Friday, December 22, 2006

Holiday Vacation in Italy

This will certainly be a first. I'm headed to Florence, Italy, to spend the holiday with my youngest daughter -- a student at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze (Academy of Fine Arts, Florence). She's been living there for several months now... a perfect opportunity to bring a bit of family to her temporary doorstep. I've never been to Italy so I imagine it will mostly be a holiday HOOT!

On the phone the other day my daughter was offering tips on what to expect while I am visiting. First off she said, get ready for things that don't work. In Florence it is quite common for bathrooms to be broken, power to not work on and off, and many conveniences to be out-of-order. Another thing that is incredibly intermittent is the Internet -- every provider has to travel the "last mile" into Florence through one pipe controlled by the national phone service. I guess they are notorious for not being too concerned about things running all the time....

Short version of a long story; I probably will not be posting anything on MC until my return in early January. But if I find time and a connection while romping about Tuscany I will at least write to say I'm having a great time.

To all of my readers -- Have a wonderful holiday season with family and friends.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Building a New Marketing Campaign from What Came Before

It has been almost 12 months since the launch of my firm's makeover campaign. We've gotten incredible mileage and reviews off of what we did... But a new year approaches. One of the attributes of good marketing is to appear consistently new and interesting while feeding the need for comfortable and stable. A mistake many marketers make is to completely redo everything with each new campaign. The example that states this principle best is what happens when moving to a new home.

When people move into a new home it just does not quite feel like "home" until pieces of their personal life are unpacked and put in place. It might be a favorite chair, a picture on a mantel, a rug, a pan on the stove.... Until a place is found for what is timeless and true a house is just an empty shell. The same holds true for marketing campaigns.

As I am assembling the pieces of the new campaign and initiates I making adjustments to what my marketplace is already familiar with. Big and little pieces of words and graphics will remain intact while some things will be new. Anything that is totally new will be constructed using parts the market is already familiar with.

Don't ever forget that people, in general, do not like change. No matter how exciting you believe your "great new initiative" is, if it is too far from what has come before you will lose your audience in the blink of an eye.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Law Firm Holiday Party

Today my firm held its Holiday party which was fun and engaging for all. There are a lot of ways to bring together a large group of people -- hotel dinners, luncheons, etc., but when the group has a lot of daily history together I like what my firm did.

We rented a large ship for the afternoon from Hornblower Cruises on Newport Beach (CA). People were able to drive themselves on down to the dock or they could board rented buses for the ride to the party. Once there the crowd could spread out on the gambling deck, the food deck, or the observation deck. All of the gambling (a full casino spread) was for tickets to the raffle to be held toward the end of the 3 hour cruise (kind of like Gilligan's Island without five seasons and never-ending reruns).

As usual most people hung close to those they knew the best (is any company or firm event any different?). And why shouldn't it be that way. If we're going to have a good time we will definitely enjoy ourselves most among those we know. On the dining deck it was obvious whom worked with whom just by where everyone sat.

What really worked for mixing folks up was the gambling deck. I stood back a couple of times on that deck just to observe the flow of people and in most cases it was more about what games people wanted to play and less about whom they knew. COOL! And it was fun! People cheering and clapping and joking about game play. One craps table in particular really took the prize for unbridled fun.

When the raffle finally came around the crowd really felt like a unified group from one firm. It was a good time and I look forward to what is cooked up next.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Public Relations is Definitely About Relationships

Imagine being an editor at any publication that prints press release generated content as a section in their magazine or journal. Each day dozens, maybe even hundreds of releases arrive by post, fax, email, or news feed. And truthfully the majority of what is received is not even close to interesting. I've talked to enough editors and publishers to know firsthand how terrible most of the press release traffic can be.

