Legal PR covers both corporate and consumer public relations and revolves around shaping the reputation and profile of a law firm. While legal PR is often overlooked, the law intersects with every aspect of our personal and professional lives, so PR is essential to any law firm wanting to take control over their brand.
Law firms were finally able to advertise in the 1980s which meant they could start competing for business. Inevitably, as the market grew, so did their need for PR and communications to make them stand out. Today, an increasing number of law firms are using PR and communications to improve their visibility, establish leadership and manage good (or bad) reputations.
So, what can PR do for law firms?
Brand and reputation
First and foremost, PR can ensure that the brand awareness and reputation of a firm is established which in turn, attracts more business. Every business has a brand, and it’s a vital part of standing out.
PR can demonstrate what a firm has to offer – not just the everyday services they provide, but the ‘USPs’ and any other offerings that will stand out to potential clients and stakeholders such as D&I, climate change or charity initiatives. There is also the potential to attract talent with a firm’s healthy work/life balance, culture, perks and rewards – all of which build a brand and who it attracts.
Then, identifying goals and implementing a proactive comms strategy can work towards meeting appropriate targets. A firm that is established and securely placed in the public eye, and that capitalises on its distinctive features has far more visibility than those using a generalised ‘umbrella’ approach.
Thought-leadership content can have many advantages, particularly when establishing a strong and stable brand as it demonstrates the expertise of a lawyer or firm, spark public debate and improve profile.
One aspect of building brand and reputation is consistency in messaging, which can often reflect the internal values and operations of a business. Firstly, the key communications messages must align with the firm’s overarching business objectives so that all outlets are singing from the same hymn sheet.
The most memorable of brands are those with strong and consistent branding – think of the likes of IBM and Bloomberg, which allow people to recognise not only the products and services easily but the brand as a whole.
Particularly in today’s world of dozens of publications and platforms, the need for consistency in messaging across these platforms is paramount. This includes content creation which is not to be overlooked.
When it comes to issues or crisis management, preparation is key. A crisis can shed light on any business but the implications for a law firm can be detrimental – lawyers are very cautious as society’s symbols of justice and order so it’s important threats are mitigated. A lawyer’s highly-regarded and well-built reputation can come to a swift and miserable end, even if they had no real involvement, merely through guilt by association.
A standardised in-house crisis plan won’t cut it when it comes to the outward, public-facing aspects. We’ve all seen the disastrous effects and widespread controversy of untrained press interviews and unchecked statements which miss the mark. A proactive and reactive crisis communications strategy flags potential bumps in the road and lays out the appropriate audiences affected, with proofed press statements, social media posts and aftercare measures.
This also applies to internal communications; when a change in company operations occurs such as role changes, salary updates or redundancies, a prepared communications plan can ensure the right people stay informed and mitigate potential issues like a rogue employee going public. There is a fine balance between giving away too much information (within the constraints of the law) and being seen as transparent.
In the past year alone, we’ve seen mass societal and humanitarian movements. As expectations of organisational values change, law firms must have the ability to stay afloat. More firms now are expected to get involved in movements and conversations around sustainability, health, gender equality and diversity and inclusion.
Yet it’s important to be mindful when publicly commenting on such issues and avoid ‘wokewashing’; superficial attempts at company activism risk long-lasting reputational damage. A PR team can mitigate this, soundcheck any announcements and campaigns and consider the audiences.
Ultimately, if an organisation’s values are in line with somebody else, higher success in tendering business is inevitable, alongside a better and wider talent pool. Otherwise, firms risk falling behind as the more progressive ones beat on.
The law touches upon every aspect of our lives, from the marketing on our food products to the ways we regulate society. It’s only natural that the reputation and credibility of a law firm must be maintained to maintain public trust and confidence. PR can be sensitive at the best of times, so it’s important that law firms carefully consider what messages they want to convey in the public eye and how.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]