Law firms should consider publishing a blog for numerous reasons. First, a blog provides information and education to potential clients about topics relevant to their searches and your law firm. Moreover, HubSpot says that companies that blog get 97% more backlinks to their websites than those that don’t blog, which increases the page’s rank on search engines such as Google and provides a terrific search engine optimization (SEO) boost. In fact, according to ClientTech, having a blog as a key component of your website will increase your chance of a higher search engine ranking by more than 425%.
Here are seven steps to take to ensure that your law firm blog is accomplishing its objective of generating leads and securing new business.
Long form blogs lacking images or breaks in the copy may give you an opportunity to fill it full of search terms, but your visitors won’t stay long enough to read. In today’s world, where people don’t just want information, they want information immediately, you must make the information digestible. You may consider bullet points or graphics to make the layout more appealing. Break your blog up into clearly discernible sections with sub-headlines. Whatever you do, make sure that when a visitor clicks on your blog, they aren’t just reading text.
In much the same way that long form copy can push away potential business, the majority of visitors to your blog will abandon it if it doesn’t load quickly. Indeed, if your blog takes more than a second or two to load, your visitors will more than likely leave and seek another source for their information. Be sure to meet with your IT team and confirm that your blog (and website) loads quickly, or make corrections to keep your visitors’ attention.
Know what challenges your audience faces and what issues they are looking to solve. Address those challenges instead of using your blog to tell a potential visitor about every type of case you handle. Hone in on specifics in each blog, answering a question or providing a specific solution, rather than merely touting all of your law firm’s accomplishments. Remember, visitors want information quickly and that begins with the title of the blog.
Using guest bloggers allows you to leverage their expertise and offer a more comprehensive blog. Too, it can help solidify relationships with referral sources by opening the lines of communication with someone that can send your firm business. For example, if you’re an employment lawyer, you can request a guest blog from an expert on workers’ rights, such as a higher-up in a union.
Make sure that every blog you post is social media-sharing ready. Include “Share This” options for each blog. To encourage blog readers to share, make it easy for them. After all, a blog post being read by various audiences beyond those visiting your website or social profiles would be a bonus to your practice.
What is your action goal with your blog? Do you want your readers to contact you? Do you want them to follow you on Twitter? Do you want them to watch a video that is embedded in the blog? Whatever action you want from your visitors, make sure that it is impossible for them to miss the action step. Make sure the action is clearly identified and discernible from the rest of the blog. Include opportunities to take action more than once, with links, options to share or options to contact in multiple places.
Your visitors should be able to contact you directly from your blog without having to search for a “Contact Us” page. Your auto contact form or phone/email should be easy to find.
Although it may seem like regular blogging is an undertaking your law firm just doesn’t have the time to prioritize, blogs are widely regarded as the third most influential digital resource when it comes to consumers’ decisions about purchases. It’s well worth your law firm’s investment of time or resources to start creating better blogs today.
Journalists are really outnumbered. There are far fewer reporters today than there were 15 years ago. In fact, some estimate that 50 percent of newsroom jobs have been eliminated. Meanwhile, the public relations industry has grown so much that there are now six PR pros for every media professional. At any given moment, thousands of PR practitioners are all competing for the time and attention of busy, stressed and overworked reporters. It’s no wonder why it can be so hard to get a story placed.
The question becomes, then, how to make your pitches and press releases stand out from the rest – and sometimes, the less obvious tactics work best. We rounded up seven strategic takeaways from a recent media relations training panel hosted by Public Relations Society of America (PRSA):
Many marketing experts believe that storytelling is the foundation of a strong marketing strategy, and for good reason. As anyone who has read a book, watched a movie or otherwise experienced a story knows, stories evoke emotions and help people understand each other. They remind us that we are all part of the human experience together. From a marketing standpoint, storytelling is a tool that can be used to “humanize” a product or service by showing how other people have benefited from the product or service, thus encouraging consumers to buy.
It isn’t just business marketers who understand the power of storytelling. Good trial lawyers regularly weave compelling story narratives into their arguments, seeking to win or resolve cases by inspiring juries to understand and emotionally identify with their clients.
