The Future of the Workplace: Collaboration, Working Remotely and More

Nearly a decade ago, workplace collaboration was all the rage. CEOs and senior staff were knocking down walls to create open offices, forgoing the traditional corner office and getting employees from different departments to work together in the same space. It even seems hard to imagine that this trend started a decade ago. So what are CEOs and senior staff asking for now? Privacy – and they want their offices back.

When surrounded by other people chatting, typing and talking on the phone, many employees have found that they have to sneak off into conference rooms or wear headphones just to get their work done. It seems like the pendulum has started to swing away from the big, open office.

Another pendulum swing is that the gig economy means people are working remotely more than ever before. Working remotely is a great perk for employees, but I’ve noticed many companies struggle with the virtual workforce, prompting me to think maybe all these fads will fade away.

So how can we expect the workplace to change over the next year, or even the next 10 years? Below are some thoughts.

Rebuilding some of the walls they knocked down
As noted in a Wall Street Journal article, many people in leadership roles are opting to take the corner office rather than sit with the whole staff all the time. Today, however, a private office is less about status and more about having a space to think. One downfall of the open office is that everyone can tell when the boss is stressed or feeling down, and they have nowhere to go to deal with it. Managers have found that having a personal space to regroup helps them be better leaders and keep company morale high.

Companies will continue to encourage working remotely, but not go crazy
The Wall Street Journal’s article stated that the percentage of employees working entirely remotely is at an all-time high of 20%, up from 15% last year. Although some companies have found that allowing employees to work remotely reduces costs, its real value is in increasing employee autonomy and satisfaction. Shifting to remote work takes strategy and investment, but the reality is that more workers are going to expect (and need) to work from anywhere in the future.

That being said, a distributed workforce can oftentimes hinder collaboration. I believe that when you are working in an office, collaboration will occur naturally. Regardless of the tools we have to communicate no matter where you are in the world, a digital workforce can have a negative impact on morale and culture. We are thankful for tools like Slack, where working remotely isn’t in opposition to collaboration. In fact, it can create radical transparency: there is no such thing as a closed meeting when there are no doors.

Shared spaces won’t be limited to the people at your company
Co-working spaces are popping up all over the country to support freelancers and remote workers from all sorts of industries. These shared offices can provide the best of both worlds: a quiet space to work and an opportunity to socialize and problem-solve with other people (without the possibility of them assigning a new project in the lunchroom). Although open offices may be on the decline, collaboration is not—in fact, co-working spaces may increase cross-sector collaboration.

To Outsource Your Marketing/PR or Not…

When we are speaking with prospective clients, we answer a lot of questions. But undoubtedly, one we hear a lot is, “Why should we hire Berbay when we could just hire a full-time marketing person?”

It’s a great question and like most great questions, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The answer will change depending on what your marketing goals are. Here are some tips to consider when making this decision.

Hire an agency for:

  • Bench strength. A successful marketing campaign includes a multitude of different facets: social media, content marketing, media relations, SEO, website…the list goes on. It’s very uncommon—maybe even impossible—for one person to be really good at each of those things, let alone have time in the day to do them all. Hiring an agency means a team of specialists is at your disposal, and if no one at the agency is an expert on what you need to accomplish, they have the industry contacts to find someone who is.
  • Media connections. PR agency pros are constantly talking to reporters who cover different beats and work at outlets of all sizes. Their familiarity with the media landscape also means that agencies think beyond obvious pitches and publications, and they may be more willing to try out-of-the box angles. More importantly, reporters call on their PR contacts to connect them with experts (a.k.a. you). It’s not impossible for a person to come to a company with many media contacts, but unquestionably, an agency will have more.
  • Even the most creative person in the world can’t be the most creative person every day and will often get bogged down when they work on the same projects every day. In-house marketers can certainly be creative, but fresh eyes from varying staff members at an agency can help you develop a marketing campaign that’s more impactful and includes elements that you wouldn’t have thought of without outside input.
  • Efficiency and experience. A team is always more efficient that one person. If the one and only in-house marketing person is sick, on vacation or overloaded with work, projects may have to be pushed back or scaled down. And if they leave the firm entirely, you’re back at square one. At an agency, someone will always answer the phone and pick up the slack when things get busy. Plus, since they work with so many clients, agency professionals are experts at managing time without sacrificing quality.

