A Law Firm Marketing Blog Series Edition #22
Welcome back to our blog series, in which we talk with some of today’s most knowledgeable legal marketing minds. In this edition, we feature Michelle Calcote King, Founder and President of Reputation Ink.
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 Michelle Calcote King
Reputation Ink is a B2B content marketing and public relations agency that makes sure the voices of intelligent people in complex industries are always heard and understood. Michelle Calcote King created the company in 2011, after previously working PR and marketing jobs in the United Kingdom and Australia, and serving as the Senior Vice President of a national PR firm in the United States. Over the past decade, Michelle and her team have helped countless law firms gain new business, establish industry authority, secure media coverage and win awards. We’re extremely excited to feature this highly accomplished PR professional and marketer in our “Let’s Talk Legal Marketing” blog series.
In our below conversation with Michelle, we discuss the value of appearing in traditional media outlets, how often lawyers should be producing fresh content for their website and the need for marketers to adopt a knowledge extraction mindset.
Answering Legal: Many lawyers struggle with getting media coverage for their firm. What are some things attorneys can do to make their firms more newsworthy?
Michelle Calcote King: For firms that aren’t doing the kind of work, such as high-profile litigation, that naturally gets the media’s attention, there are several strategies you can implement to get more coverage:
- Become a media commentator: Offer valuable insight on industry trends, complex issues or high-profile cases. A PR pro can introduce you to reporters who cover issues and topics that your clients pay attention to and can help you develop relationships so that they turn to you for analysis and insight and quote you as an expert.
- Newsjack: Offer insights and ideas (quickly) about a trending news story to insert yourself into the news.
- Write bylined articles: With dwindling internal staff numbers, business and trade publications need a lot of (free) contributed content, which presents a fantastic opportunity for you to showcase your expertise to a wide audience. While writing takes time, a good PR pro can interview a lawyer over the phone and write a first draft of the article for them to edit.
- Apply for awards: I’m not talking about Chambers or Best Lawyers. Instead, look at the publications that your clients and referral base read, and see if they have award programs, such as local business journal “40 under 40” lists or Law360’s many awards.
AL: Why is appearing in traditional media outlets still extremely valuable for law firms?
Michelle: One word: credentialing. That’s a bit of marketing jargon, but basically it means that the media validates what you say about yourself. You can say you’re an expert in an area all day long, but when the media turns to you for your insight and opinion, that can be almost as effective as a personal referral for business development purposes.
The credentialing impact happens over time and intersects with other business development activities, but in the long run it’s incredibly important as a professional services provider. Building a reputation as a capable, sought-after source is critical to building new business, and appearing in the media is one of the most effective ways to do that.
AL: Do you think it would it be wise for lawyers to reach out to former journalists or people with journalism backgrounds for guidance on their media relations efforts?
Michelle: Absolutely — but with a caveat. Former journalists understand how the media works and how to tell effective stories, which is incredibly important to good PR. However, this doesn’t mean all former journalists make good PR people. Journalists are writing stories for one audience (their media outlet’s audience). A PR professional, on the other hand, has to take their client’s reputation goals and match those with the media’s goals. It requires an additional set of skills that not all journalists have. However, a journalist who enters the PR field has a leg up on their peers who lack that background.
AL: What are some of the biggest mistakes you see law firms making with their content marketing?
Michelle: Bad writing — obtuse, convoluted sentences full of jargon. Not making the content skimmable with simple tools like subheads, bullet points, etc. Not using enough images. Overly formal, detached writing style. Discussing developments in the law without any actionable takeaways or insight for clients. Never using first-person narratives or storytelling. Writing content that reads like a law review article — complete with cite after cite after cite.
In addition, many firms just post content to their websites, but don’t engage with any email marketing or effective social media promotion. This is a huge mistake, mostly because it’s a lost opportunity. You invested time in creating that content — make sure people see it!
AL: How often should lawyers be producing fresh content for their website?
Michelle: There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how often to post to your website. We are long past the days of content mills churning out meaningless blog posts for SEO. However, most firms could — and should — be doing much, much more. The key is to pick a frequency and stick to it, whether it’s weekly, monthly or quarterly.
AL: Why is regularly producing new content so important?
Michelle: People today are bombarded with information. The only way to rise to the top is through consistency (combined with quality). Your target audience may not see one or two of your blog posts or bylined articles, but if you consistently generate enough quality content, it becomes a numbers game. You’ll eventually start to get noticed and build a reputation in your audience’s mind as an expert and someone that they want to work with.
AL: What are some of the biggest reasons a law firm’s blogging efforts may be failing to produce new clients?
- Lack of strategy: They may not be writing about the right things.
- Lack of consistency: A blog post once or twice a year will not translate into results.
- Lack of distribution: They aren’t publishing in third-party media outlets, they don’t have a strong email marketing program, or they aren’t engaging on social media.
AL: What kinds of marketing videos do you think are generally best at winning over new legal clients?
Michelle: Bio videos are highly effective, especially for B2B firms. Clients want to know who the lawyer is and what they might be like to work with. Video is a great way to accomplish that goal.
Educational videos that inform clients about legal topics can also be highly effective. Just make sure they are also compelling and not just a dry recitation of PowerPoint slides.
AL: One thing you blogged about last year that was quite interesting, was the need for marketers to adopt a knowledge extraction mindset? Can you talk a little about what that mindset is and why legal marketers should be looking to utilize it?
Michelle: The knowledge held by each and every attorney in the firm is the foundation of content marketing. Often, as content marketers, our biggest challenge is getting access to that knowledge. Attorneys are busy and don’t think like marketers. They aren’t professionally trained writers, natural-born storytellers, content marketers, videographers or graphic designers. They need our marketing skills, and we need their knowledge.
So, we must have the skills to extract the knowledge we need from them in order to produce effective content. Those skills include effective interviewing (knowing which questions to ask, how to push for the information you need), conducting independent research, and then organizing and translating all the knowledge/information you extract so that you can use it across multiple content formats.
AL: Does email marketing generally work for law firms?
Michelle: When done right, I believe email marketing is among the most effective marketing strategies for B2B law firms. In fact, I wrote a blog post earlier this year on this topic. However, the majority of law firms today aren’t engaging in email marketing effectively, if at all.
AL: Are there any marketing trends that have emerged this year, that you think lawyers should be aware of?
Michelle: There are a few trends impacting the work we’re doing:
- Law firms are getting more sophisticated with their marketing as they see the need to address the broader trends in the legal industry, such as increased client demand for efficiency and diversity.
- Greater use of technology in marketing — CRM, marketing automation, etc.
- More and more niche marketing — I see more law firms marketing themselves as niche industry experts, for example.
- Email marketing is growing in importance — Many marketers overlooked email for a while in favor of social media and other newer platforms, but the data is clear that email is one of the most effective channels for B2B and professional services marketing.
AL: What’s your top piece of marketing advice for a lawyer just starting out in 2019?
Michelle: I would recommend finding ways to begin building a reputation online through thought leadership activities, such as blogging, writing for trade publications and speaking. Associates can team up with partners to co-author articles. The younger and less experienced you are, the harder this is, but it pays off in the long run. It’s like retirement savings…the earlier you get started, the more you’ll reap the benefits over time.