Friday, August 29, 2014

Five Brands That Survived Reputation Hell

Remember the Tylenol recall in 1982? What about Domino's food tampering scandal in 2009? Here's how these brands and others survived brutal reputation hits. 
By Tamara Littleton
It can be hard for a brand to recover its reputation after a crisis. The speed with which it recovers depends on:
  • The brand's reputation before the crisis. (Did it have a lot of goodwill stored up?)
  • Whether the crisis was preventable.
  • Whether the brand demonstrates it learned from the experience.
Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol recall (1982)
In 1982, Johnson & Johnson was in the center of a major crisis. Seven people around Chicago suddenly died. The link between the deaths was that all the victims took a Tylenol a few hours before they died.

Authorities tested the Tylenol bottles, and discovered high levels of potassium cyanide in the pills. The eight affected bottles came from different factories and stores.

Johnson & Johnson issued warnings to distributors and medical professionals, and set up a nationwide recall of Tylenol (31 million bottles, costing the firm $125 million). Johnson & Johnson also set up a hotline, and inspected its factories to be sure the problem hadn't originated there.

Investigators concluded someone went store to store and filled the bottles with cyanide pills. Johnson & Johnson worked with the FBI, Chicago police and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to find the killer, offering a $100,000 reward. The crime remains unsolved.

When Tylenol went back on the shelves, it was with tamper-proof packaging and coupons for $2.50 off.

People were understandably nervous about buying consumer products after the Tylenol case, and in 1983 Congress approved a bill that made malicious tampering with consumer products a federal offense.

Johnson & Johnson handled the crisis well. It moved quickly, cooperated with investigators, provided good information and issued a full recall rather than put more people at risk.

Perrier recall (1990)
In 1990, Perrier, which prided itself on its reputation for "natural purity," fought to keep its reputation when a toxic substance, benzene, was found in its water.

North Carolina officials discovered the impurity when they used Perrier water to assess the purity of state water supplies. The FDA quickly announced it was testing Perrier in other states, but an FDA spokesperson said that, in the samples tested, benzene wasn't present at levels that posed an immediate risk.

Perrier decided to recall 160 million bottles of water within a week of the discovery, although it believed only 13 bottles were contaminated.

The cause turned out to be human error. Two unsubstantiated stories circulated in the media. In one story, a bottling plant worker forgot to change a filter, while the other story said a worker cleaned the production line with a cleaner containing benzene.

Perrier held a press conference to announce the recall some days after the impurities were found. The true cause of contamination came out: Someone forgot to change the filters in the Vergeze bottling plant, which prevented the naturally present benzene from being filtered out of the water.

Although Perrier set up a 24-hour hotline in the United Kingdom, local subsidiaries received little direction from the parent brand, and it was hard for the public to get information. Trading in Perrier shares was suspended for several days, and resumed at a share price that was $41 lower than it was before the crisis.

Nestle bought Perrier in 1992. Today, Perrier is in 140 countries and sells around one billion bottles per year.

JetBlue delays (2007)
JetBlue, the airline founded on customer-centric values, went against those values in 2007. During a major snowstorm around Valentine's Day, JetBlue tried to operate normally. This decision left more than 1,000 passengers stuck on nine planes that weren't allowed to take off. One plane sat on the tarmac for 11 hours. Thousands of passengers made their way to the airport, only to learn their flights were cancelled.

JetBlue's CEO appeared on various primetime shows (including "Letterman"), and recorded a message on YouTube apologizing for the mess and promising JetBlue would learn from the debacle and become a "different company." JetBlue wrote a flyer's bill of rights, which formalized JetBlue's responsibilities to its customers.

JetBlue learned from the crisis. It now cancels flights before bad weather strikes. (Look at its response to the 2014 winter storms. It cancelled flights early, and provided passengers with information and compensation).

Domino's food tampering scandal (2009)
In 2009, two Domino's Pizza employees in North Carolina filmed themselves doing unpleasant and unhygienic things with the food they were preparing.. They uploaded the footage to YouTube, and it made headlines around the world.

The situation worsened when the media reported Domino's knew about the video only because a blogger alerted them. By that time the video had more than 1 million views.

In addition to issuing statements to the media, the CEO of Domino's issued a forceful statement on YouTube. Domino's then set up a Twitter account to answer questions. The media noted Domino's replied to inquiries in an informal and concerned way.

Domino's has now become a social media star. Its informational Twitter account redirects people to its official account (605,000 followers), and all Domino's Twitter accounts are known for their friendliness and customer service. The brand's YouTube account has 1.5 million views, and its U.S. Facebook page has more than 9.7 million likes.

Domino's realized social listening is vital, and found a brilliant way to engage customers.

