Posts tagged ‘Marketing’

Are You Taking Advantage of “Special Offer” Media Opportunities, Or Are They Taking Advantage of You?

The pandemic impacts hit the U.S. business markets in mid-March 2020. Conferences and events, and the fertile business development grounds they provided, were cancelled, postponed or pivoted to online formats that were unfamiliar (at least way back in 2020) to most professionals.

“I generally speak at the Name-That-Conference for industry professionals and get a few solid new business leads out of that engagement each year…,” was the start of many a pipeline-focused conversation. But that pipeline ran dry with a highly transmissible virus attending all the same gigs.

Smart professionals and their firms turned their attention to content – and in most cases, this was what we PR-types refer to as “owned” content (the firm controls and distributes it without going through any gatekeepers, a.k.a. editors/reporters/producers). Webinars, newsletters, resource centers, blogs and even forays into the broadcast realm – in the form of podcasts and video series – proliferated.

This desire to educate, share and engage with potential clients in new ways was music to many in-house professional services marketers’ ears – and in the absence of third-party engagements, focusing on firm-produced media channels seemed the perfect pivot. But there is a dark side.

With the launch of these owned media channels, particularly podcasts and “online magazines,” there’s an emerging new category of “media” out there, and it appears to be confusing even the best and the brightest – somewhat intentionally.

Using recently encountered real-world examples, allow me to describe three different wrinkles on this media trend that should raise questions for communicators, marketers and business developers:

  • Example A: An A/E/C industry-focused “online magazine” with a well-targeted title and corresponding URL is “honoring” firms with various self-selected awards (think “top interior designer” or “best plumbing contractor.”)
  • Example B: A podcast has emerged in the IT space with a flattering name, online presentation and a cool-enough concept: the episodes profile the cream of the IT crop and discuss issues of interest to the top players in the space.
  • Example C: A family of podcasts in the legal industry, managed by a single producer, targets lawyers, identifies the podcasts within the family of managed productions that align with the lawyers’ expertise, and lines them up to participate.

Here’s the “owned” media catch: there is another brand behind each of these media channels.

  • In Example A, an A/E/C software developer produces the online magazine – and pushes pop-ups and other company promotion to viewers. (We had to dig in a bit to get to this as it is not overtly disclosed.)
  • In the case of Example B, the IT podcast is obviously and proudly branded by a service provider. We’ll discuss why this can be a red flag below.
  • In the legal podcasts described in Example C, while not obviously branded as law firm or legal tech productions, each is sponsored by and aligned with a specific legal brand.    

Companies create these owned channels for fairly transparent reasons:

  • Access to potential clients (whether their ultimate target is your firm or your firm’s clients).
  • Desirable audience overlap between their brand and the goodwill brought by your firm/professionals (and keep in mind these channels include “subscribe” and “follow” buttons – as well as active chatbots in some cases).
  • A halo effect that your firm brand can bring – providing them credentialing implied by your participation (and, therefore, approval) of their channel.
  • “Shared” media cross promotion on social channels as you help to amplify your participation.
  • Real estate on your website when you post your participation on your domain of authority.
  • SEO fodder.

And that leads us straight to the questions these “opportunities” should raise. Before you jump in wholeheartedly, ask yourself:

  • Is it wise to align our firm brand with this brand? Do we know the sponsoring outfit and its reputation with our own audiences – including clients, prospects, referral sources and the industry generally?
  • Do we want to provide our “implied approval” of this vendor and/or their product(s)?
  • Might our involvement or participation signal an “allegiance” – however tangential – that could be misconstrued by others in the space?
  • Is the sponsoring brand’s audience desirable to our business development goals?
  • Is the production value reflective of our firm’s standards?
  • Is the “sales” approach acceptable to us and our connections? (For example, will the channel spam our clients if they follow or register?)

Beyond these questions, as you evaluate these opportunities compared to traditional media outlets, consider that:

  • There are no audited circulation or subscriber numbers, so the audience noted may or may not be as advertised. Even if the numbers are there, they may or may not represent a large extended family of the producer, rather than solid targets for your business development efforts.
  • The traditional ethical canons associated with the fourth estate, don’t apply. There is no semblance of editorial independence here – so the rules of balanced reporting, separation of editorial and paid content, and protocols for handling correction requests may not be applied.

Now please don’t get me wrong, there are some seriously impressive owned media channels out there. It has long been a goal to land a client in the Costco Connection or to have the cult-like following of a channel like the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. My only caution is to do the work to identify the sponsor of the media channel before replying to the come-on, granting interviews, posting accolades on the firm website or sharing the content with your entire LinkedIn network. Otherwise, you could very well end up doing someone else’s marketing while undoing your own.

