There are only three potential sources of work – your current clients, your professional contacts and new clients - and when you break it down, there are only two ways to reach those three groups - in person and in writing.
This site has been designed to look at what sits behind those three routes to market. What can you do in person and what can you do in writing?
It is an essential component of marketing as winning business today requires more than just being a good lawyer. You need to stay visible to clients, prospects, and contacts if you are going to generate referrals and, more importantly, opportunities.
Your mindset should always be 'How can I help people?' not 'How can I sell?' Make people comfortable; say 'hello', look them in the eye, shake hands, be relaxed, offer them a drink and ask 'open questions (i.e. ones that require more than a yes or no answer).
Networking is about building and maintain a strong personal network. As well as formal events you should also be:
You need to have a system that'll help you stay visible (and that'll fit in with your working life). A useful first step is often to compartmentalised - split your contacts into groups (current colleagues, previous colleagues, clients, personal interests, community activities, intermediaries/referrers, association/trade body membership) then use the tools at your disposal (email, social media and the firm's marketing platforms) to stay in their eye-line between meetings.
To get the maximum value from any networking you have to be prepared to make a real commitment. This means getting involved and seeing people regularly not simply at one-off events... and it means following up. There are many ways to actively participate in a group. You could deliver a talk, act as treasurer or chair or just do more to share your professional network with people you meet or just share 'professional gossip.
Most people just turn up, look like they don't really want to be there and drift around a room aimlessly. A good goal is to decide how many meaningful conversations you want to have and how many business cards you want to collect. It's better to have a target of 3 or 4 rather than racing around to hit a higher number.
Most event organisers will produce delegate lists and send these to you in advance if you ask. From this list decide who you want to talk to at the event then use LinkedIn and their websites to help you build up a more complete picture of those people. This will help you in conversations on the day/night.
You never know when or where you might meet someone important. Giving someone your business card after a brief conversation makes it easier for you both to follow up and stay front of mind.
A smart appearance is always important whatever the occasion. This does not mean spending a vast amount of money but being well groomed and dressing appropriately for each different event.
A simple search on "networking events + (city)” will generate all you need to know in a fraction of a second.
When you find an event try and find out as much as you can about who attends. This could be in the text or the photos on the group's site or you may need to drop the organisers a quick email to ask them. If it comes back that it's predominantly lawyers, don't bother; you will not generate the opportunities you want if the room's packed with competitors. If the attendees match your target profile and contain names you know you could act for, register without delay!
You will always get on better with people who are most like you so choose the events that cater for you in terms of career level, age, sex and personal preferences.
Networking is most likely to generate results if it is done consistently. Make sure you pick events that run on a monthly or bi-monthly basis and aim to attend 10 or 4 per year respectively. If events are established and run professionally on a regular and set basis, the attendance will be larger and of a higher quality than those events that come up from time to time and have a tendency to be skipped or cancelled at the last minute.
Don't be afraid to ask clients and contacts where they go. If the people closest to you (professionally speaking) are getting value from the events they tell you about, the chances are you will too.
You are much better attending smaller events with the right people than huge big events with a more diverse and less predictable attendance. Conversely, don't be put off if an event looks compact and bijoux; if the attendance is right, the event is right.
Networking represents a significant amount of time and budget so you need to make sure you are spending both properly. Although you need to give any event a good go (6 visits minimum) take some time out each year to work out if your networking is generating results and cut out the events that aren't delivering and replace them with something new.
And remember the phrase "I went once and didn't get any work so I'm not going back again” or close cousins of it must be banned.
If you arrive early you will be more composed and will therefore project yourself better. It also allows you to ask the host if they could introduce you to the people you want to meet. And when you arrive, position yourself near the food and drink so you are as visible as possible and as easy to talk to as possible.
People worry unduly about what they are going to say. The irony is that people you meet will not remember what you said, they'll remember is how you made them feel. It is therefore more important to focus on making people feel comfortable rather than preparing clever 'elevator scripts' to describe your services. Ask people how they got to the event or whether they are regulars, ask people what they are hoping to get from the event. And small talk is easier if you read newspapers, read books, go to the cinema or keep up with sports.
Aim to chat for 10 minutes, close the conversation then move on. This is not rude - everyone is there to network, not just you. If you find yourself speaking to someone that is not much help to you, ask them who they want to meet and try to provide that introduction so you can move on. If this isn't possible just say 'It has been good meeting you, I hope you enjoy the event.' There is no need to be embarrassed. Just make sure you promise to follow up by email or telephone and keep that promise.
People standing alone will be grateful for the company while people in twos are easy to approach (and if one of the two is looking to move on, they'll be grateful for your arrival).
The event is a stepping stone. Success is meeting the right people, building rapport and making it easy to follow up afterwards. Your sole focus should be to establish rapport being friendly. Instead of selling, think about how you can help the person you're talking to - do you have any insight you can share or do you have contacts you could introduce them to? And it's always better to ask questions and listen to the answers than to talk about yourself.
The most effective networkers have lighter conversations. They don't try too hard to make a positive impression; they're happy to talk about football, family and holidays and they don't take themselves too seriously.
Read people's cards in front of them when they give them to you. It's also good practice also to write down notes on the back of cards to remind you of the things you should mention when you're following up (though you don't want to do that bit in front of them).
It is easier to remember names if you repeat them when you are introduced. Some people also find it helpful to associate names with images, e.g. if you meet someone with the surname Baker you might think about bread.
The atmosphere at any event you go to - breakfast, lunch or after work - will change as it goes on. At the beginning people are a little tense but later on the mood relaxes and people are more open and when they're more relaxed you will get more value from your conversations. Often the core people will move on to somewhere quieter and more informal after the main event. If you're there at the end you can go with them.
There is no magic wand when it comes to turning conversations into instructions. Every situation is different so you have to adapt your tactics to fit the client and the specific nuances of each scenario.
The chances of you having a coffee meeting at exactly the same time your contact has work to give you are unlikely. Success is about persistence and staying on the radar so that when the timing is right, you are front of the queue.
