We are very happy to have received the below guest blog post from Jena Murphy. Jena is an award-winning public and community relations professional who provides her thoughts below relative to law firm marketing from a PR perspective. To learn more about Jena and the services that she provides, you may contact her via phone at (617) 713-4400, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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As with every industry, public relations is filled with jargon and buzzwords that can combine to create a mystique that serves only to camouflage the effective driving force that an appropriate public relations platform can become for a business. Fear not, however, as it is relatively easy to unlock the mysteries behind a good public relations campaign.
Public Relations and Marketing
Marketing is the overall effort that an organization applies to raise awareness and to heighten its profile, so to stand out from the rest of the pack. For example, Ford and Honda are both car manufacturers. Each company points to their own superior safety ratings, lower costs and long-term warranties, with the intention of differentiating themselves from other automobile makers. Using TV, radio and magazine ads to show the cars and to list their features is a part of marketing each company’s vehicles.
A public relations campaign is one component of an overarching marketing strategy. It is a plan to leverage free space, by, for example: writing articles, being quoted in a newspaper or magazine story, or serving as a speaker to showcase product/service offerings, all while garnering a third party endorsement. Imagine that a safety engineer from Honda participates in a segment on “60 Minutes”. This person’s role in the interview is to show himself, and his company, to be safety experts. He need not call out the competition on past scandals, poor safety ratings, or the like. Instead, he should focus on discussing how to design safety features for the modern automobile. By speaking about his job, and by sharing data that is not readily available to the average American, he positions himself as an expert. Sharing these details on television demonstrates Honda’s willingness to “open” its doors to consumers, and to appear to be less of a “Goliath,” and, therefore, more accessible to the average person. Should that engineer be able to also share some new development in safety that no other car manufacturer has announced or talked about yet, Honda is then seen as a thought leader within its space of car makers.
Some companies prefer to rely solely on advertisements, that is to say, paid space in magazines, newspapers, radio, on the internet, etc. However, when that option is exercised, the third party endorsement of a reporter quoting you or including you in a story, is not present. It is then solely your paid time, to say whatever you like; because you are not, in this instance, endorsed, your message may be less impactful to consumers.
Now, many people think of “doing PR,” as, simply, accessing the appropriate connections at the appropriate times; but, that’s not entirely the case, or, that’s not all there is. It’s not solely about being connected to the “right” people. As we’ve seen in our current economic situation, things can change very quickly. If you find you are relying solely on who you know, you may be in trouble. Things can change quickly with the press, as well, with reporters and editors shifting jobs, coming and going, and with the viability of, seemingly indestructible news outlets, coming into question. The truth is, reporters don’t rely on one source, and neither should you. Beyond who you know, what is even more important is what you know. That is one thing that won’t change.
It’s What You Know
You are an expert in your industry! (Especially if you listen to LOMAP and specialize within a practice niche(s).) Are you a residential real estate attorney? Then you likely know about closings, short sales and/or property valuations. You probably have far more war stories about buyer/seller disputes than anyone you know, and you understand what happens during home inspections, and how to allocate taxes and fees within a settlement sheet. Another thing that you know, almost intuitively, is who your audience is, and how to get in front of them.
Armed with that arrayed information, you can begin to market yourself through public relations channels. As relayed above, the ultimate object of any public relations campaign is to secure yourself space, at no cost, from which you may begin to promote yourself. A byproduct of this proposition is that you receive that third party endorsement of your credibility. Being quoted in an article, or serving as a speaker, positions you, in much the same way that a television advertisement would, but without the cost, as that well-respected member of the bar who offers expert advice and thought leadership to other professionals or potential clients. If you begin to present yourself, in a cost-effective way, as an expert, which proposition is backed up by the endorsement of the person/group publishing you, you are starting to think of marketing yourself as a public relations expert would.
Deploying strategies, like those described above, is one way to promote your brand. Another way to is to partner with other professionals within your industry. You can accomplish this partnering in marketing by networking with your colleagues. Commercial real estate attorneys, for example, can begin to link up with real estate agents and employees of large companies who can locate and who maintain real estate for supermarkets, coffee shops, movie theaters, what have you. Becoming the “go-to-person” in a (relatively) small community is sure to result in recommendations, referrals and opportunities to promote your business.
It’s Where You Start
In order to market yourself effectively from a public relations perspective, you’ll need to have a plan; and, there is no time to work on such a plan like the present. When you put together your marketing plan, be clear on what you’d like to accomplish over a specific time period, and be realistic in your goals. Don’t focus too much on the need for marketing dollars to fund your PR drive; you don’t necessarily need a lot of resources to employ successful PR initiatives. Blogging is a popular marketing option, but can become more time-consuming than impactful. Committing to developing and maintaining a superlative website or spending money on flashy marketing materials and ad space can be both resource-intensive and expensive. Some of the best ways to market your firm come at no cost to you. You can serve as a speaker at various events, attend numerous professional association meetings, join the local rotary club, and do much more, all without expending a dime, and all the while networking to the hilt.
Whatever your strategy, cast a wide net, which will allow you to get in front of potential clients and colleagues, for referrals. And, don’t become overwhelmed or overconcerned about the breadth of the various tactics that you may choose to use. Getting in too deep with one channel is when you can find yourself not getting the bang for your buck that you’re looking for, especially if that channel ends up quitting you, in some way. The important things are: to be consistent in your message, to consistently apply your strategy and to be persistent in your efforts to market your firm.