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April 10, 2011

Tell Your Story. Why Storytelling Matters in Professional Communications


Last week, McElhaney on Litigation posted a piece in the ABA Journal about effective trial lawyers and their ability to tell a story. He makes the point that "lawyers who want to become effective communicators must understand that stories are at the heart of how people think, learn, exchange ideas and struggle to understand the world around them."


Professional Stories Are Compelling, Facts are Just That

I totally agree with this premise and want to extrapolate out to the importance of storytelling in effective marketing communications for both lawyers and law firms.

In my opinion, many law firms and lawyers do not tell a clear, refined and compelling story about themselves or their law practice in their communications, particularly on the web. Just take a quick run through law firm websites and you will probably find this to be the case. Most law firm sites inform visitors with somewhat dry and factual copy about the specific areas of practice and personnel.

But in my view, very few tell a great story. This includes not only some context or history of the practice, but getting to the heart of who you are as a law firm and what makes your lawyers unique. One exception is the Kilpatrick Townsend site, which leads on its home page with case stories. The cases and attorneys involved are highlighted with photography, great short headlines, as well as graphics that grab interest. This draws the viewer into the story and connects it back into the firm's strengths.

McElhaney makes the fine point that good stories are about interrelationships, rather than "snapshots of isolated events." I agree and contend that those interrelationships include people, events and a combination of the two in the context of professional marketing and positioning.

Consider this point and go back to your own site and ask yourself whether there is a compelling clear story that is integrated into the higher purpose and values of your brand. You might find its time for a rewrite.

Every Picture ...

Dry, expected copy is not compelling and the same is true of photography. Most law firms do not portray their lawyers or law firm with interesting photos. I have two words to solve this problem: custom photography. And two more that are critical for compelling head shots: natural light.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of integrating custom photographs that tell a story into your law firm website. I have advised many clients to do this and have storyboarded and directed photo shoots and sessions for law firms and lawyers when I have redone their sites.

Custom photography carries great impact in storytelling. Stock photos are more difficult to integrate into a compelling story. Finally, taking bio headshots in natural light with a feeling that does not come across as posed, is very compelling if done well.