Articles Posted in Strategic Marketing

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Avoid the overwhelming and daunting task of establishing a business or professional social media presence with this excellent post by a seasoned marketer. This is a reasoned list of considerations that will help anyone trying to work through a social media strategy.

This valuable advice applies to many other communications efforts and is particularly helpful for marketing and communications professionals trying to make social media work for our clients, firms and businesses.

Briefly summarized, these five important recommendations include that social media users should: set goals, have realistic expectations about results, take on one social media site at a time, be consistent about attending to profiles, and schedule social media activity as a regular part of the work day.

Great advice.

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The time has come to admit to ourselves the significance of social media and the fact that it is not going to get less important. There is a place for social media in the legal profession and lots of us know we just need to accept it and dig in.

Recently I asked a very bright young adult (24) with a social media job a at a tech giant, why she values sites like Twitter and Facebook. She said she “loves it” because it allows her to have, what I would call various “communities of interest” in all areas of her interests such as news, work and entertainment. But more than this, it allows her to see what matters to the people in her network — and to use that as a way to know more about things she might never otherwise see or learn.

I finally got it. Social media replicates and enhances interactions within communities that are multi-dimensional. Rather than getting a link to an interesting article and seeing that in one dimension, social media allows us to see who else cares about an issue and even better, enhances our community depth and breadth. For example, not only does one of my formidable FB “friends” have a journalistic background in tech and science, he presents his research “finds” to our FB community and we enhance that by our knowledge base. In other words: we learn about cool stuff we never knew about before.

So what’s wrong with that? Nothing.

As professionals we need to dispel the sense that social media is lite on substance. It doesn’t have to be. Big things can be communicated through this vehicle. It’s all about content and value and that will never change.

If we are not out there communicating in this spinning world of social media, we might be left out of opportunities to create communities of interest that are real and dynamic.

Many lawyers are now beginning to see the inevitable — get in or get shut out of potential to reach broader audiences and in turn, to learn and broaden our own world and knowledge base.

Caveat: My young tech friend and I agreed that those who post only self-serving content are not interesting in the long run. Content is key. So say something of value and others will value your involvement in their community of interest.

Today, mashable business has posted a whopping list of its own resources for businesses and marketing. So, spend some time checking out the past year’s guides for business and marketing as stated by one of the biggies in the social media world. In their words. ‘this roundup can get you well on your way to establishing a successful business or marketing campaign.”

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It’s getting complicated. The reports that MBA programs are adding courses on digital media to ensure that their grads have the requisite knowledge base to add immediate value when they join management. Naturally, those of us who are not digital natives might well need some support in the details of social media know-how.

This of course prompts the discussion on legal issues raised in the use of digital media by businesses both internally and externally. In the piece, David Kaufman, a partner at Duane Morris cautions that ” ‘ [c]ompliance with the rules is complicated, and mistakes are easy, and plentiful.”

Kaufman has published the “Top Ten Rules to Avoid Legal Trouble in Social Media Programs and Campaigns” and they are absolutely worth a close look. He addresses everything from content to internal management of social media policy. I highly recommend a full read of his version of the ten commandments.

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As a communications professional, every day I get broadcast emails from around the country that promote use of the web in professional services marketing. So many offers to sit in on webinars, podcasts and other on-line teach-ins, my head spins. Many of the entities sending these invites add the word “university” to lend some lofty credibility to their content.

All this noise raises a question in my mind. Is it wise to jump into the social media pool without auditing your firm’s current communications status? I believe the answer is no.

Although there is value in understanding how to use social media and other tactics in professional services marketing, I am certain that this is not the place to start.

Frame Before Building Your Social Media Presence

If someone handed you a box of nails and asked you to start framing a house, you would not dream of starting without having the blueprints.

Before you or your firm begins a social media push, whether it be blogging or twittering, please consider buttoning up your firm’s messaging. Better yet, take a step back and consider the identity of your firm or organization and the ways you are communicating your identity.

If you have a great web presence and a clear identity, jump in with solid, informative content. If you have not taken an inventory of your communications and how your publics are receiving your message, get this done first.

Does your firm have a clear, well-stated identity?
Do you have integrated communications or is your identity flailing and unclear?
Who are your audiences?
What are your long terms goals and practice area strengths?
Where are the points of expansion?

These are just some of the questions to ask before jumping into the social media mix. Taking the time to go through some preliminaries will make your social media effort more effective and purposeful.

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So, you’ve decided to brand your firm or company and you have either identified internal resources or hired an expert to help. See previous post Brand Aid (part one).

Once you have the right expertise involved, and have determined who within your company or firm will own this process, the real work can begin. Whether you are naming a new company, rebranding your existing firm, creating a tagline to go along with your existing identity, it’s actually a good idea to start from the beginning.

