Personal Branding Best Practices – Don’t Leave Home Without ‘Em

I’m in the process of preparing an upcoming presentation to legal marketing professionals on personal branding–establishing, developing, maintaining your reputation.

I’m interested in the one activity you do (or perhaps one activity you have observed from someone else) regularly and consistently to communicate your brand. Responses can range anywhere from “I always have/use breath mints to communicate ‘fresh and clean’” to “I only drive American-made cars because I want communicate my commitment to country.”


Ready for trial?

It’s been interesting to watch the discussion of technology in marketing, especially online and most notably about conversational media such as Twitter, on this hallowed space, on the Legal Marketing Association listserv and other spaces for the last few weeks. I was especially caught up in the back and forth by Jayne Navarre and Matt Sherman, my fellow Coolerites, both with passionate and well-reasoned points of of view. But one thing Jayne said really hit me square in the gut:

“An in-house director has to be a little of everything to a lot of people. Studying how technology works is often just not practical.”

If we ask ourselves why this shift to technologies has been occurring with increasing rapidity, the answers are obvious.

  1. We are an information-age society and economy. Profit proceeds from addressing process needs with technological solutions. Starting and ending points remain fixed, but getting there is increasingly information technology-based.
  2. Technology (and especially computer and internet applications of technology) is a world in which most people under 25 have been immersed as a matter of course. My children do not remember a time when our house was computer-free and online access-disabled. Those days are a dimming memory for me, as well. It is as natural for them (and ever more of us) to look to computers for tools to accomplish their goals as it was once for us to look to photographs on film or X-acto knives.
  3. The push for productivity across the spectrum of work is largely dependent on information technology because we cannot manufacture more human energy or time in a day, so the richest option open to get more work done in the same time is automation. Decisions are made of aggregated information bits, experience and wisdom (which is a form of knowledge ecology), and collection and distillation are largely add, subtract and compare processes, which semiconductors do with incredible speed.
  4. There is no known limit to the inventiveness of the human mind. As ideas become new tools, they are themselves modified by use and new application. Therefore, there is a constant evolution with which we must grapple.

Jayne’s admonition to the contrary, my strong belief is that, for us to be a valuable part of the wisdom of our firm and its business growth through marketing, we must try every new solution. Our experience is the fundamental entry point for our firms into technology that improves client relationship management, communication, knowledge demonstration and prospect development. It may be that, after our initial experience, we judge a particular solution not useful given our firm’s culture and brand. Or we may become evangelists for a tool or set of tools. In any case, we can’t make that judgement, exercise our wisdom, at a distance. Deciding to stand pat or to move with a new tool is dependent on our willingness to give it our attention.

Asking “what’s next?” is still important. But “are you ready to try it?” is much more crucial. Are you?

I have an opinion

This morning on Twitter (don’t worry, this is not a post about Twitter) @pistachio retweeted this challenge:

“Bravely facing another Monday? Let’s start something. FINISH THIS TWEET: “I’m not afraid of ___.”

Me? I am not afraid of having an opinion and standing by it.

Not the grandest of answers, I think it’d be cool to be A-OK with jumping out of an airplane, but I find it to be extremely freeing.

I began The Legal Watercooler in hopes of having a conversation. In the beginning, I was concerned at the lack of public comments, but then I started tracking my Sitemeter stats. People were reading the blog. I have, on average, more than 100 unique visitors a day.

Then I started getting private e-mails and phone calls to a post, a Tweet, or a listserv comment. I am now involved in the most amazing, complex and thought provoking conversations off-line, every day.

So where is everyone else? Why the fear of taking a stand? Having an opinion? I mentioned this off-line, and a friend responded, “Fear.” People are in fear of the economy, politics, for their jobs. In this climate of fear, in the day of the Internet, people are afraid of putting their opinions in writing.

In his first inaugural address President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” How true this is today.

So fear. Yesterday I was invited to participate on a radio program, Lawyer2Lawyer.

First reaction: fear. Why me? What could I have to say (LOL)? Second reaction: get it cleared with my management committee.

Fear again: what if my partners listen in? Next reaction: So what if they listen in?

My thinking is, if I was willing to say it during my job interview, and if I am still willing to say it at the water cooler, then I should have no qualms about posting it on this blog.

