Ben & Jerrys renamed their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough to “I Dough, I Dough” in their Scoop Shops.
Starting with the tragic attack by a white supremacist at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, the last two weeks have been an historic and hyper-speed ride through some of our country’s most controversial issues, from race relations to gun control to same-sex marriage to Mexican immigration.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the confluence of events and discussions surrounding these issues has been the quick and decisive responses from corporate America. In years past, any responses would have been muted and delayed. However, the nearly immediate, high-level calls to take the Confederate battle flag down from the South Carolina capitol grounds following the shootings quickly led to Amazon, eBay, Sears and Walmart pulling all Confederate merchandise from their shelves. A few days later, the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage throughout the U.S. was quickly followed by universal acclaim from dozens of corporate brands ranging from Absolut, American Airlines and AT&T to The Weather Channel, Visa and Walgreens.
And the decisions by NBCUniversal and Univision to sever ties with Donald Trump over his derogatory comments about Mexican immigrants were strong statements that likely would not have been made just a few years ago. All together, recent events have sent the undeniable message that social change is happening very quickly these days. In fact, I would suggest that it’s happening faster now than at any time since the 1960s.
But how do these social changes affect you – the lawyer, the accountant or other professional – and what relevance could the rate of social change in this country have to your firm’s branding and marketing?
What does the future hold? To quote Nobel laureate Niels Bohr, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” And given all the ongoing change in both the legal profession and the marketing world, it must take a certain level of foolhardiness to attempt to tackle the subject of the future of legal marketing. And yet, there are sufficiently strong indications of where things are going that I felt I was on solid ground in my recent presentation, “The Future of Law Firm Marketing and Business Development.” Of course, I wasn’t predicting the imminent end of the world, or even The End of Lawyers (although I did mention Richard Susskind’s excellent and thought-provoking book of the same name).
The theme for the June 9 presentations at the Denver Bar Association was The Future of the Law, and the format was in the style of the tech-industry’s fast-paced, five-minute Ignite presentations. Obviously, it’s absurd to try to address such a complex topic in such a superficial way. But it did make it fun. And even given the mandated 15-second limit for each slide, and the speaker slip-ups and the lack of time to correct misstatements, some points worth considering can nonetheless emerge within the Ignite format. But don’t just take my word for it; see what you think and share your thoughts.
For many reasons, I’ve never been much of a friend of Facebook’s. And this sentiment has only increased lately, as news from and about FB in the last few weeks has been a steady stream of evidence as to why one shouldn’t trust the company or its $4-billion, 26-year-old CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. More on that in a moment, and it is troubling. But it’s not a good reason to tar all social media with the same brush.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Yes, the red flags being waved about Facebook are a strong signal that those who have been thinking about dipping their toe in the social media pool have all the more reason to leave FB alone for a while. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it means that it’s therefore that much easier to decide to focus your social media efforts elsewhere, and especially on platforms where the rules of the game are clear and not changing every few weeks.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
If you think of LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs as they’re most commonly used, it’s as public channels open to the world. And if you use them as such, you’ll never find yourself in a situation increasingly common to users of Facebook, in which you unhappily discover that something you thought you were communicating to a private audience is now accessible to everyone in Google’s search results. With LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs, everyone understands the #1 ground rule: This is for public consumption.
Of course, you could use Facebook in the same professional way that most use LinkedIn and many use Twitter, but that would be a bit like donning your best suit to wear to your kid’s soccer game in the rain. Not only will people look at you funny, but your best efforts to stay professional likely will just send you home in a muddy suit.
For many, preparing a crisis communications plan is similar to writing or updating your will: you know it’s something you need to do, but despite its importance, it always seems to take a backseat to everything labeled urgent that’s screaming for your immediate attention. And so it’s easy to continue to put it off, trusting that good fortune will continue to ensure that you don’t need it.
However, you will not only be much better prepared to handle whatever crisis comes your way when you have a communications plan ready, but it’s important to realize that such a plan can be useful for a much broader range of situations than you might at first imagine.
To that point, note that law firms need to be cognizant of crisis communications on two different levels. While they may need a crisis communications plan for an event that involves a client, they also should have a plan for any type of crisis that directly concerns either the firm or one of its attorneys. And while the definition of “crisis” may seem stretched if we’re talking about how to handle news of a law firm’s layoffs or a discrimination suit against the firm, many of the same approaches and processes should be followed in these types of events as in the more dramatic cases of workplace violence, plant explosions or plane crashes.
What are these all-important approaches and processes? They start and end with the truth. Yes, honesty and transparency head up the rules of thumb in crisis communications, even though candor is sometimes the most difficult thing to come by in a crisis. And lack of candor can hurt a firm’s reputation much more than whatever occurrence has triggered media attention.
LMA 2010 Annual Conference - Denver, Colorado
One of the highlights of last week’s annual conference of the Legal Marketing Association was the presentation on crisis communications given by Cari Brunelle of Jaffe PR and Eleanor Kerlow of Hunton & Williams. In their presentation entitled, “Managing the Media When Crisis Strikes,” Cari and Eleanor talked about how everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve rides on your – and your firm’s – reputations, and how quickly a solid reputation can be destroyed.
Why is it that the arena of online marketing and PR often reminds me of one of those old-time carnivals? It’s almost impossible to navigate along the online midway enjoying your cotton candy without falling prey to the multitudes of self-proclaimed “gurus” and “leaders” in your path, all of them promising that there’s nothing easier than to follow their advice, knock over the three milk bottles and win the biggest prize.
