Law firms experienced enormous shifts in 2020 due to COVID-19, and the impact is expected to extend well into 2021 and beyond. Early on, we saw that the firms with flexibility in their ability to adapt to change experienced resilience with the least disruption. Not surprisingly, law firm management relied on marketing and public relations to help their firms navigate these uncharted waters. Taking lessons learned from 2020 and considering these opportunities for 2021 will help develop positive news stories about the firm and its attorneys.
1. ADMINISTRATION CHANGES
Every four or eight years, lawyers and law firms have a unique opportunity to analyze new laws, rules and regulations resulting from the turnover within government agencies. In addition, law firms attract many former officials seeking private practice after leaving a public position; other law firms experience departures of attorneys who join a new administration.
Which practice or industry your firm serves will be most affected by the Biden administration, and does your firm have a plan for the attorneys to be positioned as thought leaders in those arenas to select audiences?
2. CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT
From the sheer volume of law firm content that was produced about the impact of COVID-19, we understood that insights from trustworthy sources are as important as reaching your audience with information they need. Distinguishing your firm’s attorneys as trusted advisors in a world where fake news, rumors and fraud abound must be consistently reinforced in 2021 throughout various platforms: social media, news media, website, blogs, alerts, videos, webinars, etc.
Do you have a client-focused, robust content strategy for 2021 that will provide timely and insightful resources and content to your direct audiences?
3. INTEGRATED PR AND MARKETING
The most-effective and efficient strategies for law firm marketing should include a complementary suite of activities that work together to support the end goal of developing and growing business. Using PR results to support business development efforts amplifies and validates the sales process, for example.
Is your firm using data analytics to help guide and inform PR, marketing and business development about successes and opportunities? Does SEO reflect the firm’s reputation — desired or not?
When a law firm shares its story with the world, it reveals personality, branding, culture and even a certain vulnerability. When, how and what you decide to tell helps differentiate your firm from others, raises your visibility and establishes your brand.
An under-used opportunity to tell a story is through attorney bios, a large driver of traffic to law firm websites and generally the most-read pages. Describing the lawyer as an authentic person resonates on an emotional level. Find ways to express each attorney’s values and personality traits, showcase who they are, and help them stand out. Remember, people hire people they like and want to work with.
Are your attorney bios telling a story about the person who is the lawyer?
5. CRISIS MANAGEMENT
No one ever wants a crisis to occur, yet human nature and experience decrees that it will happen. It’s important to assess how well your law firm is prepared to remain in control. To minimize the impact of a crisis on the reputation of the firm, ensure the least amount of disruption and restore goodwill as soon as possible, a strategic plan is necessary.
It is time, as it should be at the beginning of every year, to blow the dust off your crisis communications plan, especially if it has been more than a year since it was last reviewed by firm management. With a structure in place, the details of a particular situation can be addressed with confidence that your crisis response team is ready to tackle even the most-daunting crises; even one as overwhelming as a worldwide pandemic.
Did your office structure change in 2020, particularly regarding communications, physical locations and pandemic-related needs? Have key internal contacts changed? Has the media policy been updated?
We all look forward to a year that reverses the uncertainty and disruption felt in 2020. Putting some or all of these PR opportunities in place will help maintain control while elevating your firm’s reputation among its primary audiences.