Monday, 12 November 2018

Angela Holdsworth

Image result for angela holdsworthSitting at Spark21's 2018 conference celebrating the First100 Years of Women In Law, the phrase "Out of the Dolls House and Into the Fire" comes to mind. Partly because the conference is featuring a series of video histories of women in law produced by Angela Holdsworth, the documentary maker famous for her seminal 1980s mini-series “Out of the Doll's House”; partly because one of the main guest speakers is Dany Cotton, the first female commissioner of the London Fire Brigade; but mostly because so many stories I'm hearing at this conference have a common theme: women break through barriers to take on top jobs, to then find their challenge has only just begun. 

I'm a big fan of this First 100 Years project and the way its organisers weave together varied and intricate layers of communication to get their message across. The video histories that Angela and her team are creating are a prime example: rather than polemic, these are highly personal, and therefore relatable, stories. These are a sure-fire way to engage audiences and a rich complement to the conferences, blogs, press pieces and social media activity Spark21 is famous for. 

Another fresh approach they are taking to ensure everyone in the profession is aware 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the first women appointed as solicitors, (and those of you who know me well will clock straight away why I love this idea), is to run a series of 12 parties, one a month throughout the entirety of next year. Each party will celebrate one decade of achievements and milestones of women in law. Now that's what I call dedicated partying!

I was curious to know how Angela first became involved with Spark21 and the First 100 Years project. Catching up over coffee and cake at the Law Society she told me: "We found each other on Twitter, just because we were often sharing similar content. Isn't that great? To make a connection on the basis of the commonality of themes and topics and issues you're interested in? So we began our conversation on Twitter and then transitioned to the real world” and it wasn’t long before Spark21 founder Dana Denis-Smith was asking Angela to take on the role of executive producer for a new stream of video content for the project.

"The plan is to capture stories of women's firsts in law, or of women who have succeeded against the odds, and women who have used law as a stepping stone into another Sphere, such as Major General Susan Ridge, the army's Director General of Legal Services. There's a Finders Committee who decide together who should be profiled. Some choices are obvious, such as Brenda Hale as the first woman President of the UK Supreme Court. Others less well known, such as Khatun Sapnarathe first woman of Bangladeshi origin to be a High Court Judge."

So who else can we look forward to learning about via these video stories?
-Dame Fiona Woolf, previously Law Society President 2006-2007 and Lord Mayer of London 2013-2014 (amongst other significant City of London positions she's held),
-Funke Abimole MBE, multi-award-winning lawyer and business leader who at the start of her legal career had to make 120 calls to secure a training contract (then "articles"). She talks of turning up to one of her first interviews for a legal job only to be told at the door "Sorry, we're not looking for secretaries",  
-Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, the first female Lord Justice of Appeal,
-Dorothy Livingston, first female partner at Herbert Smith Freehills,
-and of course celebrity barrister, broadcaster and Labour Peer, Baroness Helena Kennedy name just a few.
As regular readers of this blog will know, one of my recurring themes is clever use of the visual media to tell a story. So face-to-face with Angela I had a golden opportunity to learn from one of broadcast's best. I wanted to know how she approaches a video story differently from one in print. "You're always looking for what I call the Telling Shot, the one visual that sums up the entire story." I was enthralled as she described a classic telling shot she set up in another of her seminal TV documentaries, "Now The War is Over", chronicling how life changed in Britain from 1945 to 1951. In close-up, her interview subject reminisced about the pre-fab she once loved, sat in her living room looking wistfully out of the window. Then the telling shot: with the audience assuming she was looking out onto a street, the camera pulled away from her and out of the building to reveal she was on the 40th floor of a high-rise. A brilliant encapsulation of how housing policy had changed, how this impacted people’s lives and how they felt about it. All in one single, but cleverly conceived, camera shot.

Do make sure to catch Angela’s video histories as they are released by Spark21. You can follow them on Twitter here to make sure you don’t miss out.
The First 100 Years project aims to Celebrate, Inform and Inspire. The organisers are certainly ticking each of these boxes: we can celebrate at the monthly parties; inform and be informed at the conferences; and be inspired by the video histories. Roll on 2019!
All the work on the project relies on volunteers and donations. If you’d like to give your support, you can make a donation here, or contact the team here to offer your time.  
Copies of BBC’s Out of the Doll's House are hard to get hold of now but you can easily order the book linked to the series here.
Of the many stories that London Fire Chief Dany shared with us, the one that set the room alight, sparking a moment of levity, was the tale of her efforts to get the makers of Fireman Sam to change his job title. She told of the storm she created inadvertently last year, by calling for a change to “Firefighter Sam” as part of a campaign to encourage more women into the Fire Brigade. "For the past 30 years, no one’s had the job title Fireman", she explained. Everyone’s a firefighter. “There’s only one Fireman in the country, and he’s a cartoon called Sam!” The outdated language in the TV cartoon puts young girls and women off from considering firefighting as a career, she says, and they miss out on what could be a very rewarding profession for them.

