Technology has become a disruptive force in the legal industry and in the way legal services are delivered. Perhaps no technology has had a larger impact in the way law firms communicate with their clients and prospects than social media.
In the past, most communications and public relations professionals at law firms relied on traditional and trade publications as a way to disseminate a law firm’s news or announcements. It was extremely important for these professionals to have relationships with reporters and others in the media that would help to disseminate their message.
As the impact of digital information grew, communications and PR professionals at law firms began to experiment with new ways to reach their target audiences. Traditional print newsletters were replaced or augmented by digital versions and the law firm website became an important communications vehicle for law firms.
Over the past decade, the pace of change has intensified as the impact of social media has grown in corporate America. Technology has enabled companies and individuals to bypass traditional publishing channels and to develop their own publishing platform. This change has also affected law firms, as most major law firms are now participating in social media in one way or another.
However, it is one thing to participate, it is another to generate value from participation. As our Social Law Firm Index study uncovered, even though most law firms are now participating in social media, most are not being very effective in engaging with their target audience. Law firm marketers and PR professionals that have been merely using social media as yet another channel to distribute press releases and announce awards are slowly realizing that most of their target audience are not interested in these types of information.
Recognizing this, savvy law firms are focusing their efforts on creating and executing a robust content marketing strategy. These strategies aim to position lawyers at firms as thought leaders within their specific areas of practice. In order to accomplish this, the strategy has shifted from creating traditional PR content to publishing blog posts and creating microsites and videos that illustrates a lawyers knowledge and experience in a particular practice area or niche.
Content marketing and social media are redefining the role of the communications or PR director at the law firm. Not only is it no longer sufficient to be able to disseminate firm information, now the challenge is to find ways to create valuable and engaging content, whether written or visual, that enables law firms to generate meaningful results from their social media efforts.
LinkedIn has become the predominant social network used by lawyers and communications professionals at law firms. Many firms are training their lawyers on how to effectively use LinkedIn as a way to enhance their reputation in the market. However communications professionals at law firms need to think beyond this single platform when it comes to their communications and PR strategies. Law firms need to leverage all social networks in order to reach and engage with their target audience. The challenge is figuring out the right networks to use for each particular campaign or effort.
For example, if a law firm is interested in reaching international clients, then leveraging the reach of Twitter likely provides a more effective solution than LinkedIn.
It’s also worth noting that reporters and the media constantly monitor Twitter for ideas and trends. They look for interesting content and frequently contact lawyers with specific knowledge or expertise in a particular subject area or industry trend. If a law firm or lawyer is looking to have exposure through traditional media channels and develop press relations, then it becomes critical for a firm to deploy a Twitter strategy to develop a following amongst reporters and influencers.
Regardless of which social network law firms choose to use, when it comes to social media content is the key. Communications and marketing professionals need to understand that in order to position a lawyer or a firm’s practice group as thought leaders, a well crafted content marketing strategy will prove to be much more widely read and shared than posting a press release announcing an award or ranking.
The focus has to be on creating and publishing content that is focused on clients and that tries to anticipate the legal issues or problems that they are dealing with. Law firms need to adopt a client centric approach when it comes to content marketing and social media. This is the new challenge for those handling communications and PR at their firms.
Updated and republished May 5, 2017