Friday, November 16, 2018

Top 10 Things I’m Thankful For


As we approach another holiday season, I think it’s always a good idea to reflect on that for which we are most grateful.  But  I also think its high time we gave thanks to all those terms, events and people that have become so meaningful in our workaday lives.

Ready?

Here goes.

I’m thankful for……
  • The millions upon millions of dollars my emails have told me I’ve won or inherited 
  • Acronyms such as RFP, CPM, CPC, PPC, URL, SEO, and CTR so I don’t have to remember how to spell out words
  •  Deleting SPAM – which allows me to turn a 2-minute break into a 2-hour one
  •  No one cares about grammer any more
  •  … Or how to spell grammar
  • Any place with no internet connection
  •  Whoever came up with the word, “Blog.”
  •  Anyone who can provide me with Google’s  latest algorithm
  • Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande, so that we don’t only have to talk about Donald Trump
  •  Law firms…because I like to heat

Have any others?  Let me know!

In the meantime…

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

For B2B Law Firms: The Distinctions Between SEO and PPC are Becoming Blurred



There was a time, not so long ago, when we would advise law firm clients with a business-to-business emphasis to consider pay-per-click  (PPC) advertising and search engine optimization (SEO) as analogous to advertising (in the traditional sense) and public relations respectively. Under the former, you paid for your ads and they ran. Under the latter, you developed content for your web site, social media or blog and you hoped the forces (i.e., Google) that vetted your efforts were kind and ranked you high on the search engine directories. 

Using that frame of reference, it was not uncommon for us to recommend to such B2B law firms that they refrain from PPC. After all, online ads were highlighted in their own column on the right side of the online page and were clearly seen as what they were – “paid for” bits of communication. A high organic page ranking, on the other hand, was a success story unto itself – Google had ordained your content as “relevant.” For the law firm reaching out to businesses, this was (and in some ways continues to be) a great means for enhancing one’s credibility as a “player” within the industry. After all, a more sophisticated buyer of legal services would probably rely on recommendations, references and credentials before keying in on a short (very short) advertising message.

But that is slowly changing. And it is doing so for two reasons. First, PPC ads now appear in the same column of listings as organic content. No great revelation there. However, what may have gone unnoticed is that the effect of this has been to blur the lines between where ads end and organic listings begin. Yes there is usually an icon that reads “Ad” for listings that have been purchased, but these are small non-descript notations which, after time, frankly fail to viscerally distinguish between the two types of communications. To underscore this, consider the last time you searched for a particular keyword or phrase. How aware were you of which listings were ads and which were not?  More importantly, how much did it affect your decision to click on one listing versus another? Probably not a lot.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

How to Get the Most Out of Your PR Agency



You’ve made the decision. You understand that marketing must be seen as an investment and not as an expense. After much hemming and hawing and perhaps extensive interviewing, you’ve decided to hire a public relations
firm. You like these folks and they like you and together, you’re determined to make the faucets of firm publicity turn on to allow an overflow of wonderful exposure.

Flash forward six months later and all you can point to is an article in a second tier publication and that press release announcing your new associate’s hire.

So what happened?

Well, in truth, it could be any of a number of things, including the possibility that you just hired a lousy PR firm.

But all too often, when a law firm contracts with a PR firm, it fails to take an active role in the publicity generating process.

So with this in mind, here are some “best practice” thoughts for how to get the most from your PR provider:

Let Your Agency Know What’s Going On at the Firm
This is perhaps the most point of all. Your agency cannot help you or generate publicity on your behalf if it is clueless as to the cases on which you are working, the nature of your work, the accomplishments of your attorneys and the “victories” the firm achieves.  Regular status meeting to update the agency on these matters is one way of assuring that PR initiatives do not get subjugated to the back burner.

Make Sure Your PR Professional “Knows” Each of Your Attorneys
In line with the above, the best way to truly “know” the firm is for the PR folks to “know” the key player or players at the firm. Allow your PR professionals to meet each of your firm’s attorneys or at least the partners and department heads. In addition, be sure to provide your agency with resumes, bios, headshots, etc. of each of these key personnel.

