By Debra Pickett, Founder and Principal of Page 2 Communications
Fundamentally, what so many of us do as marketers is to help people tell stories. This is a vitally important skill right now, as everyone struggles to make sense of the world.
As strategic communicators, we can do even more than that.
So much of the current legal marketing work is about pushing messages out. In the early days of the crisis, that made sense. Firms needed to tell their clients about their virtual availability and to share vital information on compliance issues in the wake of lockdowns.
But since then, the landscape has changed dramatically. At this point, if your marketing work still begins with the message: “Here’s what we want to tell you and here’s a demonstration of how much we know,” you are missing a critical opportunity to support your firm and prove your own value.
Strategic communication begins with the audience. Ask yourself:
- Who does the firm want to reach?
- Who are your most important clients? Your top prospects?
- What matters most to them? What do they most urgently need to know? What’s keeping them up at night?
Much of the advice for law firm marketing leaders about managing communication in the era of COVID-19 assumes that processes were working well before and we just need to find ways to do the same work in a new environment with different constraints.
The truth is that this massive disruption lays bare the weaknesses in how many firms have traditionally thought about their communication: who issues it, who it’s for, who actually receives it and what they do with it.
If we communicate in the service of forging connections and strengthening relationships, then the substance of what we share must be truly valuable to the recipient. Odds are, a recitation of the many things your lawyers know and can do isn’t what the public values most right now.
In the strongest relationships, firms and general counsels are working together to share the burden of the current crisis, limiting work to the most essential tasks, agreeing on alternative fee structures or discounts, and setting up lengthened payment periods with the intention of catching up by the end of the year.
In an interview with Law360, Cedar Realty Trust Inc. general counsel Adina Storch offered up several creative ideas, including a monthly subscription model for unlimited access to COVID-19 crisis teams that can answer questions for a flat, monthly rate.
If you can introduce a new, genuinely valuable concept like that to your firm’s clients and prospects, then by all means, fire up the design template, create a great message and let the emails fly.
Otherwise, you’re better served by doing more listening than speaking — and helping your attorneys ask the right questions so they can listen too.
What Smart Marketers Are Doing Right Now
There is plenty of important work for marketers do right now.
Your team members, especially those who might be typically busy with event planning, can be matched with attorneys who need support in building their social media profiles or reaching out to clients.
You can also:
- Help focus attorney thought leadership and other writing projects by asking smart questions about audience and strategy.
- Prep attorneys for Zoom pitches and telephonic oral arguments in the same way you might prep spokespersons for media interviews.
- Collect data from your attorneys about who their clients and targets are, and help them research the best ways to connect with those audiences.
- Work with attorneys to create tools and checklists in response to client requests for guidance.
- Support firm leaders with the increased internal communication they’re doing to reach out to your colleagues.
You can, in other words, do so many things that are so much more valuable than “just sending messages.”
Debra Pickett is the founder and principal of Page 2 Communications, a boutique PR agency in Chicago that serves law firm leaders. An award-winning communications strategist, Debra's background as a journalist and business consultant gives her a deep understanding of both traditional and digital media.