Shell and the Niger Delta (1995)
Shell is still recovering from the Niger Delta crisis, yet the brand remains successful.
In 1995, local tribal leaders asked Shell to clean up the pollution it caused in the Niger Delta. Oil polluted local water wells, causing a great strain on people already struggling to survive. The tribal leaders demanded Shell clean up the wells and share more of its profits with the local population.
Shell left Nigeria in June 1995 following a peaceful uprising and allegations that it had colluded with the military in massacres and human rights abuses. When the government executed the main anti-government campaigner and several others without protest from Shell, global protests erupted, and Shell's reputation plummeted.

Shell's response was to offer money for schools, hospitals and the environment, and it promised to inquire into the situation. Within two years Shell changed its brand values to include, as The Guardian noted, the "values of honesty, integrity, respect for people, as well as professionalism, pride and openness, sustainable development and human rights."

However, Shell didn't apologize or admit any fault in the situation.

Today Shell attends to human rights, but continues to take reputational hits. For example, Amnesty International recently accused Shell of making false claims about the environmental effect of its operations on the Niger Delta. It's clear that, while business is good for Shell, the brand still suffers from reputational damage.

While some brands handle crises well and initiate new business practices to ensure similar crises don't happen again, others deny their role. When a crisis hits, you must decide between your long-term reputation and short-term profits. Every brand needs a bank of goodwill. Crises offer brands an excellent opportunity to live their values and do what's right.
Tamara Littleton is CEO and founder of Emoderation, a social media management agency. A version of this article originally appeared on 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rick Perry Had a Good Week but Legal Troubles Remain

-Betsy Woodruff, Washington Examiner

Considering that he was indicted, Rick Perry has had a pretty good week, but it may not last.
After the Republican Texas governor’s Aug. 15 indicted on allegations of abuse of power, he received a tsunami of support, defended by everyone from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. Ted Cruz to the New York Times editorial board and Democratic consultant David Axelrod.

When he turned himself in for booking at the Travis County courthouse in Austin a few days after the indictment, he was surrounded by supporters chanting “Perry! Perry!” and waving signs that said “#StandWithRickPerry.” He then gave a triumphant speech — broadcast live on CNN — defending his record.

“I’m going to enter this courthouse with my held high, knowing the actions that I took were not only lawful and legal, but right,” he said, to boisterous cheers and applause. “If I had to do so, I would veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit again.”

Two days later, he spoke to a packed house at the Heritage Foundation, touting his efforts to fight illegal immigration and tearing into the president’s foreign policy record. The speech drew cheers.
And back in Texas, conservatives — with some notable exceptions — have rallied around the governor.

But the story is not over. And Lone Star State Democrats hope that as the legal case unfolds, the governor and his fellow Republicans will take a political hit that could affect November’s general election results.

“Perry is not out of the woods until justice has played itself out,” said Jordan Berry, a Republican consultant based in Austin. “And so far, we’ve seen how things can go wrong — just the fact that it’s already gotten this far.”

Democrats agree with the first part of that. And they point to fallout from the governor’s line-item veto of funding for the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office, which sparked his legal troubles, to make the case that Perry’s victory in the public relations war might not be permanent.

Gregg Cox, who heads the Public Integrity Unit, told the Washington Examiner that because of the governor’s veto, his staff has shrunk and the unit hasn’t been able to handle as many cases. At the end of the 2013 fiscal year, the unit had 35 staffers, he said. Now it’s down to 19.

He also said his office was unable to handle 44 tax fraud cases and 22 insurance fraud cases. These cases were sent back to the offices that originally referred them.

“Many of them will not get handled,” Cox said.

“All of our cases have been slowed down by the lack of resources and the cutbacks in staff,” he added.

And Deece Eckstein, Travis County’s Intergovernmental Relations Coordinator, said the unit is struggling now that its funds have been slashed.

“They’re holding on right now with bailing wire, chewing gum and the money from the Travis County Commissioner’s Court,” he said.

Texas Democrats will likely make hay of these problems.

“This from a guy that likes to use the phrase that he’s defending the rule of law,” said Glenn Smith, director of the Progress Texas PAC. “It doesn’t quite fit, does it?”

Republicans say Perry’s office will have a simple rejoinder to these criticisms: If Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg — whose drunk-driving conviction prompted the governor’s line-item veto threat — had just stepped down, none of this would have happened.
The public relations fight could get messier. But Republicans are still confident they will come out on top.

"Governor Perry has won the war of public opinion at every turn,” said Tyler Norris, a Republican consultant based in Austin. “Republicans and Democrats alike realize this amounts to political persecution."