Notwithstanding the two previous points you are likely to have to 'touch' your client or professional contact 5-9 times before you get instructed; staying visible is critical.
It is best to follow up in two ways within 48 hours of meeting someone. Both steps are easy and only require a couple of minutes of your time. Firstly, write a personal short email making reference to the event and suggesting alternative dates in 3-6 weeks' time to meet up and continue the conversation (say you are 'working in the area' so you don't appear too pushy). Secondly, connect via LinkedIn.
Sometimes emails get mislaid or the people you contact may never get round to responding. This doesn't mean they're not interested in you. Persistence pays; if you have no joy first time, send a second email including something of value, e.g. a special report or an article.
Success is not about getting immediate instructions but building relationships. In all of your follow up, focus on adding value not on selling and you will usually be successful in getting follow up 'coffee' meetings.
Often what puts people off networking is the misapprehension that networking has to mean networking events. It doesn't. Your networking will be more successful if you do what you like with people you like; if what you like doesn't exist, start it!
Here are some examples of self-started events we've seen launch and all are still going and still growing in popularity:
One client in the south-west has formed a 5-a-side team that involves a solicitor, a trademark attorney, a surveyor, a banker and an accountant. They all get on well as they made the effort to spend time after each game as well as during it, and the members now refer a good volume of work around the team. This has now been replicated by his female colleagues who have started a netball team on the same grounds.
Admittedly this is a personal preference but, as such, it's one that I know works. I've seen various groups with fluid memberships use every level of football from the Champions League to the Conference as an excuse to get together pre-match, have a pint and a chat and create both potential work opportunities and new introductions as a result.
A tax advisor we worked with in the North West married her dislike of networking with her love of the popular Channel 4 show to create a group comprising of herself, a barrister, two solicitors and a bank manager. They meet every other month, cook and mark their efforts … and create work opportunities for each other.
Bored of the beer and sporting events championed by their male colleagues, a group of solicitors, property professionals and bankers in Yorkshire have created a bi-monthly lunch in a pre-set venue, and of a format more conducive to their tastes. To continue a theme, it now generates a wealth of new opportunities for the members.
Another group disenchanted with the local networking scene's penchant for organising everything in large chain pubs and restaurants decided to get together and choose a 'different' pub (in terms of age, selection, history, and location) to meet up in every few weeks. While they did admittedly all know each other well beforehand, the addition of a 'plus one rule' has kept the group fresh and the introductions flowing.
How much time do you spend attending networking events and how often are you disappointed with the financial return? Typically when you attend an event of fifty people you will only talk to five. Of those five the majority may not be of interest or may move on before the conversation gets to the interesting part. If you speak you will make a bigger impact; you will speak and, as you’re on the podium you’ll immediately be seen as an expert.
When it comes to the professional services, people buy people. Having a platform to showcase your personality, engage with prospective clients and demonstrate your expertise will give you the edge over less personal (and more traditional) marketing approaches like advertising, sponsorship, and brochures.
According to research, public speaking is feared worse than death. That sounds a little extreme but there is no doubt giving presentations causes the majority of people huge anxiety. The good news is there are practical things (in the simplest terms planning and practice) one can do to reduce that anxiety and present with more confidence - and confidence is the critical factor in terms of generating results.
When faced with giving a presentation most people start on the slides immediately. Don’t. Start by planning and making sure you know what you want to do, how you want to do it and what you want people to do after you’ve spoken.
What action do you want people to take after your talk? All too often people say “my talk is just for information’’ or “it’s just a profile builder”. No, it isn’t. You want to make people do something specific afterward; you want an excuse to follow up whether that’s an invitation for coffee, signing up for a free audit or asking for a special report. If you can’t follow up you won’t take things forward towards that first/next piece of work and if you don’t make clear what you want people to do next, the chance is nothing will ever happen.
Before you start your first slide make sure find out who is attending, how many will be attending, their preferred approach (formal or informal, progressive or conservative, creative or technical) and the demographics of your audience (their age, nationality, job title). You should also confirm your audience’s current level of understanding when it comes to your topic. Do you pitch your talk for beginners or is there already a high level of familiarity with your topic? If it’s split, it may be better to offer two sessions on the same subject to match the different levels of understanding.
If it’s at all possible, visit the room where you will be presenting in advance to get a feel for the place. You need to know whether there are projection facilities, whether you’ll need to bring your own laptop on the day or send slides in advance, what the layout of the room will be, whether you’ll need amplification and whether there will be technical and AV support on the day.
PowerPoint is one possibility (and almost definitely the expected one) but there are many others including:
In order to set the scene, at the start of some talks you may want to underline your credentials. Before you start your slides ask yourself if you think it is necessary as a stroll around your CV isn’t the most interesting use of your audience’s time. If it’s a brand new and very specialist audience a brief introduction could be valuable, if your audience knows you or is more general, it’s probably best to skip it.
First off, list out the three things you want to get over during your talk. Then put them into the order you want to deliver them in. Once you have that basic structure work out your start (how will you set the scene and articulate how your audience will benefit from listening to you) and how will you finish (what will the call to action be, what do you want the audience to do next?).
Now you have a structure, now you can open PowerPoint and get on with the slides.
Getting buy-in is half the battle. You can make this easier by getting in touch with your audience before the day of the talk. Here are a few ways to do that:
This may sound flippant, glib even, but ‘audience’ is the watchword. If there is an audience of people who could, should and would be interested in your services, there is a commercial opportunity for you. A quick search on the internet will uncover the events in your area or in your sector and from there you can contact the organiser. Ask them if they are looking for speakers (though make sure you have an idea about what you’d speak about in your back pocket as they’ll undoubtedly ask) and if there’s interest, you can ask for more details about the size and composition of the expected audience.
Your firm will run a series of workshops and seminars throughout the year so offer to speak at the relevant ones. As these will largely be attended by a ‘warm’ audience and will feature a panel of familiar speakers ready to share responsibility for delivery they are the perfect platform for building confidence and honing your presentation skills.