David Meerman Scott
And yet, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some legitimate leaders in our brave new world of marketing and PR, and I’m able to say with confidence that David Meerman Scott is one of the few. Over the course of a successful career in corporate marketing and public relations, David saw that the traditional practices that had long been used in these two disciplines were being discarded for a new set of rules, and he saw this long before many of his fellow practitioners were convinced. Based on what he saw happening, three years ago David wrote what became a phenomenally successful book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR.
In a field that sees countless new titles on a continual basis, this work was the bestselling public relations book on Amazon for nearly two years, has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and has been translated into 24 languages. And it’s telling that the term “social media” didn’t even make it into the first edition, which was published less than three years ago, in June 2007. When David was writing the book in 2006, Facebook was still only for those with an .edu email address and Twitter had barely caused a ripple.
So, it’s an indicator of just how fast social media has become the 800-pound gorilla in marketing and PR that the newly-released second edition prominently features “social media” in the revised subtitle, “How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly.”
Yet, the main message of the book hasn’t changed. And therein lies the beauty of it. The New Rules of Marketing & PR has been successful for many reasons, but here’s a big one: Instead of focusing on numbers (e.g., how many people are on your email list, tips and tricks for improving your Web site’s SEO or getting your press release into as many hands as possible), David knows that content is still king. His sine qua non of online content is that it must be customer-focused and compelling. This theme is found in one of his favorite mantras: You must earn the attention of the public.
I like that word, “earn.” It implies honesty and integrity. But it sounds kind of like work, doesn’t it? It means that you need to focus on creating authentic, compelling content that will: 1) appeal to your prospective clients and customers, 2) provide them with something of value, and 3) keep them coming back for more.
In our unbelievably busy, fragmented and distracted world, that’s not easy to do. How do you get yourself heard above the noise? How do you get people to watch your show more than once? This isn’t just work, it’s hard work. This is knowing what your prospective customers are interested in, addressing their needs and interests, and putting yours on ice. This is being a journalist and a thought leader. This is the opposite of spending your time figuring out how to game Google.
Does this mean that David is not a believer in the importance of SEO? No, that’s not a fair criticism, for he fully understands how useful SEO can be in helping your customers find you and your site. And that’s quite important, given all the noise and distractions out there.
But on a recent podcast, David put search engine optimization in its place. He emphasized that if he were making a recommendation to a company that wanted to increase visitors to its site – and the firm had a budget to hire someone to help – he would suggest hiring an SEO expert only after first hiring someone who had experience as a professional journalist. (He even suggested that after the journalist was on board, he’d hire a copywriter next, before hiring an SEO expert.)
Why is that? Because it’s all about having engaging content, and there’s not much use in driving traffic to your site if there’s nothing there to engage your visitors.
So, focus on your customers. Address their interests, not yours. And you will earn their attention.
Do you still think that writing blogs is just for people with either an axe to grind or too much time on their hands? And that Twitter is just an inane waste of time with absolutely no possible positive ROI?
As Kevin O’Keefe describes in a post this week, Peter Horrocks, the newly appointed director of BBC Global News, recently told his news reporters that they should use social media as a primary source of information. You read that right: BBC reporters are now required to use social media.
And you also read this correctly: we’re talking about the British Broadcasting Corporation. For the record, the company was founded in 1922 and it’s safe to say that the BBC has never been known as a group of impulsive kids randomly jumping on the latest fad. No, this is the ever-so-reliable, familiar and comfortable “Beeb,” as its devoted fans across the world have fondly referred to it for decades. But perhaps this really says it all: the BBC is an 88-year-old British institution with its own coat of arms.
The takeaway here is that perhaps you should give a good listen to what the BBC Global News director has to say about social media. In an internal newsletter earlier this month, Horrocks said, “This isn’t just a kind of fad from someone who’s an enthusiast of technology. I’m afraid you’re not doing your job if you can’t do those things. It’s not discretionary.” And he later says, “If you don’t like it, if you think that level of change or that different way of working isn’t right for [you], then go and do something else, because it’s going to happen. You’re not going to be able to stop it.”
So, erase that image in your head of the doddering old Beeb, for we see that the BBC is actually wide awake and energized in these Twitter-infused times. In fact, the organization is operating with a keen understanding of the truly revolutionary changes that have occurred in how information is aggregated and disseminated.
And what does this mean for you?
Well, John Schwartz, the National Legal Correspondent for the New York Times, recently spoke to O’Keefe about just how popular RSS readers have become with reporters everywhere. These reporters use RSS to follow particular blogs, in addition to following keywords and key phrases in Google Blog Search. The great thing for you about that last point is that these keyword searches can lead them to new blogs that they hadn’t known about, including, perhaps, yours.
O’Keefe, who as the founder of LexBlog, Inc. has helped nearly 3,000 attorneys build their blogs, continues:
If you’re covering timely legal issues in your blog, you’ll get seen by reporters. Reporters aren’t stupid and looking to waste their time Googling search terms looking for an old article or even being sillier yet, waiting for your PR person to turn them on to experts at your law firm.
The point he’s making is that you’ll likely mention cases, regulations, and companies in your law blog, and when one of those subjects becomes newsworthy, your blog post will be instantly picked up by the RSS readers of reporters covering that subject. Ultimately, there is a good probability that you could get a reporter’s call, or that something you wrote may be cited in a reporter’s article. Either one would be fine with you, right?
The only problem is that neither of these great things will happen unless you do the work to put yourself out there in the blogosphere. The good news is that there’s still time to catch the train. But you’re going to have to run.
I hear you say that you weren’t born to blog or tweet. Fair enough; none of us were. And none of us has the time to do it, either. But I’m pretty sure I heard Horrocks say to his reporters, “Change or die.” It’s being said a lot these days. In fact, in a small, flat world, it’s the new mantra.