Dany strongly believes in fighting for equality, allowing both boys and girls to follow whatever career path they want and not be restricted by gender archetypes and prejudices. She used the occasion of Fireman Sam’s 30th birthday to call for the change, as it coincided with her thirtieth year as a firefighter and she thought it was about time. A cute move I thought, although she did experience a strong social media backlash (or should I say backdraft?) However it was worth it to make the point. Nicely (and bravely) done Dany. Thank you.
Last call to take part in our social media study. As you know, we are currently running a survey together with New Law Journalexploring how social media is shaking up the legal marketing mix. The research period is about to close, so if you haven’t had a chance yet to give us your thoughts on the matter, please click here to answer our 3-minute questionnaire. Your views will make our final study report all the richer and we are keen to capture them.

The results will be published in New Law Journal at the end of the year, together with a selection of in-depth one-to-one interviews exploring some of the recurring themes in a bit more depth.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Lydia Rochelle

Lydia Rochelle MPRCA

Lydia Rochelle warns that social media is no "silver bullet" for law firm marketing.  “But used the right way”, she says, “in a well-considered mix of marketing activity, it can bring a whole new level of engagement, adding real value to how a firm communicates with the outside world”. 

I spoke to Lydia in the week Kysen launched its joint survey with New Law Journal, designed to explore how social media is shaking up the law firm and barristers chambers marketing mix.  I was keen to collect her views as she is a highly experienced legal marketer and PR, having worked in consultancy as well as in-house in law firms.

“Neither is social media a one-trick pony”, she insists. “Different social media tactics will be more appropriate for different lawyers depending on their specialism and their target markets. For example, its role in business-to-business communications [B2B] is very different compared to a business-to-consumer [B2C] campaign.”  

Lydia is passionate that legal marketeers need to think in a nuanced way about social media and its place in the mix, otherwise the potential benefits will be lost.  “With traditional corporate clients, often there is a rigid new business routine around formal RFPs [Requests For Proposals].  I query the value of social media campaigns in this context.  Also, a target client who’s a General Counsel at a private equity firm is not going to hire us on the basis of a video we push out; they will be more impressed with long-form written content. However, with property clients I have found social media activity combined with thought leadership to be a very positive combination.  And differently again, with personal injury and clinical negligence work, social media comes into its own, because the target audience isn’t corporate; indeed the website and social media can be a direct means of actually reeling clients in.  This is one of the biggest differences between B2C and B2B marketing.

“Yes, the rise of social media as a mainstream communication channel for professional firms means we have entered a brave new world, but all the usual marketing rules still apply: know your target audience and decide on the appropriate channel accordingly (social or otherwise) for communicating with them.”  

I was particularly keen to know whether Lydia thinks the rise of social has changed the role of traditional media relations.  “Traditional media remains vitally important: that’s where you get your valuable “third party endorsement”, eg a respected newspaper or journal validating that your lawyer is the expert in the area in question. It stretches the reach for your communications as well. And once published, you can use that content elsewhere too, including on social media.  I place so much importance on press activity that I personally always start with the press when planning a mixed media campaign. Typically I plan a cascade of activity in this order: press, client alert, website, then social media and others “liking” it.”

Lydia also has strong views that one-way engagement on social is a mistake.  Indeed this is as much a faux-pas as having conversations with clients and prospects in which you only talk at them and don't listen.  But surely this begs the question whether a corporate Twitter account can or should engage in conversation? "It doesn’t need to, but can instead listen and share, without getting in to individual conversations", she says. "Individual lawyers’ Twitter accounts can pick up and continue conversations started on the corporate Twitter account if necessary."

And has she seen a change in how visual media is used in law firm communications over the years she’s been marketing and promoting them?  “Visual communication is becoming increasingly important as our target audiences’ attention spans get ever shorter. Clients love visual media because of speed of download! One good infographic can explain 40 pages of technical information. The digital information space is very competitive for lawyers and brevity trumps everything!” [I spoke to Lydia about Julie Gingell’s concept of creating “thumb-stopping moments”, ie making sure it’s your firm’s explanation of a breaking news topic that captures people’s attention first.]  “More and more firms are getting good at it too”, she says,  “Even the most conservative firms are now embracing good graphics as the norm, whereas once they would have seen it as “dumbing down” their communication. Freshfields and Clyde & Co put out their financial results in the form of an infographic, which is a very interesting development.

“Do firms embrace visual media more than they used to? Yes. Do they do it better than they used to? Yes, with better finish, certainly.  Have they learned how to tell a story better with these new media?  Generally no.  They are much better at producing beautiful graphics, but do they do any more than present prettily? The opportunity with graphics and other visual media is to help people understand better/quicker … and so far in many cases this opportunity is being missed.”