Hire an in-house marketer for:

  • Company familiarity. A marketer working in your office every day will be more familiar with the company culture, the structure of the organization, its processes and idiosyncrasies. It takes time for agencies and clients to learn how to work together and communicate effectively. Also an in-house person can more easily knock on someone’s door and talk to them face-to-face.
  • There’s no getting around it: hiring an in-house person is often cheaper than hiring an agency. Agencies have a set fee, but you can control a new hire’s hours and salary level. However, even when the base cost of someone’s salary is less expensive than an agency, you may have to pay for continuing education and training or specialized tools that professionals at an agency already have.
  • Buy-in. Agencies are dedicated to their clients, but someone who cared enough about your organization to accept a job with you has a little bit more on the line. Engaged employees who care about your mission are a huge asset to the company. Agency pros who have lots of clients won’t have as much dedication as a long-time employee does.

Clearly, each solution has pros and cons. You may even think this blog is biased given my allegiance to agencies for more than a decade. So, you still want advice on what to do? My honest answer is you should use a mixture of both. An in-house marketer can tackle day-to-day projects, and an experienced agency can help fill in the gaps and expand what your in-house team is capable of doing. Based on my experience and what I’ve seen work best, a hybrid model can further propel your marketing goals while ensuring you have all your bases covered.

Success Begins in Your Mind

At some point, everyone has encountered that person who seems to have everything going for them. You may even be a little jealous, but you recognize that this particular person deserves every bit of their success. What are they doing differently?

I am not saying this is the end all, be all, but it’s likely that the magic ingredient is confidence. Not arrogance or a phony confident front, but a deep self-assuredness that they can accomplish anything—and so can everyone else around them. Real confidence is hard to come by, but at work it’s incredibly valuable.

Confidence is rarely something you’re born with; it’s learned over time, like any other skill. If you want to boost your work confidence, here are a few characteristics to emulate:

  • Confident people are genuinely supportive of their coworkers. People who are insecure at work feel threatened by other people’s victories, which can cause them to become resentful or lash out. However, people confident in their abilities aren’t shaken by other people’s success and can show genuine happiness even when they’re not the center of attention. They recognize that there’s room for everyone to succeed—and that makes them a whole lot more enjoyable to work with.
  • Confident people take risks. People who trust their abilities aren’t afraid to set big goals. They know that they can handle anything, so they’re willing to try everything. Confronting obstacles is a motivator for these type of people. When failure does happen, they can own up to it, find a solution and move on to the next challenge.
  • Confident people improve by examining their weaknesses. Being confident isn’t the same as being perfect. Confident people recognize their strengths but aren’t afraid to admit that they have weaknesses. More importantly, they can face their weaknesses head-on and figure out ways to improve upon them. When they make a mistake, there’s no time wasted agonizing or placing the blame on someone else.
  • Confident people show gratitude. When all eyes are on them, they don’t hog the spotlight—they show recognition for the people who helped them along the way. They’re secure enough in their own abilities to recognize when others do a great job (or even a better job than they did). Confidence and gratitude are closely tied.

The Most Valuable Business Strategy? Gratitude

You can easily attribute your firm’s or your personal achievements to careful planning, intellect and foresight, but no one built their business by themselves, or became the person they are today solely because of how great they are. It’s all built on relationships, and gratitude is the key to strengthening old relationships and developing new ones. Maybe it’s my Midwest roots, but I believe that saying thank you and showing appreciation is essential to anyone’s success.

One thing you can be thankful for is that showing gratitude is easy. You don’t need to make a grand gesture, buy lavish gifts or write a novel. Whether it’s through a thank you note, an email, a phone call or face to face, saying thank you is powerful. If you’d like to bring a little more gratitude into your work life, here are some people who probably deserve a hearty “thank you!”­­­

Clients

Put simply, you wouldn’t have a business without clients. Clients aren’t just a source of revenue; they’re people who make the choice to support your business. If that’s not enough of a reason to say thank you, research shows that clients who feel appreciated will continue to do business with you—and it’s much more cost effective to keep current clients happy than it is to find new ones. Happy clients are also more likely to make referrals. Thanking clients isn’t just a nice thing to do—it has a very real impact on your bottom line.

