It is no secret how much work is involved in succeeding in the legal profession. Making partner takes years and years and once you have made it … well, some say the process is like a pie-eating contest where the prize is more pie.
It might come as a surprise to some that an increasing number of attorneys — both partners and associates — are taking time out of their busy days to engage in PR and marketing activities to build their media resumes. Whether the end goal is to advance your career within your existing firm, transition to a new one or become more well-known in your field of expertise, attorneys are, more than ever, buying into PR and marketing to set themselves apart from the pack and build their own individual brands.
The good news about this extra work (and the more you do it, the less work it becomes) is that in the age of new and social media, it is easier than ever to build a media resume. While being quoted in The Wall Street Journal will likely never lose its cachet, look past traditional print media to understand how potential clients and future employers primarily consume information. Once you establish what your audiences are reading and in what format they're getting their information, you can tailor your efforts to maximize the return on your investment of time.
WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU (ME)?
The first step in engaging the media is to consider who you are and how you want to be viewed as an attorney and identify the greatest opportunities for visibility and new business. Often, solid chances to build media resumes come about following the birth of a new industry, contentious legislation or some other news event that creates a new or modified niche practice area. Once you've identified where your opening lies and who your target audiences are, try to answer the deceptively simple question: What can I do for them?
If you're an associate, chances are you are either looking to grow within your current firm or build a foundation that will allow you to move on to greener pastures. If the former, approach your media strategy as a way to demonstrate your willingness to assist rainmakers and key partners with whom you work. Offer to help them write articles that are bogging them down, or suggest a topic of interest to your clients and write an outline to get the process started. Having your name on the byline will reinforce the relationship you built with your senior colleague, and when it comes time to make partner recommendations, the extra effort may be what lands your name at the top of the list.
If, on the other hand, you are hoping to change firms, building a media resume by co-authoring articles with partners will serve to reinforce the experience and expertise you have demonstrated on your resume. Use the media as a tool to showcase what you're capable of accomplishing.
Owing to their experience and the value the media puts on legal expertise, partners have a wealth of options available to them when building their media strategies and resumes. Do you want to be the go-to attorney for a new cottage industry? Get recognition for winning a tough case by looking at the issues differently than your peers? Stand out among a crowd of attorneys who are all going after the same piece of business? Each necessitates a different approach, yet all can be aided by creatively and consistently engaging important audiences on timely topics in the right forums.
ALL NEWS IS NOT CREATED EQUAL
The Internet has expanded the role of media in our daily lives. We can now interact with news outlets in ways that were never possible before, aggregating and commenting on articles, sharing them on social media and blogging about them. In the process, it has also blurred the lines between reputable outlets — those that have the power to credential you in the eyes of potential clients or professional contacts — and those that attract less relevant readers.
These various media, however, also allow you to get a second (or third, or fourth) set of legs from articles you've been quoted in or written yourself. Say, for example, you write an article for a trade publication. Five or 10 years ago, the article would just sit on the publication's website for a year or so before being archived. Now, you can (and should) link to the article on your LinkedIn, post it on your firm's website and, if your firm's social media policy allows it, share the content with clients and prospects on Facebook, Twitter and the like. Clients and prospects get their information from a wide variety of sources, so the more vehicles you can employ to redistribute your content and reach relevant audiences, the better.
When it comes to content on the Web, it's important to remember that sharing is caring. You can do yourself an enormous favor and garner the trust of your followers and peers by not just sharing your own content, but the articles, ideas and opinions of others in your sphere of influence. By giving your audiences access to content other than just your own, you will show them that you're in it to help them, and are not just a self-promoter.
YOU HAVE HELP
It is the rare law firm these days that does not engage with the media on some level. Most successful firms, in fact, look to new and creative media engagement strategies as a way to attract new business and hire and retain new associates and partners. Looking beyond traditional media, these firms recognize that potential clients and employees consume news and information via blogs, social media and content marketing.
Successfully executing such a strategy, however, requires an active, concerted and targeted approach. At this stage, many firms' marketing departments are staffed with experienced teams of savvy professionals who know how to strategically engage the media. Depending on the size of the firm and the industries it serves, strategies are typically built by the marketing teams on a firmwide, practice group or attorney-specific level. In some cases, issue-based marketing and PR campaigns are designed if there is a clear and imminent need for experts to address a new or complicated legal issue. If you work at a firm fitting this description, PR help is likely only a few offices away. Even if your firm is smaller and has a less robust marketing department, it is more than likely resources exist to assist you.
Regardless of your goals and level of experience, most firms want to see their lawyers build their media resumes and have the infrastructure and marketing talent available to help them succeed. In most cases, all you need to do is ask.
IF YOU'RE NOT IN, YOU'RE OUT
There is no escaping it. Your clients, like the 59 percent of adults in the United States who use a search engine such as Google to find information, rely on the Web to find and review information, make decisions and develop opinions. According to a recent Pew study, 48 percent of American adults turn to social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus to connect with their peers, get news and ask for professional recommendations.
For better or worse, if you're not actively building your media resume and credentials online via media placements and other supporting content, you're missing out, because your competitors are. Take advantage of the tools that are out there and the marketing professionals who know how to help you build the profile you need to stay competitive in the hyperconnected, Internet-dependent world in which we all live and work.
This article first appeared in The Recorder, a Legal affiliate based in San Francisco.
Zach Olsen is Infinite Public Relations' executive vice president. Based in San Francisco, he and his team assist law and professional services firms around the country with developing and implementing effective, creative media strategies. Sophie Cikovsky is a client supervisor at Infinite PR.