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.
While growing up, how many times did our mothers tell us to “Sit up straight” or “Don’t slouch”? Probably hundreds! And while it undoubtedly annoyed us at the time, it’s actually great business advice…especially when participating on a conference panel or making a speech or presenting your firm’s abilities to prospective new clients.
You’ve probably heard the axiom “act as if.” It’s equally important to “look as if.” Your posture, your mannerisms, the neatness of your attire, and the interest you show in what you’re talking about all play a major role in establishing your credibility in front of your audience.
Many people don’t like public speaking, but for service professionals it’s an important part of your business development activities. So the next time you’re asked to speak publicly, don’t shy away; just remember all the good advice your mother gave you and you’ll do a great job!
You have about eight seconds and 150 characters for your prospects to decide if they are going to continue reading your attorney biography or click to another page. In an engaging LMA conference presentation, Anne Heathcock and Mary Trice of Winston & Strawn reported on what works now in biographies.
Make your photo shine so that it immediately engages the viewer. It should be relatively large and not just your standard head shot. You want your photo to show personality and warmth, i.e., trustworthiness, and to convey that you’re someone the prospect wants to work with. The fact that so many lawyer headshots are still point ‘n shoot gives you the opportunity to strongly differentiate yourself.
Your bio needs to be a fast read. This is so the reader can get a quick snapshot of who you are and your area of expertise, and then determine what else they’d like to learn about you and your firm. That doesn’t mean short; it just means use headings to break the copy into sections so that it is scan-able.
A quick read gives people a sense of who you are and what your firm is about. When prospects want to learn more, you can have them click to an expanded version. Remember not to repeat anything people have already read in the quick-read version; don’t waste those precious 150 characters and don’t waste their time. And no more “Mr. Smith” or “Smith.” Today, we’re on a first-name basis.
You want to keep in mind that people are not necessarily going to come to your website through the home page, especially when they are doing a search on a particular lawyer or a particular area. They’re going to come in directly to your bio. So to some degree, your bio has to tell your firm’s story as well as your story.
Think in terms of how your bio will look when it’s printed out. Prospects often print out several bios and compare them side by side. They may be comparing education, areas of expertise, experience, etc. You don’t want to lose the beauty contest because of poor readability and graphics.
Visuals are one way to make your bio stand up well against your competition. Whether headlines, graphics, icons or even colors, think about how and where you can incorporate visuals; for example, add school logos to your education section. They’ll make your bio (and website) more interesting, easier to scan and easier to communicate your information.
There’s often the misconception that social media is only for millennials or hotshot corporate lawyers, but regardless of your age, practice or ranking, social media such as Twitter is a useful tool that should be harnessed. You’d be surprised by how you can benefit as a lawyer from typing 140 characters and sending it off into the “Twitterverse.”
Twitter is a great way to disseminate information, demonstrate expertise and build relationships with lawyers and existing or potential clients who are active on social media. Regardless of your practice, your potential and existing clients are most likely looking into your social media presence, and it is important to show that you’re up-to-date on the most recent laws and regulations and showing an active interest by engaging in conversations about hot topics and trends in your industry. Twitter is also a great way to make connections with other lawyers: A few tweets back and forth, and before you know it, you’re at the same networking event or grabbing lunch and you’ve secured a referral source.
Keep in mind that social media isn’t necessarily intuitive, and there’s certainly an ineffective way to approach Twitter. So, we’ve compiled some tips for using Twitter below, including a few from attorney and co-author of “Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier,” Nicole Black.
Here are some tips for using Twitter:
I recently attended the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Breakfast with Los Angeles’ New Media Reporters, including a panel of journalists from Buzzfeed, Time Out L.A., and Moms L.A. The discussion ranged from the best ways to get their attention to 2017 new media trends, pitch tips and pet peeves. Below are some takeaways from the discussion.
Humanize Your Pitch
The panelists estimated that about 30% of their stories come from pitches, and with journalists, bloggers and editors receiving anywhere from tens to hundreds of pitches every day, it’s your job to make your pitch stand out. It isn’t as simple as merely using a reporter’s or editor’s first name and the name of the publication you’re pitching, but it certainly helps.
Sending pitches individually sounds daunting, especially when your media list expands beyond 20 – 30 publications, but this approach might be worth exploring for a more targeted media list. The panelists all agreed that the best way to communicate is through a personal email, and if you can, reach out to the reporter or journalist and try to build a relationship before you ask them to cover a story. Here are some tips to make your pitch stand out:
In the age of growing technology, it’s no surprise that a lot of business is conducted on the go, and while we as PR professionals craft catchy subject lines while sitting in front of our desktop or laptop, we often forget about the people who will be receiving our email on their mobile devices. The panelists pointed out a flaw in our witty 40+ character subject lines: most of it gets cut off on mobile devices. Use your space wisely, which means avoiding the use of “BREAKING:” and “NEW STORY:” etc.
Diligent follow-up is a crucial aspect of pitching to media, but you don’t want to be known by a journalist or editor for the wrong reason. Try to avoid these pet peeves the panelists mentioned, including:
Lastly, the panelists unanimously agreed that politics is the most prominent trend so far in 2017, and while publications like Time Out L.A. stay away from politics, the overwhelming trend has turned many non-political journalists into political journalists. For now, it appears that we will have plenty of opportunities to capitalize on topics related to the current political administration.
Law firm Twitter accounts often suffer from one major issue: they’re downright stale. That’s not a knock on the people who manage the; making the law sound exciting on social media takes a lot of time and practice, because there’s a fine line between sounding professional and sounding boring. And while it’s important to have an air of professionalism on social media, it’s okay to let loose a little. Try some of these dos and don’ts, and let your firm’s personality shine through on social media.
Law firm Twitter accounts often seem dry and robotic because there’s no humanity behind them, but it doesn’t need to be that way. You have a team of attorneys, each with their own expertise, perspective and opinions. Perhaps a few of them even have their own personal social media following. Pull back the curtain and take advantage of attorneys’ thought leadership by announcing who’s tweeting in your bio, or have attorneys sign off with their initials when a tweet comes from them.
Sure, it’s fine to cross-promote. But don’t set up accounts so the same message is posted on every platform you have. This is ineffective (and to put it bluntly, annoying) for a few reasons. First, it discourages people from following you on different platforms. If they’re going to see the same message, why would they follow you in multiple places? Second, the regular, constant posting that works well on Twitter can be irritating on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Hashtags are a great way to jump into an existing conversation or create a new one. That doesn’t mean just hashtagging your firm name, however. The trick is to create one that’s more general and based on a common topic or issue that people beyond your firm care about. Legal Marketing Review uses the example of a DUI lawyer using #nevertakeabreathalyzer. It works because it quickly explains what the attorney specializes in, and it’s universal enough that potential clients and other attorneys will want to use it as well.
Don’t clog up your Twitter feed by blindly following everyone who follows you—some of those accounts are spammy. Don’t waste your time by following a lot of million-follower accounts that aren’t likely to notice or interact with you. And don’t go on a following spree so that your ratio of “followers” to “following” gets out of whack. Identify and follow people who care about your practice areas and are more likely to retweet and favorite your tweets.
There’s a common misconception that business accounts should tweet as often as possible, but the quality of content often suffers under this strategy. If you’re grasping for things to tweet about just because you feel like you have to share something, your followers will notice. They don’t care if you tweet exactly five times a day, but they do care whether you’re posting content they like to read. It’s a 21st century twist on what your mother used to tell you; if you don’t have anything interesting to say, don’t say anything at all.