Law Firm Business Development: NYLJ Contribution Examines Integrated Communications
April 18, 2023
Law Firm Business Development and Driving Success Through Integrated Communications
Infinite Global account director Pete Ottaviano co-authors the following New York Law Journal article with Jay Linder, a senior consultant at PP&C Consulting and veteran law firm marketing executive. The article explores how firms can enhance their growth and success by implementing integrated communications strategies in their marketing, PR and business development efforts. Embracing this approach allows law firms to adapt to an evolving media landscape, strengthen client relationships and stay ahead of the competition. Read more to learn about maximizing the impact of your law firm’s business development initiatives.
Driving Law Firm Business Development Through Integrated Communications
The evolving media landscape is pushing firms to pursue new and innovative digital strategies to stay in front of their clients and prospective clients.
For law firms, the importance of a fully integrated marketing, PR and business development function has never been more apparent. Not only is competition increasing among firms nationwide, but the evolving media landscape is pushing firms to pursue new and innovative digital strategies to stay in front of their clients and prospective clients.
According to a survey released by BTI in March of this year, law firm clients are increasingly turning away from the standard RFP process and relying on relationships, thought leadership content and knowledgeable business development staff in their hiring decisions. A clearly defined and well-executed public relations strategy can shape the perception of a brand, generate new client leads, drive traffic to a website and improve a firm’s reputation.
For many years, larger law firms tended to silo their revenue generation (business development) and reputation (marketing) efforts in a manner similar to their practice areas. But as firms seek to offer clients holistic legal services by blending corporate, litigation and regulatory teams, they should consider how empowering their own business development and communications professionals to offer integrated solutions will drive forward their own business goals.
A firm’s business development and marketing services, when complementary to one another, can offer a compelling value-add for lawyers seeking to enhance existing relationships and develop new ones. The PR and marketing communications teams—often comprising content, digital and creative professionals—share the same goals as their business development counterparts: to build awareness of a brand and improve the public perception of a firm. All seek new pathways for achieving these objectives and benefit by sharing their intelligence and strategic initiatives to encourage entrepreneurial behavior among firm partners.
For example, PR teams continue to track breaking news and trending topics so that they may identify opportunities for lawyers to gain exposure before key stakeholders through media appearances, emphasizing the capabilities of their practices. Marketing communications teams harness the intellectual firepower of a firm’s owned media function and, using the trend-spotting results of their PR colleagues, develop issue-specific campaigns via blogs, client alerts and content marketing platforms that use infographics and visual storytelling. These digital tools continue to provide more analytical insights, allowing everyone to better measure the effectiveness of PR and marketing communications efforts. SEO, A/B testing, audience segmentation, user engagement—there are now exponentially more ways to convey to firm partners that they are getting a return on their investment into owned media.
And when earned or owned media take more time than may be desirable for a firm eager to generate leads, PR and marketing communications teams work with their business development colleagues to identify sponsored (or paid) media channels. This tactic was once thought beneath law firms but, thanks to the quality of top-tier publications offering opportunities to connect with very targeted audience demographics, is now table stakes for any firm seeking to control their narrative with major news or business trade outlets.
Clear and consistent communication between a law firm’s PR and marketing communications teams and their business development colleagues is a crucial component of successful integration. Business development professionals receive direct feedback from both practice leaders and prospective clients, and are likely to have a deeper understanding of key focus areas based on their specializations. Regular interaction with the communications teams will ensure that practice development goals are being driven forward in an efficient and effective manner. In turn, the PR and marketing teams can flag the topics that are generating the most conversation and engagement via news monitoring and data analytics. These insights can inform the business development team’s conversations with their practice groups and highlight areas of emphasis when pitching for new business.
An integrated approach is also ideal for in-house marketing and business development teams engaging with public relations consultants. These agencies benefit from diverse experience, dedicated media relations resources and extensive press contacts, but can be (and often are) hamstrung by a lack of direct access to key stakeholders and broader firm strategy. To maximize their value, firms should strongly consider including their outside PR teams in regular communications with not only their in-house PR professionals, but also with their marketing and business development teams, and practice leadership. By doing so, law firms can ensure that their agencies are fully aligned in achieving their practice-specific and firmwide business development goals and are optimizing their media outreach based on direct feedback from lawyers and analytical insights.
Consider the following example: A leader of your firm’s securities practice writes an engaging blog post describing the implications of a recent SEC rule proposal, which is posted by the marketing team. The PR team repurposes the post as an article for placement in an outside publication. This placement is seen by a journalist at a major business publication, who interviews the author and quotes them in a highly read article. Each of these events is amplified via the firm’s social media channels, generating engagement data which, alongside SEO results, is analyzed by marketing and reported back to business development specialists. With a single piece of content, that lawyer has now established themselves as an authority on that topic, reached an audience of many thousands of potential clients and facilitated important insights that can be applied to client outreach and future thought leadership.
Efficient use of business resources is a primary concern for law firm leadership as firms navigate the current economic downturn and the increased expenses associated with lawyers and staff returning to the office. An integrated communications strategy facilitates maximum exposure for firm thought leadership, reducing the burden for lawyers in producing written content and enabling them to dedicate their hours to client matters and lead generation.
Pete Ottaviano is an account director in the New York office of the communications firm Infinite Global and Jay Linder is a senior consultant at PP&C Consulting, advising law firms on marketing and business development efforts. Prior to their current roles, they spent many years working as part of in-house marketing and PR teams for AmLaw 100 firms.
Reprinted with permission from the April 17 issue of The New York Law Journal. © 2023 ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.