Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Four Ways to Enhance Social Media Strategies



By Beki Winchell, Ragan's PR Daily

As brands become more and more visible on social media, the role of PR pros who understand the digital landscape gains importance.

Hundreds of PR pros, marketers and community managers gathered to learn from experts at Ragan’s third annual Social Media for PR and Corporate Communications Conference at Walt Disney World.

Though the lessons were numerous—PR Daily will share Storify compilations and highlight the conference on Pinterest—here are four insights that PR pros can use to ramp up their social media outreach:
 
1. Tap into the power of your community.
“Everything we do is powered by people,” says Thomas Smith, social media director for Disney Parks and founder of the Disney Parks blog.

Smith and his team use blog content as a “litmus test” to learn what Disney’s audience wants, and passionate collaborators guest-blog for the magical brand. Tapping into community members’ stories and insights delivers a wealth of content, which only helps build the brand across social media.
“The more content we put out there, the more people are engaging with us,” Smith says.
Jeramie McPeek, VP of digital operations for the Phoenix Suns, says social media enables the NBA franchise’s fans to interact, share their thoughts and show team spirit.

“Everybody already has an opinion,” McPeek says. “You just need to ask for it.”
Tapping into your community will tell you not only the type of content your audience craves, but also where they live online. McPeek says a November contest for free Phoenix Suns tickets had more engagement on Snapchat than on any other platform, which revealed the importance of the mobile visual channel for future campaigns.
 
2. Get visual.
Karl Gude, a former infographics chief at Newsweek and the Associated Press and a current Michigan State University journalism professor, explained how infographics can take something important—but boring—such as raw data and transform it into a visual storyboard.
“Infographics can be great for understanding huge amounts of information,” Gude says. As more and more brand managers embrace infographics to get the point across, PR pros can key on certain tactics to make sure their visuals are successful.

For one, keep things simple so your audience is not overwhelmed.

“Don’t make people play through the crap of your imagination to get to the data,” Gude says. Techniques to ensure clarity include highlighting a dominant image, writing text for easy scanning, and breaking up content into attractively designed sections.
Though PR pros won’t necessarily have to learn various font types, color palettes or kerning (the spacing between characters), you should still know enough to pick the best person for the job and work with that expert accordingly.

Above all, Gude says, don’t let your CEO design the infographics. Play to your strengths, and let others do the same.
 
3. Become ‘content counselors’ to clients and partners.

Scott Warfield, senior director of social media and broadcast communications for NASCAR, highlighted the important role that PR pros play in educating and guiding clients, sponsors and employees in the practice of successful content marketing.

Ultimately, fans want to engage with brands because they’re getting something of value, such as additional information, sneak peeks or a look at the people behind the brand.

Warfield says Kid Rock asked NASCAR to share news about his recent album. Knowing that wouldn’t resonate with the audience nearly as strongly as a well-crafted piece of content, Warfield suggested Rock let one of his songs become the backdrop for a video highlighting NASCAR and the artist’s headlining appearance at the Daytona 500 on Feb. 22. The video has received more than 600,000 views.

Employees, clients and partners will all tell stories—with NASCAR, each driver has a dedicated fan base—but by helping educate and guide content creation, brand managers can exert powerful influence on social media strategies and execution. Warfield says drivers now ask the team for advice when creating and sharing content.

Becoming that voice also helps boost your brand, because good quality will always triumph on social media. “You win in search when you create really great, relevant content,” says Ashley Brown, Spredfast’s VP of social strategy.



4. Be brave.
Brown says the brands that truly win on social media take chances and afford PR pros “license to provoke.”

Pointing to the plethora of brands such as Ben & Jerry’s and Oreo that stood for LGBT rights across social media, as well as Victoria’s Secret’s tweeted tribute to Maya Angelou, Brown says successful campaigns evoke powerful emotions and share things community members can truly get behind.
Brown says brand managers shouldn’t try to fit in when their brand was “born to stand out.” It may sound scary to many PR pros, but taking a risk with content and engagement can pay off by increasing loyalty and brand awareness.

“If you don’t stand for something, no one is going to stand with you,” Brown says.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

3 Tips to Improve Websites

By John McDougall, McDougall Interactive

The best law firm websites are complete destinations, not pit stops. Many law firms focus more on the design aspect of their websites, rather than looking at the big picture. Google gets several billion searches a day, and it’s hardly because of the design of their website. Users know they can get something from it.

New and Improved websiteIn order to have a well-rounded law firm marketing strategy, it is important to look beyond the surface of your website, and into the psychology of why people buy, as well as the ways they are interacting with your website based on data.

These 3 game changing tips will help you make your law firm website the best it can be.

1. Thought leadership at the center of your legal marketing strategy
It is said that people hire attorneys as much as they hire law firms, and that they deeply value thought leadership. I interviewed Prof. David Wilkins of Harvard Law School and he had this to say about leading with content and ideas.

 “So I think that thought leadership is very important and I think it’s increasingly important and this is something I think is true at all levels, wherever a lawyer is practicing. That’s because clients understand that the world is becoming increasingly complex and that they are looking for lawyers who can demonstrate an understanding of that complexity and also an ability to help them to navigate that complexity. So I do think things like writing or lecturing or speaking or blogging, all of these things can be very important in establishing a lawyer or a law firm for that matter as a thought leader.”

Shown here is how Mintz Levin implemented thought leadership, video, and real people into their website. You can begin to see how simple and powerful it can be.