The Texas Tribune reported that one of Perry’s attorneys said he will challenge the indictment next week based on First Amendment grounds, as well as the governor’s veto power.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Crisis Communications: Manage Effectively

Whether preparing to close a large deal, head into a high-profile court battle, or announce an organizational or policy shakeup, Legal and Communications departments typically meet in intense situations under extreme time pressure. It can be a recipe for conflict, but it shouldn't be. This article offers practical suggestions, based on front-line experience working side-by-side with Legal counsel, on how to foster a mutually beneficial friendship between the two disciplines.

In today's business environment, demands for corporate transparency are getting louder, information is traveling faster through more channels, and C-suites are increasingly measuring success in terms of how corporate actions, transactions and litigation outcomes are perceived by critical stakeholders, internal constituents and the wider public. More law firms and in-house legal teams are partnering with public relations professionals as PR risk, along with legal risk, is factored into every major corporate action and reaction. The public's power to influence outcomes continues to grow, and more than ever, a company's ability to act quickly and impactfully in the arena of public opinion hinges on an aligned communications strategy built on the best of what Legal and Communications bring to the table.

Lawyers and PR professionals should be joined at the hip; both teams have the same overall objective – to advance or protect the interests of the company and its shareholders. But Legal is laser-focused on reducing legal risk while the raison d'être of Communications is to safeguard and elevate perceptions of the brand, legal risk notwithstanding. These seemingly disparate approaches means a strong, collaborative partnership is not a certainty, especially when Legal and Communications are thrown together into highly confidential, rapidly evolving situations that require swift solutions, often without full information. Other inherent departmental differences such as structure, culture and process can further contribute to ineffective, vague or problematic communication outputs during change or crisis.

In our experience, the best relationships are forged with early, regular and transparent engagement, which leads to mutual trust and a stronger working relationship when the heat is on. Importantly, this approach also leads to fully informed communications and legal strategies that advance each department's goals to the benefit of the company.

"Get" Each Other

Admit it: each department is a bit of an enigma to the other in terms of what it does and how it gets things done. Appreciating these key similarities and differences in roles and perspectives can improve how people with different skills and work styles communicate and collaborate:
  • Like the Legal teams, Communications includes a diverse collection of disciplines including strategic planning, research, investor relations, government relations, media relations, social media management, stakeholder communications, internal communications and engagement, just to name a few. It is likely that more than one of these communications practitioners and perhaps some outside agencies may need to be activated to execute communications supporting a legal strategy.
  • Legal and Communications both defend and persuade relying heavily on the power of words, though each profession wields that power differently. Legal relies on precise language, detailed descriptions, or terms of art in binding documents to carve out critical advantages and protections for the company. Indeed, the consequence of imprecision can be severe, whether it involves civil, criminal, contractual or regulatory matters. On the other hand, Communications is responsible for translating legal language or corporate jargon for diverse audiences, carving out the key points, and making them relevant to specific groups. The art is in finding the common ground that satisfies both.
  • The scope of the Communications department is not limited to creating content, producing material and distributing information supportive of legal positions. Communications departments have fingers on the pulse of the company's internal and external audiences. Properly resourced departments can benchmark current attitudes, research how similar situations have impacted certain stakeholders and influencers in the past, project how certain segments are likely to react in the future, and measure how they actually do react in response to an announcement or corporate action. This insight and outside perspective can be very valuable when formulating a strategy for negotiations, policy change or litigation.
Open Up, Let Them In
Engaging Communications early at the legal strategy planning stage not only helps with developing a complementary communications strategy, it is also critical for proper allocation of staff and resources, depending on the size and complexity of the matter. Many times Communications is called in far too late in the timeline of an impending legal action, sometimes when there has already been some reputational damage, resulting in the scramble for damage control.

According to an August 2001 Harvard Working Knowledge article"The better lawyers know how to not only embrace the media and use them to get the company's position front and center, but to also have PR professionals at the table with them to formulate strategy." But we've heard some lawyers express the view that communicators are too eager to divulge information. Fearing a leak or inaccurate or oversimplified publication in a press release, blog or tweet, they won't engage Communications until details are complete and disclosure is required. This approach actually limits what Communications can do to proactively mitigate reputation risk and focuses efforts instead on reactive responses which are an ineffective tactic by itself in late stages of a reputation crisis.

Historically, many attorneys have looked at PR as "publicists," and while that might have been true 30 years ago, today the value of an expert communications manager is reputation management, not promotion. That means managing – sometimes limiting rather than amplifying – what audiences read, see or hear. A good rule of thumb for when to engage Communications: the earlier the better.