Employees and coworkers

Everyone at the office plays a valuable role, from the CEO to the janitor, and your business couldn’t operate without everyone’s input. Show gratitude to your employees and coworkers for making your success possible. Make a point to thank people you don’t work directly with as well.

Mentors and teachers

There’s no statute of limitations on saying thank you. Even if you haven’t spoken in a while, reaching out to an old mentor or teacher is a great way to reconnect, and it’s a fulfilling experience for them and you. Don’t say thank you only when you need something from them, and don’t wait for an excuse like a holiday card. Sending a quick email when they cross your mind is genuine, simple and highly appreciated.

Friends and family

Chances are, you wouldn’t be where you are today without family that supported and encouraged you as a child, friends who helped you study in college and partners who were always ready to listen when you had a bad day at work.

Strangers

This may seem odd, but being nice and showing gratitude to strangers who have helped you is important too. Those of you who have seen the movie Pay it Forward can relate. I bought a watch at a store the other day and the woman who helped me went above and beyond to make my experience great. As we were checking out, I told her how much I appreciated her help and she commented, “I just wish all my customers were as nice as you.” I thought that was sad—how hard is it for people to be kind to each other? Obviously this saleswoman had her fair share of rude or non-appreciative customers.

Midwest roots or not, my personal experience shows that thanking people regularly will not only make your whole life better, but will likely propel the kind of results you get, too.

 

From the “4Ps” to the “4Es”: Why Luxury Marketers Need a Different Formula

Whether you are working in the marketing industry or just took one Marketing 101 class, everyone has heard of the 4Ps of marketing – product, price, promotion and place. We marketers have had this drummed into our heads by professors and textbooks more times than we can count. I certainly understand the importance of the 4Ps, but felt it didn’t always apply – especially to the luxury market. Then I read this article by Pam Danziger from Unity Marketing, which confirmed all my doubts about the 4Ps. The article, called “Luxury Marketing’s Higher Calling – from the 4Ps to the 4Es,” explained what luxury marketers need to grapple with as our culture goes through an anti-consumerist phase and the affluent change the way they “buy” into things.

To survive in an economy that looks completely different than it did 10 or 20 years ago, luxury firms or brands need to focus on being meaningful and inspirational rather than subscribing to the old marketing standards. That’s why Danziger came up with the 4Es of marketing: experiences, everyplace, exchange and evangelism.

I’ve recapped these 4Es below:

From Products to Experiences

In the new experiential economy, consumers—particularly millennials—are spending their money on experiences instead of tangible goods. Essentially, shoppers prefer to take a selfie while they enjoy their latest splurge rather than display that splurge on a shelf. Of course, this shift has been great for spas and fine restaurants, but companies in the business of selling a product aren’t off the hook. Take a note from companies like Stich Fix, which sells clothing by offering customers a personal stylist, or Laudi Vidni, which engages shoppers by giving them the ability to customize the material and style of their handbags.

From Place to Everyplace

Brick and mortar has been in a state of demise for quite some time now. Online shopping has surpassed traditional retail and has emerged into the idea that a brand needs to be wherever the customer is: in-store, at home, over the phone and online. Luxury marketers in particular need to go even further to make everyplace “meaningful and memorable,” as Danziger puts it. She cites J. Hilburn and Lincoln Motor Cars as two luxury brands that have successfully embraced the everyplace concept. J. Hilburn offers customers the chance to meet with one of 3,000 stylists across the country to do a personal fitting, and Lincoln provides a pickup service when customers need to take their car in for repairs. These brands go beyond typical customer service and almost serve as their customers’ personal assistants.

From Price to Exchange

No longer can a company slap a brand name on a product, mark up the price and say it’s aspirational. Luxury brands need to provide customers with a valuable exchange—and affluent consumers will be willing to pay for it. Whether that exchange provides the customer with expert knowledge, appreciation or time savings, it has to make the customer feel like they’re getting something that enriches their lives. Socially conscious companies that allow customers to give back with every purchase are particularly good at this. Danziger mentions TOMS’ and Warby Parker’s “buy a pair, give a pair” model as an example.