If we marketers do our homework and actually send out releases worth something it is still increasingly difficult to get space -- considering how much chaff surrounds what we submit. Here are a couple of points that I consider essential for getting your law firm releases onto the press.
  • Having a solid relationship with an editor or publisher can make a difference. If an editor has to choose one of many releases touting similar accomplishments which might they choose? You do the math.
  • Hiring a PR specialist with great editorial relationships will help you in most contests mentioned above.
  • "Gossip" is the single most releasable news. If your releases will create or fuel backroom conversation, you've got a winner. Examples -- issuing a release because your firm won yet another of a thousand proxy fights is boring. Winning a proxy fight against a nationally known wunderkind might make the paper.
  • Follow-up every release with phone calls to editors and publishers to discuss the content.
  • Find the appropriate balance of quantity. Send too many and it becomes annoying. Send too few and you're invisible. I've found that one per week has worked nicely with the appropriate follow-up.
  • Not every release should be sent to every publication on your list. Send the right things to the right people.
  • Send article ideas with each release. At the end of your message to the editor include an article idea based on the content of your release. Example: You're sending a release on the selection of summer interns.... Suggest an article on the difference of work environments between summer interns and first-year associates (remember my point on gossip?).
  • Send interesting pictures with your releases. Don't send head-shots -- send editorial shots. Recently several of my attorneys were selected for an award. I put them on a helicopter pad atop a tall building walking in V-formation.... It might be actually pull a cover story!
  • Use your press releases to tell journalists about what you can comment on. Send your releases to strategically selected journalists with a note that the person mentioned in the release would be a good "quote" candidate on articles involving....
PR is a wonderful marketing tool as long as you approach it realistically. Use it right and you're golden.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Long Tail of Creating Relationships for Law Firms

I find that it's the little things I do here and there to create relationships that ultimately produce the most wonderful surprises. The local business journal in town hosted a golf tournament several weeks back and I was able to slot one of my partners in a foursome that included the executive editor of the local business journal (which happens to be the most dominant business read in the region). They had a great time -- my partner is low-handicap golfer -- and he did a great job of following up with everyone in his foursome.

This morning, in the page three column the exec. editor writes each week, low and behold there is my partners name credited as being a powerhouse labor & employment attorney. The reference was totally out of left field but absolutely appreciated!

I am hopeful this high-profile reference happened because I paid attention to putting the right people in the right place, AND, my partner rewarded himself with a great new relationship by doing the work to be appreciated as a new friend. How fun is all of THIS?!

Creating opportunities through relationship development works in so many direct ways, and works in ways that will always surprise me.... What I do know is that, at a law firm, a marketing department can do no greater thing than ensure that everything the department does is somehow pointed at creating or enhancing relationships. Remember, your product is people.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Be Remembered as the Law Firm that Builds Relationships

An executive search firm based here in Orange County, McDermott & Bull, has come up with an excellent idea for building their reputation by helping others stay connected. 30-40 times a year they host small-group dinners for local executives. The sole purpose of the dinners is for the executives to meet each other and hopefully create new relationships that will be helpful to their careers at large. No pitching, no sales talk -- the search firm simply facilitates bringing similar professionals together to the benefit of the professionals. Brilliant!

Each dinner is at a quality restaurant, includes 12-18 attendees and lasts for about two hours. By the way, each dinner for a different type of executive. One dinner is for CEOs, the next for CFOs, and so on. They start of with casual conversation and then, as they sit down for dinner the hosts introduce a short conversation game to help attendees get to know each other better.

Once the meal is served they introduce a speaker who talks for about 20 minutes. The key to selecting the speaker is that he/she never talks about anything related to the professional skills of the executives attending. For instance, a speaker for a CFO gathering would never talk about Sarbanes. Instead they talk about things not related specifically to the profession of the attendees. The speaker may talk about business coaching, or grooming, or their trip to Africa. The key is they talk about something interesting and hopefully engaging/entertaining for the executives.

This series of dinners has proven so popular they have to turn executives away. Any one executive can only attend two dinners in a year. That makes a lot of sense because the whole purpose of the gatherings is to extend the network of personal relationships; not create a cliche.

And, the dinners are at no cost to the attendees. Do you think that McDermott & Bull is earning kudos with local executives? You betcha! Do you think they are remembered when opportunities arise? You betcha!

I admire any firm or company that has found a way to market themselves by helping others reach their goals.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Remember Every Detail!

My role at an event my firm sponsors is to make sure that all of my partners and guests are taken care of; ensure that our visibility is maximized, check out room setups, seating arrangements, etc. Basically I am the concierge for the firm at the event. Being a good concierge I should also check out any scripts and check any words that might be said about the firm or attorneys from the podium. Oops!