Get Together Often

It is a best practice to establish a formal structure between the two departments to identify legal matters that could damage the company's reputation. The goal is to ensure early warning of developing issues and a process to mitigate or manage them should they escalate. Quarterly meetings between representatives of the two teams can be meaningful in charting and addressing risks. Focusing a media or stakeholder prism on what may seem a trivial legal event can sometimes illuminate the potential for larger unseen issues that can set up the company for reputational problems.

Have a Plan Before You Need to Plan

It is easier and much more efficient to manage through issues, crisis and major corporate situations when working from an established framework with roles and processes already identified. Work with Communications to establish a plan for managing legal matters with potential for reputation risk. Such a plan should include at least:
  • Key contacts
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Procedures and criteria for risk evaluation and prioritization analysis
  • Key documentation needs
  • Process and timeline for key message development, content production, standard distribution, impact measurement and evaluation
  • Clear timeline and path for reviews and approvals
When a reputation risk is identified, it becomes a matter of calling in the right people and resources to assess and/or create plans that fit the situation.

Don't Let Words Get In The Way of a Good Message

The most frequent conflicts between Legal and Communications come during messaging and content development. Disagreements over wording and style can create delays when time is already short. This is because lawyers and communicators are all masters of language. The language of the law and the complexity of legal processes, however, often create a large risk of misinterpretation or misunderstanding when placed in a non-legal context. A well-crafted legal filing or a technically positive legal outcome might cause confusion and misunderstanding when viewed by the press and public, and similarly a well-written news release could fall flat with judge and jury. Early engagement, again, is the best prescription here. Legal can alert Communications to terms and methods of communications that could impact legal strategy, have legal consequences, or create corporate risk. With this knowledge, Communications can be more mindful of perilous language or tactics when creating audience-facing messaging, content and distribution strategy, thereby reducing potential discord during legal review.

When Timing Is Everything, So Is Trust

Collaboration is even more crucial today with technology rewriting the rules of audience engagement. Audiences no longer wait for companies to publish or broadcast information; they get it on-demand from third party online resources or their own communities. Social media and mobile innovations have created the expectation that companies communicate with their audiences and respond to damaging claims within hours or even minutes of tweets, blog postings, and the like.

This new pace of communications becomes a source of friction when the traditional process of vetting all outgoing communications through Legal is imposed on new media management. Modifying internal processes to accommodate new realities is one step, but overall, Legal and Communications must develop ongoing dialogue and a greater degree of trust so the efficacy of new media communications is not bogged down by internal policy and process.

Back Each Other Up In Times of Trouble

The relationship between Legal and Communications is most tested in the throes of a reputational crisis – for example, when allegations are lodged against the company's actions, products or people. Traditionally, Legal departments have directed a low profile or approved only measured responses to avoid exacerbating the situation or to avoid the legal risk of premature statements. The problem with this turn-the-other-cheek approach is that audiences can and will draw their own conclusions about the situation in the absence of other positioning. A company can come out of a crisis with no legal problems, but the company's reputation can be so damaged that it will actually cost the company more to rebuild trust and goodwill in the marketplace. Faced with the prospect of a public flogging at the hands of the media, trial lawyers, or publicity-seeking activists, more companies are rethinking that approach.

When does it make sense for Legal to support a more aggressive communications strategy in a reputational crisis? My colleague Chris Gidez, global practice leader of our Risk Management and Crisis Communications group who has collaborated with many lawyers in his 25+ years as a crisis and reputation counselor, suggests these criteria:
  • When the risk to the company is real enough and big enough;
  • When the company is certain the facts are 100% on its side;
  • When the public awareness of the problem is great enough that it does, or could, have a significant impact on the company's reputation (big enough to justify taking the risk of raising the profile of the conflict even further);
  • When there is solid research to define stakeholder awareness and attitudes, and the messages have been tested to ensure their effectiveness; and
  • When the company is backing up its words with legal actions.
With sufficient time and information, a Communications team can help legal counsel succeed by helping to develop and execute a strong communications strategy that preempts, balances or neutralizes an opponent's commentary or public relations strategy.

Early planning, transparency and engagement can help Communications and Legal teams set a media and public landscape that is more likely to foster favorable public attitudes, perceptions, and opinions toward the company's legal and public position. When reputations are at risk, it's good to have friends to lean on for support.

Geri Ann S. Baptista is a Vice President in the Seattle office of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a global strategic communications firm with 84 offices in 46 countries.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tsarnaev Team: ‘Inflammatory’ Coverage of Boston Bombing Taints Jury Pool

Boston Globe/Getty Images
Coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings was so saturated with “inflammatory” language that accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev cannot expect a fair trial in Massachusetts, an expert for his defense argues in a new court filing.