And, if I’m willing to say it on The Legal Watercooler, where I really don’t know who is listening in, then why not say it in a radio podcast that will be available on LegalTalkNetwork, and iTunes?

Brand or die? A Marketing Staple?

Can you afford to ignore your brand in 2009? What part of your budget is devoted to polishing, nurturing and feeding your law firm’s brand? Whether you are 1 lawyer or 100 lawyers -law firms with diverse practices often have a hard time defining their brand – or so it seems. Are lawyers so independent minded that the aggregation of which doesn’t easily turn out a concise description of who they are to whom?

Nonetheless, every law firm has a brand, whether they use to describe themselves or not. What can you do?

If you listen to what your clients are saying about you – as diverse as they may be –you’ll find a common thread. And if you listen to what the firm’s lawyers say about themselves you’ll probably find another thread. Further, if you listen to what employees say about the firm, you’ll have yet another perspective. Somewhere among those who are invested in your firm, a brand will surface. Do you like it? Do you need to fix it?

If you are not working on the care and feeding of your brand in 2009 you might be missing an opportunity and at the very most, bleeding the life blood from your legacy.

Anne Saunders, brand and advertising executive at Bank of America, recently told a reporter covering 98th annual meeting of the Association of National Advertisers that, “it would be a mistake to say you don’t need to continue to tend your brand, even in a challenging market like this.”

Others at the meeting last week told the NY Times:

“It’s incredibly important to be risk-takers in the economic climate we’re in.” “People have a tendency to pull back.” -Michael Mendenhall, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Hewlett-Packard.

“Let’s all go for growth. Let’s see this as an opportunity.” Increasing sales and profits has “never been more important.” “There has never been a more crystal-clear realization of why you need a strong brand.” -Rebecca Saeger, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at the Charles Schwab Corporation.

“Don’t go to the ledge. Don’t let the urgent overwhelm the important.” -Joseph V. Tripodi, chief marketing and commercial officer at the Coca-Cola Company

The “challenging environment” gave her brand “a unique opportunity” because of its “legacy of trust and confidence.” -Claire Bennett, senior vice president for marketing at American Express.

James R. Stengel, global marketing officer at Procter & Gamble, was asked whether consumers seeking to save money might be tempted to switch to private-label products (insert non-AMLaw firms) from brand names (insert AM Law firms). That would mean paying less attention to ads for brands — no matter how much marketers spent.

That is unlikely, Mr. Stengel replied, if marketers understand that “in these times, people are looking for the right value.”

That is where it really hits home, IMHO. Clients are looking for the right value. They always have been really, but things take time. And now you have a super opportunity to demonstrate and brand your value. If you have it……

Does this hit home for your firm? Let me hear from you. Why did we have to wait for challenging times to find and deliver new value to clients? Are you branding value in 2009? How far do you have to stretch to build this into your brand? Is experienced, efficient, and effective enough?

The Association of Corporate Counsel has initiated a community – the ACC Value Challenge which seeks to reconnect value to costs for legal services; an idea that has been stewing in marketers’ minds for several years now. Glad to have the lawyers on board.

If your brand tells a story about value, you should be all set, if not, maybe its time to dust off the brand and revisit it for 2009? In addition to business development coaching (the trend du jour) are you setting aside money in your budget for your brand? Or is do you think that is passe?

The Delicate Balance of Leadership

Continuing off last week’s discussion — do you market the lawyer or the firm? — I am in the “you have to do both” camp.

Seth Godin’s new book, Tribes, the new Triiibes social network, and the conversation surrounding its release, explores the issues of leadership. Seth is interviewed here about the Delicate Balance of Leadership.

In the law firm dynamic, there are many, many different leaders: There is the firm wide mananging partner, executive board, office managing partners, the c-suite and practice group leaders. There are industry group and client team leaders. There are associate and diversity committees, with their own leaders, and so on. Each leader is accountable to the collective, to the group, and to the individuals who make up their “tribe.”

Now, bear this out for the marketing of lawyers. In an average AmLaw 100 firm, there are hundreds of attorneys, dozens of practices groups and dozens of offices. In a Web 2.0 world, “conversations” are taking place live, in too many places, for one, or a dozen, marketers to manage. With the rule of thumb being one marketer per 40 attorneys, there will never be enough dedicated marketers to meet the needs of each individual who feeds into the collective.

