Is Your Law Firm Overlooking These Social Media Ethics Guidelines?

Social media is a great marketing tool, but just like every other form of advertising that law firms use, it comes with certain ethical guidelines. Breaching those standards can have serious consequences, too—a misguided Tweet or unclear Facebook post could, hypothetically, lead to a penalty or even disbarment. It’s a worst-case scenario, but it is possible.

However, even if the consequences of misuse can be severe, you shouldn’t be afraid of social media, as long as you’re familiar with the basic ethical guidelines. Here are a few you might not be aware of, rounded up by NewsBlaze:

Don’t call yourself a specialist if you’re not one
Many career-focused websites and social networks (like LinkedIn) prompt users to add their specialties to their profiles. That might be a simple task for professionals in other industries, but unless you actually have the proper certifications, you should avoid writing anything that might imply you’re a certified legal specialist when you’re not one. Take the information on your online profiles seriously and make sure that nothing can be misconstrued.

Sending a friend request could be considered solicitation
No matter how harmless your intentions may be, connecting with someone on Facebook or another social network when they need legal advice could be considered solicitation. If someone has expressed a need for an attorney, adding them on social media is off-limits, especially if you have no prior relationship with them. In general, it’s a good idea to only friend people you have genuine relationships with, and be judicious if current, former or potential clients try to add you online.

Your competitors might be watching
This isn’t exactly an ethical concern, but it is something important to keep in mind. Especially if you’re at a large firm, competitors might be watching you closely online, and they may have no problem reporting you for seemingly unethical online behavior. Sometimes, it has less to do with what you actually mean and more about how it appears to other people. Imagine how others will perceive what you post before you hit “enter”.

Your jurisdiction isn’t the only one you have to worry about
By nature, the internet isn’t confined to one place. Every time you post online, you’re communicating across jurisdictions, each one with different laws and ethical standards. Something that is acceptable in one area could be a serious offense in another, and that can impact you no matter where you’re posting from. When in doubt, be conservative about what you share on social media and you’ll limit your chances of violating any guidelines.

Legal Sales

Legal sales is an emerging field in law firms, and you couldn’t have hoped for a more experienced panel speaking about it at the recent LMA conference. The panel members were: David C. Burkhardt, Client Service Director at Wyrick Robbins; Sheila Ardalan Chief Operating Officer at Summit LA; Jonathan Mattson, Director of Business Development at Baker & Hostetler; and Catherine Zinn, Chief Client Officer at Orrick.

It’s a growing trend among large firms, and we’re now starting to see it among smaller firms as well. By legal sales, we mean a non-lawyer who is client-facing – someone who is going out and opening doors for the firm’s partners and other attorneys to bring in new business. Twenty percent of the Am Law 100 has at least one person in this capacity.

When it comes to having a salesperson, firms need to think about the role of sales versus marketing. It is generally agreed that marketing concerns itself with creating awareness; sales is about creating relationships.

Sometimes there’s a tension between marketing and sales because the salesperson has more visibility and you can draw a more direct correlation between bringing in business (or the salesperson opening the door to bring in business) than you can with marketing.

There’s this tension because marketing may feel that sales is getting all the glory.

This panel emphasized the fact that sales could not do their job without marketing and that the marketing engine always needs to be going in order for sales to be successful.

Sales can also be in competition with the partners in terms of generating new business. The salesperson needs to be somebody (and this gets into the terms of what makes a successful salesperson) who is resilient, willing to be in the shadows and willing to let the partners have the glory. They need to be energized by making other people successful.

It’s difficult to say what’s going to make a successful salesperson in a legal environment. Some have industry backgrounds, but that doesn’t necessarily make them successful salespeople. They not only have to be a good salesperson, they have to be someone who can create humor, who can lighten the situation and be resilient. And be someone who, when networking, poses “intentional” questions that draw people out, such as “What’s your role at your firm?” and “What brings you here today?

Effective legal salespeople also understand that research is the gateway to business development. Knowing as much as possible about prospects and clients prior to meeting with them can help direct sales conversations and is critical to bringing in new business and expanding current relationships.

In terms of compensation, there’s no fee-sharing in law firms, so the compensation is usually some sort of bonus program (typically 20%-30%) above salary.

Digital Strategy: You’re in it for the Long Run

Not everyone is an early adopter of the latest business trend, but if you’re still in the mindset of “Nobody’s going to look for my firm online” or “Do I really need a LinkedIn profile?” you’d better stand aside because the world is going to steamroll right over you.

To be competitive today, every firm needs to build a long-term, ever-evolving digital strategy – words of wisdom from Kalev Peekna, Chief Strategist at One North Interactive, at the recent LMA conference. Whether for your website, search engine optimization or social media, it’s vital that your digital strategy and related tactics are always on a continuum of improvement.

