Monday, October 13, 2014

Is Law Firm Branding Still Relevant in the Information Age?

Of all the things we do at our marketing agency – everything from creating plans to executing PR campaigns, online initiatives, special events, etc., by far the activity I’ve always enjoyed the most has been “branding” organizations.  There is something special about taking an entity (be it a law firm, a service or a product) and concepting how to make it relevant to a target audience – or in some cases, to several diverse target groups.

Yet today, as with everything else, the whole concept of branding has changed dramatically.  Much of this is due to the emergence of all kinds of on-line media options. Whereas before, marketing messages competed for your attention by jumping out at you (whether you wanted them to or not), today it is we, the consumer of legal services, who seek out the message.

This alters the ways in which law firms can and should brand themselves. Unless they are blessed with the financial resources to stay the course with traditional media alternatives, they must find a way to get an integrated, single-themed message out to their prospects through multiple channels and by multiple sources.

The difficulty in this is that most of those sources are the individual attorneys themselves who now have the ability to a) create their own individual web site and b) post to numerous professional and personal social media outlets. While there are many, many positives to being able to publish without any third party (i.e. editors, producers, etc.) vetting, it also means that firm management and legal marketers no longer have control over the “cumulative” message that is being disseminated. I’m not talking here about the misguided attorney who may post disparaging or unethical content about the firm, a client, a judge, etc.  Rather, I am talking about how the style and language (and even the content) used by an individual may run counter to the manner in which the firm wishes to be portrayed.   In short, the question is how can the law firm speak with one voice?

The answer, I believe, is three-fold. 

First, now more than ever, the firm’s staff (all of whom are ambassadors for the firm) must be made aware of and buy into the firm brand. This, of course assumes that the firm has, in fact, determined what its core message in and the positioning it wishes to have in the market.

Second, these same firm ambassadors must be encouraged to utilize all of the many media options that are now at their disposal – and to do so in a way that underscores and reinforces the firm brand.

And finally, given that it is, in fact, the accumulation of all messages (online and off) that ultimately reflects the firm brand, it is more important than ever that individual posts, tweets, and other types of contents be tied to an identifiable element of the overall firm – be that a logo, a tagline etc. Consumers of legal services are bombarded by information from so many sources that most become just “noise.”  In a world where disseminating quantity of messages seems to be more important than the quality of a message, it is the wise law practice that can brand itself through the sum of the content stemming from its own hallways.

This is the third in a 5-part series on the business development concerns we have heard most often by managing partners and legal marketers

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