Focus on Media Credentials as Much as On Your Legal Credentials
Having great legal credentials is terrific. But editors, reporters and producers also want to know that you will give an insightful interview, that you will feel comfortable in front of a camera, and /or that you (or your ghostwriter) will be able to write a substantive article.  Anything you can do to convince the targeted media decision maker of your prowess in these areas will help your agency to serve you better.

Recognize Which Cases Make for “Good” PR Stories
As much as we may want all the publicity we can possibly muster, it is safe to say that from a PR standpoint, not all cases and stories are the same.   Trying to sell the media on cases or ideas that will not be of interest to their audience only serves to damage your reputation as a provider of good, informative material. Focus on cases and stories that have some sizzle.. These can include those that a) concern a high profile individual, b) involve a large sum of money, c) has or will break new legal ground d) involve sex or violence (you had to know that these would be on this list), e) affect a large part of the overall population, f) are a response to something in the news and/or to a new piece of legislation.  

Inform Your Agency What Is and Is Not Confidential
Clearly, the details of some cases cannot be revealed because of confidentiality agreements, gag orders or otherwise. When pitching or writing a story regarding a particular case, be sure to let the agency know what can or cannot be communicated. If necessary, redact confidential information from relevant documents.
 
Look for Story Ideas From Cases On Which You Are Not Working
There is potential PR fodder in cases that you are not handling. Unlike the attorneys working on such cases, you are not subject to any gag orders, client confidentiality agreements or anything else that precludes you from speaking with the media. Journalists are hungry for fresh perspectives on high profile stories, affording the astute attorney or law firm with an opportunity to provide just that.
Communicate to your agency that you expect them to be vigilant for stories and events on which you might be able to offer unique and professional insight.

Get Back to Reporters
This is critical. In terms of PR, reporters, editors and producers are your lifeblood. If your agency gets you an interview or an article placement, it is very important that you respond within a reasonable amount of time. What is a reasonable amount of time? Well, it depends. If a story is of an emergent nature, then that might mean getting back to them immediately. If it’s a “thought” piece, you may have the luxury of more time. But don’t take too much comfort in that. After all, there are scores of other lawyers more than willing to offer their expertise as well.

Most important, ignoring the media or being late to respond to them reduces your agency’s credibility with them. This makes it much, much more difficult to garner future PR “hits” with that publication or station.

Remember PR Professionals are NOT Lawyers
Part of a good PR professional’s job (particularly those involved in legal marketing) is to translate your “legalese” into language that the layperson can understand. Give them the tools to do so by taking the time to be interviewed by them and by suggesting relevant resources for further research if necessary.

Review Everything that Goes Out
This should go without saying. You’re a lawyer and anything you write or have written in your name can potentially be seen, not just by the media, but by your prospects, clients, other attorneys and judges. That’s why it is especially important that you review the agency’s work – not because you don’t trust them, but because you can’t afford to have anything go out that’s incorrect or puts you or your clients at risk. 

If you take away anything from this article, it should be that the hiring of a PR firm does not mean that the firm no longer has a role in the publicity generating process.  In fact, the opposite is true. You’re the legal professional; they’re the communications specialists. Your most effective PR programs will inevitably those in which your separate and distinctive skill sets mesh smartly together.   








Thursday, February 22, 2018

Ah, Those Clicks. But Do You Know What You’re Really Getting?

