John McDougall: This is John, and I’m back again for part two (read part one here) with Erin Hawk, the LMA chapter president in Ohio, and Labor and Employment Practice Development Manager at Porter Wright Morris and Arthur LLP in Columbus, Ohio. Welcome back Erin.
Erin Hawk: Thank you. Thanks, John.
John: We’re going to be talking about law firm content, social media, blogging, et cetera. How important is social media for increasing trust for attorneys, and at the very least, is it a negative when you click on social media icons, and they reveal almost no followers on Facebook, or Twitter?
Erin: Yeah, I think social media is certainly becoming increasingly important as attorneys are looking for ways to connect with clients, and potential clients, and become more visible, and certainly to build their own brand, so to speak….There’s a right way, and a wrong way to do it. I think when you have attorneys, or anyone who is on social media, but without really having any clear sense of purpose, or having a clear strategy for how to best leverage that as a tool for them, and building their connections or sharing content, then it really can become a negative.
We’ve all gone and looked at somebody’s LinkedIn profile, and they really have no connections, and there’s not really much content there, and it just gives a certain impression of their practice that isn’t very positive. They don’t look very dynamic.
They don’t look like they’re really connected within the community, or really trying to engage with others in the business community that they’re in, especially, with Twitter and others that are really meant to be out there sharing content, and having conversations, and trying to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going on in their industry, or in their practice. I think if they’re not really focused on it and trying to build that into their daily practice, then it can become stale, and not necessarily present them the way that they want to be presented and had intended for the tool to work.
John: Right, maybe either do it well, or don’t put it right out there in people’s faces.
Erin: Right. Sometimes, people want to jump in, across the board, in everything. Maybe try to build your platforms up in a way that’s comfortable for you, that you can manage your time with them. If you’re blogging, and you’re tweeting, and you’re using LinkedIn groups, sometimes that can just become too much for someone with a busy practice to manage. It’s trying to find what’s going to be the best fit for them and how they can maintain a regular schedule with their social media tools.
John: Good advice. Next question is people buy from those they know, like, and trust, it’s been said. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, being an attorney is among the least trusted occupations in America. Can attorneys gain some of that trust back and initiate the principle of reciprocity by giving of their knowledge through website content?
Erin: That’s a good question. It’s “How can attorneys leverage their thought leadership to try initiate and build trust?” I think there’s something to that. I think what you can gain by presenting thought leadership, however, is really trying to show. Rather than telling somebody what you know, it’s almost showing somebody what you know and giving them something of value that is going to help them do their job better, without necessarily asking for something directly in return.
Which, to your point, brings up this principle of reciprocity and I think really presents an attorney in a way that seems more selfless. And really trying to be helpful to their clients and potential clients, rather than just trying to hold back that information until a bill is sent out.
I think it helps to paint a picture of the attorney as somebody not only who’s very intelligent and up‑to‑date on the most recent developments. I think it really helps position them as somebody who’s really trying to help, and help their clients. Whether that goes all the way to building back all the trust that’s necessary to overcome what the research has shown, I don’t know.
As you get back to your question from the beginning, “Do people generally hire based on a law firm or based on the individual attorney?” I think if you can make that person understand where you’re coming from as an attorney, and try to start building that relationship, that’s going to go a long way towards laying that groundwork of trust that you need to really bring in that new client.
John: I agree. I also like how you rephrased my question. [laughs] It was good. I might use it, if you don’t mind.
Erin: No, that’s fine.
John: “How can attorneys leverage content to build trust?” You had a nice way to make it less wordy. [laughs] If a picture is worth 1,000 words, and researchers indicate that over 70 percent of what we communicate is through our tone and body language, not just through our words, doesn’t that make images, audio, and video an incredibly important part of influencing website visitors?
Erin: I think absolutely, it does. I think this is an area where a lot of law firms are really lagging. You look at the general business community and how the general population is now used to digesting content that’s very visual. We want that visual impression as we’re evaluating our buying decisions. Oftentimes, you’ll come to a law firm website and there’s a lot of written content and a lot to read and digest.
It’s really, oftentimes, lacking in the visual interest and the video aspect that’s going to engage people and give them a perspective of your personality. To the point you made earlier, about how perhaps the media looks to YouTube and other video content for an impression of how that person might interact and interview.
I think videos for law firms can also give clients and potential clients an impression of that attorney, or that firm, and what their personality is. How they interact with clients. How they would interact with you. It brings it to a more personal level, and takes those words off the page and makes it more real. I think it’s trying to find a way, or a balance, to do that well. How a firm can leverage video in a way that makes it seem fresh and gives people a flavor of their culture.
John: I agree. Probably not a slideshow of gavels and the scales of justice. [laughs]
Erin: Right. Or, somebody sitting in front of their law books and reading something very scripted.
John: Get more real.
Erin: You really want to, maybe it’s around certain content areas. You have podcasts, or you have a video interview that you’re using on your blogs. Or, it’s something that’s really more firm‑driven, that gives people a sense of your firm’s culture or something unique about your firm. Looking for how you can use that to help distinguish you. What are those messages that can best be shared through video that you can tap into?
John: That’s good advice. One last little thought on that is that I took a conversion optimization class. A certification about how to improve the amount of leads you get from websites, with Bryan Eisenberg of Market Motive. One of the things Bryan talks a lot about is About Us pages, which are often, after your home page, the most visited page on your website.