These are arguably the most effective option. They are easy to find, they will be directly relevant to your practice area and, as they are so targeted, the audience will be directly relevant to you. However, as they are highly prized slots, you will need to be a bit more creative with your content. You can’t rely on getting slots if you are saying the same as everyone/anyone else. Make sure you have a novel approach and an opinion to put forward and make sure your initial approach spells out why it’s essential the audience hears what you have to say.
Many networking groups have a keynote speaker or someone who will give a short presentation before facilitating an open discussion. If you attend/know of any events attended by your clients, contacts, and targets, then offer to speak at that kind of event. These slots are usually shorter and more informal which makes them easier to prepare for. However, because of the format, it is much more comfortable for interested parties to come up to you afterward to continue the conversation.
Wherever possible try to uncover new groups, new events and new audiences. Again, all it takes is a quick internet search and the confidence to approach the organiser and offer your services. It can’t be stressed highly enough - that if you are going to spend the time and effort to put a talk together, you want it to have the greatest chance of success and it is more likely you’ll achieve that if you are presenting to a new audience.
One timesaving tip - if you are speaking to a new audience, don’t be afraid to use existing content (or an amalgam of existing content). If they’re new to you, they’ll be new to your material too!
First impressions count for everything. People will form a view in the first thirty seconds and rarely budge from that position. Practice your opening couple of slides until you are word perfect. This will make sure you have the strongest possible impact from the off and grow confidently into the remainder of your presentation.
People are more likely to believe what you say if you look like you believe what you are saying!
Does the way you present yourself fit with your message and what you're selling? If you are selling high-value services do you dress well? If you're selling to a public sector audience, do you dress too well? If in doubt, look smarter and more conservative than you think you need to.
Vary your pitch and intonation and try to use a few pauses for dramatic effect too.
Pay attention to your posture. Stand tall with your shoulders back.
Use your whole body to communicate. Use your hands for amplification.
Make sure the fact you are in the room is adding value to your content. You won't do that be reading them. Your slides should support your message, they should not be a substitute for you.
What are the three key messages that you want people to take away from your talk? Peoples' ability to retain information from talks is very poor. Keep it simple and make sure that people remember three important points. You can provide more detail or technical information separately via a follow-up email or a hard-copy hand-out after the event to reinforce those three ideas completely.
Bin the bullet points (we'll return to this in a later section) and use words in windows instead. Use images, schematics, charts and diagrams in preference to words. Keep sentences short. And always, always use the largest font the design of the slides will allow.
People have poor concentration spans. After 18 minutes there is a dramatic drop in your audience's attention so you need to maintain their attention levels. If this sounds a bit alien or out of reach, here are some practical tips to help:
Before every talk you ever give you should set very clear objectives or, in management-speak, know what success looks like. And ‘win business’ and ‘build profile’ aren’t objectives, they’re vague, woolly statements. The three-step model we use to set objectives is ODE:
Most presentations finish abruptly with a ‘thank you’ slide or a quick ‘here are my contact details’. This isn’t enough. Instead you need to:
Best practice is not to make assumptions; suggest small and easy ‘baby steps’ rather than trying to strong-arm your audience into making big commitments. Provide as many options as possible and make all your suggestions and/or instructions clear.
Marketing success does not necessarily come from your talks per se. Success comes from follow up and that needs to be continual, creative and varied if it’s going to catch (and keep) your audience’s attention. Buying legal services is about timing; proper follow up based upon ongoing ‘touches’ keeps you in your prospective clients’ eyelines so that, when the time is right, they think of you and not your competitors.
Here are some proven, practical touchpoints that will work:
These are generally around 1500 words and can discuss recent developments within your practice areas or within the industry sectors or groups of individuals you focus on. They can be published on your website and/or as part of a hard copy or electronic newsletter.
These are shorter than articles - around 300-400 words is the current best practice - and they tend to be more informal, opinion-led pieces. They can also employ news or cultural reference points as an angle rather than straightforward reportage.
The more expert and relevant your mailpieces, cover letters, and brochures appear, the more credible they will become. You can do your marketing a huge favour by providing those words.
Admittedly a horrible term but you know the type of thing - 7 ways to do this, 5 things you can do to avoid that. These are a current vogue and growing in popularity as they're easy for your audience to read (and easy for you as an author to write). They are also much beloved of the algorithms that power the search engines.
As we'll look at later, the watchword of any content production exercise is 'value' - your content has to deliver value to its reader and 'how to' guides (or white papers or special reports depending on the preferred vernacular in your firm) are a perfect way to deliver the desired levels of value. They also make valuable additions to your website and good attachments for emails and follow up.
In addition to having articles published on your website and in your newsletters, having them published in the trade or local press will put your name in front of a brand new audience and help your present yourself as knowledgeable and credible from the off.
Columns are like articles but shorter. They tend to be given out either as a 'taster' so the editor can see what you can do or on a series basis once you've proved your worth. If it's the former, they can often be first step towards longer (or more regular) pieces for the same publisher.
Many publications now run an externally populated blog section on their websites. These need to be continually updated so an offer of help is usually well received and the perfect way to start building a relationship with a publisher.
The 'write an article' feature on LinkedIn is a powerful marketing tool. Not only does it automatically notify all your contacts that you've published a piece, but - tagged correctly - it will also allow you to be found by a new audience that is searching for the topic you're writing about.
Your audience wants someone they get on with and someone who will give them straightforward, practical advice and not hide behind overcomplicated sentences and legal jargon. The best way to tick those two boxes is to provide some straightforward practical advice that people can actually use in the plainest of English and consistently produce content that people will use, enjoy and - most importantly - respond to.
When was the last time you used "thereby" when you were in the supermarket? When did you last say "ergo" when you were out for dinner? Exactly. You should always write as you speak … you can even use abbreviations! There is nothing more off-putting than a blog or an article that is written like a thesis and there is nothing more engaging than a piece of practical advice from a personal acquaintance. Imagine you're talking to a friend and replicate the language and points of reference you'd usually use.
The people who read your content want to know how to tackle something that directly affects them; they don't want to build up a working knowledge of the law. Always make sure the advice you give practical and straightforward and don't sit on the fence, try to add some clear direction even if that direction is to get in touch with you to discuss it further. Also, try and use anonymous examples and/or case studies to put your advice in context. People respond well to stories and the more you can frame your advice in the situation the reader has or is likely to face, the more likely it will be that they will get in touch with you at some stage.
