Tag Archives: Brand Management

Leveraging Your Reputation: Think before doing stunts

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.

The classic conflict between attorneys who want to keep quiet and public relations professionals who want transparency in today’s online media world will perhaps never be fully resolved. However, because of the potential liability of publicity stunts and events, attorneys should be contacted when there are risky promotions.

Here are a few things to consider when doing promotions:

When It Really Won’t Serve the Brand: A company wants to creatively communicate their innovation. However, creativity is most effective when it stays in the character of the product or service. Corporate counsel should be consulted because if something goes wrong, they might be the ones defending the brand in court.

When the Only Value of the Stunt is the Stunt: When a company wants to use a publicity stunt in order to draw more media attention, these questions should be considered: What do you hope to accomplish? What do you want people to remember about your business? If we didn’t do this stunt, how would that impact the objectives in the marketing plan? If the stunt has a purpose beyond getting some videos to go viral, then it would be good to consult the attorneys and the chief marketing officer.

A Surprise Might Turn Into a Crisis: Publicity stunts are created to quickly draw attention to something, and surprises can be effective in the pursuit to be different. Yet attorneys should be asked: What could go wrong? What are the liabilities if someone is not amused, or the shock is so great that it causes physical or emotional harm?

This is the time for attorneys, their clients and their public relations staff to work together. Otherwise, once an event or stunt goes awry, the negative impact on everyone’s reputation may be difficult to undo. It is much better to be safe than sorry.

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Practice area focus and brand management

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of ALR/PRA, Inc., a full service law practice management agency.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations and marketing.  Nick also shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Attorneys in transition should assess and decide on a practice area and market their strongest brand.  Too often attorneys gain experience in one practice area then jump around to test the waters in other substantive areas.  You can do this to broaden your skills sets, so long as you are careful not to leave a trail of confusion.

If you are passionate about work in a certain practice area elaborate your practical experience and promote the sum of your potential contributions.   People can tell whether you are committed to certain work.  Likewise, they can often tell when you are trying to sell yourself in a practice area that may not be a natural match.

Brand management requires you to communicate what you do on a consistent basis.  If you’re found hopping around various practice areas you will appear fragmented and wishy washy – not the impression you want to make if you are a serious attorney.

Too often popular practice areas attract mismatched talent.  When I started law school in the late 90s intellectual property was a rather unknown practice area. The only people interested in copyright, trademark and patent law were the students with science backgrounds who attended The John Marshall Law School for their acclaimed IP department.  Today, and largely through social media and online exposure, intellectual property is a really “hip” practice area, attracting many who think trademarks are cool.  While I’m certainly not disputing the “cool” factor, the work can be quite challenging and is not for everyone.  Consider the “cool” factor long term.

After carefully assessing your background and developed skills sets, consider natural practice area matches.  Be careful not to let financial considerations be your guide.  Family law, for example, can be very lucrative; however the market is highly sensitive to economic swings and geographic location.  Those who went into family law to make big bucks often end up cursing their decision if they are not personally invested in truly serving the best interests of domestic relations.

If you engage in substantive work outside your practice area make sure you learn the subject well before you accept a client for same.  Malpractice may not pay a claim if you are operating negligently outside your abilities.  The ABA offers several publications concerning ethics and considerations for attorneys who need practice area resources.  Remember that experience can never be substituted with an IICLE volume.

Building your brand organically

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of ALR/PRA Inc., a full service law practice management agency.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations and marketing.  Nick also shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Attorneys in transition are well-served by building their brand and networks organically.  There is a long-standing tradition set by vendors of technology services.   Many vendors have handed down statements, beliefs and information suggesting that custom requires you to spend thousands of dollars leasing your websites, paying for pricey listing services and passing down the traditional marketing strategies to new associates on how to attract a client.   The assumption is that the vendors know more than you do about how to attract clients.

I suggest that attorneys in transition set a new trend.  Consider the power of consumer activity and expectation.  Consumers, not privy to the ways and means of attorney marketing, expect your online presence on free websites where consumers compare prices and the value of services others have received in the service industry.

Many of the traditional vendors expect lawyers to compare notes with each other and agree that one needs to pay the premiums to get the benefits of online presence.  Many of us have bitten from this apple to no avail.  I can barely count the number of lawyers who have told me they paid thousands for websites and then said “I didn’t get anything from it.”  There is a level of frustration with vendors who sell the top site placements and promise tremendous results.

A suburban intellectual property attorney told me one of the top legal website vendors had produced first page results and this made the phone ring.  At the time, there were few suburban practices focused on copyright and trademark matters.  I hope the attorney took a picture of the moment in time the expensive investment paid off – because things were about to change.  Nick’s question:  “Moving one year forward, do you still get the volume of calls?”  The answer was no.  How can the vendors sell top spots to everyone where the space is limited on the first page of results?

Focusing on networking and using free online resources like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter is a much more effective use of time and resources.  Remember that the “layperson” has seldom heard of these big vendors and they are more likely to search the free websites to find a lawyer.  Consider that you could save money and be “found” on a free website where your potential clients are already spending their time.

If you doubt the power of social media as a networking and advertising powerhouse, just consider that one young girl in Egypt posted a YouTube video that went viral.  I doubt many of us would have known about the recent conflict in Egypt without the efforts of one young citizen who basically told her world that…”I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  Edward R. Murrow, 1951.

Self-assessment: first steps in identifying your attorney brand

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of ALR/PRA, Inc., a full service law practice management agency.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations and marketing.  Nick also shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Self-assessment is a tool you can use to develop your brand and market your credentials, experience and skills sets.  Many attorneys pause and think when asked to describe their professional services brand.  Attorney branding is the process by which your personal and professional attributes are received and recalled by others.  Have you ever heard someone ask for an attorney referral by describing the desired characteristics of the perfect match to the client’s needs?

Self-assessment begins with the honest examination of your past professional, academic and personal achievements and struggles.  Sometimes we experience tunnel vision in law and forget about our most obvious strengths and weaknesses.  Our strengths can often be inferred from compliments.  At times, we receive compliments and brush them off, trying to maintain a sense of humility.  It is a challenge to accept and learn from compliments.  Accepting and thanking others for their comments we moves us closer to learning how to objectively assess how we are received by others.

Continue your assessment by making a list of activities you least enjoy.  This exercise may help you avoid certain practice areas where you know you will be unhappy.  It isn’t news that we perform best when we enjoy our work.  Next, try reading your resume out loud to yourself, imagining that you are talking about your education and experience in an interview setting.  In your mirror, or pretend audience, describe a few times you have taken pride in some accomplishments.  Write down those accomplishments and focus on why you think you were successful.  As you highlight credentials and experiences on your resume you have the opportunity to market your attorney brand.

Social networking sites contain plenty of assessment clues.  If you are on LinkedIn, take a look at your recommendations and note a few of the qualities others have noticed and considered when supporting you by making the recommendation.  Similarly, take a look at the type of compliments you receive using other social media, what do people “like” about you?  Consider this when you review your friends and contacts’ impressions of you and why they would recommend you as an attorney.

You can also take self-assessment to the next step and engage with a business coach with assessment software.  One of my clients is a business coach and I took her assessment as part of a leadership management course.  As I reviewed the assessment results, I experienced a feeling of reinforcement that my work habits complimented my skills and habits.

The process of personal and professional self-discovery is ongoing.  At many stages in our careers we have the opportunity to reflect on the past.  By revisiting the past we can gauge our progress as we move forward in our career transitions.  Self-assessment is a tool to uncovering your potential and most salient skills necessary to landing the next client or job.