I agree there is no doubt the legal sector has come a long way and law firms and barristers chambers are now much more creative in their approach to marketing.  But there is still a lot for many firms and chambers to take on board. At least we have excellent marketing professionals such as Lydia, and others I have profiled in this blog, to help them on their way.
Image result for new law journal*Drum roll*… Kysen’s joint survey with New Law Journal, exploring how social media is shaking up the mix, is now live.  In a unique piece of research, the study investigates law firms’ and chambers’ use of different types of media for marketing purposes, how they see the different strands of marketing working together and how this has changed in the digital and social age.  

If you would like to get involved and express your opinion, you can access the survey questionnaire here. It takes minutes only to complete and your answers will be anonymous. We want to hear from you, so please do take part!  The results will be published in New Law Journal at the end of the year.  As regular followers of this blog will know, Kysen has also been conducting a series of in-depth, one-to-one interviews with lawyers and legal marketing/comms professionals on this topic, some of which, (as Lydia’s above), have appeared here.  More of these interviews will be included in the final report, accompanying the survey findings.
Image result for gin and tonicKysen’s famous Tonic event is coming to Bristol! In partnership with The Samphire Club, the South West’s premier business networking group, on 18 October Kysen is hosting its first ever Tonic outside London. Because we like to mix things up, to keep them fresh.
Are you familiar with Kysen’s Tonic Club? It’s a social mixer, designed as a "tonic" for those working in PR, marketing or management roles, in law firms or barristers sets.  It offers the opportunity to bond over gin & tonic, (or non-alcoholic equivalent!), with like-minded people working in a similar sphere.  

If you’d like to know more about our Tonic Club, please explore our LinkedIn Group here.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Liz Whitaker

Legal marketing supremo Liz Whitaker thinks social media has completely changed the role of “traditional” PR.  

A firm’s relationships with the media used to be much more “intense” in the days when they were the only conduit for pushing the firm’s stories.” Liz has been marketing and promoting law firms as long as I have, and we both remember the days when (ahem, this really shows our age...) when lawyers didn’t even have websites, let alone any social media channels. So at that time, apart from direct mail, press really was the only way to get their news out there. And that could be quite a challenge if the story just wasn’t that interesting to journalists (but hey, that’s where we honed our creative skills, finding interesting angles to turn boring news into something intriguing and  publishable), or if the journalist allocated to cover your firm had a very different perspective on the story from you. In contrast, Liz says “Today, if I have an appointment story for a firm, I can get it out to more people and more quickly on social media than I ever could via a press release. And the timing and wording are both within my mine and the client’s control: I could push a story out this afternoon if I wanted to and get it in front of 1000s of people.”

I’ve had several chats with Liz about this recently, in the course of Kysen’s joint study with the New Law Journal in how social media is impacting the legal marketing mix. (See more below.) Our conversation began at a PM Forum conference at which she was speaking on Return On Investment and talking about her forthcoming book “The Power of Personal: how to connect, convince and create exceptional client relationships”. The book is a distillation of Liz’s 25+ years in professional services marketing, (including four years in-house at KPMG and nine at Wragge & Co, now Gowling WLG) and, she says, “identifies 100 reasons why organisations spend time and money on marketing and communications activity but not achieving the ROI” and includes Liz’s pearls of wisdom on how to make sure marketing spend does reap dividends. You’ll have to wait until November to buy The Power of Personal from a bookshop, but you can pre-order your copy here.

The next chat we had was at a quaint tea shop in Ledbury, and the third over a beautiful dinner under the smile of the Malvern Hills. Liz’s home is just a few miles from my Malvern cottage, which is a lovely coincidence. Malvern is one of England’s hidden gems for sure: most people haven’t heard of it, but anyone who’s been there will wax lyrical about its magic.  The hills and surrounding landscape were the inspiration for CS Lewis’s Narnia after all.  

Given her preference for the control that disseminating news on your own platform allows, I was curious to know if Liz thinks there is no longer any value in traditional media activity, or raising profile in the press. Certainly I would argue that stories placed through the press have more “influence”, precisely because audiences know you don’t have control. You appear solely on merit. The press act as “gatekeepers”, only giving lawyers space if they’re convinced they are expert and authoritative. Indeed this is precisely where the value of media profile is: the third party endorsement, so an independent party confirming your lawyers’ expertise and authority on a subject. In other words, if the BBC or the FT choose one of your lawyers as the best person to be explaining to their viewers/readers what the implications of a major court decision is, then that’s a brilliant endorsement of their market standing. But does Liz think has completely changed in the new social media environment? 

“Traditional media still has its place. Absolutely. For example press coverage can create a great impression about a firm if a potential client is looking for information about it and googles the firm.  Also thought leadership achieved by pushing expert comment out via the press is still a very important tool for professional services marketing, but the point is today it’s no longer the only one. Previously when putting campaigns together, media coverage was the be-all and end-all, but that’s no longer the case as there are so many other channels for pushing out content.”

