John Cass: Hi, I’m John Cass. Welcome to Legal Marketing Review. Today, my guest is Liz Wall, Director of Marketing and Business Development with Drummond Woodsum, a regional New England law firm with offices in Portland, Maine and Portsmouth and Manchester, New Hampshire. Welcome, Liz.
Liz Wall: Hi, John. Thank you for having me on as your guest.
John: You’re welcome. How are you doing today?
Liz: I’m doing fantastic.
John: That’s good.
John: Very well, very well. Just over the Thanksgiving holidays, so I hope you and your family had a great time.
How important is Google to attorneys?
John: Great. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions for the Legal Marketing Review, so let’s get into it. If a law firm comes up frequently in natural search results versus the ads, does that say something about their authority? Also, how important is Google in general to attorneys?
Liz: We, as marketing professionals at law firms, are educated on search engine optimization and Google, but I don’t believe that the public is educated to the degree that we are. I believe that, if a firm is coming up more frequently in natural search results, that firm works harder.
In other words, they took advantage of all of the media outreach and thought leadership activities that they’ve participated in, have linked it to a variety of areas on their website ‑ biographies, practice areas ‑ and have taken advantage of that, so that their firm is naturally coming up higher in those Google search results.
I believe the general public, however, is unaware that the firms have worked that hard to do that. When they’re looking to purchase legal services, in general, I believe that coming up higher on that list does help.
John: That makes a lot of sense. You’re saying that Google is quite important for attorneys, for consumers, in that sense.
Liz: Absolutely, John. I believe the public is going to Google and looking to validate the name of the people that they’ve met or referral sources. As soon as they look up that attorney’s name or the firm’s name, they better come up high in those search results.
Basically, we’re a regional firm. If somebody was to look up “real estate attorney Portland, Maine” or “national Indian law practice New Hampshire,” I would hope that we would come up high in those search results.
John: Great. Are you aware that Google and social media sites, like klout.com, have patented algorithms to determine if someone is a trusted author and influential person?
Liz: I am aware of that. It helps us make sure that there’s no spam coming up regularly on those sites and that nobody is intentionally coding the back‑end of their site so that it always comes up first.
Social Media and Trust for Attorneys
John: How important do you think social media is for increasing trust for attorneys? Or, at the very least, is it a negative when you click on social media icons that reveal almost no followers on Facebook or, say, Twitter or a LinkedIn company profile?
Liz: We’re a business‑to‑business law firm primarily. Our general clients are not finding us through Facebook or Twitter. However, if we have the links on the biographies, which I do see some firms have, you better check and make sure that you are feeding the Facebook page or the Twitter page with content so that, if somebody is on the individual attorney’s bio or the practice page and they click on that icon, that there’s something there and it’s not inactive and blank.
However, on LinkedIn, we are more active. We do have an icon for LinkedIn on all our attorney biographies and every time we make a change to the attorney’s biography, we encourage them to make that on their LinkedIn account as well. I have worked at firms that manage the LinkedIn accounts for attorneys as well. At Drummond Woodsum, we rely on the attorneys to update LinkedIn themselves.
John: When people are updating content on, say, LinkedIn, either for the company page or for their individual LinkedIn account, do you think that there is a different type of content that can increase trust? Have you had any thoughts about that? Have you seen examples where some content works for increasing trust and another doesn’t? Or, do you think it’s that general issue of the negative, where if you don’t have content and somebody goes there, then that’s a negative?
Liz: I think content’s king. I don’t think it really matters what the content is, whether it’s an advisory, an article, a media mention, a webinar that they’ve done. I think it’s really the title and that the content, the very basic elements of the content, that influences or helps drive the credibility.
John: If a picture is worth a thousand words and researchers indicate that over 70 percent of what we are, or what we communicate rather, is through our tone and body language, not through our words, doesn’t that make images, audio and video an incredibly important part of influencing website visitors?
Liz: In business‑to‑business law firms, I believe this is evolving. I think it depends on the size of the firm and the resources that the firm has. In a large national law firm or an international law firm, I would like to see more video. I would like to see more audio. They have the resources to do that.
In a smaller regional environment, those added features are wonderful but the individual relationship with the client often trumps those videos. Really, that “picture is worth a thousand words” statement is absolutely true in a smaller environment where it’s able to get the attorneys in front of the potential clients.
For the larger firms, those clients are not always meeting the attorney that they’re working with, so it’s important for the larger firms to have that. In a smaller firm, I believe it’s important but the smaller firms don’t have the resources for these capabilities.
