This article was first published in the Lex Witness May 2018 issue.
The Indian legal industry is growing and becoming highly competitive. Now, more than ever, it is imperative to have a strong brand, and setting oneself apart in this rat race. Key factors like increased competition, firm mergers & acquisitions, and globalization, along with extensive need for greater client satisfaction and changes to the regulatory landscape, makes it essential to engage into branding and positioning initiatives to detail on what makes your firm distinctive, relevant, and authentic.
However, the road to successful branding and positioning for law firms has several challenges, and it is important to keep some considerations in mind when aspiring successful outcomes.
In the first article of the six-part series, we discussed the overall need for a well thought and planned strategic branding, positioning and business development. In this article, we address the need & importance of PR & media management for lawyers and law firms.
PR is crucial to any business’ branding and positioning initiatives, which will inevitably enhance the business development and hiring efforts, as well as industry profile. Since all law firms should primarily be run like any other business, with the intent of growth and sustainability, this theory applies to them as well. Many lawyers may perceive PR as an unnecessary expenditure requiring significant investment, without worthwhile results. However, enterprising stakeholders and Partners will recognize the substantive role that a well-designed public relations initiative plays in assisting law firms in maintaining or improving their brand image, further business development efforts and in positioning key Partners as leaders in specific practice areas.
A strategic and well executed PR initiative can help in favorably positioning the firm in a highly competitive industry, as well as mitigate the impact of a crisis. Additionally, law firms can control the message related to any client or firm matter and/or crisis through smartly managed tools and tactics to communicate the firm’s brand and showcase its services and thought leaders. This in turn can help in building trust and rapport, while delivering value in a range of situations, including thought leadership, strategic advice, crisis, litigation or otherwise.
Public relations and media management can provide cross-function support to law firms. It can help bring in a unique and important perspective to the firm’s conversation about:
- Brand & Communication Strategies
- Improving Hiring Results
- Firm Mergers & Acquisitions
- Client Matter Communication beyond the Courtroom, and
- Crisis Communication
The legal industry is acutely aware of the challenges that come with not just client and new business acquisition, but also retention. It is a highly competitive industry, and it is crucial to make your niche and stand out in the crowd. Public relations can serve as a distinctive tool for building and extending a firm’s reputation, practice area differentiation and expert thought-leadership.
Rules of the Game
When going about media management, it is important to keep the following things in mind:
Keep it Simple
Your message to the media should be as less complicated as possible, with minimal legal jargons involved. Media interaction is purely to communicate your/ client’s side of the story to the public at-large. So, you need to come off as an expert, who is able to express the matter at-hand in a crisp and concise manner yet explaining the impact and highlighting the critical parts of the case.
Understand what is of Interest
When communicating a story, you should filter out the not-so-crucial details. Understand what is of interest to the media and share your message accordingly. However, be careful to not omit or edit the facts.
Choose the Right Messengers
Remember that although your firm’s lawyers handling the matter are media sources, but at the end of the day, they are still lawyers. So be sure to provide them with the right talking points, and train them on media handling and management.
Don’t Stop Training
Be sure to make media management training a part of your firm’s CLE program. Revisit PR strategies, tips and execution plan on a bi-yearly basis, especially with the law firm Partners and stakeholders who are the frequent face representing your firm in the media.
Who’d Handle the PR Biz?
Public relations strategy and management for any law firm should be handled exclusively by experienced and efficient PR professionals. Whether they are in-house PR managers or external PR consultants, it is key that they understand the firm’s ethos and pathos and are on top of their game when communicating any message related to the firm and its clients.
More often than not, an in-house professional is seen by the lawyers as support staff, and that creates an environment where their responsibilities and job function may get diluted. However, and an external consultant is always viewed as the media expert, and inevitably has the advantage of being able to have more focus.
If the firm has already hired an in-house PR professional, it is important to realize that their role may be a part of the larger branding and positioning team and may have responsibilities beyond their core function. But, since they usually have the advantage of being close to the firm’s management, an in-house professional may have a broader understanding of the firm’s DNA, opportunities and challenges. In such cases, an external consultant can rely on the in-house professional to be the eyes and ears of the inner workings of the firm, help find potential stories and keep us updated on news that develops at the firm. Communication is important because both parties are working to achieve a mutual goal.
An external consultant’s role is all about relationships and striving to be an extension of the firm’s business. A collaborative approach between the firm and the external consultant can help produce and execute new ideas and yield results in a cost-effective manner.
Stay tuned for the next in series!
I am the Principal Consultant at the Lex Witness Strategic Counsel Desk, an invitation based initiative, which caters to various entities who seek to create and improve their brand and undertake market activation strategies in the Indian legal market space. Much beyond the space of the magazine, the Strategic Counsel Desk aspires to provide a holistic framework for the firm’s positioning and business growth, primarily focusing on the strength in the Indian legal industry.