Increasing Credibility


A few years ago I wrote in my blog – In Black and White blog: Are you developing business by optimism and serendipity? Here was some of  the insights I shared with readers to develop business with intention and strategy.

Increasing your Credibility: Where can you give speeches to reach your prospective clients or referral sources? What articles would your potential clients be interested in reading?

Increasing your Visibility: Can your potential clients find out about you through the Internet? Do your referral sources see you regularly at bar or industry events? Do you stay in touch with your friends, colleagues and classmates?

A former client who now lives in Tampa, Kelly Charles-Collins took this to heart and has increased her visibility and credibility that differentiates her from her colleagues. She has written a book and given a TEDx Talk. I ran across her TEDx Talk and reached out to congratulate her. I had a thousand questions and I’m delighted to share some of her answers with you.


Kelly, would you tell my readers a bit about your expertise.

I am a Speaker, Attorney, Author, Trainer, Consultant and Coach. For over 20 years as an employment attorney and MBA, I have guided hundreds of organizations – from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies – to discover the hidden truths about their workplace so they can create diverse, inclusive and harmonious cultures and minimize legal risk. Also, as the CEO of HR Legally Speaking, a Professional Speaking, Training and Consulting company I help organizations integrate the “Discipline of Trust,”TM the essential framework of unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion, corporate culture and bystander intervention. I am also an Arbitrator on the AAA’s Commercial and Employment Law Panels and a University level educator on Human Resources and Employment Law. My new book ACE Your Workplace Investigations: A Step-by-Step Guide for Avoiding Friction, Covering Your Assets, and Earning Employee Trust is available on Amazon.

What made you decide to write the book?

I always remembered the question you once asked: Are you developing business by optimism and serendipity? So, I was very intentional.

As an employment attorney, I personally conduct internal investigations and litigate cases that have been investigated internally by my clients. What I have learned over the years is that many people who are conducting workplace investigations lack the necessary skills to do so effectively. But I know that skills can be taught and learned. The bigger issue is the mindset of those conducting the investigations and/or the owners and executive management teams. The #METOO movement uncovered the hidden truths about why people don’t report issues at work: fear of retaliation and futility. This correlates with the mindset of many organizations that view workplace investigations as a waste of time, resources, money and essentially as a CYA tool.

I wrote my book to address this friction and reframe the way businesses, HR professionals, management and employees think about workplace investigations ─from reactive to proactive – focusing on the benefits rather than the burdens. I want them to embrace investigations as an opportunity to uncover what is going on in their business, affecting employee productivity, eroding employee trust, and ultimately, affecting their bottom line. My book is a way to leverage my expertise as a practical tool to help them do just that.

How did you fit it into your busy schedule?

I’m very adept at moving from vision to execution. We make time for the things we really want to do. Writing this book was something I really wanted to do. When I got home in the evenings and on weekends, I fired up my laptop and got to work. Some sleepless nights but worth every minute.

What was your process and how long did it take you?

I developed the framework by repurposing content from my years of training clients. I then analyzed questions I’d been asked, information from the #METOO movement, and the ultimate message I wanted to convey. I also researched the market to ensure I was providing a fresh perspective. I outlined the chapters and wrote about whatever came to my mind that day. I did what felt right for me. I wrote my book just the way I live my life – intentionally, with purpose and unburdened by others’ rules or expectations.

From concept to publishing, approximately 8 months. I chronicled my journey in my blog – Villages Aren’t Just for Kids: My Journey to Becoming a Published Author.

When did you realize that a TEDx Talk would be a good vehicle to reinforce your credibility and gain exposure for your book? 

Being a published author and a TEDx Speaker provide a level of authoritativeness and expertise that other “marketing” vehicles might not. But like with everything, just “being “is not enough. You must work diligently and consistently to leverage these vehicles to your advantage. The key is finding ways to make your expertise scalable. For example, I have developed a bystander intervention training program “bySTANDer free zone” based on my TEDx. This training is essential for organizations, schools, and universities that want to create a culture of action takers. This training is also essential for women, particularly in our male-dominated profession.

How did you get accepted and how did you prepare?

I worked with my coach, Soness Stevens, a TED and TEDx alumni and also with a local coach assigned by TEDx Ocala. Soness and I worked through her proprietary process to develop my talk on the Bystander Effect. We collaborated on my application and audition video. Once I was selected, we collaborated for several months to expand my 2.5-minute audition video into a 13-minute talk. Soness lives in Japan so we had some very long, late night Zoom calls. In between those calls, I had homework, including developing new ideas for the talk, practicing the talk for live audiences, and creating practice videos for her feedback. She taught me the art of synthesizing information into compact, but impactful statements and how to effectively deliver those ideas.