What Bryan says is that you should make it more who you are than what you do. If your About Us page is just a long laundry list of “we do this, and we do that, and our brand does this, and our brand does that, we, we, we,” you’re, as he says, wee‑weeing on yourself. He actually has this tool, it’s called “the we‑we calculator,” believe it or not. You can search Google for that. It basically calculates the amount of words on a page and gives you a percentage of how many times you say either your brand name or the word “we,” as opposed to the words “you and your.” Speak more to people, conversationally, and have more personality.
I like what you said about video and showing a little bit of your personality, because people are used to watching TV. They’re used to reading magazines with beautiful, fun pictures everywhere. Then, they go and it’s a big wall of text or something like that. Or, like you said, opening a big dusty book and reading from it. You want to show your personality. I definitely agree with you.
Erin: I think there’s a lot of opportunity there for firms, at least right now. There are some firms that are out there doing it pretty well. But there are a lot of firms who really could take a look at their sites, including my own firm, and really think about how we can leverage video. Of course, the other angle to that, beyond clients, is looking at recruiting and how law firms are leveraging all of these tools to recruit the types of attorneys that they really want within their firm.
John: Another good point. The last question. Does thought leadership and, or blogging matter to B‑to‑B or business‑to‑consumer attorneys?
Erin: I guess it’s a little of both. I think it just depends on the nature of your practice and the target. Who your target is is really going to depend on what types of platforms you leverage. I think, from my perspective, working at a B‑to‑B firm, primarily, it’s looking to sophisticated buyers of legal services who have a lot of really good options. There are a lot of really good attorneys out there. How can you distinguish yourself from the pack? Oftentimes, it’s looking at first, probably, at personal referrals, and their own network, and who they know. Then, it’s also really trying to understand the dynamics of how people are vetting attorneys now.
By being out there and presenting yourself with your niche in a way that distinguishes you and makes you relevant to your potential clients, I think, is really key. Really, whether you’re talking to other businesses or to consumers. It’s just really a different strategy and a different approach. I think, from my perspective, working primarily with B‑to‑B firms, it’s been extremely important.
John: That’s interesting. Sometimes, when we talk with B‑to‑B attorneys, they say, “Google’s not as important to us.” But yet blogging really is. Would you say it’s more the thought leadership and the blogging, for your firm? Or, do you also want to come up in Google, as well?
Erin: To me, and I’m not necessarily the expert on this, but to me, by being out there, and by blogging, and by having the thought leadership pieces out there, you’re laying the right groundwork for your success on Google. By driving fresh content on a continuous basis, and by being out there and talking about key areas, around key topics, and key terms that people might be searching for. To me, I guess it’s the chicken or the egg. The thought leadership piece, to me, comes first. And helps support your overall online strategy and your optimization through Google by having a robust thought leadership approach.
John: Yeah, content definitely is a big part of what helps you rank in Google. Back links, as well. Other websites pointing you is a major part of Google ranking. People sharing your content doesn’t necessarily automatically make your ranks go up, but if you’re a well‑connected brand, that’s going to help. What are a couple of the practice areas that you guys are focused on, marketing?
Erin: The way we’re structured, I work primarily with our labor practice. We really have people supporting all of the areas across our firm, from litigation to corporate, and really have focused our business development around our practice structure. As a lot of firms are doing now, because of the nuances between practices and, really, the changing dynamics of law firm practice development.
My own focus is with our labor practice and the increasing competition that labor practices from full‑service firms are facing from boutique firms and others. That really is driving us to be very proactive and constantly looking for how we can stay ahead of the curve in these areas.
John: In the labor and employment, in particular, that’s also highly competitive. You need to be blogging and doing everything you can to get out there.
Erin: Especially, with labor and the changing demographics of our country. It’s become more and more of an issue that changes year‑to‑year, as politics change and impact the workplace. Just with the broad brush of issues that today’s companies are having to face, as we try to help them reduce their risk and manage their cost of maintaining a successful workplace.
John: You have a lot of different attorneys blogging? Is that hard, to get them to do it?
Erin: We have a lot of attorneys blogging. Our firm has two employment‑related blogs, and one we’re getting ready to launch. One is focused primarily on labor and employment. One is focused primarily on employee benefits. We have updates several times a week that go up, from attorneys across our office, on both of those blogs.
There’s probably multiple times. Between those two blogs, we have at least five posts a week. I think it’s finding people who enjoy writing. For most of our attorneys, who are already trying to read and stay on top of the law and understand how it’s going to impact their clients, I think it gives them an outlet to try to help share that content. We certainly have some attorneys who are more prone to write than others. We do have a pretty large group of people who do write for our blogs.
John: That sounds like you have a great team.
Erin: We do. It’s fun. It’s an interesting area. We certainly have other blogs across our firm, too, but there’s always something interesting going on in labor and employment law. They’re fun to write about. [laughs]
John: That’s a hot topic, for sure, in legal blogging. [laughs] It’s been really great talking to you. What’s your web address?
John: That sounds great. I really enjoyed talking to you today. Thanks for your time. Hope to talk to you again soon.
Erin: Great. Thanks, John. Have a good day.
John: Thanks, Erin. Talk to you soon.
John: See you.