Liz also had some interesting things to say about how digitisation has changed law firms’ attitude to visual communication: “Firms now have a far more sophisticated approach. For a long time clients were way ahead of firms on that one. Indeed professional 
firms were significantly behind the curve. But they have now caught up. The Big 4 accountancy firms do it particularly well. Some law firms do it well too... and most make a good effort. Generation Y in particular has grown up with good visual communication as the norm, and now these are the people in decision-making positions in firms.”

Liz also believes that the channels you choose for your marketing mix say a lot about you, even before you get to the content of what you’re saying. “The main point of my book is that with all professional services marketing there is in reality only a small number of people you want to talk to. So why waste time talking to anyone else? Just talk to them! And why limit your communications to arms-length media like the press, instead of writing to them direct? At the very least you should be reaching out to them in person, before they see things in the press from you on the same subject. If you get this right, these people then tell others and your work is done. Word-of-mouth communication and recommendation are more powerful than ever. Both can be managed.”

This echoes our experience at Kysen where over the last few years we’ve seen our work expand into multi-channel campaigns, where it’s the “chiming together” of press with other profile-raising and business development activity that delivers results. We love this new way of working, not least because it means we work more closely with in-house BD managers as well the PRs. And of course the other plus of working in a digital environment is that results are far more transparent. And that’s very satisfying for us as well as our clients.
Today ...*drum roll*... New Law Journal and Kysen announce the launch date of their joint "Social Impacts" survey of law firms and chambers - investigating how social media is shaking up the legal marketing mix.  The survey will open this September, with the start of the new legal term.  

Since the start of this year Kysen has been conducting a series of in-depth one-to-one interviews with lawyers and legal marketing professionals, asking how the rise of social media platforms as mainstream communications channels for lawyers had changed how firms/chambers are marketed.  You will have read extracts from some of these interviews in this blog.  Through these interviews, we have identified a number of common themes, which we are now preparing to test statistically with this quantitative survey launching after the Summer break.  

Questions include: What social media sites does your firm/chambers use? Do your lawyers post on social media?  What's your own first port of call for the day's legal news? Is social media changing the way firms / chambers use visual props in their marketing?  Have you heard or seen new business leads come in directly from social media?

If you would like to take part in the survey, and you are a lawyer or communications professionals in a firm or chambers, you can register your interest here and we will send you a link to the survey questionnaire as soon as it’s live. Otherwise you will be able to access the survey via the New Law Journal and Kysen websites after the Summer.   The survey will remain open throughout the September and October, and the results will be published at the end of the year....  blogged about, tweeted and posted on LinkedIn of course!
We're over the moon to see our good friend Nicola Sawford listed in Cranfield Schoolof Management's 100 Women to Watch, just out.  We worked closely with Nicola for many years when she was Chief Exec of Serle Court chambers, before she "retired".  As you can see, she's arguably busier now than ever!  We keep in regular touch and I hear about her various trustee and non-exec-director appointments.  How wonderful that her post-career career has taken such a stellar turn. 

Friday, 6 July 2018

Dana Denis-Smith

The world is catching up with Dana Denis-Smith. In conversation with her at last week’s FT Innovative Lawyers Summit, I commented on how fantastically her First 100 Years of Women In Law project has caught the imagination of so many people in my world, and men and women alike. For any of you unfamiliar with its aims, the initiative is designed to showcase the contribution of women to the law and highlight female role models for young lawyers, by telling stories of the barriers and opportunities female lawyers have encountered since they were first allowed to become practising lawyers almost 100 years ago.

“I’m quite astonished that it’s become so zeitgeisty. I’m far more used to being the squeaky wheel in the corner, the lone voice banging on about things I think are important but nobody else seems interested in” she tells me shyly. “I thought it would be the same with this initiative. But when I first conceived the First 100 Years of Women In Law project I had no idea what was around the corner: Trump, Harvey Weinstein, the whole #MeToo movement. Suddenly equality and dignity for women have become mainstream issues rather than specialist interest topics.”

Dana invited me to her next event so we could talk more about her work and I couldn’t believe my luck! Suddenly I had the hottest ticket in town: First Women of the Supreme Courts in Conversation, hosted by Gray's Inn and sponsored by Serjeants Inn Chambers (one of its joint CEOs is the effervescent  Catherine Calder who is a trustee of Dana’s project) Mischon de Reya, Clyde & Co and LexisNexis. So I was treated to a panel discussion on what it is to be a woman in law between Baroness Hale, the famed law reformed and the first woman to serve as President of the UK’s Supreme Court; Susan Kiel, another law reformer and the first female Chief Justice of Australia; Beverly McLachlin Who was the first female Chief Justice of Canada and the longest serving of any Sec; and Georgina Wood, the first woman to service as Chief Justice of Ghana. Given a key aim of the First 100 Years project is to role model success for younger women, way to go!

