Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Lawyers! Time to Review your PR?

After a short break, the LexRex blog is back, and this week I'm explaining why I think September is a great time for lawyers to undertake a strategic review of their PR activities.

I can't be the only person who feels that it's September, not January, that signifies the start of a new year. Perhaps it's a kick-back from school but I still use an academic diary, and I always find those first few days of early September exciting and fresh.

Things slow down over the summer months for no other reason than the fact that people go on holiday, meaning that pushing through sales, starting new projects or even just speaking to the right person becomes a merry-go-round of frustration. For me, this period of relative quiet time is great for catching up, working through the to-do list, getting stuck into some CPD activity and squeezing in a holiday.

In contrast September always seems like a month of opportunity, a time for reviewing progress to date and planning for the future. So that's why this post is all about reviewing your firm's PR activity - and what better time than now to be thinking about that?

So why should you review your PR? Well if you have an agency, marketing/PR person/team or use the services of a freelancer, it's likely that you are making something of an investment in their service. So it's important to know that you're getting a return.

A 'return' should be possible to measure simply by referring to the initial objectives and targets agreed at the outset...

If you don't currently measure PR activity and results, now may be the time to make the change. PR targets don't need to be complicated but ideally they will be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable/action-oriented, relevant/realistic and time-bound).

In any event, the process of setting targets and goals tends to be a useful exercise in itself. In-house and indeed agency teams are often pressured to deliver against sometimes impossible expectations from some partners. For this reason it can be helpful to identify the teams with higher-than-achievable ambitions, to ensure that the available time is allocated appropriately.

For example some partners want endless coverage and will pester for service that goes over and above the agreed retainer (or that exceeds what the internal team can realistically deliver), whilst other teams are completely uninterested in PR yet have specialist expertise that could provide excellent content for press releases, media comments or blog posts.

This means that a pattern of 'he who shouts loudest' is often at risk of arising - which is fantastic for the team with a lot to say - but is potentially destructive for other, quieter teams who may need a little more encouragement to promote their expertise.

Once the firm's PR weaknesses have been identified (and every firm has them) it's much easier to take steps to remedy them.

For example, if the family team provide blog posts for the firm's generic blog on a weekly basis, but the IP team struggle to do anything at all; a casual visitor to the blog may not realise the firm even has IP expertise. Of course, if that person is looking for an IP lawyer - that's potentially an opportunity lost. Once the IP team's weakness on the blogging front has been identified however, steps can be taken to remedy it. They could include outsourcing the blog writing process, providing writing training to the team or perhaps creating a separate family law blog to host all of that valuable content.

When undertaking a PR review, it's also worth considering what's worked in the past, and what hasn't been so successful. If the firm's focus is on traditional media coverage in the local business pages; why not undertake a review of the coverage achieved in the previous 12 months. Think about which press releases were used widely, and which never saw the light of day again.

Review time is also an excellent opportunity for brainstorming new initiatives - which don't have to be high tech or newfangled. Events can be successful if they are insightful and well-targeted. Seemingly old-fashioned techniques like taking clients out to lunch, making thoughtful referrals and introductions still work - so use them strategically, and measure the cost:benefit ratio of doing so. Media relations, content marketing and blogging, Twitter and strategic LinkedIn usage may all have a place in your PR and marketing arsenal; but you must be strategic and consistent in how you use them.

If the team is struggling to think up new strategies, or the past year's activities haven't worked as well as expected; it may be time to think about bringing somebody new to the table. For tips on choosing a PR agency check out my series of articles on expertise, chemistry and conflicts of interest.

By Victoria Moffatt

LexRex offers a wide range of PR and marketing services to law firms, including strategic brand and PR mapping, media relations, social media consultancy and support and a range of PR and writing courses. If you would like more information about our services, please drop us a line via email: info@lexrexcommunications.com or tweet us: @LexRexComms or @vicmoffatt