Too many lawyers are still a little scared of giving a bit off themselves, especially when they're writing. However, without any real data or due diligence, my experience has been those that are willing to use a slightly lighter touch and, dare I say it, have a laugh with their clients and contacts are generally busier than those who still find it awkward. Now obviously I'm not talking about producing a complete stand-up routine, I'm talking about using a lighter touch overall, perhaps through the use of exaggeration, caricature or slightly more creative points of reference.
People don't have the time (or patience or inclination) to read 2000 words of in-depth technical discourse. They want something they can read quickly on a single page on their phone or tablet. According to recent studies a man's attention span is around 180 words and a lady's is about 225 so try and keep your word count under 300 … and the good news is keeping your content short means it's quicker to write and shouldn't require long hours of painstaking research.
Make sure you are publishing regularly and hitting the deadlines you've set. If you are promising a weekly update or a question of the week, you need to bring something out every week not just in the weeks in which you have a bit of spare time. Similarly if you're promising a monthly newsletter, it needs to come out every month. As your readership becomes more mature this will be even more important. People will expect - and even look forward to - your content so you have to be totally consistent as any dips in service will knock your credibility.
If you are going to push yourself to the front of the mass of information being sent out by other firms every day, you need to capture the attention of your readers. The best way to do that is to deliver value in everything you write and make sure your readers finish your piece knowing more than they did before they started. Every time you write something work out what the objective is, what the reader will find out by the end of your piece and then work backwards.
Don't just employ block text, try FAQs (brilliant for SEO as they'll be built around your key search terms) and listicles (articles made up on lists, e.g. "7 ways to strengthen your terms and conditions" or "9 things people forget when they're selling a business"). Varying your approach keeps people's interest and is more likely to appeal to the various preferences of the people you want to attract.
Once you've taken the time to write something, sweat everything you can out of it. Not everyone will see your email alert so republish the piece on your website and send the link out on social media then a week or so later publish it as a posting on LinkedIn. Not only will this send a notification to all of your contacts' inboxes (reminding them about you and what you do) but if you also add relevant tags, it'll also come up in searches being made by people you're not currently connected to but people who are looking for information on the services you are writing about. You could also start an account on an open blogging platform like WordPress; this will again open you up to an even larger audience who are searching for content just like yours.
Bland commentary doesn't work. There is so much information in the world so you need to say something that stands out. Have an opinion on what's going on in your profession, in the sectors you serve or in your local area and be prepared to share it. Don't just report on changes, explain the potential ramifications of those changes and alert people how to avoid those ramifications.
Using real-life examples from the news and firm popular culture makes your content more interesting and more readable. Using real-life examples also marks you out as someone with a personality. Yes, your clients and contacts want advisers with the right technical skills but all of the client service interviews we undertake for our clients repeatedly reinforce that they want the right services from someone they can get on with.
Don't limit publication to your website and social media accounts. Think about the magazines, online forums and even client/contact newsletters who would be interested in your content. And that doesn't mean the local Law Society/ICAEW newsletter or your professional trade body's magazine, it means finding the titles your clients and targets read. A cursory internet search will highlight the relevant titles to approach but if you want more insight, ask your clients what they read.
A circulation list is a living entity. If you are going to get the best return from your content marketing, you need to keep your list up to date and make sure you are adding new names all of the time. LinkedIn is a brilliant way to stay up to date with people moving and to research key contacts at target organisations. Yell.com is also a valuable tool and allows you to search for businesses by sector or area and if they're advertising, they'll still be operating and if they are still operating they will need professional advice.
Don't be afraid to inject a bit of humour or, at the very least, conversational colloquialisms. Again people want advisers they can get on with, advisers they consider to be "normal" so this lighter touch will help you stand out from the dry content you often see.
The one thing we see missing from the external communications sent out by lawyers and accountants is a call to action. Make sure everything you send out tells people what to do next to continue the conversation. Build in response buttons and include email hyperlinks into your template and test it out on a few colleagues to make sure it's completely visible on the page and that the next steps are blindingly obvious. And give them a couple of options - people respond to different things in different ways at different times.
This needs to be done as a PDF so visitors can download it in its original form if they want to - and then also added to your website as text so that it positively influences your site's SEO.
As an agency we do a lot of content-based marketing but nothing garners the level of response a relevant ‘saw this and thought of you' type email or hard copy clipping (even better than email) achieves. Of course, if you are going to that you need to have the publishers' permission, to add the publishers' details and to make sure you are sending it out when they are happy for you to do so as some will want a month or more in terms of exclusivity.
Add it as an update (with a link to your article on the magazine's website if available) and tweet the link. Better still add it as a post on LinkedIn because that way your contacts are told you've published it.
Use the PDF as a credibility builder and attach it to follow up emails after you've met someone within that sector to show them you are doing more than just talking about your sector credentials. Much of the purchasing decision around choosing a solicitor relies on the prospect's ability to mitigate the risk of giving you their work. Showing you are enmeshed in the fabric of your chosen sectors will help move this process along.
Once people see you know what you're talking about - in terms of legal advice and sector knowledge - they will be more inclined to offer you more editorial slots and even the opportunity of speaking at recognised industry events. Both will help you promote yourself and both will boost your visibility without a single networking event which is right back to where we started.
First off we're not talking about getting into the local free ad rags, we're talking about editorial content in the specialist titles that serve the sectors you want to work in. If you don't already know the most popular publications in your sector, a quick Google search will highlight them (and give you the name and email address of the editor).
You can't just produce a sales pitch for your firm or your practice. We're talking about making serious comment on the issues your clients - and many more prospective clients of a similar profile - really face in their business or personal lives. You need to be relevant and current. You also need to be practical.