From Promotion to Evangelism

If customers want meaningful, life-affirming products from their favorite brands, it’s no wonder that they can become fanatical when they actually get them—and that fanaticism is a powerful promotional tool. These days, many luxury companies are seeing significant results through “brand evangelism” (otherwise known as good, old-fashioned word of mouth). That doesn’t mean there’s no room for traditional advertising, public relations or endorsements, but there’s no question that word of mouth drives sales. Danziger mentions Apple, a classic example of a company that turns its customers into evangelists (and makes quite a profit from those loyal customers).

Marketing Tasks to Do on a Slow Day

Most of the time we are swamped, so any time we have a slow day it’s a welcome relief. It can feel a bit odd, though, when you get to the office and there’s nothing urgent that needs to be done. What exactly are you supposed to do all day?

Slow days are an opportunity to catch up on some of those forgotten-about marketing tasks—the items that need to get done eventually but keep getting put on the back burner. They can often be accomplished in only an hour or two, but their impact can be huge. Here, we’ve narrowed down some of the top rainy day marketing tasks from Lawyerist.

  1. Catch up on an industry blog. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s subscribed to a blog and planned on reading it regularly, only to delete every “new post” email notification without opening it. No matter how interesting the blog is, reading industry news always seems to get pushed off in favor of more pressing tasks. Slow days are the perfect time to catch up on your reading.
  2. Make sure the external links on your website actually work. There’s nothing more frustrating than clicking a link only to find that it doesn’t lead anywhere. Plus, having broken links just looks unprofessional. At least twice a year, spend an hour or two clicking through the external links on your website to make sure they still take your clients to the right places.
  3. Thank your best clients—and not just in a quick email. Actually take the time to handwrite a note on nice stationery or a thank-you card. Sure, you probably thank your clients verbally and end emails with “thank you,” but a quiet afternoon is a great opportunity to show your gratitude in a more meaningful way.
  4. Beef up your online reviews. Most clients are happy to write a testimonial or give a rating on a review site like Yelp. They just need to be asked to do it. Send a quick note to the last few clients you represented and ask them to provide feedback on your preferred site. Just be careful not to lead their answers too much.
  5. Get feedback on your content. You’ve probably put a lot of time and thought into your content strategy (or at least, you should have). However, it’s easy to forget that you should be prioritizing content that readers want to read, and not necessarily content that you want to write. On slow days, check in with a few of your clients and ask them which topics they want to know more about.
  6. Draft a few social media posts. It’s easy to fall behind on social media, so take advantage of every window of time you have to prepare posts in advance. Round up some industry headlines, write a few posts about what’s going on around the office and find a handful of evergreen blog posts to republish. In just a few minutes you can fill up a week’s worth of posts.
  7. Update your website bio. It’s amazing how quickly bios become out of date—and how quickly they slip out of our minds. When you have 15 minutes on a quiet day, give your bio a once-over and update any inaccurate or old information.

Online Client Research Isn’t Going Away Anytime Soon

This year’s U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey has just been released, and the results are hardly surprising. Like virtually every other legal industry survey that’s come out in the last few years, the Legal Needs Survey shows without question that online research, particularly on mobile devices, plays a major role in which law firm clients choose. If your firm hasn’t already seen the impact of online research, it will soon.

If you need to step up your online presence, here are three critical places to start:

Embrace online profiles and reviews. According to the survey, one third of consumers say that the internet was their main source of information when deciding to contact a lawyer. That’s up 14 percent from just two years ago. And before you think, “But we’re doing just fine with word of mouth!” the influence of in-person referrals has actually declined by 12 percent in that same time period. Now more than ever, it’s critical to claim your online profiles and encourage clients to leave their (positive) feedback online.

Know your keywords. Okay, so you’ve accepted that there’s no turning back on online research. The next step is to understand the keywords that potential clients are using to search for you. Make sure your website is optimized so it shows up higher in search rankings, and you may even want to include some money for paid search in your marketing budget. Researching common keywords can also help you discover more relevant online directories—which 41 percent of people say they use—where you can list your firm. Using keyword marketing ensures that you get in front of the right audience.

