others, it didn’t really add up to good publicity for her. Instead, attorneys should be associated with credible people to have a good public image.

An example of negative associations can be found right here in Chicago with the Drew Peterson trial. His attorneys have publicly battled each other with charges of unethical conduct and mishandling of the case. The most recent incident is calling the police over a threatening email. At this point, with all the media coverage of that case and the attorneys’ problems with each other, their reputation has certainly suffered. When it comes to publicity, a good public image should be the goal, not publicity for publicity’s sake.

It’s important to make sure that your reputation is solid, and if anything is going to be shared publicly about a case or your firm, get approval, and find out if there are any people or situations involved that may cause problems. For instance, if a reporter wants to quote you or someone else at your firm, find out if you are allowed to talk and how much you can divulge about a case. Afterall, you shouldn’t become guilty by association or do something that will make you look bad.

Consider these publicity ‘gifts’

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has about 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 is on the Public Affairs Committee of the Chicago Bar Association, where he has spoken at CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

It’s the time of the year again when people are giving gifts to each other. There are various ways to promote your firm or your own individual practice through gifts that you buy, but you can also give people other types of “gifts” that could also help your reputation. Here are two ways you can do that:

Tips. Set aside some time today to think of ways you can help your clients and even other attorneys by creating a tip sheet. One example of a tip sheet that would be very helpful would include some legal tips for starting up a business. Many people have no idea what the legal ramifications are of various decisions they’ll have to make, and your tip sheet could prevent a lot of headaches and court dates. Another tip sheet could be about zoning issues in your community. Some towns change the rules, but the residents aren’t aware of the changes or what the legal expectations are. If your specialty is technology, you can create a tip sheet about effective legal disclaimers for websites. The possibilities are endless; all you have to do is think about your area of expertise and come up with a simple list that will help people. It will also help you to clarify what you want to focus on so that you can craft effective promotional messages in other areas of your publicity plan.

Packages. If you’ve already written blog posts or articles, or if you’ve created video or audio pieces, then package them up and offer them for free. For instance, if you’ve done articles on copyright law, put them together in a PDF that you can send to people or post it on your website for people to download. If you’ve done videos, put them together in one section of your website or on YouTube or Vimeo and send the link out to your social networks. Compilations are a great way to stay in touch with people and make it easier for them to get all the information they want in one place.

Whatever you do to help others and share your expertise will help your reputation and strengthen your professional network as well.

What can attorneys learn from cremation?

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has more than 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 is on the Public Affairs Committee of the Chicago Bar Association, where he has spoken at CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

Sometimes when we’re doing publicity, we might be afraid to mention the unmentionable – like death. It makes us squeamish and fearful. And cremation doesn’t fare any better. After all, how many times have you heard the word and thought, “What a great promotional opportunity?”

Yet that’s what the Cremation Society of Illinois did by hosting an open house and inviting Barbara Brotman from the Chicago Tribuneto do a story about it called “Crematorium holds open house to demystify process.” When I saw it, I was thrilled; not because it’s such a positive, feel-good topic, but because it’s a great way for attorneys to learn about dealing with unsavory topics when they need to deal with the media.

Attorneys are often afraid to talk about problems that they’re having with a case, so they’re tempted to say “no comment” to keep themselves and their clients safe. Even though attorneys don’t intend to sound dishonest, such a comment can come off as negative and make it seem as if they’re covering up something. So the best thing to do is to tell your own bad news quickly and succinctly.

For instance, if there’s been a personnel issue at your firm, you could say something such as, “We have a clear policy that respects all people. We’re aware of the problem and want to look into it.” Or, if the media has been misrepresenting the facts about a case that you’ve been working on, you can contact them and correct the information while still maintaining your professionalism. This is one of the ways that you can present the truth so that your side of the story will be considered.

The Cremation Society held the open house to demystify a gruesome topic. Attorneys can also demystify the legal process to let the public know that they have nothing to hide. What’s important is thinking about how what you say in the media will affect your case and your reputation.

Connect to the Holidays

Tom Ciesielka is president of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has more than 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 serves on the Public Affairs Committee of the Chicago Bar Association, where he has spoken at CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

Thanksgiving is behind us (hope you had a good one!), but of course, there are holidays throughout the year that can give you great opportunities for promoting yourself. This can be done through articles, media appearances, blog posts, social media, photos and more. Here are few tips to get you started:

Create a holiday calendar. Take a look at the official holidays listed on the U.S. government website (www.usa.gov/citizens/holidays.shtml), and decide which ones you would like to connect to. There are also numerous unofficial, or “odd” holidays, which you can also participate in, though some of those are corporate sponsored and others that may not be totally legitimate. There is one website that has been listing those holidays for several years, and they try to substantiate each holiday by linking to the source, so that’s a good place to start.

Decide on the legal angle. If you want to share your legal expertise, think about how you can discuss legal topics in connection with the holidays you’ve chosen. For instance, if you specialize in the retail industry, you can write a blog post about an effective legal disclaimer in customer emails. Or you can contact the media to make yourself available to discuss any legal issues surrounding Christmas displays in the public square. Think about your area of expertise and decide which holiday would best match the advice you want to give.

Go general. If you don’t want to discuss legal issues, you can connect yourself generally to various holidays by posting pictures that show how holidays are celebrated. For instance, you can post pictures of interesting Halloween decorations you’ve seen around town, since they seem to be more popular nowadays. Or if you cook something special for St. Patrick’s Day, you can post a recipe that you use to make delicious corned beef and cabbage. Another thing you can do is to give tips for fun New Year’s celebrations.

There are so many ways to promote yourself; all you have to do is take the time to brainstorm for ideas to think of what works best for you and your schedule. Happy holidays!

Keep it Light

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has more than 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 is on the Public Affairs Committee of the Chicago Bar Association, where he has spoken at CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

When I think of the U.S. Supreme Court, a serious atmosphere comes to mind because they make decisions that affect our nation, policies, and even life and death. Here in Chicago, law firms also tend to be serious because if every detail is not covered, then the attorneys can lose a case and even affect their reputation for years to come. However, sometimes it’s good to step back and take a look at how attorneys approach their work and publicity efforts because there are times when being lighthearted can be effective.

I’m suggesting this because I saw a blog post that Jay Wexler, a law professor at Boston University, wrote on his website called “Supreme Court Humor.” Basically, it’s about a “study” that he did to see how many laughs each justice got in the courtroom. According to the graphic on his site, which came from The New York Times, Justice Antonin Scalia got the most laughs when Wexler conducted his study in 2005.

Who would think that the Supreme Court would be the subject of such research, followed by lots of media coverage about their humor? It’s an example of how doing something unique and beyond the usual boundaries of the legal profession can get you media attention. Of course, you don’t want to make it too contrived, but to augment your own practice. Some attorneys prefer to create interesting websites to promote their firm, such as Kottler & Kottler in Los Angeles, which has a cartoonish style. And speaking of cartoons, attorney Bob Kohn filed a cartoon amicus curiae in an Apple case, which is probably the only time such a brief has been submitted.

So the next time you’re assessing the image of your own practice or that of your law firm, think of ways you can lighten up to make you or your firm stand out. You can enhance your image by posting personal pictures of your vacation, pets or hobbies on your site or blog, or share information that’s outside the usual seriousness of the legal profession, such as the weirdest sculptures you’ve seen around Chicago. In the midst of a heavy workload, sometimes it makes sense to have a bit of fun.