Lawyers for Mr. Tsarnaev on Thursday submitted a 37-page sworn declaration from a retired political science professor at California State University at Chico, Edward J. Bronson, who conducted a study of how last year’s bombings were covered in the Boston Globe and other major newspapers.
The findings, they say, support their case for moving the death-penalty case to Washington, D.C., where they say Mr. Tsarnaev would likely face a less biased jury pool.

Federal prosecutors, who accuse Mr. Tsarnaev of carrying out the April 2013 bombings alongside his older brother Tamerlan, have argued that the trial should stay in the city where the attack took place. They say it’s possible to find fair and impartial jurors in the eastern part of Massachusetts, a region of roughly 5 million people and the area from which federal jurors would be drawn.
The Globe has more on the venue dispute:
Bronson analyzed media reports in The Boston Globe and other outlets for the defense team and found that “the Globe’s coverage was marked by an overload of inflammatory themes, words, phrases, and passages,” the lawyers wrote.

The professor added in his report that “terror,” “terrorist,” and related terms were used to characterize Tsarnaev more than 1,400 times in the Globe. The specific word “terrorist” was used more than 620 times, Bronson wrote, though “often the word was not used to characterize Mr. Tsarnaev, but as part of phrases like terrorist attack.”
Mr. Bronson said the use “of these inflammatory and emotive terms” eclipses any other capital case he’s studied going back more than 40 years. That includes the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
When he refers to inflammatory coverage, Mr. Bronson writes that he means articles about the bombing that contain “elements of sensationalism or hostile, inflated, emotional, or loaded terms, themes, or language.”

In an interview with Law Blog, Mr. Bronson said he’s not attacking the journalistic integrity of the bombing coverage but commenting on its potential impact on readers. “It’s not casting aspersions on any newspapers,” he said.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Universal Marketing Checklist for Every Young Lawyer

By taking the following marketing checklist, associates and young lawyers can transform their legal careers from supporting associate to rainmaking partner.

First-Year Associates

Your job is to excel at delivering legal services. Don’t worry about originating new files right now. Your short-term goal is to start building your network. Your long-term goal is to avoid being a 40-year old lawyer with no clients.
  • Volunteer for assignments and ask the firm’s “rainmakers” for assignments. Your eagerness will build a reputation among the partners as a dedicated lawyer. Become known as the “go-to” associate of the first-year associates. Make sure that your work is delivered on time, accurate and error-free.
  • Start a habit of visiting the people you work with at clients. It doesn’t matter that they’re junior people. In five years they will become executives or company owners, and now is your chance to start a relationship with them. For example, drop off work product in person.
  • Take your contacts at clients out for breakfast or lunch. Start the habit of scheduling at least one face-to-face meeting a week. If the firm will reimburse you, go someplace really nice to create a memorable meeting. Ask questions and get to know the other person. Get the person’s business card.
  • Whenever you get a business card, write three things on the back: the date, where you are and what you talked about.
  • When you return to the office, immediately create a contact record for the person in your e-mail or firm CRM system. Record key points about the conversation and the business card information. Remember, you can search a computer record, but you can’t search a wad of cards in a rubber band.
  • Over time, collect more information about the other person – key events in their lives like births, deaths, graduations and promotions; get the names of their spouses/significant others, children; find out their hobbies and what they like to do for fun. Once you have the names of all their pets, you’ve gone deep enough.
  • Create a mailing list and keep it updated. Include your law school classmates (who will become referral sources, judges and in-house lawyers), your fraternity/sorority contacts, college friends, etc. In the future, these are people to whom you’ll send your e-newsletter. Ask your firm’s marketing professional for help.
  • Join a bar association and learn the law. Make friends with people in your generation. Get their business cards.
  • Scrub your Facebook page so there’s nothing you don’t want a client or the managing partner to find. Use the privacy settings to control what’s visible.
  • Go to LinkedIn and create a complete profile with a good picture. One million lawyers have profiles on LinkedIn and it’s the de facto online directory for professionals. The idea is to make yourself easy to find. Invite contacts on other online social networks to connect with you on LinkedIn.
  • Don’t waste time on Twitter. Only 4% of in-house lawyers use it, so there are few potential clients there.
  • Send out holiday cards to your mailing list. Hand-write the signature; do not delegate the signature writing. When you get a holiday card, make a record of the sender’s job or address changes.
  • Sign up to have the firm’s annual report or other firm wide messages sent to your mailing list.
  • Participate in firm functions where clients are present. Encourage senior attorneys to introduce you to clients you don’t know, or go ahead and introduce yourself and thank them for being your firm’s guest. Ask them questions about their work. Get their business card.
  • Look like a lawyer, not like someone who works in the mail room. Take your dress cues from the senior partners and rainmakers. Your office should also look organized and tidy. Do not use the floor for filing space.

