In this episode of the Legal Marketing 2.0 Podcast, Guy is joined by Alison Reynolds, the Senior Digital Marketing Manager for Vinson & Elkins, which is a 100-plus-year-old law firm headquartered in Houston, Texas, with offices around the world. While it is her first and only law firm experience, in the last eight years Alison has helped transform the firm’s digital presence across channels and establish a robust content and social media marketing strategy. Prior to V&E, Alison came from the publishing industry, having worked in New York City and Houston in magazine, newspaper, and online publishing. Her love of storytelling inspires her to create compelling online experiences for the firm’s audiences.
1. What has been the biggest surprise of switching from publishing to legal?
I maybe had the wrong impression of law firms when I agreed to go work for one. The surprises have been very pleasant. Firms are big dynamic businesses, with a lot of the same challenges that many other businesses face. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much available content there is hiding within a law firm. There’s no shortage of content, whether it’s been written by our lawyers, or there’s an opportunity to have someone else write it. There really are so many opportunities and ways to market the firm, especially through content. I thought we would be kind of strapped and challenged for good content opportunities. But there is no lack of them, whether it’s coming from the practice groups and the lawyers themselves, or it’s coming out of our recruiting teams and talent management. There are just so many, sometimes hidden, opportunities to create good marketing content.
2. What is the firm’s history with audio content and how has it evolved over time?
We felt that that was something we needed to add to our marketing mix. We set out to create our podcast program and, like many others, very quickly found that it’s a very labor-intensive process to line up guests. Not only our own lawyers, who we know are very pressed for time, but outside guests as well. It’s a lot of work to set up a traditional podcast program. We chose to outfit a recording studio, a physical recording studio in one of our office locations so that certainly came with some costs and capital investments to get the proper equipment to record high-quality audio content. But in having that physical location, we were excluding anyone from participating who wasn’t at that location. That just led to other layers of complexity, of planning and getting people to that physical location to take advantage of the equipment that we had. We definitely produced several episodes, and the reaction to them was great.
But then the pandemic came around in 2020, and it just proves that traditional podcast programs were something we had to put a pin in. Another challenge to that approach was when you create your podcast content and go to publish it on the various streaming services, whether it’s Apple, Spotify, Picture, or whatnot. You’re setting out to build a whole new community on those platforms, and maybe you get lucky with users finding your episodes who are already there. Otherwise, you have to promote this whole new platform that you’ve started. It’s like starting a brand new LinkedIn page and acquiring listeners there. So the numbers were kind of slow to grow, and there was also a lot of effort to produce it for this kind of return. Earlier this year, we’re coming out of some of those pandemic challenges, and the question just arose, “Do we want to get back into a podcast? Is it something we should do?” And I think my marketing colleagues and I, we all agreed. We really do not want to sign back up for this huge effort to produce a traditional podcast program. We just got creative with our resources and our thinking. And that’s when we pivoted to this quote: Audiogram formats. That has been wildly successful for us in many ways.
3. What is the difference between a podcast and an audiogram?
I would describe the audiogram as recording audio content only, but then marrying that with some sort of more static, visual, or kind of lightly animated visual. So the two married together ultimately become more of a video asset. You’re capitalizing and benefiting from both audio and video at the same time. But the audiogram itself can be distributed in so many more ways and on different platforms. We post them to our social media channels and can actually upload them to other video platforms like Youtube and Vimeo. So the audiogram is just that voice married with the static visual. Sometimes we apply some light animation to ours, but it’s not an actual talking head on camera that turns something into a traditional video. The podcast, similarly, has audio content. But you’re kind of limited to the platform. I think you’re just on streaming audio services only, whereas the audiogram provides some flexibility to distribute in other ways.
Going into 2023, I think all marketers are on the same page in knowing that budgets will be constrained. We are often asked to do more with less. I think this audiogram program has really shown how we were able to pivot into reaching the ultimate end goal in a way that uses resources more effectively. So my advice would just be to not be afraid, be nimble, and really think creatively about how to use the resources that you do have. Find someone who is willing to be your guinea pig and test it out, and if it goes terribly you can throw it in the trash, and no one is harmed, but if it’s a success, then you have a great example to go and show others. You also have a champion in that guinea pig to go tell others how easy it was to create the thing.
You can find Alison Reynolds on LinkedIn, and the Vinson & Elkins Website.
Check out our newest ebook The Law Firm Guide to Podcasting here.