(Originally written for and posted on Legal Marketing Association Social and Digital Media Special Interest Group blog. This piece is summarizing two sessions I attended at the 2016 annual conference in Austin, Texas.)
In her blog entry “Referrals and First Impressions: How Technology Has Changed Them” (summarizing a recent Legal Coffee Break podcast by GNGF founders Mark Homer and Jabez LeBret), Lindsay Griffiths, Director of Global Relationship Management at International Lawyers Network, writes …
When a prospective client Googles you, and the only thing that comes up is a bio that is outdated, with a few lines about your practice, the year you graduated law school and passed the bar, it won’t matter if you are the smartest and most talented lawyer in the world. The firm’s website and your social media profiles are designed to support the word of mouth referral and their decision to hire you, to provide a level of comfort that we all seek when looking online for information these days – that feeling of “oh yes, I’m making the right decision in trusting this person with my business.”
What Lindsay has captured here is a key theme that resonated repeatedly for me during the recent Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference (LMA16) in Austin, Texas. The notions that digital and social media somehow exist in a vacuum and are to be discussed as some glorious abstraction or, worse, funky sideline experiment are defunct (not that they ever had any validity to start). We don’t have a special task force for “telephone usage” or “the art of cocktail conversation” (though, in fact, those are not terrible ideas, come to think of it). Social/digital presence is now essential to the business development and marketing conversation, from prospect research through lead generation, from ongoing client engagement to every facet of brand management. Let’s face it. Our digital footprint is often the first thing anyone sees about us these days.
That said, this blog entry, which started life as an assignment to summarize one social media-leaning presentation at LMA16 is going to be a mash-up of takeaways from two utterly unrelated sessions, sessions which nonetheless showed the essential value of digital and social as a matter of accepted course in the world of legal marketing.
Jonathan Fitzgarrald, Equinox Partners, presented “ROI: Measuring So You Can Better Manage,” an effervescent boot camp on law firm managing up and leaning in and breaking out. In the surest sense of “getting more flies with honey,” Fitzgarrald returned frequently to the truism that what you can’t measure doesn’t matter – and more to the point, if you don’t know what matters to your clients, no measurement in the world will help you. And if you are still encountering difficulty selling the importance of digital client engagement to law firm leadership, follow this recipe …
- Ask your attorneys about their priorities. Don’t assume.
- Are you mining social media to understand what your clients are seeking and how they are communicating? What are your competitors saying and to whom?
- Form an unofficial board of advocates in your firm – mix of attorneys & other colleagues.
- With firm growth priorities in mind, how can social/digital help? What are stakeholder concerns/fears?
- Socialize unfamiliar concepts using data, outcomes, competitor examples, non-legal examples. Plant the seed, and let others champion the idea. Doesn’t matter who gets “credit,” if it benefits the firm.
- Measure your social media efforts – quantitatively and anecdotally. Proactively circulate internal monthly measures/outcomes: reach/impressions, shares/likes, media mentions.
- Actively demonstrate your value and that of social/digital.
- Help linear folks see in 3D.
As social media has evolved from being a standalone topic to a vital communications/ engagement tool, discussions of use, value, measurement were woven throughout many LMA16 presentations across varied topics. Nowhere was that truer than in Tas Gooman and Jabez LeBret’s “Your Honor Awards Meet PechaKucha,” with presentations by Jann E. Dudley of Archer Norris; Daryl Drabinsky of DLA Piper; Sarah Fougere, of Oblon, McClelland, Maier, & Neustadt; Morgan Hall from McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland; and Andrea (Crews) Maciejewski from Levenfeld Pearlstein.
In fact the very presentation-style of the session reflected how social media has impacted our speaking styles and absorption of information. What is PechaKucha you ask? It’s a timed presentation – six minutes and your slides keep moving whether you are ready or not – requiring the speakers (in this case the 2016 Your Honor recipients) to focus on the key narrative points: what they did, how they did it, and what results they achieved.
Here’s the thing. Nearly every one discussed how social media/digital was essential to their strategy: targeting messages by audience segment, creating agility and ability to customize what is viewed/received, and offering bigger impact for lower costs. Some of the most memorable tips …
- Microsites (as opposed to traditional web bios) for attorneys. One size does NOT fit all. For more digitally/socially active subjects, a microsite rewards by including social links, blog posts, etc.
- In designing “book of content” style sites/microsites, send out private links for measurement and create customized marquees for respective audience interest.
- Use images rather than text (which I’m failing at presently), and find ways to present information as stories, as narrative, not as cascades of bragging points.
- Use social/digital to make your campaigns “come to life” with real voices – people want to talk to people, not entities.
- What issues are trending on social media (e.g. marriage equality), and does that present a growth opportunity? Move fast, and engage … but “non-lawyer-ly.”
- Hire a local up-and-coming fashion photographer to differentiate photos used in social.
- Feature profiles, news in-line with business you hope to attract.
- Explore platforms that allow you to provide easy-to-share content to attorneys, but avoid dreaded “auto-posting” appearance.
Based on these various ideas ping ponging around my brain (thanks, LMA16!), here are the challenges I see going forward …
- Think less about social media in a “tactical bubble” and more as the accepted (and at times primary means) of strategically communicating. Why is there this “fire wall” around social/digital?
- Build social/digital more prominently into reporting mechanisms. Where are our clients learning about us? What are they saying and where?
- Think visually, communicate concisely, speak personally. There is a necessary precision to legal communications; however, our digital/social presence is competing against millions of messages (legal and non-legal) every day. How can we stand out, while walking that fine line of credibility and promotion?
And remember that the first handshake your attorney may have with a potential client is more likely than ever to occur in cyberspace.
Roy Sexton is Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Trott Law, P.C., a Michigan-based real estate law firm serving the mortgage industry (www.TrottLaw.com). A graduate of Wabash College, he holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and an MA in theatre from the Ohio State University. He has nearly 20 years of experience in strategic planning, business development, marketing and communications, having worked previously at Deloitte Consulting and Oakwood Healthcare.
He is a published author with two books of arts criticism Reel Roy Reviews, compiled from his blog of the same name (www.ReelRoyReviews.com). He is an at-large member of LMA’s Midwest Board, serves on the state Board of Governors of the Michigan Mortgage Lenders Association, and is a co-founder and board member of Ann Arbor’s Penny Seats Theatre Company. He is active in the Social & Digital Media SIG and is on the advisory board for Strategies. You can reach him by emailing email@example.com or via the following social media channels:
- Twitter: @roysexton
- LinkedIn: /royesexton
- Facebook: /roy.sexton
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