Tag Archives: Marketing

Leveraging Your Reputation: Stay professional

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.

Even though competition is becoming fiercer every day, it’s always important to do the best job possible and represent yourself and your firm in the most professional way. I was thinking about this when I recently saw examples of attorneys who produce cheap commercials that use gimmicks and stunts, or express extreme emotions, such as bitterness and anger. Some attorneys use clichés, such as posing as superheroes beating the villainous bad guys, while others use silly or tacky images that they think will get them more clients.

One firm that handles divorce advertises their services on billboards with half-dressed women and men to motivate people to hire them if they’ve become dissatisfied with marriage. They’ve even started selling merchandise with those images. They’re probably making money, but at what cost? It cheapens their image.

What is unfortunate is that attorneys have gotten a lot of education to get where they are, yet they are behaving in such a way that reflects barely any education or sophistication. Marketing gimmicks are a great way to create buzz, and controversy will get people’s attention, but it’s a short-term fix.

Here’s something to think about: Do you want to make money at any cost, or do you want to maintain your professional reputation and the respect of your colleagues and peers? You should always consider what kind of image you want people to walk away with, and I think it’s best to avoid crazy tactics to reel clients in. It’s better to behave like a professional because cheapening yourself won’t help your reputation in the long run.

Every job is a sales job

Angie Robertson graduated from Loyola University School of Law Chicago in 2010. She has experience with public interest law, family law, legal document review, and sales.  When she is not reading or writing about law, she enjoys live music, exploring Chicago, watching roller-derby, and spending time with her husband and her dog.

Throughout law school, I bought and sold textbooks on Amazon. I price my items competitively and provide accurate and honest descriptions of their condition, with a little note, “All orders ship from Chicago, IL.” I think this addition helps my business because people in the Midwest and both coasts think of Chicago as close to them.

After law school, I experienced a surge in sales. This was extremely exciting. It reminded me of my days working as an account executive for an information technology reseller while I attended evening law school for two years. I made my bids as low as possible to win business from government agencies while continuing to make a profit. But I decided this career wasn’t for me. I didn’t like the cold calling, customer service, data entry, working with pesky sales tracking and customer relations software—I needed to move on.

When making the precarious decision about whether I wanted to take out huge loans and go to law school, I didn’t have anyone close to me to ask for guidance. Our family friends who are attorneys were people I considered inaccessible for the mere fact that, well, they were attorneys. I thought they couldn’t possibly have time to talk to me about this. Consequently, I purchased a book to help with my decision:  “In Our Defense:  The Bill of Rights in Action,” Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy (1992).

Much like the constitutional law topics addressed in this book, law school encouraged me to think about the big picture. We discussed things like parental rights versus state intervention, free speech, gay marriage equality, internet privacy, corporate mergers. Also, we spent hours on the minutia of interstate commerce as it relates to the delivery of milk, subject matter jurisdiction as it relates to entry into the stream of commerce, and the strict typography requirements for formatting a 7th Circuit appellate brief.  The latter topics dominated the lectures and would put me to sleep every evening after I’d worked a full day. I’d be worried about meeting commission goals, how my dismal attempts at making cold calls were being noticed by superiors, and whether the sales trip to the Caribbean that I’d just won would run into my finals schedule. (Thankfully, it did not.) When I was at work, I thought of torts and contracts. When I was at school, I thought of closing just one more large order before the end of the quarter. I didn’t even make up my mind about quitting my sales job until about halfway through my 2L year in 2008.

I have now been working in the real world long enough to see the multiple ironies in this. Every job is ultimately a sales job—and I mean this in the most literal meaning of the phrase. There will be performance metrics, customer service, superiors, meetings, etc., even if by different names. If you don’t believe me, just ask the person who works on development for your firm or non-profit organization. Everything that an organization does is measured and utilized as a way to gather more support, budget, profit or what have you. Your work is almost always billed hourly and bid out amongst multiple firms before you are hired. If you have ever worked for a corporation where there are sales trips, incentives and commissions, chances are it was not a law firm. That trip I won to the Caribbean (and I won more than one of them) will never be replicated while working for a small or medium-sized law firm—unless maybe I get into maritime law, an option which I still consider from time to time.

Last week I received an email from Amazon that I’d sold “In Our Defense:  The Bill of Rights in Action.” The past year since being sworn into the bar has been extremely rough for me, bouncing from doc review to doc review and being scrutinized about my litigation experience in job interviews that required zero years of experience. I have yet to encounter an assignment that relates to a “big picture” constitutional law topic. Since the world brought me and this woman I’d never met together through e-commerce, I decided to make a bold move. I inserted a small note into the book before I mailed it to my customer in the Baltimore area: “If you are not already in law school, and you are considering it, please e-mail or call me first. I’d love to chat. Thanks for the sale. –Angie”

Leveraging Your Reputation: Remember the marketplace

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.

