A Law Firm Marketing Blog Series: Edition #16
Welcome back to our blog series, in which we talk legal marketing with real law professionals. In this edition, we hear from Joe Marchelewski, Senior Account Manager at Juris Productions PR.
We hope hearing the thoughts and ideas shared by the people in these blog posts, will inspire you to make positive changes to your marketing strategies. We also know that marketing legal services these days is more complex and challenging now than ever before, and hope that some of our readers may identify with some of the marketing struggles presented here, and perhaps be able to offer solutions.
The biggest goal of this blog series is to get the conversation going, so let’s dive in.
Our Marketing Conversation With Joe Marchelewski
In this edition of our “Let’s Talk Legal Marketing” blog series, we’ll be exploring the world of law firm public relations, as we talk with someone who has been working in the field for the better part of the last two decades. Joe Marchelewski started in legal marketing/PR in 2003 with a firm called Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, a group that took down Napster, Aimster, and Grokster. Over 16 years, he’s gotten to work with firms ranging from 3,000 attorneys to three attorneys, and everything in between. Today, he works at an agency called Juris Productions PR, where he gets to handle media relations for law firms of various sizes and practice areas.
In our below conversation with Marchelewski, we discuss the importance of establishing yourself as a thought leader, how lawyers should go about interacting with the media, and what attorneys can do to help correct damaged online reputations.
Answering Legal: How can PR be used to support a firm’s marketing initiatives?
Joe Marchelewski: Organic media attention really compliments a strong marketing campaign. The key is communication and sharing information. If we connect with the online marketing team, the lead generation team, etc. and let each other know what each of us is working on, then we can pool resources and knowledge. We have a client right now who does quite a bit of PR and uses a company for Facebook marketing. We work hard to communicate with each other to support each other’s efforts, share information and create a coherent PR/Marketing campaign. I think both internally and externally, communications and marketing professionals get a little too afraid to share information and that can hamper each other’s efforts.
AL: Why is it important for attorneys to establish themselves as “thought leaders” in their respective fields?
Joe: Thought leadership creates credibility and leads to relationships. Other attorneys search for lawyers who specialize in a given field, and just like everyone else they use Google (or sometimes social media). If an attorney wants to be referred good quality cases, s/he must put themselves out there as often as possible in legal, business and mainstream media outlets. Getting quoted in news stories, writing op-ed articles and offering insight on social media reinforces an attorney’s expertise in their field.
AL: What are some of the best ways for growing firms to obtain media attention?
Joe: I think there are two ways, have the goods or be the media’s friend. Ideally an attorney is both, someone who has great cases or clients and who knows how to help the media out with a story. But, an attorney needs to have real stories to tell, whether that’s a timely lawsuit, a great sympathetic client or a case against a notable defendant. Along with that, there are little things attorneys can do that really help reporters out, such as having all of the documents in a case available for review, providing quality quotes about a given topic, writing a simple pitch that summarizes the story in 150 words or less, etc. Little things like these make a reporter’s life much easier. If the firm doesn’t have mainstream media worthy cases or results, the firm should encourage its attorneys to write perspective articles in legal journals or blogs. By self publishing online, the firm will get noticed which can lead to future press coverage.
AL: Do you think it’s wise for lawyers to have direct relationships with members of the media, or should they hire communications professionals to help facilitate the process?
Joe: Honestly it depends on the attorney and the reporter. Our clients have a little bit of both, but if an attorney wants to focus on his or her practice, having a publicist comes in handy. We are able to sit down with reporters, build relationships, share information, learn about trends and have a great back and forth because that’s our job. For an attorney, it’s incredibly difficult to do all of that and have a healthy legal practice. However, there are attorneys who would rather pitch their own cases/stories, and if that’s what works then they should focus on that. If an attorney can get himself or herself on CNN without a publicist, then why spend the money on one?
AL: Let’s say attorneys don’t have it in their budget to bring on professional PR help. What are some things they should be cautious of when engaging with a member of the media for a story?
Joe: There are some basic things to remember:
- Nothing is ever off the record, so assume everything you say can and will be made public.
- Reporters do not want to print a story on a case that hasn’t been filed.
- Burn a reporter once and you might get away with it, but that reporter will never work with you again.
- Reporters are like elephants, they have long memories.
- Reporters speak English, not legalize, so make sure you can synthesize your story and get it down to what the average person would know or understand.
- Reporters have two bosses, their editor/producer and the reader/viewer. Always remember that.
- Have a thick skin. An attorney may have a great story to tell, but it just might not hit with a reporter on a given day.
- News happens. You might have a great story, get a great interview and be all set for the 11 pm news…and then the storm of the century hits, or a plane crashes or someone famous dies. Those will always win the day.
- Create links to your documents, don’t email attachments.
- Most importantly, figure out a way to spend money on a publicist!
AL: What are some of the best ways for attorneys to show off positive press to consumers?
Joe: There are three easy ways, two are free and one costs money. The two free ways are creating a section of your website dedicated to media hits and having a robust social media presence. Online marketing folks can also use these two for SEO purposes so you get more bang for your buck. The third is to get plaques every so often that show off your media hits. Most attorneys have some sort of best attorney award hanging around, having a hit from the local paper with an attorney’s name in it can help as well.
AL: What would be your advice for attorneys that currently have an online reputation that is less than stellar?
Joe: Don’t be afraid! First off, assess the true damage. Find a qualified, trustworthy online marketing professional to tell you exactly how bad it is. If there is a negative review on something like AVVO, that’s a different beast than if there is something on a state bar website. After knowing how bad the problem is, the next step is to create a strategy and stick to it for the long haul. I had a client who had some serious ORM problems. I wasn’t able to make his problems go away, but we were able to accentuate the positives and at least create some positive links to go along with the negative ones.
AL: Do results from a good PR campaign always come immediately? Have you found that having news clips exist online will bring law firms new clients weeks or months after their initial publishing date?
Joe: For the most part, there is both an immediate response to good media attention and a longer-term impact. I worked in-house at a firm and was given the privilege of sitting in on new case meetings every week. Whenever the firm received media attention, they’d get phone calls specific to that issue from the general public. There would also be a collective impact where over the course of a few years, if they received regular media attention in a specific area (like insurance bad faith, product defect or LGBTQ divorce) they’d see a gradual uptick in those calls. It’s also important to remember that attorneys read the newspaper and watch the news, so if you want quality referrals from attorneys, getting in the mainstream and legal media with good hits has a great impact.
AL: What’s your top piece of marketing advice for a lawyer just starting out in 2019?
Joe: Good marketing and good public relations is a long-term investment. One good media hit won’t change your life and one bad media hit won’t ruin your career. But a sustained focus on getting quality media attention will help your firm’s reputation grow. Conversely, if you choose to ignore the media then you’ll just be left out. Listen to good people, find a trustworthy marketing and/or PR person and build slowly. Also, build your own referral network. You need attorneys who will refer you cases and attorneys you can refer cases to, so network your butt off!