Use social media. If you’ve been struggling to commit enough time and energy to keep your social media accounts up to date, maybe this finding from the survey will help motivate you: information found in blog posts, videos, Facebook updates and tweets from attorneys all grew in importance to consumers by 10 percentage points. That’s a big jump, and it’s only going to increase. This year, 28 percent of consumers used social media, compared to 20 percent last year. Even if you’re not doing anything particularly groundbreaking on your social media accounts, just keeping them current, informative and appealing can make a huge difference.

What the State Bar’s New Ethics Opinion Means for Your Law Blog

 

The State Bar of California’s new ethics opinion finally addresses a fuzzy issue: whether attorney blogs are considered advertising. The Bar has decided that personal attorney blogs that are separate from a law firm website do not count as advertising. Well, in most cases. Clear as mud, right? In any case, if you blog, here’s what you need to know to ensure that it meets all ethical standards.

Do not use a personal blog to advertise.

You can write as many posts as you want about legal issues, the consequences of potential legislation and your own opinions about current events. You can write specifically about your area of practice. Your blog can even link to your firm’s website in the byline. But the one thing you definitely can’t write on a personal law blog is, “hire me”. Keep any blatant appeals to new clients off of your blog entirely.

If you’re writing about your case results, you’re probably advertising.

The new opinion also defines and advises against “implicit solicitation”. Even if you never explicitly tell the reader to hire you, if you write about the services you offer or include, “detailed descriptions of case results,” you’re implicitly advertising. Save that for your website, and use your blog to speak more broadly about legal issues.

It’s completely fine to identify yourself as an attorney on any blog.

You’re free to write a personal blog about any topic you want, from food to sports to politics. And according to the Bar, there’s no issue with saying that you’re an attorney on any blog, whether it’s related to the law or not. It’s also acceptable to link your personal blog to your firm website and vice versa.

The Bar automatically considers law firm website blogs to be advertising. 

If your law firm’s website hosts the blog, all of the guidelines I just explained will no longer apply. According to the Bar, blogs on law firm websites follow the same rules, “as the website of which it is a part”. Since your website is considered a form of advertising, any content posted on it is advertising—so anything is fair game.

Is Your Law Firm Ready for 2017? What You Need to Know from Attorney at Work’s Annual Hot List

Attorney at Work has published its 28th annual list of trends in the legal profession, and it covers everything from law firm marketing and practice areas to technology. Primarily because of the recent election, the legal industry can expect major changes (and virtually every other industry as well). So how should your firm prepare? We’ve summed up some of the biggest legal trends to keep top of mind as the new year unfolds.

Practice areas will reflect the incoming administration.

If you’ve read the news lately, it won’t come as a shock that cybersecurity, health care, immigration and environmental law are all poised to become hot practice areas in this new year. Also on the rise are related areas like elder law, infrastructure, and labor and employment. Energy is heating up too, although interest in alternative energy is likely to shrink. The one area likely to remain cold is bankruptcy—as long as the economy holds steady.

Rising industries will require legal guidance.

Thanks to the explosion of specialty diets and all-natural foods, the food, beverage and agriculture industries have been hot and will stay that way. The fledgling cannabis industry will need legal help due to the potential of significant product liability risk. And 3-D printing and other innovative manufacturing processes will continue to grow in 2017.

And the hottest market award goes to…Pittsburgh?

Attorney at Work picked the Steel City because, “its economy is fueled by banking, health care, tech and education”. The city’s top firms are steadily growing, and several national firms have opened offices there. Of course, don’t discount New York. Many firms are opening up shop in Manhattan due to the growing tech industry.

Firms are banking on business development.

Law firms are facing more competition than ever and not just from other firms. Disruptive legal services like LegalZoom and in-house legal departments will continue to pose a threat, and many firms are focusing on business development as a response. Some firms have taken a page out of the accounting industry’s book by hiring full-time “sales executives” and marketing and business development consultants.

Law firms will look different.

The structure of law firms will also continue to change. The number of equity partners is declining while contract lawyers are on the rise. Firms are recognizing the importance of strategic leadership and hiring non-attorney managers to head marketing, tech and project management. Some studies are indicating that more firms may elect women as partner, and mergers may reach an all-time high in 2017.

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