There is a lot of competition to get attention for your firm, and even though you’re busy, it’s important to remember that you still have to think of ways to market your practice. You don’t have to take a lot of time out of your day to think about the direction your marketing is going; these few ways will get you started:

1)      Pay attention and act quickly. When there’s an accident, people notice, and attorneys have a potential case to handle. So an accident can affect and influence many people, and give the attorney the opportunity to let others know what area they specialize in. In terms of marketing, you don’t need just an accident for something to require your attention and effort. Even attorneys who work in areas like real estate and intellectual property can take the time to find out how new laws and regulations can be a disaster for their clients, and then proactively publicize their expertise to those markets. It’s important to do something as soon as possible, before someone else is positioned as an expert.

2)      Promote thought leadership, not sales. When marketing your firm, it’s easier to attract new clients if you post thought leadership white papers on your website instead of posting sales and marketing copy about a particular business-to-business legal issue. In addition to your website, what would enhance your long-term marketing plan is writing articles for business publications that clients and prospects read. It also helps you stand out from your competition.

3)      Create more communication channels. It’s not enough to have just a website and a printed brochure, and then assume that “interactivity” means sharing drinks with clients and colleagues at a conference. Attorneys should discover which channels of communication work best for the firm, and then master the most effective ones to show clients and prospects that they are progressive when it comes to law and communication.

Overall, the way to succeed and thrive in the competitive marketplace is to put forth a concentrated effort and a solid investment to move ahead and stay top-of-mind.

Keep reading and learning about legal marketing (and the Internet)

J. Nick Augustine J.D., “The Law Publicist,” is the principal of Law Publicist Communications, an ALR/PRA, Incorporated agency. Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations, marketing and practice management. Nick shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Attorneys in transition spend significant time grooming their online profiles. Websites, social networking sites, professional listings and the like are important tools in your legal marketing and public relations strategy. There are things you can do on your own. There are plenty of resources available online. They keep changing so you have to keep up.

Here are 7 tips and resources:

1.       Mashable

Mashable.com is a great resource for all things social media. From news, blogging tips, website and social network information, Mashable is the current industry standard. If you spend some time reviewing the articles, you will find something that peaks your interest. This publication focuses on industry professionals and users alike, so if you find a good idea, save it then find someone to help you execute.

2.       SEO practitioners

Rule #1: You cannot be an expert at something beyond your control that is constantly changing. Even the people who work at Google do not know the secret to page rank. What you can learn from SEO practitioners is the current themes and objectives to appearing in search results. If Mary is looking for a traffic lawyer, there’s a good chance she’s looking to hire one. The SEO practitioners publish frequent content suggesting you can attract Mary to you. Remember, SEO practices change. What is thought to work today might not be true tomorrow, so check back for updates and tips.

3.       Copywriter resources

Copywriting and legal writing come from different planets; in practice, not as much as in theory. Yes we were all taught in law school to write in “plain English” yet we are often verbose. The biggest challenge in shifting to copywriting (for your marketing and public relations activities) is learning succinct writing. Just like the SEO practitioners, there are copywriters who publish online resources instructing on some tips of the trade. One of the keys to good copywriting is learning to create a simple message that people will like and remember.

4.       Linking exercises

Remember the SEO practitioners? They used to preach keyword optimization. The game has changed. Today, while keywords are very important, links are just as crucial. The search engine “spiders” crawl your content, read, and continue on by following links from your page to other pages. Choose your links carefully. You want to link to, and be linked by pages and sites with valuable content and good page rank. The “spiders” don’t know you but they can determine if you have quality links. Again, the SEO practitioners have information on point.

5.       Profile updating

If you update your online profiles, you will attract the “spiders.” I have no proof for this statement but I do have experience noting that sites I frequently update appear more frequently when I search myself or my agency in Google and other search engines. Adding photos and videos to your search engine listings is a good way to generate activity. Sharing links with happy clients who leave positive reviews is also a great way to update your online profiles.

6.       Survey your prospects

Say it with me, “It’s not about me, it’s about them.” If you are a family law attorney writing about the new civil union law, you should make a “why do they care?” list. Your content has a better chance of being rated well when it provides real answers to your audience’s questions. What do they want to know? Instead of guessing, search online for frequently asked question sites. You might be surprised that the information in demand might be some of the real basics.