Everybody loves those clicks. It means your pay-per-click (PPC ) and or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts are paying off. The more clicks you get, the more prospects you’ll likely  have. And with more prospects comes more clients. And with more clients comes more… well, you get the picture.
But is that picture accurate?
We recently finished a monthly report for a client of ours in which the total number of clicks to their site increased by 49.6% versus the previous month. Now, I like to think we’re good at what we do, but something told me we weren’t THAT good.
A closer look at the analytic data explained why.
Google breaks down traffic to your site into 5 categories. The first is Paid Search – those clicks that come from paid online ads. The second category are those visits which come directly from someone typing in your URL address – ergo, these are called Direct clicks. The third type of traffic is Organic which is the result of the coding of your site, keywords, site content, links to and from other sites and all of the other SEO variables. Social traffic stems from those clicks driven by social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
And then there is the fifth category – Referrals. This reflects that traffic that comes to one’s website from other, referring websites. Unfortunately, here is where things start to become a little murky.
We provide our clients with a monthly update as to their site traffic. In this particular case, the client had received only 11 referral clicks in the previous month – a figure which suddenly shot up to 125 clicks in the month being analyzed. That’s an increase of 111 clicks from referring sites alone, or to put it another way, an increase over 1000%.
Fortunately, Google Analytics allows one to see from where those clicks are coming and a quick perusal of such indicated that the vast majority of these referrals came from sites such as uptime-us.net and 127.0.0.1:8888. If you have never heard of these, that’s okay. They are basically crawler and ghost spam sites and they bring nothing to the table in terms of real, live visitors coming to your web site.
Hence, when I deducted the 111 fake clicks, the total increase versus the previous month was 14% -- still a very healthy increase, and more importantly, a realistic one. 
The lesson worth noting in this is that if something seems out of kilter – it probably is. If we are lulled into a false sense of comfort as to our site’s performance (in this case, these referral clicks accounted for about 30% of site traffic), we may well wind up overlooking important changes that need to be made in order to generate even more site visits. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Legal Marketing in 2018: Everything Old is New Again

There was a time, not so long ago, when being “innovative” and on the “cutting edge” simply meant having a web site. Really! Then, if you were an early adopter (of which few law firms are), it meant dipping your toe into social media and later, implementing a full throttled social media initiative on Linkedin and Facebook and Twitter. 
All of these platforms were (and still are) quite amazing as they level the playing field in terms of allowing even the smallest of organizations to get the word out and tout their wares. Moreover, unlike the print and broadcast media where one competed in a world of advertising “clutter” at what was often enormous expense, the new media was relatively “cheap” and gave marketers an opportunity to “reach out” to prospects versus waiting for prospects to go searching for them.
Flash forward to today and my, how things are changing. Today, law firms worry that their site is not on the first page of Google, that their click-through rate is dropping, that they are not getting enough “likes” on Facebook or connections on LinkedIn. Readership of their blog is down and the competition to get noticed online is getting more intense.
What’s a well-meaning, sharp, objective-driven law practice to do?
Well, the answer may lie in turning to old friends for help. With newspaper and magazine readership and hence, advertising down, the opportunity to stand out in a crowd is greater than ever. The existence of so many highly targeted cable networks means the ability to attract new business can be had more cost efficiently. Publishers, eager for advertising are more willing to “throw in” article opportunities – especially as their own staffs shrink. 
Yes, one can run a webinar rather easily and cost effectively, but you still have to cut through competitive messages online, and seminars are still the best means for getting prospective clients to meet you face to face. News… real news, is still of interest to the media, making the old reliable press release still a viable means for getting information out there. And for generating awareness and goodwill, what beats becoming involved in a meaningful cause and/or sponsoring a worthwhile event? 
So, in planning how your practice is going to attract new business this year, by all means, update your web site, run posts on your blog and social media, improve your click-through rate, etc. But, if you are looking to truly innovate, consider being a “new” kind of early adopter – one that re-examines past alternatives in light of the present.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Legal Marketing Support: Choosing an IT versus a Full Service Provider