Today was a very high profile event drawing an audience of more than 1,100 VIPs from the region. Early in the presentation the Emcee starting naming sponsors and calling forth a representative from each to present them with a shiny glass thank you thing. In a heartbeat it occurred to me that they had not asked me for a name, or even mentioned this part of the event. Who's name would they call? Who was going to walk up there to accept the shiny glass thing? I quickly walked up the side of the large room filled with hundreds of people trying to spot one of my partners. I watched where they sat and suddenly couldn't spot them... the speaker is going too fast.... WHERE ARE THEY!?

From the podium; "Our presenting sponsor is..." (I can't see ANYONE) "...Rutan & Tucker..." (OH MY GOSH WHAT HAPPENS NOW!?) "...and here to accept our thank you for their support..." (Here comes whatever may come!) "...the head of the firms Corporate & Securities group..."

(Suddenly I knew -- and much, much too late) "...the head of the firms Corporate & Securities group... Bruce Allen."

Well thank you Mr. Speaker for the wonderful promotion in front a dozen of my partners (including the real leader of the Corporate & Securities group), and their guests, and at least 200 or 300 people that know me or the real head of the group.

So, what did I do? The only thing I could do. I walked calmly toward the dais, accepted the shiny glass thing and beat a hasty retreat to the back of the room. Fortunately my attorneys recognized the mistake was not of my making. Phew!

Lesson: Being a great concierge is remembering ALL of the details that might potentially involve my firm. Harmless or not my job is to help events happen as expected. That includes remembering to check scripts.

At least, I think, I did a good job of looking lawyerly.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Gifts are the Wrong Place for a Law Firm Logo

One of the attorneys at my firm asked about giving a logo'd promotional item as part of a holiday gift to a client. My advise in this matter is simple: Not the best thing to do.

During the holiday season gifts from attorneys to clients (or whomever) should be gifts acknowledging the relationship and hopefully friendship. Introducing a firm's logo is definitely a business development tactic... Not a thank you for the relationship we already have. It's true that service providers to law firms send over all sorts of logo'd mugs and mouse pads as "gifts" when in truth they're hoping to have little billboards spread throughout the office. Once again, tacky.

One final question if you are not yet on my side of this issue. Are your clients only worth what you give away for free the rest of the year?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

When Your Law Firm Wants to Show Up

I am experiencing a double-edged phenomena -- I have more attorneys interested in going to networking events than I have events to send them to. I'd like to think it's because my efforts have had demonstrative effects... but that cannot be nearly what is going on. The truth I think is that over the past several months we have done such a effective job of promoting the opportunities as they come along that awareness is at an all time high. The attorneys are thinking about marketing and business development because we're not letting them forget.

For some all of the emails and office visits must feel like unchecked spam, and yet so many are knocking on my door asking for inclusion. It's a wonderful thing. But recently I am having to say, "No" to attorneys looking for inclusion -- not so wonderful. In a perfect world I could help create the perfect networking world for each and every attorney but budget and reality is something different.... I hope the phenomena continues, and I hope for more places for my attorneys to be visible.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Working the Holiday Season for Your Law Firm

Tis the season to be -- networking! It is the perfect time of year to really reach out and get in the network. Unlike any other time of year so many people are out there at events that would not participate in other months. AND, everyone is in a great mood! What a perfect time to start new relationships. Here are some tips for helping your attorneys get into the holiday swing.
  • Find out which holiday events, receptions, and private parties are happening in your area. Some are listed on the Internet, some from invitations received and others you'll have to uncover. I send out an email to my referral network and ask what parties and events they are going to.
  • Do your best to uncover whom in the business community will be attending the different events. Often the elite of the business community will be in attendance.
  • Recruit attorneys to attend events that have attendees most helpful to their practices. I have found that junior partners and senior associates are most willing to jump at the opportunity.
  • Pick the events that you will attend. Between now and the 15th of December (this year) I have 12 evening events and 6 luncheons. Even though I am not a sales person at my firm I do believe that I can be a catalyst for creating new relationships, and as always, will carry the banner of the partnership.
  • Make sure that attorneys follow-up with any new people they meet. A note, a call... something.
  • Enjoy yourself! It's the holidays!

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