7.       Start again

This is sure a long list including several assignments. The only way to keep up is to start over, from scratch, from time to time, and you just might learn some permanent skills. Legal marketing and public relations skills are key. If you learn these skills now you can take initiative on your own. You will also know what you’re talking about when someday you hire a firm to take the reigns.

Marketing systems for attorneys growing their reputations

J. Nick Augustine J.D., “The Law Publicist,” is the principal of Law Publicist Communications, an ALR/PRA, Incorporated agency. Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations, marketing and practice management. Nick shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Attorneys in transition engage in marketing for several different reasons. Marketing is defined by the American Marketing Association Board of Directors: “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

Today I will focus on lawyer marketing for three purposes: (1) Attracting new clients; (2) Attracting client referrals; (3) Upward mobility in your current organization. Smart marketing plans generate top of the mind awareness. Marketing systems require the repetition of a few basic activities. When we build marketing habits we increase top of the mind awareness.

(1)    Attracting new clients

The first step in drafting a marketing plan is identifying the information you want to share with potential clients. Too often attorneys assume clients know enough about various practice areas. You should break up the causes of action into basic keywords most people will understand. Next, draft a few short paragraphs about how you could help people in several situations. By simply explaining the value of your services you can also think more about where you want to place these messages. Making it easy for clients to understand your practice and find you is the basic goal of attorney marketing.

Action item: Make a keyword list that describes your practice area. Draft succinct marketing materials identifying how you can help clients in common situations. Prepare a welcome letter template and send it along with your marketing materials to people who contact your firm. Whether the prospects hire you or not, they might send other business your way in the future.

(2)    Attracting client referrals

Client referrals come from friends, colleagues and businesspeople in the community. Most of us suggest professionals we think can help someone in need. When we make referrals we want the resulting client engagement to go well. When there is a good match and a happy client, the source of the referral is likely to pass on a trusted name in the future.

Action item: People make referrals to the professionals they already know, like and trust. Make a list of everyone you know, like and trust. Where appropriate and consistent with the rules of professional conduct, send letters to potential referrals, letting them know what you do and that you accept referrals. Where appropriate, take the opportunity to have coffee, learn more about another’s business so that you might also be able to spot a client match for them.

(3)    Upward mobility

Associate attorneys in larger firms fear their contributions go unnoticed among partners and firm management. Highlighting accomplishments to senior members of a firm is helpful when asserting your contributions to the firm. Staff attorneys and associates usually have annual opportunities to share their dedication to quality legal service and the advancement of the firm generally.

Action item: Draft a short summary of a case you are working on and share it with other members and professionals at the firm. If the firm has a marketing and communications department they may be looking for newsletter or press release content. The managers of practice groups like to know what other groups are doing; taking credit for your input is a good way to earn advancement in the firm.

A marketing system is a set of simple activities and you repeat consistently on a regular basis. There are many resources for developing marketing systems. Some additional marketing systems can be as simple as making a list and sending hand-written notes to thank clients and referral sources. You can also start writing a weekly or monthly blog, discussing your areas of expertise and examples of positive results. Set time aside in your schedule and start working on a few simple activities. It doesn’t take long to build an effective marketing system.

Leveraging Your Reputation: Be an expert

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.

You’ve probably been practicing law long enough to know that you are good at what you do, and should be recognized for it beyond just your coworkers, clients, and other attorneys. One way to stand out from the crowd and communicate to a wider audience is to become an expert. If you don’t want to be an expert on a national or international scale, you can be a big fish in a small pond. How big you want your sphere of influence to be is up to you.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Define Your Niche and Audience. An obvious niche is the area in which you already practice law. But can you refine that even more? Decide if you’re going to be an expert to other attorneys or if you are going to want to appeal to people outside of the legal profession. Then you can plan where you are going to share your expertise and what type of language you are going to use to communicate with them.

Prepare. Even though you already have a lot of knowledge and experience, it never hurts to get more education and to read even more so that you will be a good source of information for others. Get tips from someone who is more established in your niche, or talk to a mentor. If you don’t know anyone personally who can help, then go online and look at experts’ books and articles to read all you can. Look at what the current experts know, and see if you can add something unique or extra. Or just find out what the average person knows. You just need to know more than they do to give them helpful advice.

Break it Down. Law is a complex subject for many people. A good way to become an expert outside the legal profession is to take a complex case that you have worked on, or an important historical or current legal decision, and simplify it for people to understand. You can also explain what current laws mean in “layman’s” terms. Then post your summary online, either at your own site or someone else’s. There are also various publications that you can submit your explanation to, online or offline.