Whether it is by writing a newsletter or a blog, speaking at a conference or by Twittering, I would argue that the firm’s leaders must deputize each member of their “tribe” (or department, practice team, client team, etc.) to take ownership of their message and communicate it outside the firm.

Attention Lawyers. Get in the Game.

You bet’cha! Think about the top rainmaker in your law firm (- this might be you). Where does he or she get their work? My bet is that close to 100% of the time the work comes in because someone tells someone else that that lawyer (or their law firm) is successful at getting similar jobs done for them – or someone they know.

Think about the last client you brought into the firm? Someone you already knew – an existing relationship developed over time -introduced you in person, by phone, email, or etc. to someone that needed what you are offering.

Think about the last time you were asked to recommend an accountant to a client. Did you go to the Yellow Pages and flip through the listings? Nope. You gave them the name of someone you knew, trusted, and liked. Someone with whom a relationship already existed.

Eureka! That’s it. A lawyer’s work comes from EXISTING relationships. If you do not know a lot of people who know people, who know people, you probably don’t have a very robust (or interesting) practice. That goes for the people you know and trust inside your firm too. It’s about building relationships and maintaining them so when the time comes you are top of mind.

So, think again next time you challenge the wisdom of participating in a social network online. Why wouldn’t you add another tool that increases your chances of establishing a relationship with someone who could give you work, or get to know someone you like and trust who you could recommend to someone you know?

Resistance is Futile

I’ve been enjoying, yet disturbed, by the conversations this week on my professional listserv about Twitter (and I’ll take the liberty to extrapolate that to social media for purposes of this post). Our debate, quoting this post, was even picked up by Cal Law today. I don’t get all of the resistance. Where is the curiosity?

As a marketer, especially one in a law firm, one of the greatest attributes I bring to the team is that I am not cautious or autonomous, and it turns out that I am pretty darn social (for someone who doesn’t like people, lol).

But as I wrote here, that was not always the case. My experiences, and a lot of hard personal work, have changed me.

When law firm marketing departments started migrating away from “marketing” and towards “business development” (code word for sales), I stomped my foot and swore not to participate. I hated sales. I did it for a year, was horrible at it (because of the whole people aversion thing), and I wasn’t going to do it. So there.

Fast forward to 2008 and I spend as much of my time as possible focused on strategic planning and business development, which I now find exciting and much more rewarding than “marketing.” I am a believer.

Same goes with blogs. I didn’t get them. I still don’t believe they are the answer for everything legal marketing (sorry Kevin), but I now see how they are an important and central piece in the puzzle. I learned this by starting my own blog.

When LinkedIn invites started coming to me last year, I ignored them. But, by February of this year I finally started playing around. It turns out that LinkedIn is a very interesting piece of the puzzle.

And now Twitter. I don’t even remember how or when it first hit my radar. But I jumped in with both feet immediately. I started out slow, listening, posting here and there. It was fun. The “professional” side of Facebook. But I quickly realized that Twitter was going to take on a bigger role.

Yes, I am building relationships in 140 characters or less:

  • I throw out questions, and I get responses from the most interesting people;
  • People are coming to me with questions, and I am willingly sharing what I am learning;
  • We comment on the silliest things, like whether or not we’re going to HSM3 this weekend (both our daughters are, we now have something in common);
  • I helped a Girl Scout with a project because, as a Girl Scout leader, I felt it my duty (turns out both our daughters are named Katie, what a coincidence);
  • I’m also following a PR guru (old media type) who was on the phone with the Best Buy CEO (if I was selling something, he could be a great referral source for introductions, I bet he’s following some interesting people);
  • I joined a social media group here in LA where I can meet people live;
  • And I received some very interesting internal information on hiring trends in legal marketing departments.

And that’s just in the last 18 hours.

What I like most about being part of the early adopters, is that we’re all doing this in what can best be described as a “beta” format. There is no time to wait for a 1.0 product release on social media. I am experimenting with the technologies on myself, so I can see how I can incorporate for my firm.

The pieces are coming together for me. Sales. Web sites. Blogs. SEO. LinkedIn. Social networking. Twitter. Together the picture I’m getting is that social media can quickly, and cost effectively, drive my marketing, business development and PR in ways beyond my imagination.


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