It is always fascinating to learn how individual law firms go about hiring legal marketing vendors. I say that as much because we ourselves are legal marketers as I do because who a firm ultimately contracts with is largely a function of the questions one asks. 
Allow me to offer two different examples of two law firms going about this task quite differently.
In the first case, law firm A determines that it is not getting enough new client inquiries or calls. The management team makes the assessment that the firm is not being readily found on the search engines. It decides to hire an outside provider to address that objective. It reaches out to various IT outfits including some of the larger, well-known legal organizations for bids on developing a new web site and/or maintaining an SEO effort. 
Law firm B makes a similar determination. However, unlike law firm A, it does not conclude that the lack of new business inquiries is a function of lower search engine visibility. In fact, it makes no conclusions at all. Instead, it simply asks, “How can we generate more new business?” For answers it turns to a range of legal marketing providers including full service advertising/marketing agencies, other organizations that focus on specific types of vehicles (e.g., direct marketing, public relations, pay-per-click, broadcast, etc.) as well as the aforementioned IT companies – again including some of the larger, well known legal organizations. 
The responses each firm might get can be rather revealing. Law firm A will typically be promised high search engine rankings for a range of keywords that may or may not match the keywords of a competitive practice. 
Law firm B on the other hand will receive a wide assortment of bids purporting to address the problem of new business by leveraging the unique benefits and features of that particular firm. Amongst these proposals will be those that propose single solutions (e.g., the aforementioned higher search engine ranking) or a multi-faceted approach that may or may not include SEO. If not more important, the firm will probably also receive requests to have a detailed discussion about its marketing exigencies even before the provider(s) submits their proposals. 
Hence, we have a case where one firm has diagnosed its challenges, and seeks a specific solution, while the other understands that the bottom line is about generating new business and thus seeks out different approaches for making that happen.
Which way is better? 
I would suggest that it comes down to accountability. In the former approach, the outside provider (in most cases, an IT provider) is responsible for getting the firm listed high up on the search directories. If that happens – great. But in and of itself, this is no guarantee that the firm will experience a substantial uptick in new business inquiries. In the latter, the outside provider should become vested in generating new business (i.e., the ultimate metric). Without being wed to a single medium or vehicle, its recommendations must bear fruit… or else. 
Hence, in seeking out legal marketing support, it is important to ask the right questions. If you know exactly for what you are looking to generate new business, then by all means, contract with that single-vehicle provider. But, if focusing on your legal services precludes your accurately diagnosing new business challenges with confidence, then a marketing perspective (versus an exclusively IT) will probably make more sense and yield more tangible results. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Legal Marketing? Why Limit Yourself?

Every week, I must get 2-3 calls from frustrated attorneys disappointed in the results they are realizing from their online marketing efforts. The most common complaints? “I’m not on the first page of Google.” “I am getting calls, but they’re not the right kinds of calls.” “My SEO company isn’t providing fresh content on a regular basis.” “Pay-Per-Click has never worked for us.” “It’s taking forever to get my web site redesigned.”
These are all very important concerns. Yet, they also underscore a troubling trend – Why is everyone obsessed with online marketing to the absolute exclusion of everything else?
Don’t get me wrong. Online marketing has many, many benefits. For one thing, costs can be contained. Second, it encourages prospect interaction. And third, the internet plays a integral role in allowing lawyers and law firms to establish their reputations and burnish their credentials. Hence, online marketing certainly has its place.
But it does not represent the full range of tools available to the attorney or law firm seeking to attract new business. And who isn’t? In fact, each of the three objectives noted above can be approached using more traditional methods. 
For example, while most marketing vehicles may not completely approach the lower costs of online marketing, most also do not require the same commitment of time. When an ad is done, it’s done. When a piece of mail goes out, it’s gone. Similarly, seminars and local business trade shows are a great way to encourage interaction with prospects. Finally, a media relations campaign that is intelligently developed and professionally executed is still the best way to highlight one’s expertise in a given area. 
Keep in mind as well, that with all of the attention being paid to search engine optimization, pay-per-click and social media, the playing field is that much more open (i.e., less cluttered) in all of these other arenas.
Net, net… there is no question that online marketing holds a very important place in the arsenal of legal marketing tools. But it is hardly the only one. 
Legal marketers would be wise to take note.