Traci Stuart

September 20, 2021 at 4:10 pm Leave a comment

Pandemic Roiling Your Media, BD Plans? “Embrace the Suck”

We’re past Labor Day weekend and the “Hot Vax” summer has seamlessly transitioned into “Back to School/Back to the Office” life. We’re almost back to those 2019 school buses, cubicles and bridge-and-tunnel vibes!

Actually, no.

We are, instead somewhere in our fourth (or fifth?) COVID wave, with lots of office opening delays and ample school anxiety. And, while we may have been able to compartmentalize work and home in the before times, it just isn’t possible now. For us as individuals and as professional services providers, we are just going to have to “Embrace the Suck” as the military mantra goes.

The Wall Street Journal reporter Elizabeth Bernstein recently authored the piece, “How to Deal With Stress in Your Life: Embrace It,” where she broke down the expression:

My Uncle Sidney, a retired U.S. Navy physician and Vietnam veteran, has a military phrase he uses as advice for what to do when life is lousy: Embrace the Suck.

He’s dispensed this colorful guidance to me in several stressful situations—when I’ve been anxious on deadline, dealing with a difficult family member, and, most recently, struggling through the pandemic.

“The point is, when you’re stuck, surrounded or suffering, you need to assess where you are, learn to live with it, and try to advance,’’ Uncle Sidney says.

From a media relations standpoint, nearly every story is seen through COVID-tinted glasses. To break through, it’s crucial that thought leaders avoid trying to act as though a total “reset” button has been pressed. This massive elephant remains firmly in the room, despite our best efforts to move it along, and is spawning media-rich developments like vaccine mandates, health care surcharges and employee testing.

Individually, or as a firm, you may not want to talk about the pandemic; but, you really can’t not.

Collectively, we remain in a lousy situation. However, as the pandemic grinds on, there are emerging “winners” and maybe not “losers,” but definitely folks who missed their media rocket rides.

What are the consistent elements of success?

  1. Availability and willingness to express uncertainty.
  2. Being a quick study.
  3. Understanding that today’s media topic du jour can be displaced in minutes, with stories scrapped as new information becomes available.

COVID’s waves have had media topic counterparts: bankruptcy, tax, labor and employment, health care, more tax, more labor and employment, traditional labor, etc… As we continue to wind our way (hopefully soon!) toward the exit, opportunities will remain abundant.

Professional services thought leaders and practice and industry group heads also need to guard against the karmic drag of the pandemic sapping their creative spirit and entrepreneurial focus.

Later in the article Bernstein quotes Dr. Robyn D. Walser, an assistant clinical professor in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, on the importance of staying focused, “‘Just because there are these super-wicked problems in the world does not mean you give up on what matters to you.”

What matters personally is paramount, but, what matters for your firm and your practice is also crucial. Business development plans inked in 2019, early 2020 or even last September need to be revised. New goals need to be set. And a willingness to ride the wave of a news cycle where you can’t always give definitive answers needs to be embraced to help for you and your brand to stand out – and, ultimately, advance.

Michael Bond

September 10, 2021 at 6:15 pm Leave a comment

Why You Should Consider Doing Some Pinning

It seems as though there is no limit to the number of social media sites that pop up on the Internet. One of the most popular newcomers is Pinterest, a site that allows one to “pin” as if to a bulletin board images and videos. I can just imagine the collective eye rolling in the executive offices of professional services firms. The thinking may very well go along the lines of, “What in the world would we have to pin?”

A large user base of Pinterest create scrapbooks for themselves – recipes, shoes they are looking to purchase and funny or particularly beautiful photos. However, for companies, Pinterest offers the opportunity to – in a very aesthetically pleasing way – leverage content. Corporate ads, photos and videos all work well on the site.

Here are a few of my favorite examples:

Oakland Athletics — http://pinterest.com/athletics/

Note how on their “Historic Moments” board they integrated some great vintage photos. If your organization has classic historic photos, consider pinning them.

Virgin America — http://pinterest.com/virginamerica/

There is great stuff on the “Airplane Geekery” board. This board is a fun way to engage really passionate employees and customers. Don’t be afraid to consider a board with less serious material – for instance a shot of a birthday cake or a video of an office softball game.

Personally, I jumped in the game with a board called “Ads I Love.” I pin up TV and print advertisements that I think are truly outstanding. As a professional who is always consuming media, this was a natural outlet for me. It may even spark a conversation with a client or potential client who likes an ad that I do or who has a similar passion. The goal in all of this is greater engagement. Consider doing some pinning. You may find real value in it.