Attorneys and law firms can obtain results by using storytelling as part of their strategy to market their practices and sway potential clients in their direction. It is a powerful tool firms can employ to complement overall content marketing plans and allow potential clients to feel comfortable with your representation right from the start.
Research Your Audience
When people are looking for an attorney, it’s usually because they have some kind of problem they need resolved. Having a clear idea of your prospective clients’ problems and pain points will help you show them through storytelling why you are the best attorney for their issue. It’s important to do some homework using the research methods available to you, such as internet searches and data, along with client feedback, local and national news, and industry-related news and information, to truly get to know the needs of your audience needs and how your legal services can help resolve their issues. Once you know your audience well, stories that will speak to them can be developed.
Create People Stories
In many law firms, thought leaders focus on the law and its complexities in their writings, instead of the people the laws impact. Instead, focus on people, the legal problems they experienced, and how those problems were resolved by you or someone else in your firm.
Add a brief call-to-action in your story to inform potential clients about the next steps that can be taken to address a problem such as theirs, and that you can help them. Headlines should address clearly and compellingly what the story is about. Again, think people first.
What platforms should your firm use? It depends upon what your firm currently uses or wants to use in the future for marketing purposes. Stories can be included or incorporated as content on your website, within blog posts, in case studies, in videos, in social media and in other marketing materials. Don’t forget to also use storytelling at networking events, in presentations and other in-person opportunities to sell your legal services.
Lawyers and marketing professionals don’t always see eye to eye. Thankfully, this seems to be changing. According to a recent study from the Legal Marketing Association and Bloomberg Law, both marketers and attorneys agree that their relationship has improved over the last two years, characterizing it as “respectful, collaborative, supportive and collegial.”
Why the improvement? Survey respondents said they’ve cultivated credibility and trust, and attorneys are more accepting of and interested in the insights marketers can provide them.
It’s clear that marketers have gained a renewed respect from the lawyers they work with. So, what does that mean for the future of legal marketing and business development? Here are five key takeaways from the survey:
Good news: law firm marketing and business development budgets are growing. According to the Legal Marketing Association and Bloomberg Law’s survey, “Where Are We Now? Revealing the Latest Trends in Legal Marketing and Business Development,” 63 percent of firms say they anticipate increasing their marketing/business development budget over the next two years.
Law firms are recognizing the importance of investing in the health and longevity of their practice – or at least, they’re feeling the pressure to generate revenue. That’s the number one reason why survey respondents said they’re adding funds to their marketing budgets, followed by corporate counsel reducing the number of firms they’re working with and pressure from competitors that are marketing pros.
Having more money to play with is always exciting, but that money shouldn’t be spent on just anything. Spend carelessly and you won’t get the results you’re looking for – but allocate your budget wisely and you’ll see a significant return on investment.
Survey respondents named the following as the most impactful marketing and business development tactics to invest in:
There’s a stigma attached to public relations agencies. I was given the impression that, regardless of the type of clients, large agencies churn and burn their young talent (leading to most fading out and few rising), and that boutique agencies lay off their newest talent in the event that they lose one to two key clients.
There’s a stigma about working in-house, too. My sense was that there’s a cap on your potential when working in-house, only being able to climb so high within an organization before the opportunities for growth flat line. Too, the term “pigeon-holed” was often used whenever someone expressed their concerns to me about working in-house. Of course, stigmas exist because these situations do happen, but it’s not fair to definitively state that they apply to working at any agency or working in-house at any company, or that one is better than the other. Like many things in life, it depends.
Hats off to you if when faced with this conundrum, your solution was to start your own PR firm. Despite my bold personality, I was certainly not an entrepreneur looking to start my own company fresh out of college, so alas the choice was mine: in-house or agency.
For nearly two years I was a Communications Coordinator on the public relations team at an international law firm, and for the past two years I’ve been an Account Manager with Berbay. So what’s my advice to anyone thinking of making a switch from in-house to agency or vice versa? Even if you’re familiar with the industry, in-house and agency positions are different in so many ways; you should be prepared to face some challenges when transitioning.