Second-Year Associates

This is the year to start building your reputation. Your job is still to excel at delivering legal services. Don’t worry about originating new files yet. New business come in through relationships, so start building business relationships now.
  • Continue all the activities above. Avoid eating meals at your desk every day. Reinforce the habit of getting out to meet people face-to-face.
  • Remember that business development is up to you. Don’t rely on the firm or senior lawyers to build your clientele for you.
  • Find a mentor. Success comes much easier with help from a senior lawyer. Select your mentor based on good chemistry. Give them a reason to be your mentor, such as helping with their marketing efforts. Meet with them regularly before or after work and develop your career goals. You need someone who is invested in your success.
  • When you get an assignment, ask how the business came to the firm. You need to know which lawyer originated the work and who the key contact person was. All new business comes in through relationships. Visit your firm’s rainmakers and inquire about what they did to open the new file.
  • Get to know your colleagues in the firm. Your best ally in business development may be down the hall. Look for lawyers outside your practice area and find out about cross-selling opportunities.
  • Get on a committee at the bar association. Your short-term goal is to be involved in helping with an event. Your long-term goal is to be chair of the committee.
  • Join a community organization, charity or political party. Your short-term goal is to get to know more people in your generation, and stay in touch with them as they advance in their careers. Your long-term goal is to be president of the organization. Pick an organization whose mission you care about or that involves your kids. Ask the president if there is a project that you can help with. Add the names of people you meet to your contact list.
  • Keep adding to that mailing list…accountants, bankers and clients you’re working with.
  • Buy a box of thank-you cards and a roll of stamps. Put it on your desk where it won’t get buried under paper. Start a habit of writing short notes or sending clippings to people you’ve met. Do everything by hand; a personal note does not go through a printer, into a firm envelope or through a postage machine. You are sending a personal message designed to foster a relationship.
  • Write an article for a partner or practice group. Make yourself useful to other lawyers in the firm.
  • Increase lunches and events with your peers. Your goal is to be the hub of the wheel of all your contacts. Become known as the person to call for people’s contact information.
  • Create a local listing for yourself on Google. Simply visit and complete the form. Most people find lawyers by Googling “lawyer and [my city].”
  • Join a group on LinkedIn. Pick a group that includes referral sources and potential clients. Participate in discussions (being careful not to discuss client affairs, not to offer legal advice which may create an unwanted attorney-client relationship, and not to give an opinion on a court ruling, which may conflict with a position another attorney in your office is taking in a brief). Talk about facts, news and trends.
  • Read articles about marketing and business development.

Third Year, Fourth Year, Fifth Year Associates

  • It’s time to declare your major. Draw a picture in your mind of the kind of person you’d most like to have as a client – is it an entrepreneur? Corporate Executive? A surgeon? Then reflect on the legal work you’re best at or enjoy the most. Your goal is to find these ideal clients and solve their problems with the legal work you like to do. This is the formula for a happy and prosperous law practice.
  • Start thinking of yourself as the owner of a business, whose job is to be very good at what they do, but who must also bring in business for the company. Stop thinking like an employee, who is a worker bee — whose career is to take assignments from others.
  • Clients sort themselves into industries. Pick an industry that you will study and become familiar with. Develop an area of expertise. Clients don’t want generalists, they want specialists. Now is the time to distinguish yourself from the pack.
  • Develop a 30-second commercial. When someone asks you what you do, don’t say “I’m a lawyer.” That will end the conversation. Instead develop a concise description of yourself in terms of (a) what you do – like “I’m a dealmaker” or “I settle disputes” (b) what kind of clients you work for (c) what kind of problems you solve. Make it very short and rehearse it so you can say it automatically.
  • Ask your clients what meetings they go to. Then propose to go to the meeting together, and have your client introduce you their friends – who may be potential clients.
  • Join a trade association that your clients belong to. Your goal is to be at a meeting where you are the only lawyer in the room. Strike up business conversations with executives. Business leaders want to find someone they can talk to about their business problems.
  • Present a custom CLE program for a client. When you discover a need at the client for education on a particular topic, team up with a partner and present a breakfast or lunch-and-learn session – at no charge. Ask your marketing professional for help in getting CLE approval.
  • Find a hot topic, and present a webinar with a partner. Volunteer to do the research and create the PowerPoint. Invite clients at distant locations to attend for free. Your marketing professional will help you create an invitation list, find a Webinar host and handle logistics.
  • Re-evaluate your activity in the bar association. At some point you’ll find that you’re giving CLE programs to educate your competitors. Instead, think of the bar as a source of referrals. If the bar association isn’t going to produce clients for you, there’s no point in going.
  • Become visible in your trade or community organization. The positions you should pursue are president, newsletter editor or program director – all of which put you in contact with other people. Offer to host a committee meeting here at the firm for a volunteer group you’re in.
  • Add more lunches, sports or cultural events. You should be entertaining clients, potential clients and referral sources regularly.
  • Give a speech to an audience of clients, potential clients and referral sources. Develop one core speech, become comfortable delivering it, and find multiple venues to give the same speech. The best way for a lawyer to establish credibility is to give a public presentation. Learn to become a good speaker by joining organizations such as Toastmasters, or study the techniques of professional speakers and incorporate them into your repertoire. The more you speak, the better you’ll get.
  • Write articles in industry magazines or website on topics that interest your ideal clients if you don’t like public appearances. Contact the editor first and find out if they accept submitted articles, and inquire into what kind of articles they are looking for. Write the article second; find the place it will be published first. Ask your firm marketing professionals for assistance.
  • Use LinkedIn to get introductions and request recommendations (check your state’s ethics rules regarding testimonials.) Start a group on your own. Consider joining lawyer-only online networks like Legal OnRamp, Martindale Connected and JD Supra.
  • Add a business aspect to your personal relationships. Everyone you know now has a job and a career. Ask your friends about their work and where they think they’ll be in five years. Don’t hit on them for legal work. Instead strive to learn how they earn their living. Then tell your friend how your practice relates to them.
  • Find a speaking role on a firm seminar. You’ll have to pay your dues first by doing logistical work. Once you become familiar with setting up a seminar, volunteer to speak on a topic.
  • Keep visiting clients at their offices. Become an expert in how they make money, their competitors and industry trends affecting them.
  • Offer to be the editor of your practice area’s newsletter.
  • Propose to write a blog if you like to write. Form a team of writers to spread the work around, or join the writing team of an existing blog.
  • Ask your marketing professional about firm marketing and business development activities you can get active in.