I cannot stress enough that your proposed article has to add value to the publication and that means it needs to deliver value for the reader. Your content needs to leave the reader knowing more than they did when they started reading it whether that's because you've showed them an alternative way of doing something or a way of doing things for themselves, their businesses or their family. You need to underline the fact you not only understand the issues your readers face but also how to solve them. If you can present that to the editor, your approach is much more likely to be accepted.
Send the editor of your chosen publications a short email introducing yourself, summarising your idea and underling how the article will benefit their readers. Never end a finished article as you will have wasted your time if it is not picked up (unless of course you use it for your own internal marketing vehicles).
You may have sent your email at a very busy time or a few hundred more emails may have come in on top yours before the editor had time to respond. Be prepared to resend your email and, if that doesn't work, to ring them. Similarly if your first idea isn't accepted, don't burn the contact, go back with new ideas as you have them. As with all BD activities, persistence pays.
In today’s fast-moving world there is no denying that customers look to the internet for help, advice, and guidance on just about everything; from reviews of the latest gadget on the Gadget Show’s website to personal reviews of products purchased on Amazon. Back in 1996, Bill Gates said that ‘Content is King’ and today it is becoming more and more important for firms to showcase their services and customer satisfaction with the aim of gaining new business and retaining existing revenues.
This is where PR can help. Public Relations is all about using good news stories about your firm to create market awareness. Good PR can be distributed through a mixture of ‘channels’ to drive your key messages home to your prospects and customers. Some examples of ‘channels’ are; articles on your website, Twitter and LinkedIn posts, and of course the traditional ‘press release’ sent to local newspapers and business publications.
PR does not all have to be done ‘in-house’ - there are multiple models that are available to you:
There are a wide variety of PR tools and techniques and you will find that some fit your firm better than others - based on the personalities of Senior Decision Makers within your firm, and the make-up of your Customer and Prospect Community.
Usually a statement about something important e.g. the signing of a new client, or a high profile member of staff being added to the team. The release should be written in such a way that the person consuming the information can easily understand why the news is important and what it would mean to them if they were a client. Talking about the types of services you offer to particular vertical markets or the experience you have in a particular sector will help to increase market awareness of your firm.
These provide more of an in-depth review of a particular situation e.g. how you work with a certain client. Ideally completed in a ‘Question & Answer’ style, case studies will showcase to prospects what the customer experience is like when working with your firm. They will also convey your expertise and your services in a ‘real world’ example and if you operate in a particular niche case studies are a great way of showcasing your skills.
Journalists are busy people who often freelance across multiple publications and/or communication methods (e.g. print, social, web, and broadcast media) so they are constantly looking for well-informed industry commentators who can make their life easier. If you can build yourself a strong industry presence for such commentary and show expertise in vertical markets this can be very valuable. If you can comment on topical subjects (e.g. ‘Brexit’) then you will find this is a ‘self-fueling’ way of getting inspiration for your comments. Once you have a profile built by providing such commentary, more and more opportunities will present themselves.
It doesn’t matter if you love social media or you personally stay away from sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, Social Media is very much here to stay. If your clients are of a certain generation you are expected to have a social media presence, and in order for it to work for your firm, it needs to be constantly fed with content. Any news that you are communicating in any other channel can also go out via Social Media – Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are really popular channels and (once you have an understanding of how they can work for you) are an easy element to add into your PR plan.
Organisations are regularly looking for free advice on all areas of their business, Legal is no different. If you can be perceived to be providing a small nugget of valuable information to your prospects and giving them a taste of what they would get as a client you may find your conversion rates increasing. These opinion pieces can be pushed out via social media and/or your target publications. Once the material is created, you should look to use it as many times as is possible. All PR content can be used for marketing too – for example in email shots, or in events and seminars.
Actionable insight is what everyone is looking for. When you search on the internet for something you tend to ask a question ‘where is my nearest…’, ‘ How do I…’. Providing information that answers particular questions in the form of a How to Guide again positions you as an industry, subject matter, or vertical market expert.
With so many PR mechanisms at your fingertips and a variety of people willing to offer them the best place to start is often with existing suppliers of tools and technologies to your business. They will already have PR channels within their organisations that you can use – and if you can leverage these to your advantage you will gain free PR. If you talk to your suppliers of your office equipment, IT infrastructure or office space and get them to write PR for you that promotes their products as well as your own unique selling points and key messages they will do all the leg-work for you. Be sure to give them a list of publications you would like to appear in and even go so far as leveraging any relationships they have with publications or video producers to gain material that helps them promote their services - but in return ask them to create a version of that material that works for your own PR.
By Sharon Cain, PR strategist, Quest PR MD and former BBC and Sky TV journalist
In a saturated sector besieged by a myriad of external challenges sparked by the legal Services Act 2007 and exacerbated by internal demands – how do mid-tier firms ensure that their PR is prominent?
Securing powerful profiling and media recognition as a ’go to’ practice which is called on time and again by the media to comment on specific issues has never been more critical to prevent low brand recognition and the ‘out of sight out of mind’ syndrome.
Equally important when devising your PR strategy is ensuring that it dovetails with your marketing plan. A tried and tested formula for success entails a process where your marketing content - aptly outlined in the writing chapter of this book - is adapted and tailored (wherever relevant) across PR and social media.
Irrespective of whether you are currently making inroads into public relations or about to embark on this route, it is key to determine that your PR, marketing and social media strategy is wholly aligned with your firm’s business plan. To determine this, ask yourself:
Until you establish the responses to the above questions, you will never know if you have arrived at your PR destination - and will have no yardstick against which to measure success.
Having concluded the above, the next step is to find the right person to develop, drive and deliver a plan that will work in tandem with your marketing and harness the power of the media to help you to leapfrog your competitors.
The options are:
To seek out a competent in-house PR and social media manager (you require a deliverer as opposed to a director) - who is competent in writing expert comment, articles, case studies, mailers, digital newsletters, press releases and blogs. Writing skills are vital because the role requires tailoring the PR into social media soundbites for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
To outsource your PR and commission a PR agency. If this is your preferred option, ensure the agency has a strong track record of working with professional service firms and understands your firm’s goals and vision. Also ensure they have delivered ‘joined up’ campaigns in partnership with marketing professionals, that they understand the importance of CRM systems to both marketing and PR campaigns (because they will be compiling mailers and digital newsletters to existing andprospective clients) – and can provide evidence of previous success.