These awesome women gave us gems, such as “Women are half the population so bringing your “womanhood” to your work is just as valid as men bringing “manhood” to theirs!”

More than one said “My life changed as a young woman after reading Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, describing the dawn of their realisation that women are somehow secondary persons to men. [Note to self: order copy for daughter right away.] Whilst the first wave of feminism was focussed on legal rights for women, the next wave, these world-leading custodians of the law told us last night, must be to deal with the more insidious cultural issues that prevail to this day, which subtly, not directly, telling women over and over they are subsidiary to men.

Indeed the premise of the First 100 Years initiative is based on marking next year’s  centenary anniversary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919,  which ended the notion that women weren’t ‘persons’ in the eyes of the law, which had prevented them from being able to practise law.  But law reform only gets us so far. It’s a cultural shift we need to achieve next, for everybody’s benefit, men’s and women’s alike.

Last night Dana invited us to join her on a journey. “The First Women of the Supreme Courts event is just the first of a whole series of exciting and inspiring initiatives and events taking us up to the centenary moment next year, 23 December 2019.  There will be storytelling, events and an amazing digital museum documenting the journey of women lawyers from 1919 to the current day. We will be promoting interviews and biographies of prominent women in law on our website and also asking about the pioneering women who inspired them."

Today, everyone wants a slice of Dana and her First 100 Years project.  This is definitely an initiative of our time. As I say, everyone is finally catching up with her thinking.
The other hot ticket that landed in my lap unexpectedly was for the FT Innovative Lawyers Summit.  A client over from New York asked at the last minute if I could meet him there and help with some introductions.  What a privilege!  I can't divulge any detail of what was discussed in the sessions, (Chatham House Rules, you understand), but I can tell you that my brain definitely expanded several inches hearing discussions about the role of humans v machines in the delivery of legal services today and into the future.  

And I learned from a new friend at UnitedLex, Nancy Jessen, that the smart firms are thinking about this and using classic management consultancy concepts such as the "stratification of legal services".  This is not a new concept they told me, but I have to say I'd never come across the terms before and I've been in conversation with law firm managers for some 30 years.  I definitely think that that some management consultancy discipline could be very good news for law firms just now as they navigate through how technology an digitisation is transforming the business world.  UnitedLex we need you! 
We loved The Telegraph's story about the use of foreign words in advertising.  Audi, for example, has relied on ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ (advantage through technology) for over 30 years to bring to mind Germany’s reputation for high quality craftsmanship and technical expertise.

The reason foreign words and phrases work is down to psychology apparently: they encourage people to embrace a fresh outlook.  This is a subject close to  our own hearts of course, our company name Kysen being a phonetic interpretation of the Japanese business term "Kaizen" which means "continual improvement".  A concept we buy in to as we are all keen here to keep learning....

Friday, 29 June 2018

Jonathan Ames

There’s no one I can think of who produces more legal news stories each day than The Times’ Jonathan Ames. With an average of 12-15 stories per day, (ok he takes a break at weekends, but still...). To achieve this level of output, he currently does two shifts daily, starting at 7am and finishing at 7pm. Gruelling! But no wonder The Times’ email bulletin The Brief has been such a huge success.

The words “brutal” and “relentless” are mentioned when I ask Jonathan about the pressure of filing so many stories every day. But he’s clearly relishing the role and rightly proud of what he and his colleagues have achieved. “It’s a lot of work, no doubt about it. But it’s very satisfying to look back each day, week, month, and see how much we’ve produced. We aim for as wide a spectrum of legal stories as possible, combined with a bit of gossip and some opinion. And about 80% of our news stories are sourced by ourselves, rather than responding to press releases. The Brief is all about old school newspaper journalism, but in a digital context.” [Great soundbite Jonathan!]

I spoke to Jonathan just days before The Brief is to be housed on the main Times Law website. At a time when newspapers and magazines are struggling to monetise content, given there’s so much information available free online, and in an era when most newspapers have been reducing their legal coverage (The Telegraph dispensed with a full time legal correspondent,  and The Guardian its legal  editor role, as far back as 2009) I was keen to know how his paper  has managed to make a success of bucking the trend and expanding legal content. 

“The Brief was launched in October 2015 as an experiment, The Times wanting to see if they could take a specialist subject the paper was already well known for and create some added value”, he tells me. The Times' legal editor is none other than Frances Gibb, the pre-eminent legal editor amongst all national newspaper editors, so The Brief is starting from a strong base in this regard.  Frances oversees all legal content in the main paper as well as in the Law section, in hard copy and online. “The idea was that the new specialist email bulletin, free to anyone who signed up for it, would remind specialist audiences about The Times’ excellent coverage of legal issues, and reel more subscribers in to the main paper.” Three years on, it’s been a huge success. Job done! Jonathan, all that hard work has been worth it! 