Sixth, Seventh, Eighth Year Associates

You are close to being promoted to a partner. Now is the time to demonstrate that you can bring in business. The easiest way is to open a new matter for a client.
It’s time to write a business development plan. There are 5 elements:
  1. Fill in the appropriate number in the following statement: “I want to be responsible for bringing in $_ thousands in originating collections this year.”
  2. List clients for which you are the handling or billing attorney. Enter dates in your calendar when you will visit them at least quarterly. Your primary object is to see beyond the existing files they are sending you, and explore upcoming and foreseeable business issues. Among other things, ask if they will recommend you to other in-house lawyers.
  3. List anyone outside the firm who has referred you a file. Meet with them in person and set up an express referral arrangement. Identify other lawyers, accountants and business executives who can refer business to you and ask them to recommend you.
  4. Pick one trade association and go deep. Attend all the meetings – even the boring holiday parties and election of officers. Before you go, review the membership directory and yellow-highlight the people you plan to meet. If the meeting is out-of-town, set up dinners with your targets in advance.
  5. Write down a list of businesses you would like to represent. Ask you firm marketing professional to help identify the decision-maker who hires lawyers. Make a pointed effort of meeting these target people and developing a relationship.
  • Have lunches or meetings with prospects, clients and referrers as often as possible.
  • Keep up community involvement—run for board positions in organizations you’ve joined. Make certain the firm is financially supporting at least one fund raiser, bike-a-thon, golf outing hole, young friends benefit a year that you’re directly involved in.
Client Service Checklist
  • Be punctual at meetings. Your client’s time is incredibly valuable.
  • Make a client feel as though they are the only piece of business you work on. Don’t ever say how busy you are with other clients, do remove your other clients’ files from your desk when you meet, and never tell a client you can’t get back to them/handle their question because “I’m doing work for other clients and it’s a rush.”
  • Return phone calls promptly. This one of the largest complaints clients have about their lawyers in general. If you are so tied up that you can’t return the call, have your secretary call and say “Sue will be freed up at 4:30, you are the first call she’s going to return, and is there anything I can do to help in the meantime?” Setting expectations is a big part of communicating with a client—if they know when they’ll hear from you, they can live with a four-hour delay—which is far preferable to feeling as though they’ve been ignored.
  • Don’t strand a client in the reception area if they are coming to meet with you and you are tied up. Have your secretary or a colleague greet them, offer them coffee, take them to a conference room, offer them the phone for calls, etc.
  • Use business language in correspondence with clients, and avoid using terms of art with lay executives. Make yourself understood, and you’ll be seen as “my business partner who talks my language” instead of “I’m never sure what my lawyer is talking about.”
  • Note, remember and use names of your client’s staff—their receptionist, their secretary, their managers. Support staffers are the gatekeepers to your client, and fostering a good relationship with them can be just as important as one with the client. Who else will sneak your call in when the client is “too busy to answer the phone?”
  • Take a tour of your client’s facility, offices, factory or stores. Meet employees, ask questions, and become more familiar with the issues their industry faces.
  • When great news like a settlement check or a signed contract that took weeks to negotiate arrives at the firm, personally drive it to your client and deliver it with a smile and a handshake.
  • Is a special event coming up for your client? A new headquarters move? An anniversary? Were they named to a distinguished list or win a prestigious industry award? Mention and celebrate their success with them.
Remember, if you can’t provide client service like this, your competition at another firm will be glad to.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The worst video media disaster of July 2014

