As the legal services market remains crowded, with increased competition for clients and mindshare, it is crucial that communications for law firms is faster, sharper and more interesting than ever before to make sure that your firm is noticed above its competitors.
Here at Cognito, there are three key themes we believe legal communicators need to tackle now.
#1: Get real about going green
There has been a huge growth in the importance or the perceived ‘need’ to communicate a firm's ESG credential yet this requires careful attention. We’ve all seen firms out there who are talking about ESG for the sake of it, without any strong credentials or internal and external action to back it up. When communicating their ESG strategy, our advice is that legal communicators should be aware of the following key considerations:
- Transparency: Ensure that the firm’s ESG strategy is clearly outlined, measurable and transparent. You should be able to easily provide data and information to support your ESG performance to avoid any claims of greenwashing.
- Relevance: Clearly communicate how the strategy is relevant to the firm, its clients, and stakeholder and ensure that it can be adapted regionally or locally. For example, is the ESG strategy for a magic circle firm’s HQ in London then also relevant, realistic, and achievable for its smaller office in Singapore?
- Integration: Show how ESG considerations are integrated into the firm's operations and decision-making processes - rather than just paying “lip service” to them in your communications
- Performance: Report on ESG performance regularly, covering your achievements but also being transparent about areas for improvement.
- Compliance and alignment: Ensure that the ESG strategy is compliant with relevant laws and regulations (hopefully this is already covered, given that you are a law firm…!) but also that it aligns with industry standards and best practices of your peers, as well as the wider corporate world.
Finally, the firm may need to take a hard look at its client portfolio and judge whether the client names and industries that it supports are also in line with its ESG strategy. It’s important that the firm is walking the walk, as well as talking the talk.
#2: Get camera ready
The second key themes is preparing for a transition back to in-person interviews and broadcast opportunities. Throughout COVID, the Cognito teams across the world have been training spokespeople on how to handle the new world of online interviews. Some outlets are still preferring to run interviews online – which is great for spokespeople since it can minimise travel time and time spent at studios – but many aren't.
We’ve noticed that when it comes to going “back to the studio”, many lawyers have forgotten all of the hard-learned techniques that make for an effective in-person interview.
As communicators, we all know the pain of witnessing a bad in-person interview and with no laptop screen to hide behind. It’s important to avoid that happening to our own spokespeople. With that in mind, it’s time to consider media training – whether it’s a refresher session for your more experienced spokespeople, or an opportunity to train new spokespeople for the first time, increasing your roster of Partners that you’re able to call on for media opportunities.
These sessions should focus on your spokesperson’s skills, but be combined with strong guidance and considerations for the different interview mediums and how to move seamlessly between them.
#3: Ditch the press release
This is the year to avoid an over-reliance on firm announcements within your comms strategy. While we know full well that it can be hard to push back to partners who’ve been working hard on a deal or on an internal initiative, it really is time to transition away from needing a press release on everything the firm does.
Our advice is to save press releases for those items which are actually news to journalists, those that are the biggest, the best, the first – or those that set a precedent that can’t be ignored. For those announcements that simply must be talked about, why not consider upping your game on LinkedIn to really make them shine.
Consider short videos of the spokespeople talking about the deal, or a snappy post on what it means to the firm. This can make sure that your announcements get noticed by an audience who cares, but don’t raise expectations internally on items that are not of interest to the media.
We’d also advise that instead, communicators renew their focus on reviving their spokesperson bench to capture key quick turnaround comment opportunities with key media. While often there are of course conflicts, the boost to a spokesperson’s profile created by a quick comment appearing in tier one media far outweighs the time and effort spent on a press release that we know isn’t going anywhere.
While change can take time within law firms, there are definitely quick, or at least quicker, wins for the legal communicators out there to effectively increase the firm's profile in this crowded and vocal market.
If you’d like further advice or external support on any of the themes above, or if you’d like to discuss your broader communications strategy, please contact Emma Arora (Singapore) or Angelina Haynes (London) email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org