One of the main characteristics of a long-term digital strategy is endurance. Think about your website. Websites are evolutionary; they’re never finished. Peekna advised thinking of your digital marketing in “release” stages. For example, finishing the Herculean task of getting a new website up is Release 1.0, and you deserve kudos. However, take a deep breath and start on Release 2.0 – the incremental refinements that are going to tell your firm’s story today. Add new case studies and success stories, and consider what graphics you can add, etc., then on to Release 3.0. Also, accept the fact that the life cycle of a website is much shorter than before.

When it comes to your digital strategy, you need to think about the future.  People invest in the future, not in the past.  Embrace a long-term vision for an ongoing digital marketing strategy. You’ll see the benefits in your client relationships and in your firm’s bottom line.

 

5 Things to Leave Off Your Firm Homepage

Your website homepage is one of the most important marketing tools you have—and one of the most difficult to get right. It must explain your services to people who may have no clue what you do, and it should do it in way that’s concise and intriguing. It’s a tricky balance, and many firms have yet to find it.

To make your homepage the best it can be, learn from other firms’ mistakes and leave these five things off your homepage:

  1. Legalese. The average person won’t understand the legal terminology you use on a day-to-day basis. (That’s why they need a lawyer in the first place.) Don’t scare visitors off with complicated jargon. Use simple language, which humanizes your firm and builds trust. It also helps with SEO; for example, most people search for “car accident lawyer” rather than “personal injury attorney.”
  2. Law firm clichés. Your homepage should explain what makes you different—and therefore, why you should be hired. Saying you provide exceptional service, individual attention, or 150 years of combined experience may be true, but it doesn’t differentiate you from the hundreds of other firms that are saying the same thing. Your firm has something that sets it apart from competitors, so don’t rely on clichés to tell your firm’s story. Find a new way to convey your benefits.
  3. Details about everything you do. Your homepage is one place where basic is better. People’s attention spans are short, and when they visit your website for the first time, they don’t want to be confronted with an essay on the ins and outs of your copyright infringement case history. If they want more information, they’ll browse your website to find it or contact you. Your homepage should give just enough information to clearly convey what your firm is all about while enticing people to keep clicking.
  4. Over-the-top graphics. Videos are super engaging, and beautiful images can set your website apart from others. But avoid going crazy with slideshows, audio, and animation. The more stuff happening on your homepage, the more likely that visitors will miss the key message you want to get across. Much like your homepage copy, the images you use on your website should be simple and represent the essence of your firm.
  5. Outdated content. Your homepage is where you make your digital first impression, and nothing ruins a first impression more than old information, like a statistic from 15 years ago or a banner for an event that happened last month. Neglecting to update homepage information makes you look forgetful at best, lazy or even dishonest at worst. The easiest solution? Don’t put anything on your homepage that needs to be updated constantly. If you must put time-sensitive content on your homepage, make a note on your calendar to take it down when it becomes outdated.

Notes from the PRSA Western District Conference

This year’s Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Western District Conference, held in Riverside, CA, covered a number of emerging issues in public relations. In case you missed it, here’s a recap of a couple of the panels.

Differentiation

These days, the professional services landscape is a buyer’s market – there are so many great options that people often fully research different agencies and make a decision before even reaching out to a company. With this glut of choices, differentiating your business is harder than ever.

In his session on successful differentiation, David Arvin, President of The Visibility Coach, discussed the importance of determining the practice area or service your company has that puts it ahead of the rest – the one thing that you do better than your competitors. It’s also important to determine what question or problem your brand is the answer to. Otherwise, it’s almost impossible for consumers to pick out one good option from all the other good options populating the market.

Influencer Marketing

In his keynote address, Jim Lin, SVP and Creative Director at Ketchum Digital, covered best practices for working with influencers and shared his perspective on how influencer marketing fits in with public relations and marketing as a whole.

An influencer is a person or group with the ability to influence the behavior or opinions or others, and who has a significant effect on a consumer’s purchasing decision. Influencer marketing is the act of incentivizing influencers to spread awareness of a product or service to their audiences, in the hopes that these audiences will be inspired to try the product themselves.

Though influencers may sound similar to journalists you’re hoping will write about your clients or company, don’t make the mistake of conflating them with the media. While it’s true that influencer marketing, like media exposure, contributes to the overall perception and visibility of a brand, influencers’ objectives are fundamentally different. Journalists report on stories because it’s their job to do so, whereas influencers need more incentive than just a story, as they are working to build their personal brands and names. This incentive usually comes in the form of free products/services, as well as additional payment.