Brand strategy starts with perception. Yours and theirs.

Taking an audit of your market and how they currently perceive your business is a critical first step in the branding process. This should begin with internal interviews with your key people and should fan out to your market, including clients or customers.

It is vital to begin with the way you are currently perceived in the market. This process should also include some questions about your competition and how they are perceived. This evaluation can also include taking a snap shot of your current brand strategy and how you currently manage your brand assets.

Identify and / or review core values.

Using qualitative and hopefully quantitative research, the next step is looking at your core values and the differentiators that set your business apart. No two businesses are the same. Even as a professional services entity, the people within your organization, your history and your accomplishments will differ from your competitors.

Get a clear picture of what makes your firm and business different and unique. This will help immensely in the branding strategy overall.

Align your branding to those values and aspirations.

Many components make for a strong brand. But one very important component is to ensure that your brand in fact aligns with reality or is aspirational and aligns with your business goals. Your branding needs to connect with essential truths about your business.

A great example of this is a tag line that was developed by a friend’s law firm in San Francisco. I was asked to help this firm create a new website and provide other communications services for them. When I read the tag line that was on their old firm site I asked who developed it? They did, they said. I immediately asked if I could service mark the tag line because it was that good. Why was it that good? Because it completely aligned with differentiators about their practice, while also reflecting the truth.

The tag line consisted of four words. Those four words reflected something very powerful about the firm and their practice. I have developed some pretty good tag lines in my work, but I could not improve on this one.

This was a rare example of the internal branding getting it right. Usually this does not happen, but somehow these folks happen to have intuited what to say about their business.

More on professional services branding in Brand Aid installments coming soon.


For some thoughtful comments on branding well, check out Brand Thinking.

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One of my favorite brand names is Kodak — probably because the story behind the brand is almost as good as the name itself. Visiting the Eastman house in Rochester a couple of years ago, I was mesmerized by George Eastman’s foresight in creating a brand that not only sounds right (like a camera snapping), but is a completely made-up name (so much easier to protect as a trademark).

According to the story, he wanted a simple name that was easy to pronounce and that would not be associated with anything but itself. He succeeded.

It’s a little different for professional service firms. Over the past decade, law firms have taken shape through branding efforts. Traditionally, these firms are named for their original founders and partners, but the trend seems to be using truncated versions of traditional names or the use of initials.

Perhaps because legal tech’s market is often law firms or corporate law departments, some companies have tended to be more conservative in their branding. Others have branded their services in alignment with the tech side, rather than the legal side and have moved away from traditional branding.

One thing we know for sure. The legal industry, whether law firm or legal tech, has fully embraced the fact that branding and identity are important components of communications and marketing.

Some law firms have retained heavy-hitting branding and identity companies for the work. Some have tasked this effort to their internal marketers. Unless your internal creative team is having a very good day, this might not be the best choice.

Generally, it takes a great deal of thought and research to create a great brand. Not only does the initial branding effort require a commitment of time and resources, it also requires some components that are not so evident at first glance.

Branding initiatives are a positive step for most businesses. But there also are several aspects to the branding process that may not be obvious.

In the next few weeks, I will be posting on the exercise of branding which does not end once you have chosen your logo or created a tag line. Brand management is also a critical follow-up component to integrated communications and reputation management. Branding efforts do not end with the selection of your name, logo or colors. That is just the beginning.

Identify or Hire the Right Expertise

An important first step in the branding process is to determine whether using internal expertise or hiring outside expertise is the best approach. If you have this expertise internally (in marketing communications or elsewhere in your organization), this also is where branding ownership should probably reside once you have gone through the branding process.

If you do not have this expertise internally (and even if you do), consider hiring a branding or identity expert even for a part of the process. This does not have to break the bank. Retaining branding expertise from outside your business can help ensure objectivity that might be more difficult from an internal position.

If you decide to go forward with branding initiatives with your internal expertise, be cautious. Great branding needs objectivity.

A recent example is a law firm that created a logo internally with colors, look and feel that are, to be blunt, outdated. The firm wants to be viewed as having a great tradition, but is also moving towards cutting edge work. The logo created internally does not project this image at all. But because the firm leadership directed the effort and “liked” it — as did some of the firm’s clients — it was selected.

The logo was not tested with objective audiences. An objective test with a broader audience could have some surprising results for this firm.

This is an example of a very subtle process problem with internal branding. It is a wise move to step back and open up your branding process to your markets, not selectively, but broadly to ensure that you are making the best decision about your branding.

Everything that goes into the branding mix needs to speak to your firm or business identity and aspirations. Hiring the right expertise should make it more likely that you will end up with an identity that actually reflects your business or firm. And if your business does not have the resources to hire a branding and identity firm for the entire project, consider getting limited support for key benchmarks in the process.