It’s called publicity. When you or your firm gets mentioned in the media, and better if you are quoted, it’s instant credibility. And it’s FREE (unless you hire a PR agency to help)

Regular advertising is less effective IMHO because you are writing the copy and, of course, it is self-serving. Further it costs you money. When someone else says things about you and hopefully quotes you, it is more likely to be believed.

We all believe what we read in the newspaper or magazine, right?  “If I read it, it must be true” is what Larry Smith and Richard Levick opined (somewhat facetiously I’m sure) in a meditation contained in 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing and Communications Professionals. For more on that meditation look at my post “Publicity vs. Advertising” for the full quote, and for more about the difference between the two.

Actually, we all know better, but there certainly is more credibility given to what someone else says about you than what you say about yourself. You may ask, how do I get this here free “advertising”? Well, you need to befriend a reporter or editor, as I suggest in my “Top 10 Marketing Tips: No. 8 – Take a Reporter to Lunch.” It’s a start and my post gives some suggestions and cautions on how to go about building a relationship with a reporter.

So, it is better if you spend your time talking to reporters and editors rather than those in the business who sell advertising. Accordingly it’s a good idea to get to know and develop relationships with reporters and editors. Your time and (lunch) money will be better spent.

It is not a bad idea to remind ourselves once and awhile about the differences between advertising and publicity. I’ve written on the topic several times and reference a couple of them with links below.  It’s important to keep in mind that (good) publicity is more effective than advertising, because someone else is quoting you and/or writing about you.

Advertising, on the other hand, is controlled by you, and thus less credible because you are “writing” or otherwise providing information about yourself and your firm.  Not objective nor without self-aggrandizement, I think most would agree.

Accordingly, almost everyone would agree that publicity is the better of the two.  Advertising is not a bad thing.  It’s just that, as I have preached previously, it is not the most effective way to develop business for your firm.  It has a role but not in my mind until other more effective marketing and business development tactics have been put into action.

What brought this to mind is today’s meditation in 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing and Communications Professionals, by Larry Smith and Richard Levick with Levick Strategic Communications. It states:

“Publicity is far less controllable and takes more time to work than advertising, but has far greater credibility. If I read it, it must be true.”

Well, we all know it doesn’t mean it’s true, but media coverage that has a quote or other positive things to say about you/your firm certainly is more believable.

Bottom line: make friends with the media so they will get to know you, and hopefully, talk about you and your practice.  It will be far more effective than any self-serving ad in producing more legal work for your firm.

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Don’t Let Your Advertising Raise False Expectations

Marketing vs. PR vs. Advertising

Don’t Waste Your Money On The Yellow Pages

 

 

There’s a great discussion over on LinkedIn’s Marketing the Law Firm group about the value of advertising in/on the Yellow Pages. I support most of the ideas or comments made there and suggest you take a look at the discussion.

I have never been big on advertising, period. It does not make my top 10 list of effective marketing or business development techniques. Some claim that the yellow pages still works (mostly those who are selling that expensive service I expect), and if it does for you, great.

I just don’t think ads, as a rule, are a very effective way to sell legal services, and less so in the yellow pages. Think about it, ads unlike public relations where you are quoted in the press, are self-serving statements (even if they do have pretty pictures) about what a great law firm you have and the fantastic service you provide to clients. Furthermore, yellow pages are damn expensive and you are just one of tons of lawyers listed in your market. Who really uses the yellow pages today anyway – especially the online version?

Just think about it, how do you look for products or services in 2012. Don’t you just type into Google or Yahoo search engines what you are looking for? Or maybe you go to the closet in your hallway and dig out last year’s phonebook? Right! Do you – or really think other people – go search for a yellow pages website, and then type in the product or service needed? NOT!

I’ve never done that! And truly can’t remember the last time I even opened the printed version to look up a telephone number. So my advice, save your money. Spend it the type of things that work in today’s world. The yellow pages are a waste IMHO.

 

I’m not a big fan of advertising for most firms. That’s because there are so many other things a firm can do first to effectively gain clients, but haven’t tried enough of. So, until they’ve done other more effective things, i.e., face-to-face kinds of business development, advertising is a waste of money IMHO. And, it could backfire. More on that in a moment.

Furthermore, when the law firm is doing the “institutional” kinds of things, like brochures, sponsorships, websites or other kinds of advertising, partners think they don’t have to do the “personal” face-to-face stuff. They just opt out, don’t get individually involved. However, if you are going to advertise, then at least don’t raise expectations of “quality service”, or “client-centric” or "concentrate on personal attention”, “prompt service”, etc., etc. in your ad, and then not do it.

