Public Relations: In the new year, try a new marketing strategy–public relations

Public Relations: In the new year, try a new marketing strategy–public relations

By Ellen Keiley

January is a great time to reflect on and evaluate current marketing activities and determine what is working and what is not. It is also a time to try new marketing strategies. Lawyers should engage in a variety of marketing activities that fit with their firm’s culture. Public relations (PR) can be an effective option that brings return on investment (ROI) in numerous ways. While a lawyer or law firm may be thriving today, good business practices recommend ongoing planning for future growth through marketing efforts.

PR involves a thoughtful, consistent approach to raising a lawyer or law firm’s profile as an expert in their field and place them in a position to benefit from earned versus paid media. Frequent media appearances will build and strengthen an attorney’s or a law firm’s brand. Strategic public relations plans help attorneys to reach and influence a target audience of potential clients that might not otherwise be reached.

Often PR is mistaken for advertising, but it is completely separate. There are opportunities for law firms to pay to appear in publications. But earned media is publicity or exposure gained through non-paid channels. Examples of earned media include a lawyer being quoted in an article written by a journalist, getting an attorney-authored article placed in an industry or business publication, a lawyer being interviewed on television and radio, or appearing on a podcast.

Lawyers often question the benefits of paying for PR services and the ROI, while others see the immediate benefit. 1) Earned media is seen as more credible than paid advertising, because attorneys are contacted and evaluated by independent journalists, while any firm can buy placement in a publication. Appearing in the media adds to one’s credibility and shows expertise and thought leadership in specific areas; 2) media coverage keeps a lawyer and law firm visible and top of mind which contributes to referrals; 3) media coverage increases rankings in search engines; 4)  media coverage provides content for a firm’s website, social media, and newsletter; 5) media coverage can help secure new clients; and 6) media coverage can lead to additional opportunities such as speaking invitations and interviews.

According to an ABA National Lawyer Population Survey, there were 1,331,290 active lawyers as of Jan. 1, 2023 in the United States.  A large percentage of law firms have newsletters, blogs, and engage in social media. Competition is fierce. Media coverage can help attorneys and law firms reach a targeted audience and set them apart as experts.

There is a business case for PR. If a potential client is evaluating two firms with similar experience and backgrounds, but one firm is quoted frequently in the news while the other firm’s online news page is empty, chances are the firm that has earned media coverage will leave a more positive impression and influence the potential client’s decision making.

Use the new year to engage in new marketing activities, try out PR, and experience the benefits. Make an investment in elevating you and your firm’s visibility, build a larger brand presence, and reach your target audience. In a highly competitive legal environment, it’s crucial to explore additional avenues for standing out.

Ellen M. Keiley is president of EMK Consulting Group, which offers public relations, business development coaching, and marketing services for law firms and other professional services firms. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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