It has to be said that The Times has form in this area: The Brief was based on the highly successful Red Box bulletin that worked the same way for its political coverage. As Jonathan put it, “The Times is famous for grabbing commercial enterprise on the web by the scruff of the neck”. [Wow this  man IS good for a soundbite! Made me wonder if he'd ever consider a job  in PR. But knowing Jonathan as well as I do, I wouldn’t dare ask for fear of the expletives!] “There was a lot of scepticism when we first installed the paywall. But now, arguably it’s the healthiest Fleet Street paper online, along with the Mail and the FT.”

“This next stage”, he tells me, “Is about bringing The Brief closer in to the main Times brand. From Monday [2 July] The Brief will still be sent out as a daily email bulletin as usual, but the content will be housed on the main Times website, in the Law section.”

So does this mean it will no longer be free to non-Times-subscribers?  “Existing Brief subscribers will need to sign up and pay for a Times subscription if they don’t already have one. But for a certain period we’re offering a special deal for these readers, to reward them for their loyalty to The Brief.”  

Don’t miss out! If you haven’t done it already, sort out your Times subscription this weekend! 

Next week sees one of the best women-in-law events yet: First Women of the Supreme Courts in Conversation. UK Supreme Court president Baroness Hale will be joined by former Chief Justice of Ghana Georgina Wood, Justice of Canada Beverley McLachlin and Chief Justice of Australia Susan Kiefel, to talk about the experience of women in law. The event is hosted by Gray's Inn and sponsored by our friends at Serjeants' Inn Chambers (among others).  It forms part of the First 100 Years of Women In Law project, in association with Spark 21, (the charity that celebrates, informs and inspires future generations of women in the professions).  

I assume everyone is now aware that 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, which enabled the first women - initially four, each with a first class degree from Cambridge - to pass their law exams and be admitted as lawyers for the first time.

I'm planning to catch up with First 100 Years founder Dana Denis-Smith at next week's event and will be writing up our Conversation for this blog, so watch this space...

What an amazing coup for The Lawyer Awards: snaring star comedian David Mitchell as the evening's entertainment.  Fantastic!  He regaled the Grosvenor House Hotel audience of solicitors, barristers, legal marketers, PRs and journalists with a tale of a disastrous mini-pupillage he did as a youngster, when a client was refused the return of a driving licence after a ban because the judge mistook Mitchell for the driver and decided he didn't look trustworthy enough.  

For me personally, as regular readers of this blog will know, it was particularly cool seeing Mr Mitchell as only a month ago I was lucky enough to catch his Peep Show partner Robert Webb at the Hay Festival, discussing his book How Not To Be A Boy.  Now I have the set!

Friday, 15 June 2018

Fay Gillott

Fay Gillott believes internal marketing is as important as external marketing. Particularly so in the case of law firms and barristers chambers. In fact she goes so far as to say the success of your external marketing depends on getting the internal bit right.

I caught up with Fay during the Hay Festival so I had a good opportunity to quiz her about her 20 years’ experience as head of operations and business development in legal businesses.  (In her time she has covered a variety, including a silver circle law firm, a patent attorney and two sets of barristers chambers.)  She is famous for leading successful revenue enhancement and change management programmes, so when she offers her pearls of wisdom on the practical and tactical points that really make a difference between “nice in theory” and “success in reality”, you listen!

“The markets for legal services are more competitive than ever before.  This means there is a need for a professional approach to marketing and more paid-for activity.  But lawyers are “on a journey” to understand this.” [Nice euphemism Fay].  “Those who "get it", use marketing effectively, but with others you need to work hard to bring them along with your thinking. Internally lawyers put the barriers up: advertising is tacky, they say, and social media is not just tacky but dangerous too!  It takes quite some persuasion to show that if these communication channels are used the right way, they are completely capable of communicating messages about the business’s expertise, imparting knowledge and offering  something serious and valuable, in a way that is wholly consistent with a top law firm / chambers brand.”

I was particularly keen to hear Fay’s thoughts on how the rise of social media as a mainstream channel is shaking up the professional services marketing mix, given the study on this topic Kysen is currently working on with New Law Journal

“Many lawyers don’t yet accept social media as a fact of business life.  Some still dismiss it as merely something that students do, not believing that it projects a professional image. And with some the resistance is not just to Twitter and Facebook, but LinkedIn too.  More are comfortable with LinkedIn, it has to be said, and some get professional help with their profiles and use their LinkedIn accounts for creating a regular blog.  But Twitter is seen by many as a scary frontier to be avoided altogether.  So you can see how much work there is to do in a firm or a set, to convince lawyers that a properly managed social media stream is necessary for the business, before you even get on to what they might do as individuals to support the corporate channel, eg posting and tweeting themselves.”