Seth Godin has a blog post that as usual is pretty much on target. He warns against promising things and then not delivering. He uses the examples of Delta saying that it is the “better airline, one that cares”) or the bank that has “flexible people eager to bend the rules to help you succeed” (and then don’t) which makes it worse by saying it in the first place. As Godin puts it:

“The problem is this: ads like this actually decrease user satisfaction. If the ad leads to expect one thing and we don’t get it, we’re more disappointed than if we had gone in with no real expectations at all….

“So much better to invest that same money in delighting and embracing the customers you already have.”

Amen to the idea that it is better to work at satisfying the clients you already have.

Some lawyers not trained in business still miss the distinction between various terms used in conjunction with the general term “marketing.” Marketing is a process not an activity. It consists of many things that together make up marketing – including public relations and advertising, which simply put are tools of marketing.

The main difference between “PR” and “advertising” is that the former is free advertising (except for the PR agency costs involved, if any) in the form of publicity (being quoted in articles, part of a feature articles, etc.) and are usually written by someone else. Advertising, on the other hand, is paid for publicity in the form of ads. Clearly, the former is more valuable and credible than the latter.

Marsha Friedman, CEO of EMSI, a public relations firm, has an article on her web site, that I came across via LinkedIn that futher clarifies the distinctions between these terms. Take a look. 

If it doesn’t, it needs one. I’ve enjoyed Patrick Lamb’s posts over the years at In Search of Perfect Client Service; and have been remiss in not linking to them more recently. He had a post last month that I missed at the time, but I’m glad I ran across it.

Patrick states that for marketing to be effective it must both have a point, and not insult its audience. He cites an example of a national accounting firm’s NPR “ad" proclaiming that they "are dedicated to providing our clients with thoughtful answers." (Emphasis mine) Is there another kind? Or as Patrick puts it "is there some large cadre of accounting firms that provide thoughtless answers?"

So the question is, what is their point? If it isn’t obvious, it’s likely a waste of money. Further, statements like these really can insult the listener or viewer. Thus, the need for a "quality control element to everything a firm does to present itself to the public."

A marketing cop (a.k.a. marketing director or CMO) needs to ensure that the messages going out to the world are neither pointless nor insulting. 

Since it may have implications on the ethics rules relating to marketing in many other states, and having covered Opinion 39 of the NJ Committee on Attorney Advertising here in several posts, I’m happy to report that the New Jersey Supreme Court struck down the ban on attorneys advertising their selection and listing in “Super Lawyers” or “Best Lawyers in America” last Thursday.

Basically, the Court vacated and remanded the matter for reconsideration (more about that in a minute) finding that such advertising was not “inherently” misleading, and “an absolute prohibition is not permitted.” Supporting the Special Master’s finding that lawyer advertising is protected commercial speech, the Court endorsed the idea that a “requirement of a disclaimer or explanation” of the ad is preferable to an outright ban.

So, the matter goes back for some more work, and here comes the fun part. The Court referred the matter to (1) the Advisory Committee on Attorney Advertising, (2) the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, and (3) the Professional Responsibility Rules Committee “for their concurrent consideration of a redrafted Rule…”; and they may seek “such other sources and information the Committees, acting jointly, may deem necessary and proper.”

WOW! That’s going to be a lot of fun, don’t you think? I see one terrific camel in the making myself. As the maxim goes, “A camel is a horse designed by committee.” Can you just imagine what three committees are likely to come up with. I can’t wait.

In the meantime sanity has returned to New Jersey, albeit if only temporarily, on this issue.

 

Happy Holidays everyone!! Back in January.

Law firms have asked me whether they should undertake an advertising or public relations campaign. My response can be both or neither. The reason is that until a firm has done the basics involving strategic marketing planning, either or both could be a total waste of money.

If a firm doesn’t know where it wants to end up, who its target audience should be, and what clients it really wants to serve, then any advertising or public relation campaign is premature.

Furthermore, firms need to understand the significant differences between advertising and PR. Paramjit Mahli, who may have a slight bias (as do I), addresses the distinction between the two on her Profiting With Public Relations blog, and is worth taking a look at.

As to which is better, my bias comes down on the side of PR; but advertising can also be useful, especially in raising a law firm’s profile with intended audiences. However, the latter does not make my Top 10 Marketing Tips for developing business. As I see it the three main differences include:

Advertising

Public Relations

Paid for (and can be expensive)

Free (except for PR agency costs)

Firm specifies message

Message controlled by reporter/editor

Comes across as sales pitch, which it is

More credible, as sales pitch is made by others

Whether one or the other, or both, is right for your law firm will depend, in my judgment, on where your firm is in terms of its marketing and business development program.