The Bigger Picture
Transitioning from in-house to agency was overwhelming at first – namely the shift from having essentially one client to … well, more.
Whether working in-house or at a boutique PR agency, being able to see the bigger picture and understanding your role in working toward an overarching goal can be a challenge, as these things can often change. The biggest difference for me was going from a more structured position on a team, where each person had a defined role in achieving these overarching objectives, to the role of managing several clients, each with their own objectives, and being the one who calls the shots and is responsible for managing every aspect of each client’s PR efforts.
That’s right, be prepared to juggle. Depending on the industry and the agency, you may be expected to handle a much broader range of services. As daunting as that may seem, you’ll be all the better for it.
What to Expect
I did expect my relationship with “clients” to change. At the international law firm I was working for essentially one client: my law firm. If I needed to speak with an attorney and they weren’t picking up their phone, I could just pop into their office (at least the attorneys located in the Los Angeles office). I was used to having direct access to attorneys and their matters and, more importantly, the attorneys were eager, or at the very least, required to participate in marketing and public relations.
With shifting to an agency, I knew that the “outside” aspect of being a law firm’s outside marketing and public relations firm would drastically change the “client” relationship I was used to having. No matter how strong your relationship is with a client, there will always be limitations to your ability to access things you need, such as information on a case, successes or even scheduling a meeting. It can be more challenging to obtain these things working externally. The best advice is to figure out who the gatekeepers are for each client and establish relationships with those people; as an overall goal, do your best to strengthen your partnership with each client so that even though you aren’t a part of their firm, you know their business well enough that you could be.
The unexpected change that required me to adjust my expectations was the realization that not all firms or even all attorneys within a firm believe there is a need for marketing and public relations. It is our job to forge a partnership with each client and to be a trusted advisor. At times we encounter resistance, but being able to adapt quickly to change and actively listen to what each client wants, is what makes Account Executives great at their jobs.
Additionally, thick skin is an absolute necessity for working at an agency. Whether you’re pitching new business or pitching a new idea to an existing client, you cannot be so afraid of the word “No” that you avoid making the pitch in person. Agencies are tasked with constantly proving their value to their clients, so phoning it in isn’t really an option.
Another reality is that sometimes client engagements just don’t work out. If I had been fired from my in-house position, I would have been extremely hurt. Being fired from your job while working in-house is a lot less common than being fired as an outside marketing and public relations firm.
There are many reasons why client engagements don’t pan out. From budget cuts or internal politics, to the firm jumping ship for another agency or even being adverse to PR altogether, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Some clients are short-term project clients and sometimes clients are simply unable to justify an ROI at the time. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re bad at your job or that you didn’t deliver a successful PR campaign. You invested time and resources with this client and you’ve gotten to know the attorneys – their practice, their accomplishments and even about their family – so it’s normal to feel a sting when a client engagement ends, but statistically it is a reality for anyone in the agency industry. In most cases, it’s best to not take it too personally and continue to approach every client engagement with the same enthusiasm and determination for success.
Having experienced working in-house and at an agency, I have come to believe that each person and each company is different, and every job experience will have its unique challenges. What’s important is finding the best fit for you, and the only way to truly know what you like/dislike is by trying it, and who knows, you might surprise yourself. Don’t let an industry stigma keep you from potentially advancing your career.
For law firms, marketing and business development are non-negotiables. If you want to ensure longevity, they just have to get done. So why do we struggle so much to make time for them?
When a brief is due tomorrow, or a client is calling asking for an update, it’s so easy to put marketing on the back burner. The “it has to be done yesterday” tasks always seem to take priority, not to mention the fact that marketing doesn’t count toward your daily billable hours. If you’re like many lawyers, you’re stuck in a cycle of marketing getting pushed further down the to-do list.
You may recognize that updating your website or connecting with leads is important, but these kinds of tasks rarely become emergencies, so they continue to get put off. Not making time for marketing is a bit like having a cold that never gets bad enough to go to the doctor. Sure, you can function — but you’re not operating at your best, and there may be long-term consequences.