In my experience as both a former national journalist and PR strategist, the power of positioning yourself as an expert with print and broadcast media to drive brand and profile cannot be underestimated.
In the same way that, as a former BBC and Sky TV reporter, I would call on the most articulate and interesting interviewees, editors and journalists today also need spokespeople who can succinctly translate the latest legislation into layman’s terms and spell out its implications, comment on milestone legal cases, predict trends, provide tops tips - and add value to round table debates.
The media will profile ‘new kids on the block’ - which provides a tremendous opportunity for lawyers to be a fresh face and voice for readers, listeners and viewers.
Speaking opportunities present another powerful platform on which to present tips, advice, and insights at networking events and trade associations, where respective organisers will promote your presentation/seminar/workshop across their extensive databases. Being invited to present firmly places you as an expert in your field and opens doors for networking and follow-up meetings.
Being acknowledged as an industry expert requires that you get to grips with - and understand - the media you are pitching your expert comment, articles, and press releases to. Develop a rapport with a dedicated contact within the relevant publications – whether business to business, business to consumer and/or trade media. This helps your media contact to understand your firm better than trying to deal with different reports every time. Also take into consideration reporters differing needs for print and broadcast media (see below) where it is more effective to establish a rapport with key producers.
Be Aware of Your Deadlines
Plan and keep across the media’s deadlines – whether they are monthly, weekly daily, or hourly as with some broadcast media. Establish a relationship with reporters so they understand your firm’s areas and expertise and how its rich content can add value to their readers. The media likewise appreciate that you understand the constraints and deadlines under which they are working.
Articles, press releases and comment are invariably enhanced by statistics which give them more gravitas and authority. Wherever possible, include figures illustrating, for example, an increase in productivity, turnover, client portfolio, deals or monies raised via community relations activities. If your firm conducts corporate and /or property deals, devise a template and measure year on year growth which makes a good storyline if figures are up.
Use Strong Images
The importance of investing in strong images which bring a story alive and reinforce your company’s values and ethos cannot be underestimated. A picture still continues to say a thousand words. So many images the media receives from professional service firms are bland and unmemorable, so like your content, ensure your images stand out and think through the images you need to grab a journalist’s attention.
Create Powerful Headlines
An arresting headline can often determine whether or not the reporter will use your story. Always integrate the headline for your articles, expert comment and press releases into the subject header of your email as this is first thing that journalists see. With reporters and producers being besieged with hundreds of emails daily, securing their attention at the outset is a critical success factor.
Compile engaging content
The overused cliché ‘Content is king’ is a misnomer – journalists are seeking great content that will act as a magnet for their respective audiences. The writing chapter lists articles, blogs, listicles and columns as some examples of leveraging visibility. Always make your content topical, interesting, relevant and thought provoking.
Becoming a media ‘go to’ who producers, reporters, and editors call on to comment on topical and salient issues requires the media understanding across areas and topics you can comment on. Setting up Google Alerts will help your firm to keep across the fast-moving news agenda.
Being given an opportunity also requires immediate response – because you do not want the journalist to approach your competitors.
Before targeting broadcast journalists, ensure that you are media trained – because you only get one opportunity. If in doubt commission a media training specialist so that you emerge from a regional or national radio or TV interview knowing that you have done yourself and your firm justice.
Be prepared before embarking on media interviews – the majority of which will be conducted via telephone - and always remember that you have no editorial control over which comment or message the reporter will include in their article. Here are some pointers to follow:
Interviews with print journalists
Interviews with radio journalists
Local radio is an excellent platform to start on before progressing to national radio stations – and many interviewees who get called by the national media will espouse the benefits of conducting both live and pre-recorded radio interview with their regional BBC and independent stations.
Radio is also a very personal medium so imagine you are talking to an audience of one.
How to handle pre-recorded radio interviews
How to handle live radio interviews
Interviews with TV journalists
Whereas radio is a very personal medium which focuses on your voice - TV is highly visual and reliant upon pictures. TV interviews are not necessarily about what you say –but about how you say it – so it’s vital to exude energy, confidence and enthusiasm.
How to handle pre-recorded TV interviews
How to handle live TV interviews
Winning and being shortlisted for awards will undoubtedly boost brand and profile and it key that they are meticulously researched and underpin the firm’s wider strategy.
Awards will reinforce your expertise in innovation, deals, property – critical areas in which you seek to grow your client portfolio. They can also act as a magnet to attract top talent. Niche law firms can attract referrals from full service practices as a result of clinching prestigious accolades.
Here are some tips when starting out
Writing can be time consuming so, as emphasised at the outset, it’s essential that you create a bank of strong collateral that can work had across marketing, PR and social media.
You will know that the ‘joined up’ approach is successful when you are:
As highlighted at the outset, this will be achieved by referring back to your PR strategy which is aligned with the firm’s wider business plan.
For best practice measurements, The Public Relations Consultants Association advocates putting the spotlight on the three O’s:
Below are some key PR and social media measurements – not all of them may be relevant to your firm:
Twitter’s own analytics tracks engagement rate, mentions, retweets, new followers, interactions with each tweet, link clicks, and likes. Hootsuite is another tool which connects all social media profiles in one place and enabling users to monitor, manage, and schedule posts. SumAll is a cross-platform marketing analytics tool combining social media, web traffic, and sales metrics data for businesses.
This five-step formula is totally process driven and requires meticulous planning and coordination between the PR and marketing disciplines. It also requires identifying the key media you are targeting at the outset as well as establishing who the thought leaders are and ensuring they are confident and competent to undergo a print or broadcast interview.
Remind yourself of the raft of competition your firm is up against. Success will not happen overnight and dogged determination, tenacity and perseverance are required as you build awareness, knowledge and confidence among the media that your practice will react fast to provide comment, reaction and forecasts.
When the turnaround happens and the media approaches your firm as opposed to the other way round, take time to enjoy the achievement – and then accelerate your PR and marketing campaign to sustain the success.