Michael Bond

September 19, 2012 at 9:48 pm Leave a comment

The Dos and Don’ts of Law Firms on Twitter

Since its inception, Twitter has experienced phenomenal growth in users; however, it is no longer just the playground for those relaying their activities, such as eating a sandwich, and celebrities promoting social causes. Increasingly, new outlets are joining Twitter, not only creating main feeds but also subdividing by news topics and, most importantly, reporters.

It is, of course, the natural evolution for the media. With increased news reporting on their websites and the never-ending news cycle, reporters are joining Twitter en mass not only to report the news but also to obtain information and develop relationships.

While it is a new form of communication with the media, the old rules of dealing with a reporter still stand. As such, law firms that only tweet self-serving news and don’t offer a benefit to reporters will not be followed.

Of course, entire books have been written about how to best use Twitter. But since most legal marketing departments currently have 20 other ball in the air, we did our own research and condensed the best practices for law firms using Twitter.

While some of the advice offered in the articles and blog postings is repetitious, we do recommend reading each for their own value. To assist busy legal marketers, we have also included an excerpt from each posting that encapsulates the best practices discussed.

Please feel free to share your own best practices in the comments section.

The Quick Guide for Legal Marketers

 Twitter for Law Firms

  • A good law firm Twitter feed keeps two things in mind: (1) it’s all about the clients, and (2) it’s not all about the firm. Updates deliver breaking news of interest to the firm’s clientele, or provide links to reports of interest and importance to clients’ industries or spread the word about upcoming events and opportunities that could deliver value to clients.

Law Firm Twitter Accounts

  • If you are Tweeting for a law firm, let us know who the voice behind the brand is. It doesn’t matter if it’s not the chairman, CMO or founding partner. We don’t really care. We just want to know there is a face behind the voice.  You’ve got 160 characters for the profile bio. Just add your names. See if it doesn’t make a difference and let us know!

 How Am Law 100 Firms Use Twitter

  • My question about law firm Twitter accounts has always been, “Who is your intended audience?” Corporate counsel? C-suite executives? Companies in urgent need of specialized complex litigation help? If the answer is all three, then most of your tweets will be irrelevant to a large part of your audience. People don’t want to have to sift through irrelevant information. By tweeting all of the firm’s content from a single account, you are forcing followers to do a fair amount of sifting.

 Top 10 Twitter Tips for Law Firms

  • Last, but certainly not least, connect as much as possible by commenting and retweeting but don’t just rely on an RSS feed from your firm’s website and don’t spam with media mentions or direct messages.

 10 Twitter Tips for Law Firms (Marketing Departments included)

  • Twitter is not 9-5. It’s 24/7, 365 days per week. You cannot expect to grow your presence and get meaningful results if you are not monitoring what is going on. Very often law firms don’t even bother to respond when they get a reasonable comment. Why? Probably because nobody is checking the stream regularly enough or they have been told not to engage. Engagement is key. Go and check out Starbucks and Ford and you will see what I mean. There are of course some excellent law firms who do respond but they are in the minority in my experience.

 6 Twitter Tips for Lawyers & Legal Professionals

  • Attribute Any Re-tweets – Attribution shows that you understand your profession and that your care about your audience. Whether it is a quote from your favorite book, a poem or retweet, always attribute borrowed information to the source author. Twitter is very specific about retweeting, and even makes the process simpler for retweets.

Twitter Tips for Lawyers

  • Adding Substance. I’ll admit that I am guilty of not always following this tip. But we should all be better at adding a little commentary on our tweets and re-tweets. Include a brief statement of why you are sending the tweet out. It can be as simple as “Found this interesting:” followed by the title of the article or post. Too frequently, I see tweets (and send tweets) that have nothing more than the title of a post and a link. Take time to offer up a few words explaining why your followers should be interested in what you are sending.
  • Repetition. When you publish a new blog post, article, or something similar, you most certainly will send notice of it to your Twitter followers. But remember that not all your followers are paying attention to their streams at the same time. Some may say it is bad form, but feel free to tweet about the post or article several times (at different times of the day) so that your followers won’t miss it.

–          Chuck Brown

June 14, 2012 at 12:09 am 4 comments

Timeline = Time for Social Media Audit, Plan

Auditing what you and your company are revealing is critical to protecting privacy and minimizing potential PR issues.

Continue Reading December 16, 2011 at 11:16 pm 3 comments

Locking Down Key Online Real Estate

Online professional brands are incredibly important assets that you need to control. As the baseball playoffs continue today, fans will flock to www.MLB.com. However, many may now know that the website was once the property of law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius.

While this particular situation was apparently resolved without any payout, it highlights the importance of locking down key online real estate, which no longer just includes domain names, but also involves Facebook pages and Twitter handles.

