The Missing Link: How Lawyers Are Failing to Maximize Public Relations in Their Practices — Part 1 of 3

The credibility associated with being cited in the press or being seen as an expert is very hard to buy in advertising dollars. This article shows you how to avoid some common public relations traps and get the most out of your PR efforts.

The old adage that the more things change, the more they remain the same still holds some truth. Public perceptions continue to have a strong hold in society. Visibility and credibility still go a long way in cementing business relationships and deals. Yet many law firms still don’t quite embrace public relations initiatives. The mystery about what public relations is remains. Far too many attorneys fail to understand how public relations works. Wrong assumptions are made such as thinking that an advertisement promoting the firm counts as PR or that only lawyers who do high-profile litigation cases receive media attention. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every day hundreds of small- and medium-sized law firms are quoted in widely read publications, raising awareness of their firms and gaining credibility as experts in the marketplace. Firms that don’t realize this suffer from missed opportunities to attract new clients.

The truth of the matter is that public relations is at the heart of every good marketing plan for ALL law firms. The credibility associated with getting cited in the press or being seen as an expert is very hard to buy in advertising dollars.

Why is PR so powerful? It's "earned media" in the form of being quoted in a news story, rather than "paid media" in the form of an advertisement or advertorial. An old friend with a senior position in sales who worked in the advertising department of the Journal of Commerce explained it to me simply: If a half-page ad in the business section is worth $15,000; a story of the same size on the front page is worth roughly five times that much. Advertising professionals will disagree with me on this and it's their job, but here’s a better benchmark: ask yourself: Do you buy The Economist/Wall Street/CFO Journal for the punch and perspective of the articles, or for the wide variety of advertisements in the publication?

Bottom line, advertising is publicity that is paid for. The lawyer or law firm controls the final product—the exact words and when and where the advertisement or advertorial appears.

According to the incoming president of the Council of Public Relations, the U.S. public relations business will be a $4.4 billion industry by 2014, up from $3.4 billion this year.

Showcasing legal expertise through consistent public relations is a powerful business development tool that brings visibility and, more importantly, credibility, which ultimately leads to more business. Public relations initiatives can help a law firm maintain/improve its image, increase brand recognition, bring in new clients and position it or its practice groups as thought leaders and experts in key target markets.

The most common reasons cited by attorneys for not incorporating public relations into their marketing include not understanding the media, not having the skill set, the cost and time. The irony, of course, is that both groups need each other for their work. Reporters are continually seeking sources for their stories, and attorneys need to get more than their qualifications out in the market place. In other words, they need to get known, liked and trusted in their target market.

To find out more about how to maximize your law firm’s PR efforts, visit SCG Legal PR Network.  

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One Response to "The Missing Link: How Lawyers Are Failing to Maximize Public Relations in Their Practices — Part 1 of 3"

  1. Couldn’t agree more. A few more thoughts on the reasons why PR is so ideally suited for lawyers:
    1. Lawyers are experts. Law is difficult, and it changes often. Journalists have too much work to understand and digest all changes themselves – few journalists have a law degree. They need a reliable guide. In return, they will give the guide exposure. They will also invariably mention the firm brand. This status as “expert” will empower both the partner who is mentioned, and the firm. The “expert” status will attract new clients and convince recruits to apply for a position at your firm.
    2. Law firms are confronted with the public interest on a daily basis. Law is (mostly) made on the basis of policy choices, and policy is made for the public interest, “the greater good”. In a way, everytime a lawyer gets involved, some principle of the legal system, the democracy, is being put to a miniature ‘stress test’. The lawyer is in the unique position of seeing our system probed continually for weaknesses and fault lines. These are also matters that the media are naturally interested in.
    This does not in any way mean that the firm brand must become a synonym for controversy and conflict. Rather, what should be highlighted in media communication is the ability of lawyers to rise above the “stress test” and make rational and reasonable assessments of the problem, to propose avenues for resolving common types of problems.
    More on my website: http://www.finn.be/whitepapers/marketing-and-branding-law-firms-beyond-positioning

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