How you present a TED style talk is unique. As attorneys we advocate, argue, and advise. But at TED, you share ideas to enlighten, explore and encourage. It’s hard to explain the distinction in words but it’s so clear when you hear it. Soness’ coaching was invaluable. The morning of the talk, I was so sick – terrible cold and throwing up. But I was not nervous at all. I was so well prepared that I knew if I had 15 good minutes, I could nail it. And if I can brag a little, I nailed it. I encourage people to go to YouTube and watch the video and share with others. 

What advice would you give lawyers who want to do the same – write a book and/or give a TEDx Talk?

Be prepared to do the work. If you are not willing or able to invest the time, energy and money, don’t do it. I believe that whatever I put my name on has to be the best reflection of me. Therefore, once I’m in, I’m all in.

What’s next for you?

I will be launching my “bySTANDer free zone” program and merchandise line. I’m also researching the issue of “trust.” My background and experience have taught me that trust is the foundation of everything. But maybe that’s not true for everyone. To test that theory, I have created a quick 13 question survey to learn how others feel. I would love to hear from your readers. They can complete the survey here – Trust survey link 

My findings will be used for training clients and to provide them tools for developing and maintaining trust in their organizations and relationships. And since I’m always doing something, it will probably end up in a book of some sort. Stay tuned.

As you can see, Kelly has increased her credibility and visibility. She is focused on business development with intension and has differentiated herself in a unique way that is relevant and timely. You my friend could do the same!


A left brain/right brain lawyer, Kelly Charles-Collins is an analytical free-spirit. Kelly is as real as it gets – a true “salt of the earth.” Unafraid to share her own challenges and triumphs, Kelly gives you the good, bad, and ugly. Kelly’s mission is to be the light for others — revealing their passion, purpose, and greatness. A true believer in legacy building, Kelly guides organizations –small businesses to Fortune 100 companies – to discover the hidden truths about their workplace. An employment attorney with over 20 years of experience, Kelly guides organizations to nurture trust and respect so they can create diverse, inclusive, and harmonious cultures that deliver results.But she’s not just an attorney, Kelly is a skilled public speaker, author, consultant, and HR expert. Kelly’s book ACE Your Workplace Investigations: A Step-by-Step Guide for Avoiding Friction, Covering Your Assets, and Earning Employee Trust, is available on Amazon or at www.kellycharlescollins.com.

Your marketing strategy is the key to growing your law firm. If your marketing strategy is stale (or non-existent) you’re not going to fuel the growth you’re hoping for. On the other hand, an effective marketing strategy will help you bring in new clients, generate more referrals, and even help you justify higher rates. In this report, I suggest some possible “new additions” to help you take your law firm marketing to the next level.

How can you attract the clients and the work that you legitimately enjoy – and free yourself from the economic pressure to take any matter that shows up at your door?

Here are ten ideas to get your wheels turning. Don’t try to implement all of these at once – I recommend focusing on just one or two initiatives at a time. Which ideas resonate with you and make sense for your firm?

1) Launch a podcast. Podcasting has exploded as a media source – iTunes reports over one billion subscriptions, and hundreds of millions of plays per month. Launching a podcast geared towards your target market is an effective strategy that you can use to educate potential clients, keep them engaged, and build your credibility at the same time. The key is to come up with a theme and a direction that provides genuinely valuable information to your market. As a business attorney, you could focus your podcast on legal pitfalls that entrepreneurs should be aware of. A family attorney could focus on preparing for and navigating the divorce process, including how to protect and care for the children involved. The possibilities are endless. What are the most common questions and misunderstandings that your clients have? Chances are, addressing those issues would make a great podcast.

2) Host events. Creating and hosting in-person events for potential clients and referral sources can generate momentum and enthusiasm for your practice. We’ve seen clients take this strategy in many different directions – from hosting monthly informational sessions for individuals contemplating divorce, to holding quarterly VIP parties for top referral sources, to organizing seminars featuring expert speakers on topics of interest to business owners. Get creative and find an angle to host in-person events and build a community around your law firm.

3) Sharpen your referral strategy. Referrals are a primary source of new business for most law firms, and clients who are referred to you are typically among the most pleasant and profitable to work with. Are you doing everything can to maximize these referrals? Start by identifying your top referral sources and invest time and energy into deepening those relationships. Identify other individuals who are strategically positioned to send a high volume of work your way and create relationships with them as well. The potential payoff makes it worth your personal investment in this relatively short list of individuals. But, don’t neglect your current clients, your past clients, and your larger network. Ensure that you’re creating top-of-mind awareness and continually educating them on what a good referral looks like. Consider creating referral incentives or even holding regular referral competitions to keep your entire network engaged.

