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.
*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.
Kysen’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.