B2B Vs. B2C Attorneys in Thought Leadership
John: That’s interesting that you should answer the question that way, because my next question was “how does thought leadership and/or blogging matter more to B2B or business‑to‑consumer attorneys?” In a way, you’ve answered it. It depends upon the size of the firm. What are your thoughts on that? Do you have anything to add?
Liz: Yeah, I mean it does depend on the size of the firm. I mean I personally believe that blogging and hoping that your clients are going to find you on a separate blog is just not a reality. I believe that the blog and the interaction between the blog and the attorney’s bio or the LinkedIn account is what’s going to help raise awareness around that area.
Again, I had mentioned earlier that the director of marketing’s role is to put the attorneys in the right place at the right time to sell their business. Blogging is helping sell that business, but making sure that it’s attached to…ultimately, any client is not going to hire the firm without developing a personal relationship.
Those blogs help define personality. Helping the potential client find the blog by adding it to a biography page or a practice area page will drive business. Just having a blog out there about a specific topic is not, in my opinion, going to have somebody pick up the phone directly, call and say, “I have a matter for you.”
Promoting Thought Leadership Pieces
John: It’s not just about writing the content, but also how you get it out there into the community. Are there other ways that you can promote those important thought leadership pieces on blogs that you can think of?
Liz: Absolutely, I mentioned before that content is king. If you have a blog and you have a fair amount of followers on that blog, you’re able to take the concept. First of all, the attorney or the practice group has to post content regularly. When I say “regularly,” at least a minimum of once a week. It needs to be of interest to the market, first of all.
Secondly, that content can be repurposed. If they have spent a half a year blogging and there is a fair amount of traction or you notice that one blog post on a certain topic tends to have more followers, you can use that as an opportunity to sell the concept to a local paper who might be writing something related and will contact your attorney to be a subject matter expert.
Then, you’re tying not only the blog, but the article that the writer from the local paper wrote covering the topic to the biography and the practice area. All of a sudden, you have a stronger thought leader in that industry, because it’s not just one place that their information is going out. Now, a paper is setting them as that authority.
John: Have you had any circumstances where your attorneys have said, “Hey, it’s been really good that I’ve had to do this blogging stuff because it made me actually think about what was going on in the community. I had to come up with stuff, and then, when a journalist came along, I actually knew what they were talking about”? Have you had that happen?
Liz: Well, I’ve been at Drummond Woodsum for a year. Prior to that, I was at a large AmLaw 20 firm, and then an independent law firm in New York City. This firm, Drummond Woodsum, that I’ve been at for a year, is the first firm that I’ve been able to get a blog off the ground and an attorney posting regularly to it.
I will say the blog was a more personal nature. We had an attorney that took a six‑month leave of absence to hike the Appalachian Trail with his family of four, including a seven‑ and a nine‑year‑old.
Liz: Now, when he was posting stories to the blogs, they were mostly personal. They were mostly about the trials that his family was going through, the adventures that his nine-year-old son went through, how the dog was faring. What’s interesting about this blog and about this attorney that left is that he’s the head of the Land and Conservation Group.
It made a lot of sense for him to be walking the walk, literally, getting the experience of living off the land for six months. We blasted it out to clients individually. We had attorneys that had relationships with those clients say, “We know you’re aware that he is gone. If you’re interested in following him, this is the blog.”
It was much more personal. There were more people following www.kallinfamily.com on a regular basis through the summer than were going to our website. They would then go to kallinfamily.com, go to the About section, read the biography on Dave, and then were coming or being steered towards our site to see, “who is this guy that’s walking 3,000 miles with a family of four”?
It was an incredible experience, I think, because the attorney took the project and ran with it. I think it gained a lot of interest because it was definitely more personal and it related to the practice area. We were able, when he got home or when he got back to Maine, to take what he did and essentially pitch it to papers. There have been eight stories that surround the Kallin family and their experience, all of them citing the Drummond Woodsum website as well as the kallinfamily.com website, and then finding our business.
Now, all of those users, we need to have somebody on there that has a need for an attorney that specializes in land and conservation in order to pick up the phone and call him. He is the practice group leader. He has been doing this type of law and is familiar with it for several years. It wasn’t just that he took six months. It was related directly to this practice area.
John: That’s a great story, Liz. It shows and illustrates the value of storytelling online and how storytelling in another context, but connected, can actually be effective. That’s a wonderful example.
John: Liz, thank you so much for taking some time to talk with me on the Legal Marketing Review. It was a great conversation. I thank you again.
Liz: Thank you very much, John. Have a great day.
John: Well, for more information about Drummond Woodsum, you can visit their website at www.dwmlaw.com. Check out legalmarketingreview.com for more interviews and information on legal marketing. I’m John Cass. See you next time on Legal Marketing Review.