Adele Baxby Meehan shares her dos and don’ts when it comes to legal PR
Legal marketing and PR remains a relatively new practice, at least compared to other sectors, as restrictions were only lifted in 1986 which enabled law firms to advertise. However, for many firms now, PR and marketing has become core to the day-to-day operations of a legal business. The benefits of this activity are tangible, and too numerous to list here -that would make another article by itself. But all too easily, a PR or marketing plan can veer off track and an investment, designed to raise a firm’s profile, can quickly gain its own momentum, change direction, and end up failing to meet its initial objectives.
Following a number of simple ‘dos’ and 'don’ts' can help ensure a firm’s PR activity does what it’s designed to and helps a firm achieve its aims.
Do keep feeding the beast. A well-timed strategic campaign, creating a burst of coverage in relevant media titles can be a great way to let people know what you do, who you are and what you want to say. But this profile raising activity will all be for nothing if, in a few months, your firm’s name isn’t anywhere to be seen. It’s important to keep a consistent presence in the media – a steady, drip-fed message will resonate much more than an explosion of coverage for a day or two once a year.
Don’t let the PR programme run away with itself. It can be all too easy to let enthusiastic lawyers pile into the PR programme and before you know it, your firm is only being represented in the press by a couple of individuals – lawyers who may not embody the firm’s focus and this could be to the detriment of other teams which desperately need profile.
Do strategise. It’s hugely important to implement a simple and coherent strategy at the start of a PR programme. Understanding what, as a firm, you want to say and who you want to say it to is vital. From here, a PR programme that works hard for the firm should flow naturally. Identifying specific goals can also be helpful – for instance, raising the profile of a new head of team, or a specific practice area / sector group.
Don’t do PR in silos. To get the most out of PR activity, it is important it works with all other activity in the marketing mix. Pushing out the message through lots of different channels – including the press, advertising, the firm’s website, social media channels and events will help ensure the message is even stronger for the intended audience. Which leads me onto the next point…
Do make your PR work hard for you. Thanks to the internet, the saying ‘today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper’ is no longer quite true – a lawyer’s comments in a news piece or bylined article in a trade publication now has a much longer lifespan with Google. And this of course is great news – mentions in news articles can help boost a firm’s SEO and helps add further credibility to an individual lawyer – especially helpful if a potential client Googles a lawyer’s name and sees them quoted in the FT, for instance. However, there’s lots a firm can do to make sure they get the most out of one piece of coverage. There’s the obvious – it can be pushed out on social media and posted on the website. It can also be used as a business development tool – an excuse to get back in touch with an old contact, or printed out and put in reading packs at events. All too often a firm will invest in PR, but fail to maximise the value of a piece of coverage.
Do have policies in place. It’s important to set some ground rules for PR and marketing, and make these obvious to all lawyers. Most firms now have a social media policy. If you’re embarking on a PR drive, it would also be sensible to think about a few simple policies around speaking to the press -would you prefer partners are the only named spokespeople in the press? If associates are getting involved in the PR too, is there a sign-off process for their articles? A policy which also advises lawyers what to do if they get an ad hoc call from a journalist is also a good idea – especially if they’re acting in a high-profile case.
Don’t be afraid to show your creative side. Some of the most successful PR and marketing campaigns offer something new to the audience and nowadays lots of law firms are taking a leaf out of consumer brands’ PR – often to great effect.
An effective PR programme is one which is simple and focussed. Following a few hints and tips can help ensure it won’t veer off track and will deliver for your firm.