Another common misstep companies can make when leveraging influencers is the failure to properly vet an influencer, and to take their audience claims at their word. Always take the time to research an influencer’s social media follower counts and engagement to ensure that they and their audience are the right fit for your brand.

Influencer Marketing – What It Is and Dos and Don’ts

Influencer marketing is a great way to reach a captive audience and leverage the trust that influencers instill in their followers. Wait…what? Influencer marketing? I digress. Influencer marketing is a buzzword in our industry to describe a form of marketing which is focused on key individuals to drive your brand’s message to the larger market. You are essentially hiring, or inspiring or paying an influencer to get the word out.

Let me give you an example. You have 1,734 followers on Twitter, which is nice and you are proud of it. Plus, it took you some time to get there. An influencer on the other hand, who reaches the same market, has 465,799 followers. It would be difficult for you to reach that number of followers and may take much time and effort. Instead, you hire, inspire or pay them. By connecting your brand to a trusted influencer, some of their credibility inevitably rubs off on you.

Now that we’ve covered that, I’ll continue. Like anything else in this world, this tactic can backfire. For every well-done influencer post, there are a dozen that are forced, nonsensical or downright tacky. And while influencer marketing might seem like it should be easy, Adweek notes that there is a science to developing good influencer content. Avoid the pitfalls of bad influencer marketing, and you’ll likely see strong engagement. Here are some considerations to make if you’re going to include influencers in your marketing plan:

• Do allow influencers to give their own opinions. To get the most out of influencer marketing, you have to be willing to give up some control. Readers can tell if a post is forced, and that will negatively impact your results. The most realistic, engaging and successful posts come from influencers who are allowed to be honest and creative.

• Don’t be misleading. All sponsored content has to have a clear disclosure statement. If you fail to meet their requirements, you could face consequences, including a fine from the Federal Trade Commission. Luckily, according to AdWeek, disclosure statements don’t deter viewers from reading and engaging with your content—in fact, they can actually increase positive sentiment.

• Do use great visuals. Photos and videos draw readers in and illustrate your point much more effectively than words can. Of course, you can supply images and your logo, but it’s also a good idea to let influencers take their own photos. Authentic photos, taken from the influencer’s perspective in their own style, will enhance the post.

• Don’t let branding get in the way of relatability. Most companies have strict brand guidelines, from naming standards to trademark usage. And while branding is important, working with influencers is one case when brand sticklers should relax. Insisting that influencers adhere to every brand standard completely can ruin a post’s flow and conversational tone. I am speaking to law firms on this one – no, it’s not necessary to include LLP, Corp, PC or whatever other extensions you have.

• Do offer readers a valuable takeaway. Ultimately, readers should gain some usable knowledge from your content, whether it’s sponsored or not. Encourage influencers to include a review, tutorial or easily saved and shared how-to guide as part of the post. Readers won’t mind the “sponsored content” label if they get something valuable from the article.

Increase Your Marketing Power with SMART Goals

In the business world, it’s not uncommon to hear people speak about the importance of setting SMART goals. The phrase was coined more than 30 years ago, but it’s no wonder why people continue to use it as a guide today; it’s a great tool for creating objectives that you can actually accomplish.

The problem many firms face when determining marketing objectives is that there’s no magic bullet. What works for one firm won’t work for another. Finding the right marketing mix takes time and experimentation, and since results don’t happen right away, it’s easy to get discouraged and give up. SMART goals can help keep you on track.

Whether it’s increasing website traffic or converting more leads, every company has at least one area that needs to be improved (and usually several more areas that they would like to improve). SMART goals can help you prioritize and evaluate your goals before sinking a lot of time and energy into them. So before jumping into a marketing plan that may not work, or before giving up on meeting your marketing goals altogether, take some time to make sure your goals fit the SMART criteria:

S – Specific:

The more explicit you make your goals, the better. Just saying that you “want more leads” is a quick way to fail. What percentage increase in leads do you want to see? What type of leads do you need more of? When is your deadline? Really pinpoint the exact results you want.

M – Measurable:

How will you know you’ve reached your goal if you don’t measure how far you’ve come? Choose key indicators that are easy to track, and paint a clear picture of improvement. And don’t wait until your deadline to measure change—check in periodically to make sure you’re moving in the right direction.

A – Attainable:

It’s important to aim high, but don’t make your goals too lofty. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how hard you work; there are just some goals that you won’t be able to reach (at least not overnight). Make sure it’s actually possible for you to attain your goals.

R – Realistic:

Reaching your marketing goals exactly in the way you anticipate is not only hard—it’s virtually impossible. Understand that some objectives will be easy to meet, some will be challenging, and some you’ll never reach. That’s okay! Be honest about what you’re capable of and don’t get bogged down in goals that don’t come out as planned.