This social media example is just one illustration of how the success of internal marketing directly impacts the effectiveness of the external effort: with everyone engaged and working together with the central marketing team, the traction in the external marketplace is going to be so much more.  You can extrapolate from the following and apply the same principles across all the other areas of the marketing mix…

“Time needs to be set aside and sessions arranged to present the planned approach for how the business is to engage with their audiences through social media, using reasoned arguments and lots of evidenced examples as to why it is important and why the particular approach has been chosen.  It needs to be an interactive session, so people engage properly, as this encourages buy-in.  These sessions also need to cover what the role of individuals and teams is within the programme, so everyone is clear not only what the business-wide plan is, but what their own role is within this. And of course, very importantly, support needs to be offered, to skill up and encourage those individuals and teams as they give to the programme what is being asked of them.

“Once you’ve cracked this internal challenge, the rest of the marketing effort becomes easier.  Not only is everyone in the business clear about what they need to do, but also the more understanding they have of the rationale behind the strategy of the professionals they employ, the more lawyers will listen to them and let them get on with their job!  The sum total of all of this is that the marketing actually happens, rather than being half-done.  Lawyers are always keen to ask about Return On Investment in marketing.  To my mind, the most important factor in maximising the ROI, is making sure that that the marketing activity prescribed in the strategic plan actually happens in real life!”

From my own experience working 12 years in-house in law firms, I have to say I completely agree:  at the end of the day, strategy is delivered through people, and particularly so in a legal business. This is why investing time in making sure everyone is clear about the strategic plan for developing the business, and their role within it, will reap dividends.

Image result for robert webbA personal highlight at the Hay Festival was Peep Show’s Robert Webb talking about “How not to be a boy”, promoting his book of the same name. He challenged the audience with some very interesting thoughts on the unhelpfulness of gender assumptions and how ‘The Patriarchy’ is as bad news for men as it is for women. I was inspired to buy the book and I read it in just three days. Very entertaining. A definite recommend.  Favourite bit: his little daughter talking over the family breakfast table about “the trick [she meant the patriarchy] that makes men sad and women get rubbish jobs." That about sums it up in my book!

You can buy "How not to be a boy" here

Image result for racoonHere’s Adele’s favourite story of the week: the racoon that scaled a skyscraper in Minnesota over a period of 20 hours.“Just look at his little face”, she says.

On a serious point, she went on to point out what it says about viral memes. This story was broken by a small local radio station and was soon livestreamed and was trending on Twitter (#mprraccoon) – all major news outlets covered it around the world (which is mad). It's interesting, she says, how the news agenda is set more than ever by what the people want, rather than what newspapers think people should know about.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Julie Gingell

SA Law’s Julie Gingell has been talking to me about the importance of creating “thumb-stopping moments” (love the phrase!) in an increasingly digital world. She insists she didn't coin this phrase herself, but she was certainly the first person to introduce me to it.  What she means by this term, is the importance of making all the marketing content her firm pushes out so arresting, that it stops people in their tracks as they scroll through their inbox and news feeds on their phones throughout the working day.  “There’s so much legal content out there now on social media channels and email arriving direct to people’s phones, that if you want to make sure it’s your firm’s update on a topic that people look at, rather than a competitor’s, you’ve got to offer something eye-catching to stop them scrolling past.  There was a time that you could bank on people using their commute into work to catch up on longer reads and in hard copy – whether perusing a national broadsheet, or catching up on industry magazines.  That’s where we would often choose to place our updates.  Now however, most people are expected to be up-to-date with their inbox by the time they reach the office, so commuter time now means heads down and eyes glued to phones.  Time is so short for everyone.  So if you can offer something on social media as snappy as eg “a 30-second guide to the new regulations on…”, you’ll have a much better chance of snaring readers’ attention and making sure it’s your firm’s take on the topic that’s the one everyone’s digesting, rather than anyone else’s.”

This is also where a good visual comes in to its own of course.  As Julie says, a picture really can sometimes paint a thousand words and a well-designed infographic can be just the sort of 30-second download that a busy scroller will prefer.   

Julie gave me these pearls of wisdom in the context of an interview for Kysen’s joint study with New Law Journal into how the rise of social as a mainstream channel is impacting the law firm marketing mix.

“There’s no doubt the shape of my marketing budget has changed entirely in the last 10 years or so, thanks to the rise of social media”, she tells me.  “Where once the dominant spend was on printed material, after a while shifting to expensively designed e-mailshots, now all you have to do is to Tweet a link to a soft copy and, if you have been diligent in making the right connections on social media platforms and listening to what people say they want in terms of content, it will be downloaded hundreds of times within minutes.  We had this experience with our Recipe Book recently: 2,000 downloads in just a day-and-a-half.  No need to spend tens of thousands on hard copy print runs.  No need to check email addresses.  And of course with GDPR coming down the line this May, releasing material on social platforms is a brilliant way to get around the new restrictions on direct mailing people.”