By Brad Phillips | Posted: August 1, 2014
A grand jury indicted Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice in March for third-degree aggravated assault. The indictment stems from an incident that took place in February, in which Rice allegedly knocked out his then-fiancée, now wife, Janay Palmer.
The video  posted by TMZ, appears to show Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator.

The National Football League announced last week that it would suspend Rice for the first two games of the season—a penalty that many football fans, women, and other humanoids who care about things like not abusing women—found infuriatingly unserious.
For context, the NFL has suspended dozens of players for four games or more for violating the League’s drug policy. Smoke a joint? Miss four games. Knock your soon-to-be-wife out cold? Just two.
Rice’s boss—Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh—responded to the controversy last week with a flip tone that only served to inflame the situation:

There are consequences when you make a mistake like that. I stand behind Ray, he’s a heck of a guy, he’s done everything right since, he makes a mistake, alright? He’s going to have to pay a consequence.
Calling Rice’s conduct a “mistake” that was committed by a “heck of a guy” was tone-deaf—one wonders if Harbaugh would have given domestic abusers Ike Turner, Charlie Sheen, and Chris Brown the same benefit of the doubt (probably not, unless they could run for a touchdown). But his concluding comment was the reason I named him this month’s worst video media disaster: "I think it’s good for kids to understand that it works that way, and that’s how it works. That’s how it should be.”

Give us a break, Coach. Don’t try to wrap this incident within a virtue. The only lesson you and the league have taught kids is that you will be welcomed back to the game with open arms by your coaches and teammates—and receive millions of dollars in 2014—as long as you sit out for two weeks.

If there’s any lesson here for kids aspiring to become a member of the NFL, it’s that it would be less consequential to beat your wife than it would be to smoke a joint.

Here’s an exercise you can do that shows why his response failed: Press play on the two videos above simultaneously. Does Harbaugh’s response seem even remotely congruent with the video of Rice dragging his lover off the elevator? Or does it come across as blithely dismissive?

What should Harbaugh have said? How’s this:
Domestic abuse is a serious situation, and our team has absolutely no tolerance for it. Ray needs to pay a price for his actions—and he will not be welcome back onto this team until he does. People may debate the severity of his suspension, but what’s not up for debate is that fact that we agree wholeheartedly that he deserves to be punished.
Brad Phillips is author of The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview. He is also the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm, and blogs at Mr. Media Training, where a version of this story first

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Social Media Basics for Litigation

This blog post is derived from a recent article written by from Katherine Bandy Weber, for Texas Lawyer.

Chances are in the last few years you have noticed an uptick in the number of clients heading into litigation with social media considerations from the clients whether professional or personal.  In fact the social media universe is expanding with Twitter revealing a staggering 200 million active daily users, 500 million average daily tweets and 2012 revenue of $316.9 million. Facebook boats 1.27 billion monthly active users and its estimated 2013 revenues totaled $7.82 billion.

With that kind of firepower you can bet social media has a reverberating effect that reaches all the way into a courtroom.  So what should litigators know to protect their clients and themselves from the pitfalls of engaging with others online? 

First, lawyers should warn clients of the spoliation trap and remember, disable, don't delete.  Lawyers can advise clients to take down their Facebook pages but they conversely should not advise them to take down content. A preservation letter should even be considered in some cases to be sent to opposing parties that covers social media.

During the4 fact-investigation phase, attorney s should carefully plan a social media search, tailored to the demographics of the individual client and opposing party. An increasing number of people have Facebook accounts but may spend the majority of their time in Instagram .  In contrast,  searching Linkedin for admissions form a CEO or a potential witness may yielfd more results than a You Tube or MySpace search.

Social media also is playing an increasingly prominent role in jury misconduct, with jurors using Facebook to take a poll on how to decide facts, conducting independent research,and tweeting previews of the verdict despite admonishments form the judge to stop.  In this digital age, social media is as important to litigation as email, medical records and the proverbial smoking gun itself.