Your networkers need to know where to go to network — finding out this information is hugely beneficial for them.
Your writers need to know where to write. By 'publications' we mean magazines, websites, online forums, your own website/blog, multi-authored books and any other form of hard copy or electronic periodical.
By registering as an attendee you exploit all of the associated networking opportunities but you also need to know - and know well in advance about these kinds of events - so you can volunteer your speakers to give presentations on the day.
On a day-to-day basis knowing what's going on in the fields you are focusing on will produce articles and links you can use to send to clients or use as social media updates. This will help your team members to maintain their visibility between meetings. It also provides you invaluable titbits you can drop into conversation at those meetings as well as a steer on what you need to write about and include within your presentations.
You need to keep up to date with what your competitors are doing. Not only do you need to avoid looking surprised when a contact or client tells you about a recent development, it may also be the source of a few good ideas you could employ yourself.
BD has traditionally (and incorrectly) been viewed as the preserve of the extroverted. That means some fee earners will naturally shy away from anything they perceive a uncomfortable or incongruous with their professional persona. The only trouble is:
Research allows even the most introverted person to make that much needed and very valuable contribution.
If you are uncovering the most relevant and active publications, events and groups for your practice your various marketing efforts will reach a more relevant audience and, by extension, the number of opportunities you generate as a result of those efforts will increase. That means the fees your efforts generate will also increase.
Taking the time to find the most relevant and most active publications, events and groups means is something your competitors may not be doing which means they are more likely not to be populated by or used by countless other lawyers. This will mean you are more of a novelty and much more likely to win work as a result of your presence.
The higher quality and better regarded the channels to market you are using are, the more credible your firm will appear to the other attendees at these events, the readers of those publications and the members of those groups. Any purchase of professional services is about mitigating the risk of using that adviser and establishing real credibility is a powerful way to start that process.
If someone is finding out and passing on all of the required market intelligence then those tasked with writing, speaking and networking can't blame a lack of research time for their lack of progress. If someone is responsible for teeing up the more market-facing members of the team, progress will be achieved more easily and more quickly.
I come from a generation who relied on having to go to a recognised business library to leaf through directories and copy our findings down on paper to take them away with us. However that's all changed with the internet; you can literally find any piece of information with a single, simple search in under a fraction of a second. Then you just have to cut and paste or print your findings.
Better still as the majority of pages will contain links to more information of interest (e.g. a conference website will link to exhibitors, attendees, supporting publications and relevant trade associations) which means you can build up a comprehensive picture without expending too much additional time or effort.
When you find a website or service of interest, sign up for their email updates and newsletters and the information you want will come straight into your inbox without expending any additional time or effort.
And when they come, have a scroll though - don't ignore them. That is unfortunately the bit that even the cleverest marketing/delivery mechanisms can't override!
The internet search engines and the e-content pumped out but the people on the internet are only manifestations of technology. Social media is often the quickest way to pick up on headlines (and opinions) and makes it easy to share those updates immediately. Similarly, apps like YouTube and the BBC Radio iPlayer allow you to absorb information from recognised industry figures and 'talking heads' on the go.
On a more tangible level, the smartphone continues to cement its position as the BD-savvy solicitor's most useful tool. You can pick stuff up as it happens, forward it via any platform at a click (or a swipe) and circulate it immediately so your colleagues can take full advantage of it too.
When your team is out speaking to clients, ask them to ask the clients what's going on, what the issues are and what's important to them. You can also get them to ask which publications their clients read, which events they rate and which networking groups they belong to. Not only will this uncover or underline which you need to be making use of, their insight will also help you chop out the activities least likely to generate any return before you spend time and money on them,
When your colleagues are out and about, ask them which publications they see lying around in their clients' and their contacts' waiting rooms. If they're serving the same sectors (which by definition they should be), then they'll be an accurate reflection of the publications those industries value.
When you are looking at an event, see who the sponsors are, who's attending, who's exhibiting, who the supporting publications and websites are. All of this information will give you a more complete picture of your market and some ideas as to who to add to your target list and who to approach to discuss potential profile raising opportunities.
The TV, the radio and good old-fashioned common or garden newspapers all carry content that'll be interesting to your various BD teams. You can circulate the articles, tip clients off about them or just circulate them so they're stored for discussion in future meetings.
General news (politics, celebrities, sports) also help with the small talk. If you can remember what your clients and contacts are personally interested in, you can use them in a targeted way to help build your relationship.
The media are also a good source of ideas. You can twist a current story to fit your practice area (employment practices tend to be very good at this as any misbehaviour can be made relevant to their daily working lives) or to make a comment on to reinforce your credentials in that area.
Make sure your researchers know who the information has to go to. Building an internal email group is by far the easiest way to do that. Also, make sure that if you want the links to go out via channels like Twitter and LinkedIn that the researchers know you want them circulated that way and that they have the required access.
If it is names you are researching, make sure the researchers know how to add them to your CRM system or the marketing lists you use for that practice, team or department.
The team leader has to make sure all of the above is happening. It may be keep a running total if it's a target list, it may be a watching brief if it's social media updates, it may be a count up of email updates if information is supposed to be circulated that way. If you're attending groups then keeping an excel sheet that lists out your events is an easy checking tool and if it's publishing opportunities you're courting, then you can simply count what's gone on your site (you should be replicating any eternally published articles on your site alongside your 'internal' content) during the period in question.
And if it isn't happening, then the team leader needs to have the wherewithal (and authority) to bring it up and put it right.
If you are going to make progress with your BD, then you need to meet regularly and I'd say regularly should equate to once a month.
During that meeting have a section for news, content, events and networking and ask your researcher/s to provide an update on what they've uncovered and circulated during the last month.
And lastly, always remember, things aren't set in stone. If the events/publications/groups you've researched aren't delivering, find alternatives and be disciplined enough to drop the ineffective options and replace them with fresher alternatives.
Once you know what you want to achieve it's easier to get there. Moreover, it's easier to see exactly how to get there which means you can focus the time, energy and budget you have available on doing the right things for the right reasons.