4) Targeted sponsorships. Sponsorships can be a big waste of money if you take the wrong approach. Do NOT jump on every opportunity that comes your way. I’ve seen firms spend large sums of money sponsoring organizations, events, or publications that have little-to-no relevance to their target market. On the other hand, if you can identify groups, events, websites, or magazines that your clients are engaged with, sponsorship can make a great deal of sense. The best approach is generally to identify a small number of organizations or publications to sponsor, and to engage with them as deeply as possible. Sponsor their events and ask for speaking opportunities or other visibility. Sponsor newsletters and ask if you can also contribute content. Do your best to create repeated touch-points for members or subscribers – repetition and consistency is key.

5) Offer an audit or check-in to past and current clients. Oftentimes there is more work to be done for your past and even current clients. They just don’t know they need it yet, or they don’t know that you can provide the solution. Solve both problems by creating an “audit” or evaluation for your clients. This could be a worksheet they complete on their own, or it may be a sit-down with you or (even better) someone on your team. The goal is simple: ask them questions about their business, their estate plan, their family life, whatever it may be, and help them to see that they need your help in these areas. Be prepared to explain how you can help them address these challenges or take advantage of the opportunities that you have uncovered together. This simple strategy could result in a massive influx of new work.

6)  Publish a book. There’s arguably no greater tool to establish your credibility and your expertise in your area of practice than publishing a book. While it might sound overwhelming, chances are that you have a good amount of content that you have created over the years which could be re-purposed into a book. If you have a marketing person on your team, assign them to organize this content into an outline. Then, create new content as needed to fill holes and create cohesion. There are a variety of companies out there that can help you lay out and publish your book, and some of them can even help you with the content as well.

Once you’ve had your book printed, the marketing opportunities are endless. Give it away at consultations. Offer it as a gift to past clients. Use it as a door prize at events. It’s a powerful tool that will enhance your credibility and build your brand as an authority in your practice area in a very big way.

7) Network smarter. Networking is a valuable strategy for drumming up referrals and new business, particularly when you’re in the “more-time-than-money” phase of your firm. But it’s important to manage your investment well. Don’t simply attend every event in your area. Instead, identify a small handful of targeted organizations that have great potential and get heavily involved. Don’t just attend, get involved in leadership. Speak at events. You’ll get a much better return from deep involvement in a few carefully selected organizations than you will from surface-level involvement in a large number of groups.

8) Speak. Speaking positions you as an expert and an authority. It’s a great way to attract new clients. Look for opportunities to speak in front of your target market – whether that’s a networking group, a trade association, a seminar or conference, or whatever the case may be. Look for opportunities to educate your audience while building your expertise at the same time. This can include presentations on changing laws and regulations that impact your industry, tips and strategies for your market, best practices for avoiding legal disputes, and more. Just be sure that you’re targeting speaking opportunities that make strategic sense for you – opportunities to reach potential clients in a way that enhances your expertise and your position in the marketplace.

9) Launch a joint venture. Who can you partner with and what can you create to reach a new audience? I know a business lawyer that partnered with a banker and a graphic designer to create a “one stop start-up shop” for entrepreneurs – helping them to address the legal, financial, and marketing needs of their new business all in one place. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box here – who can you join forces with to provide a uniquely valuable product or service for your clients? The advantages to this approach are significant – it represents an opportunity to earn additional income from your existing clients, but more importantly it also gives you access to the clients and customers of your partners in this venture. If you’re creative, you may also tap into a whole “new market” by creating a product or service that didn’t exist previously. Many of these people will expand the relationship over time, engaging you beyond the scope of the initial joint venture.

10) Train your staff to recognize and capitalize on opportunities for new business. Finally, get the team involved. Your staff likely knows people that could use your services or will encounter them in their daily life – and they’ve seen firsthand how your firm creates value for your clients. Teach them how to recognize potential clients, how to engage them, and how to connect them with you (or whoever handles the intake process for your firm.) This doesn’t have to be a complicated process and it frankly shouldn’t be hard for your team to execute. They just need to understand who’s a good fit and be able to briefly articulate the value that your firm provides to those clients. You never know who your team knows, so tap into their network as well as your own. You can consider offering some sort of incentive for your team members, if appropriate. Make it a team effort!

