Key considerations for law firms seeking to build their brands in the digital age

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Law firms have not generally been on the vanguard of the digital revolution when it comes to branding. In fact, many have remained firm believers in the power of relationships (which is still paramount!), sponsorships, subject matter expertise and advertising as the key drivers of business.

But as clients become more informed, and increasingly turn online and to the media as they consider choosing a law firm, that’s starting to change.

So what are key considerations for your law firm before it embarks upon a digital branding and awareness campaign? Here are three:

Content

Giving away expertise for free might sound like the exact opposite of what a business strives for. However, writing compelling posts and articles for your firm’s website and LinkedIn account is a must in today’s world. Weighing in with the right insight at the right time can be exactly what turns a client’s head as they search for their legal partner.

The investment required, either in internal resources or outside agency expertise, to help your firm’s leaders create content can be very worthwhile, especially if you consider that many of your competitors are doing it already. And while you’re at it, encourage your firm’s partners and associates to tune up their LinkedIn profiles. A missing photo, no summary and incomplete work experience doesn’t inspire confidence in clients.

Earned media

Creating your own content is critical. Still, there is no better and more trusted way for your lawyers to show their expertise than by commenting on issues important to your clients in the media.

Whether it’s a couple of quotes in a key newspaper, a profile piece in a trade publication or a five-minute broadcast interview, earned coverage will drive interest in your firm and lead to more business down the road.

I spoke with one firm that took out a digital and print advertising package in a leading newspaper for $100,000. They expected their phone to ring off the hook, but nothing happened. Shortly afterward, their managing partner talked to a regional TV station ... and inbound inquiries started to pour in. Today, $100,000 buys a very significant amount of PR advice, strategy and execution. I’m obviously biased, but I’d argue the return on investment for a law firm is vastly greater compared to advertising.

Language

When working with law firms, we’ve sometimes jokingly suggested that they be honest with themselves: they love jargon.

Sometimes it’s a shorthand to convey complex concepts between two senior legal professionals. Other times it’s just more comfortable. However, firms must be careful they don’t alienate potential clients and lose opportunities to share their expertise with the media because of language choice.

Fundamentally, people buy from other people. We don’t come into work and all of a sudden begin wishing for increased complexity and more jargon from the people we work with. Therefore, investing in a professional writer – whether internal or external – who can convey complex concepts in easily digestible ways is an important consideration. And when it comes to media, training is a must. A customized, simulation- and practice-heavy media training session will help keep your firm’s spokespeople focused on the key concepts they should be striving to convey, while shedding much of the jargon that can confuse readers, listeners, reporters and editors alike.

Law firms have a tremendous opportunity before them with respect to branding, PR and reputation building in the digital age. Focusing on creating great content, sharing their expertise in the media and paying careful attention to tone and word choice will help ensure they make the most of it.