Does she think that press coverage still has an important role to play in the marketing mix, given how easy it is for firms to push material out themselves, on their own terms, with far less restrictions on what they can say and far more control over when they can say it?  “A strong press profile is still incredibly important”, she says, “because it’s the one channel that carries with it a built-in Third Party Endorsement, which is incredibly valuable; it counts for a lot when The Times chooses one of our lawyers to be their authoritative expert voice on a new legal development.  What we may lose in control, compared to putting out our own stories, a good press profile gains us kudos and influence. What I will say social is brilliant for is extracting more value out of your press cuttings, or other marketing material, once the initial news moment has passed.” She explains how you can tweet a repeat days or even weeks after initial publication with a simple message of “in case you missed it…”  This is a good example of how Julie talks of using social platforms as “glue” between all the different strands of her marketing mix.  “Only a few years ago it was the website address that was the central pin linking everything together.  Now it’s the social media activity… the ability to mention on social platforms the event you attended, the roundtable you hosted, the press article you appeared in, etc etc.  For our Lexcel accreditation we are asked to detail our social media strategy and plan, but I have to say I think this is the wrong way to look at it; I don’t have a separate social media plan, instead seeing it as just one thread that’s integrated into everything we do.”

Another interesting observation Julie shared with me is the key role social media plays in the life of firms whose business opportunity is to a large extent bound up with their standing and influence in local marketplaces.  Having one of the biggest Twitter followings amongst the main players in the Herts/Beds/Bucks region where the firm has its roots, confirms SA Law’s place as a centrepin of the local community.  “Being linked in with the key influencer groups in our locale, and regularly retweeted and endorsed by them, increases the value of our own retweets and endorsements of other people’s material.  In other words it increases our own stock as influencers.  And the strength of our engagement with the local marketplace being so visible in this way has been very important in demonstrating our continued commitment to the region, particularly at a time when we have been busily expanding into London markets.”

You’ll see as I post more survey interviews that Julie really is in the vanguard, amongst the best of the legal marketeers. She made sure that her firm was one of the earliest adopters amongst professional firms of Instagram.  My word, this firm even has a Spotify account to communicate elements of the SA Law brand that only their taste in music can express! No wonder she was one of the first (we think possibly the very first?) non-lawyer marketing professionals to make partner when Legal Disciplinary Practices first came in. Thanks for your insights Julie! Valuable as ever.

If you would like to take part in the Kysen / New Law Journal study into the impacts of social media on the law firm marketing mix, do please send me your contact details using the comment box below, and we can start a conversation. 

We are in the midst of a series of one-to-one 'qualitative' interviews, some of which (like Julie’s) we are publishing on this blog over the next weeks and months. In addition, NLJ will soon be conducting a 'quantitative' survey amongst their readers. Do get involved!  We look forward to hearing from you!
On the subject of the new digital lingo, I just have to share this wonderful "Digital Terms Deciphered" glossary, that our good friend Simon Marshall has created.  It tells  you everything you need to know about the trendy new digital terms constantly being bandied about these days, but might be too afraid to ask.  Do you know your rich snippets from your alt tags?  Your backlinks from your iframes? The difference between agile and waterfall platforms?  As Simon says, it can be as confusing as knowing your lattes from your flat whites - but the good news is we did all eventually master ordering a coffee, didn't we!  

You may know Simon from his time as an in-house marketeer at Osborne Clarke and then Burges Salmon.  You may also be up to date with the news that he's recently set up his own legal marketing consultancy called TBD (To Be Determined).  If you don't know Simon, take it from me he is one of the best social media sages for professional firms around.  You can connect with him here on LinkedIn.
Everybody’s talking about Slaughter & May’s gender pay gap news: one of the most iconically ‘City’ of the magic circle law firms is paying female associates more than their male counterparts. This story is one of those watershed moments for the profession, not so much because of the stats themselves, (see below), but because when a firm like this considers gender equality something to be proud of and integral to their brand, then other firms will surely follow.  And this is precisely the claim Slaughters has been making: their publicity machine has been explaining how their “one-firm culture ... values remunerating employees in a less differentiated and more egalitarian way”.  (*waves* to ex-Kysenite, now Slaughters communications manager, Ollie Hibberd).

Yes it’s true that digging in to the stats arguably raises more questions than this story answers, (not least whether paying women more than men can actually be considered achieving equality; also whether the firm was justified in excluding their all-female secretarial pool from stats they publicised about pay for business services staff). And yes, I know this new-found interest in promoting equality is only happening because of the gender pay gap reporting legislation. But however we’ve arrived here, all firms are now suddenly interested in addressing inequalities in their own workplaces. This is definitely a moment to celebrate.