We’ve covered a lot of ground here, and hopefully you’ve gleaned a few ideas that could work for your firm. But it’s important to be realistic about this – don’t bite off more than you can chew. I suggest that you identify one (or two at most) new initiatives to start with. Invest the time to get them up and running and carefully track your results. When you find something that works well, make it a part of your ongoing marketing system and then move on to the next new idea.

 

Are you having marketing meetings? Talk is cheap. Buy-in and action is key. Thinking and planning is the easy part for lawyers. Implementation is not. Too often it is where the plan falls apart. Remember that discussions, meetings, and planning are only the start. The key is taking ACTION. The big question… What actions should be taken? Here are our Top Six Marketing Tips:

No. 6 – Be Active in Organization(s)

Over the years we have heard lawyers say that they belong to several organizations, but that it’s a waste of time and doesn’t lead to additional business. However, when examined further, one finds that although they are “joiners,” they are not “doers.” Being active in organizations requires just that – activity.

If you want this form of marketing to help you develop business you must:

• Be more than a joiner –make a meaningful contribution

• Seek leadership position – volunteer often

• Join business or trade groups that your clients and prospects belong to

• Believe in the organization’s mission so you will remain interested and active

There are other marketing activities that may produce quicker results, but being active and involved in organizations that your clients and prospective clients belong to can produce meaningful results in getting new clients.

No. 5 – Write Articles of Interest

While authoring articles isn’t a new technique, writing to demonstrate your expertise is still an effective marketing tool, if it is:

• Topical and interesting (to your target audience)

• Easy to read (not legalese, unless you’re marketing to other lawyers)

• Not too lengthy (short, succinct articles are better)

• Published in a publication that your audience reads (whether general public or business/trade specific)

Obviously, the purpose is to show that you know your topic and, accordingly, are perceived as having the expertise to assist the reader with those legal issues.

No.4 –Talk it Up

Speaking engagements are some of the best marketing activities. Like writing articles, speaking adds the additional advantage of putting you in the same room with potential clients where you can demonstrate your knowledge and expertise AND develop an emotional bond with your audience. These opportunities have led to immediate work when a potential client in the audience has an immediate problem relating to the same issues raised in the speech. Moreover, if the seminar or speech is sponsored by a respected organization, you receive instant credibility.

No. 3 – Communicate Often

James C. Turner, executive director of HALT, a national legal reform advocacy group in Washington, DC points out: One of the most frequent complaints his organization gets is that…

the basic communication between lawyers and clients is terrible.”

He cites one case where a client tried 13 times in a two-week period to contact the attorney. That’s the type of situation that leads to mistrust and, ultimately, to a consumer fraud complaint.

Poor communication between attorney and client is also the most common reason clients file complaints with state bars. A failure of communication is not only unwise, it’s just dumb marketing. Even if the client may not need your services again, the client is likely to tell a number of people, who could be potential clients, about their unhappiness.

There are scores of opportunities (in addition to keeping the client informed about their matter) to contact clients, referral sources, and even prospects; and the more contacts made the better. The best way to communicate would be with phone calls, handwritten notes, next letters, emails, and lastly texts. Obviously, they are in reverse order of ease of accomplishing, but think about what impresses you the most. The important thing, however, is constant communication.

No. 2 – Entertain Your Client

Okay, we can hear all the “duhs” from here. If it is so obvious, why don’t more lawyers do it? Clients are people too. In fact, entertainment is still one of the most effective one-on-one marketing techniques. It not only allows quality time with a client, prospect, or referral source, but also allows one to enhance a relationship on a highly personal level.

Clients want to be loved and appreciated. So, building on the emotional bond between lawyer and client is very important for long-term relationships, and for what is even more effective from a business development viewpoint – a lasting friendship.

No. 1 – Visit Your Client

The single most effective marketing technique, which leads to immediate business in the vast majority of cases, is to visit your client at their place of business.

This visit is not for the purpose of discussing a current matter you may be working on (unless client wants to, of course). The client should know that they are not being billed for the visit.

Your purpose is multifaceted: relationship building, listening, learning, meeting others, and uncovering issues of concern. The main point is to get into the client’s workspace where their day-to-day problems are found, and for which you may be able to assist them.

Such visits will not only enhance your relationship, but it will almost certainly lead to IMMEDIATE work. This has been validated many times over the years. Many of the lawyers we have worked with confirm that such visits result in immediate new business. So, starting today schedule a client visit or two. You will fast become a believer.

In 2018 get into action! These six tips are not complicated or overly time consuming. Start with two, then add one or two a month. We promise you that you will be pleased with the results. We have seen it over and over again… they work!