While diving around from one idea to the next might look like you're busy and fully engaged in the BD process, the reality is you will achieve very little other than tiring yourself out.
If you have your objectives and what you need to do to achieve those objectives clearly set out in front of you – with deadlines/milestones you can follow – it will immediately be much easier for you to implement your plan.
And if the things you need to do are the things you are comfortable doing, the chances of you succeeding with the implementation phase will be much higher than they would be if, every time you look at your plan, you are confronted with a list of things you really don't want to do.
This is the crucial phase. I have never met a lawyer or a law firm who doesn't have great ideas but I have met a variety that have really struggled with implementing those ideas. However, it goes without saying that if it is not successfully implemented, your plan won't be successful.
Having a clear plan allows you to spot opportunities that may not have initially been apparent.
It may be a joint venture you can enter into with another practice area or with one of the professional services organisations you're already talking to; it may be an introduction you know a colleague can make; it may be an event you always knew existed but never recognised the value of attending.
Whatever it is, once you know it could be of benefit for what you want to achieve, it is easier to identify and progress if it is linked to your plan.
An old managing director of mine was particularly prone to using the phrase "success breeds success". Although his continual repetition of those three words was interminably irritating at the time, he was right.
If you can chart your progress you will very often be pleasantly surprised to see how far you've come (often in a very short time).
You can also see which activities are generating opportunities and, over time, work. This is the key. Once you see that what you're doing is creating conversations that in turn create opportunities that in time create fees, it's so much easier to motivate yourself to keep at it.
And remember, it may not be a direct result of what you do. It may be that one activity leads to another conversation which means a referral or enquiry comes in unexpectedly from an unexpected source. This is not a coincidence. It is a result of the effort you have put in elsewhere and wouldn't have happened unless you'd been doing what you've been doing.
The only way to set objectives is to work out where you need to get to. These could be:
Ideally, it should be a little of all of those and I think that working towards two or three overarching objectives across a year is realistic and manageable and much more likely to yield success than working towards a longer list.
All of your objectives need to be backed up with specific goals, the hurdles you need to get over and the milestones you need to hit in order to achieve your main objectives.
This is, in my opinion, the most important element of your plan and you need to get those right. Here are some tips to help you set clearer and more effective goals.
When you start to set goals, stay away from the woolly:
...and commit to the specific:
Now you have real goals to work towards which will help you progress, manage and achieve what you set out to do.
Make sure your goals play directly towards your strengths:
Don't base your plan on the unachievable. You only have a finite amount of time for Business Development so make sure you show endeavour but aren't overstretching yourself.
Try and commit to three things each month. If you achieve 2 (and of course you have applied the required focus to make sure those 2 things will positively impact on your practice) you will make progress across the year... and feel better about yourself at the end of the process so you can take things into the next financial year in a positive frame of mind.
The whole point of applying numbers to your goals is you can measure exactly where you are at any position in the year.
You'll know where you're behind and have to do that little bit more the next month to keep up with your goals. However, on the other side, you'll also know when you are ahead which is always a good feeling!
The other side to keeping it measurable is you will know where you are against your fee target. There will be certain times during your career where you will be behind in terms of BD activity but you may be ahead on fees. That'll answer your HoD's or managing partner's line of questioning as to why you've not been as engaged as expected in BD.
Conversely, if you're behind on fees but ahead on activity, you'll be able to show exactly what you're doing to rectify the financial position if/when you're asked.
At the core, the purpose of BD is to develop your business. In order to do that you need to keep pushing forward so rather than doing the same old things for the same old reasons, don't be afraid to set more aspirational targets.
Use your credentials and experience more creatively to extend into new markets, new sectors or a little bit up the ladder in terms of your client's size and profile.
If you are going to do this properly, you want to see progress, not just expended effort and receipts. One phrase I came across very early in my career working with the legal profession was "I don't want more work, I want better work." I am yet to hear a better description of exactly what we're looking at here.
You need to target those who will help you achieve your objectives. Once you have defined objectives you can work backwards to see who those businesses and individuals are.
Who are your core clients? How big are they? Where do they live? What do they do?
Once you know everything about your clients you can build up a profile you can use to find more of the same, all of whom can be added straight into your target list.
All too many people still think targets have to be clients. Not at all, professional contacts who can refer clients are equally as important.
Which agents/accountants/IFAs do you know already but have a nagging feeling that you should or could establish have more points of contact within the organisation or across different offices?
Which agents/accountants/IFAs do you know are active within your sectors or region but, as it stands, you have no current links into?
Both groups make very credible targets.
What the Americans call 'key influencers' are also vital additions to your personal network and should therefore be considered very worthwhile additions to your target list.
These could be trade associations, event organisers, publishers or just every well-known industry/local figures.
The basic rule is if they can introduce you to relevant individuals/events/publications, they're worth pursuing.
Hopefully I don't need to explain this! Once you know who you're after, a simple internet search will bring forth almost all you need to know ... in a fraction of a second.
LinkedIn is constantly updated with contact information, key contacts' names and areas of responsibility and, within their profiles, you can find out what is going on in their professional lives at any given time.
Meanwhile Twitter is pumping out continual updates on your targets‘ activities and on who is currently being recognised as a mover or shaker in your target markets.
All of this information is hugely useful, not only when it comes to building a target list but also to help you stay visible to that list and have a reason to stay in contact with that list.
Similarly newspapers and even TV and radio news will tip you off as to who's doing what within your particular areas which again will highlight potential targets and give you what you need to stay in touch with the clients you are already working.
When you are out and about with clients, at events, networking or at the local gala dinner, ask the person you are talking to what's going on in their world.
By their nature people like to look informed (which can take a variety of forms from a quiet, assured credibility to full-on 'look at me' name-dropping) and like to be asked so they can show they're informed and well connected.
What they offer could be invaluable additions to your target list that your competitors hadn't even considered let alone approached.
Stay in tune when you're just having a chat to friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances... whoever.
You never know when some good information will come your way. Better still as you tend to be totally relaxed when you're having a chat, it is so much easier to reply with a nonchalant "really, that's interesting, you couldn't introduce me could you?"