When compared with something like trial preparation, marketing may not seem like a priority. But, truthfully, it’s just as important as your client work. No business development means no new clients, and no new clients means no new business. High-achieving lawyers recognize this and devote a sizeable portion of their time to ensuring their firm’s success.
It’s up to you to commit to getting marketing on your calendar. To help you prioritize business development, we’ve compiled some of the best strategies for managing your time.
Use a system that works for you
There are a ton of time management and to-do list ideas out there: the Pomodoro timer, the 1-3-5 to-do list, the Getting Things Done method. It doesn’t matter what your system is as long as you use one. You need a clear idea of your top priorities for each day. When you take time to review them, you might realize that the “urgent” tasks aren’t as urgent as you thought and can be rescheduled. This frees up time for tasks that need to get done eventually but never do — like, you guessed it, marketing. Having a go-to system helps you avoid jumping from task to task without a clear plan.
Focus on one thing at a time
You may think that multitasking lets you get more done faster. Unfortunately, our brains disagree: forcing them to switch constantly between two or more tasks only means that you’ll get less done with a lower-quality result. Don’t try to squeeze in business development activities while you’re busy with other work — they deserve your full attention. The best way to get your marketing activities done is to schedule them, and only them. Try a weekly “power hour” or monthly batch day, where you shut out all distractions and work on business development goals.
Make it good enough
Business development isn’t rocket science. It doesn’t need to be complicated or perfect, so don’t act like it has to be. Just do it. If it takes you an hour to write a pretty good blog post, stop there rather than spending another hour making it perfect (which is impossible anyway). If you don’t have time to go to every networking event, network online through LinkedIn. Don’t build business development into a massive, time-sucking task. Do what you can, and stop when you can sit back and say, “good enough.”
Guard your schedule
Be greedy with your time and make no exceptions. This goes not just for business development work, but for all your work. If you need an uninterrupted hour to work on something, take it — and let coworkers and clients know you mean it. Eventually, people will learn that you mean it when you say you’re not available, and they’ll learn to work around it.
Tie it to something else
Maybe you avoid doing business development because you don’t feel confident in it, or it’s just not your cup of tea. The tasks we’re dreading often get put last on the to-do list, which we rarely get to the bottom of. But you can’t avoid marketing forever. One motivating strategy is to tie it to something you enjoy. Perhaps you can write an article over a cup of coffee at your favorite café. Or make it a rule that every time you check your email you send a quick note to a lead (this might have a double benefit of increasing your connections while forcing you to stop checking your email every 10 minutes). If all else fails, you can eat the proverbial frog and do business development first thing in the morning, so it’s done and over with.
Finally, one good thing about business development and marketing tasks is that they don’t require a law degree — they just take time. If you don’t have that time, perhaps someone else does. If you have the resources, and at the risk of seeming self-serving, hire a public relations and marketing firm. Have a digital firm manage your website and social media or hire a writer to draft the speech for that conference you’re speaking at. Even people within your firm might be able to help. Outsourcing is one way to take a whole lot off your plate and ensure that your business development and marketing don’t fall by the wayside.
The holiday season is upon us, which means it’s time to give gifts, celebrate with loved ones and…plan next year’s legal marketing budget. Yes, as the year comes to a close, law firm marketers need to wrap up their projects, reflect on what worked (and what didn’t) and decide how to spend their money next year.
Budgeting isn’t the most exciting activity, but it doesn’t need to be a burden. If you follow these five tried-and-true budgeting tips used by top marketers, you’ll ensure that budget season not only runs smoothly, but also sets your firm up for success in the New Year.
Americans spend 87 hours a month on their smartphones, and texting is by far the most-used function. This stat should make every marketer’s ears perk up – including lawyers.
Although text message marketing hasn’t quite hit the mainstream in the legal industry, some experts are declaring it the next big thing. Being able to reach prospects and clients anytime, anywhere through their mobile devices is a huge opportunity for attorneys in many practice areas.
For lawyers who are working with limited marketing options, SMS could open a world of possibilities. If your firm is considering text message marketing, here are four reasons why you should take the plunge.