T – Time-bound:

Give yourself a hard deadline and stick to it. Beyond just choosing a final date, break down your objectives into small, actionable tasks and block off time on your calendar to work on them. Without making time to reach goals, it’s easy to let them slide.

Is Your Firm Making These Twitter Mistakes?

You don’t have to look very hard to find terrible Twitter accounts. The signs of a bad account are easy to spot: hashtags on every other word, robotic tweets devoid of any emotion and tone-deaf promotional copy. Unfortunately, on a platform that offers so much potential for engagement, few companies have truly learned how to refine their strategy and use Twitter effectively. Don’t fall into this trap. Your firm is better than that! Sit down, pull up your Twitter account and double check that you’re not making any of these common Twitter mistakes:

  1. You’re too egotistical.

Twitter isn’t all about you. The point of social media is to build community and allow for two-way conversation. If you’re using Twitter just as a megaphone for your ideas, no one is going to want to follow you. Interact with your followers, and avoid tweeting only promotional content. Throw in interesting content from other sources that relate to or support your message.

  1. You’re not tweeting consistently. 

More so than any other social media platform, Twitter feels cluttered. It’s a constant stream of thoughts and conversation, and if you’re not engaged in it regularly, your voice is going to get lost. The only way to grow and engage your followers is to tweet consistently. Try to tweet at least three times a day, even if it’s just the same idea reworded.

  1. Your tweets are the wrong length.

Twitter only gives you 140 characters to work with, so you might think that it’s impossible to make a mistake here. Wrong! It turns out that there is, in fact, a tweet length sweet spot (say that five times fast). Too short, you risk writing a message that’s not engaging enough. Too long and it’s difficult to retweet, so followers will either alter your message or skip retweeting altogether. Aim for around 100 characters. I know, I know…100 characters?! You are used to writing 1,000 words, but we don’t live in that world anymore.

  1. You resort to spam.

Whether it’s a date, a friend or a coworker, no one likes a desperate person. In the same way, no one likes a desperate Twitter account. Tweeting at people asking directly for a follow, constantly retweeting someone, or tweeting the exact same message over and over again are all bad ideas. It makes you look like a spam account, rather than the great firm that you are. Don’t do it!

  1. You’re using hashtags incorrectly.

Ah, hashtags. This seems to be the issue that stumps people the most. It’s tempting to pack as many hashtags as possible into every tweet, or to piggyback on any popular hashtag regardless if it’s related your brand. The bottom line: pick a maximum of three relevant hashtags per tweet. If you’re not convinced that this is a better strategy, read number four on this list again.

  1. You’re not using images.

Twitter has come a long way from its beginnings as an SMS-based network. Pictures and video are the norm on the platform now, and it’s no wonder why: tweets with images see two times the engagement. It really is true that a picture is worth a thousand words—or at least 140 characters.

The Building Blocks of a Business

At a recent Turnaround Management Association (TMA) Breakfast Leadership Series event, Richard G. Reinis, the CEO and General Counsel of Krispy Kreme’s parent company, shared his first-hand experiences. He spoke about his involvement in the planning, fundraising, staffing and marketing of a start-up business that grew into the largest Krispy Kreme franchise in the country, and which survived a significant reduction. Read on for a few of our takeaways on building, staffing and marketing a successful business.

  1. Articulate your vision.

Clearly defining your overall mission for your business is vital; it will affect every aspect of your company from the leadership structure to individual employees’ goals. This vision should answer the question of why customers and clients should prefer a world with your company in it, rather than one without, and should provide an overall mission for every member of the company to aspire toward.

  1. Remember that all employees are vital to a successful business.

During his presentation, Reinis described the main types of employees that work at the average Krispy Kreme location – cashiers, the people making and handling the doughnuts, technicians ensuring that the glazing conveyor belt is working properly, and janitors. If asked which job was the most important, many people might say the technician or the cashier; few would say the janitor. But if a customer had a great experience buying a doughnut, and then saw a filthy bathroom, they probably wouldn’t be coming back. Reinis emphasized that every single position in a company is vital to the company’s overall vision. From the CEO to IT to maintenance, each should be treated as such, both in terms of expectations and respect.

  1. Find your central branding message, and stick to it.

Finding your central branding message is closely tied to the first step of articulating your vision. From the start, the Krispy Kreme brand made itself unique with its freshly-made doughnuts. Cooked and glazed on-site, customers could see the whole process from start to finish. This became the central branding theme of the franchise, with every location flashing, “Fresh Hot Now!” signs to draw in more customers. Once you’ve identified the main value your business provides to customers and clients, find a way to integrate that value into your marketing, making it synonymous with your company and services.

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