The Legal Copywriting Company: The power of public relations for law firms – part 1

Welcome to the first of a series of articles focused on the power of PR for law firms. In this blog, we will take a surface-level look at the very basics, before delving down deeper over the coming months.

PR at its very core is about how an individual or business conveys a message to an intended audience, to both establish credibility and attract new customers.  It is not a new concept; depending on your viewpoint, cave drawings 30,000 years ago, Egyptian hieroglyphics 3000 years ago, or even the ten commandments written in stone, were all early examples of PR.  Julius Caesar used what we would now refer to as PR techniques, to convey a narrative to fellow Romans that he was a successful military tactician and could be trusted with a position of high power.

Nowadays, the internet, television, radio and the printed word have replaced the old communication methods of stone and parchment, but the objective is still the same – to communicate your message in the best way to the right recipient in a way that effectively creates a positive perception of your law firm.

Although it is often given negative press; “that was a PR disaster” or “that is typical PR spin,” in truth, PR is nothing more than persuading people to act or not act in a certain way.  The best definition I have found comes from Trevor Morris & Simon Goldsworthy’s PR Today (2016):

“Public relations is the planned persuasion of people to behave in ways that further its sponsor’s objectives.  It works primarily through the use of media relations and other forms of third-party endorsement.”

Public relations and the legal industry are in a state of flux

No longer is it sufficient for law practices to rely on the quality of their work to gain new clientele.  The legal industry, rather like finance, have in the past few years started to adopt content marketing as a primary method to reach their audience, and to an increasing extent PR.  But it is still very much early days.  And the PR industry itself is now in a state of substantial flux.  Technology is changing how PR firms must operate.  Reaching the journalists who can make the difference between success or failure for a PR campaign, requires new approaches.  Social media is now as, if not more important, than a press release.

With the start of the ‘data-driven era,’ there will be no shortage of data available to both ensure PR efforts are focused in exactly the right places, and measure the performance of that endeavour.

The opportunities PR provides to small/medium size law firms

The opportunity afforded by PR to the legal sector is substantial.  If you want to establish yourself as trusted, authoritative, and a key player in your target market, PR is going to be central to how you achieve this.  Having an amazing message that is written beautifully is wasted if it is not read by and influences the opinion and behaviour of the people it was intended for.

Why would a law firm use PR? You might want to:

  • Attract new customers, investors or legal talent
  • Promote your ethical credentials
  • Move into a new market
  • Attract high net worth individuals
  • Create a stronger brand and establish yourself as a leader in your practice areas
  • Publicise a new department, service or key member of staff
  • Take advantage of a new opportunity driven by political or social change e.g. Brexit

Having a comprehensive communications strategy, encompassing content marketing, social media and PR will provide a vehicle for smaller firms to compete with the big players.  Many solicitors and barristers believe that the national media would not be interested in their opinions.  However, a senior editor at The Guardian once made it clear to me that the decision to publish an opinion piece ultimately comes down to the quality of the content, not the calibre of the person who wrote it.

With this final point in mind, in the next article in this series, we will look more closely at the range of PR methods you can utilise to reach your target audience and how this is evolving with developments in technology.

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