The dynamic nature of the Internet is such that even if you only post a simple website, you need to do some due diligence and anticipate both user behavior and future needs. Your website and online properties are increasingly the best conduits for conveying your company’s message.  Bear in mind, 65 percent of U.S. adults are now using social media, so surely someone is searching for your company.

Cybersquatting and Typosquatting

Cybersquatting is the practice of registering domain names with the intent of forcing a payout from a party whose intellectual property or brand are directly or indirectly associated with the url.  A related practice is typosquatting wherein a site is registered with a url address that is one or two letters off from another site in hopes of misdirecting users or again forcing an organization to purchase the domain.

Each and every business should register all potential deviations of their URL address. These are valuable properties that you need to control. You can then redirect users who make a typo or who guess an address that is not your company’s official url to the correct homepage.

For example, www.Coke.com redirects to www.Coca-Cola.com. As such, XXYlawyers.com or XYZlaw.com could redirect to XYZlawfirm.com. The cost in doing so is small and the process easy. Compare this to the cost of having a rogue individual redirecting clients to false or misleading information.

Suffixes!

While .com is the dominant suffix, .net and .org are the most prominent in a dizzying array of additional web suffixes.  You may want to consider snapping up.net and .org and redirect them to your main website. The White House, which is http://www.whitehouse.gov, once had to deal with the pesky issue of http://www.whitehouse.com ,which for a number of years was a pornographic website. Yikes!

Social Media Squatters

The practice of cybersquatting is also occurring on social media websites. As rapid adoption of social media continues, more companies are planting their virtual flags on Twitter and Facebook. Even if your organization is not ready to make the jump to an active Twitter feed or Facebook page, it should reserve spaces on these social media networks.

Reserving multiple Twitter handles is free and a sound defensive strategy for both future branding entrees and for public relations efforts. The fictional XYZ law Firm could reserve handles such as @xyzlaw, @xyzlawyers, @xzylawfirm and even @xyzsucks. (It is always a good idea to protect against potential disgruntled individuals.)

The firm could also register Facebook pages of different names so as to own that real estate. However, be aware that you need 25 “likes” to secure a Facebook URL that is shortened, such as facebook.com/xyzlawfirm.

Even if you don’t populate these pages, it is good to own the real estate and the brand extensions.

Checklist

  • Have you registered all website variations of your company’s name?
  • Have you investigated purchasing .org or .net suffixes?
  • Have you thought about and registered potential typos that could misdirect users?
  • Have you registered domain names that could damage your brand? (i.e. XYZlawsucks.com)
  • Have you registered Twitter handles for your company and brands?
  • Have you registered a YouTube handle for your company?
  • Have you considered creating a Facebook page and working to get a shortened URL?

Insurance

Insurance policies can’t cover everything, but they can provide you with peace of mind with respect to many potential disasters. Creating a well-thought out and strategic online plan, complete with strategic real estate buys, can help your business tremendously and provide you with similar peace of mind. Taking the time to be strategic in crafting branding and communications plans is critical.

–  Michael Bond

October 6, 2011 at 10:08 pm Leave a comment

With Some PR Help, World Series Congratulatory Ad Could Have Been So Much More

The A’s did congratulate the community and build goodwill, but they failed to give fans any reason to engage the organization. There is also no way to learn more about the organization for those that are curious. It is basically a giant greeting card.

Continue Reading November 11, 2010 at 6:53 pm 1 comment

Using Marketing and PR to Pick a World Series Winner

Using my experience (and, of course, opinion), I analyzed the marketing prowess of each club. While the findings are not scientific (neither is baseball), my prediction is the Giants will win in seven games.

Continue Reading October 28, 2010 at 11:06 pm 1 comment

Beyond Print: Moving Marketing Communications into the Audio and Video Realms

 Our very own Jen Klein recently moderated the Legal Marketing Association-Bay Area Chapter’s 12th Annual Technology Program panel:  Beyond Print: Moving Marketing Communications into the Audio and Video Realms.  Discussing social journalism to social media, the panel covered how law firms can and are evolving their marketing communications.  Panelist Heather Morse posted on a great summary of the discussion on her blog, The Legal Water Cooler.  Be sure to check it out!

–         Chuck Brown

October 14, 2010 at 10:03 pm Leave a comment

Catching Up with the Consumer Industry

Jeremiah Owyang recently posted an article on Forbes.com discussing “When It Comes To Social Media, Many Marketers Jump The Gun.”  While the statement is not true in the professional services realm, which is just now just starting to catch up to the consumer products industry’s use of social media, the article does offer some practical advice.  The two take aways I gleaned are:  understand your target audience and then educate yourself on the tools that reach the target audience.  How about you?  What did you take away from the article?

Chuck Brown

June 2, 2010 at 4:08 pm Leave a comment

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