Outlets. Experts give seminars, teach classes, appear on panels, write articles, post online, publish books, go on TV and radio, have a YouTube channel, and more. Decide what outlet you want to use to display your expertise. Or do them all. The more exposure you have, the more you’ll be known, and after a while, you won’t have to put forth so much effort; people will be asking you to make an appearance or write something for their publication.

And remember: Substance still matters. Stay informed on your chosen niche, develop superior speaking and writing skills, and the combination of your helpful knowledge and experience, combined with your exposure, will make you a solid expert to whom people will turn.

7 Legal PR/Marketing Tips for Attorneys in Transition

J. Nick Augustine J.D., “The Law Publicist,” is the principal of Law Publicist Communications, an ALR/PRA, Incorporated agency.  Law Publicist Communications is a public relations agency also offering coaching and consulting.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations, marketing and practice management.  Nick shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Public relations and marketing activities are important tools used to attract and engage clients and the referral sources who can send you business.  If you are in flux in your career or are just getting started, there are several public relations and marketing activities you can undertake to promote yourself.

1)       Write a new bio, highlighting your background, and how it complements your current objectives.  Our current legal market is full of niche practitioners who draw on past work or education experience to set them apart from the pack.  Make a set of bullet points listing compliments and recommendations you have received.  Think about how others describe you professionally and write a bio that doesn’t sound like a resume.  Your bio should be placed everywhere you are listed online and in your marketing collateral.

2)      Rewrite your website to highlight how you add value to clients.  Websites should be redrafted periodically for a variety of reasons, one of which is communicating to the expectations of website readers.  There are many ways people can find or simply run into your website.  If the first thing they see is a large amount of rambling text about how great you are, the reader will likely tire of your site and leave quickly.  If however, your site is clean, easy to read, and offers information valuable to the visitor, they are more likely to spend more time checking you out and if you have a strong call to action you might just get a client.

3)      Make a list of where you are listed and focus on continuity.  Once you have redrafted your bio, marketing copy and best keywords, you should make a list of every search engine and website where your contact information is listed.  You should update these listings somewhat frequently to signal the search engines.  You will likely find an added feature of one directory listing, such as the inclusion of a logo, which then prompts you to see if the other sites let you submit a logo.  Just as you would update your phone book advertisement, your online listings should never be allowed to go stale.

4)      Draft and send an announcement.  What are you going to announce?  You would be surprised how welcoming most people are to announcements.  You can announce just about anything and this is a great branding tool.  You could for example, announce a new practice area you are adding.  Talk about your qualifications and take the opportunity to discuss how this might complement your other practice areas or give an example of how your work in the new practice area benefits the community.  If you send an announcement on good stationery people are more likely to retain and file your information.

5)      Learn how to write and use an op-ed piece.  Just as politicians have talking points on issues before us, smart lawyers often have well-thought opinions on issues in their practice areas.  If you keep your eye on the news you will likely run into an opportunity to share your op-ed article for publication.  Editors of news and trade publications as well as top bloggers have editorial calendars and are always on the lookout for well written commentary from topical authorities.  You will get more mileage from focusing on a few media influencers than spamming the world with your content.

6)      Make a list of topics upon which you are knowledgeable and can write.  Attorneys advise and counsel clients.  The savvy client can look up and read a statute or black letter law.  The client needs you to advise and counsel on what the law means and how you can anticipate the implication of laws and policy.  Keep this in mind when listing your best writing topics and make some bullet points of what you know best.  You will be able to use these bullets to outline articles responsive to things going on in the world and in your community.  The content you produce can be published on your blog and expanded into feature articles.  Look at your blog and compare it to others and spot the opportunities to get more mileage out of your content.

7)      Research and build a list of influencers with whom you can share content.  Think about influencers who have a hand in what gets printed in the publications most likely to reach your target audience.  This list looks quite different if you are a commercial lawyer versus a consumer-focused retail practitioner.  Brainstorm and make a list of a dozen things your audience reads.  You should include news, trade publications, church bulletins and social media groups.  If you think out of the box you will create a more diverse list of publications.  Keep your list short at first because I encourage you to reach out and introduce yourself to the influencers and contact parties for each source.  When you say hello, share simply who you are, what you are writing and why you are sharing with them.  You will likely receive direction on what type of content the publication wants to receive.

If you create a schedule and carve out some time to work on each of these 7 activities you will start developing a good public relations and marketing plan.  Certainly there are many more public relations and marketing options you can learn by researching on your own or contacting a professional who can advise and counsel.  Spend enough time on public relations and marketing so that you build the habit.