Mintz Levin Law firm Website

2. Add a blog and tie it to attorney business development
Adding a blog to your site is easy to do and will provide you with many benefits, as well as deepen the time people spend on your website. Back in 2012, Kevin O’Keefe of Lexblog had this to say about lawyers who are not blogging.

“Clients and potential clients look to blogs for information that shapes hiring decisions, according to multiple industry surveys; clearly, firms with blogs are the norm, rather than the exception. Blogging is quickly becoming an expected part of any firm’s marketing arsenal. Those who do not use blogs are behind, it is that simple.”

The good news is that a blog will not only help your website by positioning you as a thought leader, but it will also help your search engine optimization, give you something to share on social media, lure people into linking to your site, and give you content to share with prospects.

In an interview I did with business development coach Stuart Hirsch, on Blogging In Business Development For Law Firms, he confirmed that he believes in this strategy.

“If there’s something that a lawyer has written that has value to another person, passing that on is really valuable and blogs are such an easy way to provide that value.”

The general consensus from our interviews on the subject is that sharing helpful content whether it be blogs, client alerts, newsletters or LinkedIn updates, can be a great way to build relationships.

3. Conversion rate optimization
If you get a hundred visitors to your website, and one of them requests a free consultation or takes an action, then you have a 1% conversion rate. Setting up conversion tracking with goal conversions is the first step that many law firms completely miss, even if they have Google analytics installed.

Improving your conversion rate is essential now that search engine optimization is more complicated than ever. Social media sites are pushing paid social to compete with Google’s revenues, and paid search clicks can cost as much as $600 per visit.

I won’t go into great detail in this short post, but it is important for law firms to be aware of the amazing technology that is available to improve website leads and sales. The following are a few website marketing tools to check out:

Google Analytics: For tracking and improving visitor activity

ClickTale: Customer experience analysis

HubSpot: Comprehensive Internet marketing tool with attribution tracking

Usertesting.com: Video reviews of your website for $49 each

Feedbackarmy.com: Ask half a dozen questions to 10 people for $40

Unbouce.com: Landing page software with built-in A/B testing

It’s hard to improve your website without these kinds of tools, and people who know how to use them.

A few important things to consider adding to your website, if you want to increase conversions:

A clear value proposition of why you are different/better than other law firms
A better design and user experience
An exceptional mobile version of your site or ideally, a fully responsive design
Customer testimonials
Awards and affiliations
A top of the funnel call to action such, as an e-book for people that are not ready to hire you yet
Live Chat
Photos and videos to highlight attorneys and their thought leader content
Legal marketer Jonathan Fitzgerald told me recently on a podcast, how he likes to increase the credibility of his site through video and other means as well. Here’s what he had to say:

“We at Greenberg have started to post 30 second videos of attorneys on their profile pages just so that those that are visiting the page can not only see the attorney’s credentials, and the various awards, and speaking opportunities, and articles that have been published by that attorney, but they can also then click on the video and get a sense for the attorneys chemistry. What are they going to be like to work with day in and day out? Is there an emotional connection between the prospective client and the attorney?

Cognitive science tells us that most decisions are made first emotionally, and then they’re backed up second by reason. Obviously all of the credentials, the non‑static credentials, on an attorney’s website profile can give that second element that credentialing element, but the first element either has to be done in person or through video. We have found that video has been very helpful in creating that first touch point with a prospective client.”

Making your website more personal with content, podcasting, and video, as well as the other trust factors that I mentioned, can turn a lifeless site into an exciting destination.

New and improved law firm marketing
If your law firm website design is even a couple of years old and/or doesn’t provide a good mobile experience, then you might want to consider a redesign, and use the strategies and tactics above to improve it.

If your website is relatively new but doesn’t use these strategies, then with some relatively quick fixes, you can be off and running to your firms best year ever.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Avoiding a Social Media Crisis

By Beki Winchel | Posted: February 4, 2015

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The online world can—and often does—turn social media missteps into full-blown catastrophes in a matter of minutes. 
Occasionally, it seems like digital consumers can take offense to anything:
However, brand managers can navigate the sometimes-rocky seas of online interaction and avoid social media crises of their own by following these suggestions:

1. Vigilantly monitor social media feeds.
Social media never sleeps. It is essential for brands to have someone monitoring social media at all times—day and night, holidays and weekends.
Depending on the brand, employee coverage across social media profiles doesn’t have to be extensive. However, the team must be aware of any and all news or trends that could affect the brand, and ready to act if the need arises.
Not only will continual social media monitoring give you great insights into the minds of your consumers, it will also alert you to any mistakes, such as a adversely received tweet, or security issues, such as a hacker’s takeover of a brand account. Burger King brand managers were quick to respond when its Twitter account was taken over; that response gave the brand a reputational boost on social media.

2. Be aware of audience and context.
Nationwide’s Super Bowl ad has everyone talking, but they’re not saying good things.
Though some thought the insurance company’s ad was memorable and served as a powerful cautionary tale, many more thought the Super Bowl was poor timing for a commercial with such sensitive subject matter.
Along with context and timing, keeping consumers in mind is important when sharing and interacting online.
PR and marketing pros know messages go further when you speak directly to the interests of your audience, but keeping those interests in mind can also help you avoid a social media brouhaha. After all, brand managers never want to offend loyal customers.

3. Create and adhere to employee social media policies.
Many online mistakes happen because of the actions of a single employee (or several, in Comcast’s case), but those mistakes can reflect badly on the entire brand.
That’s not to say employees shouldn’t be allowed to use social media. Often, they’re the best storytellers a brand has, because they’re the people interacting daily with customers.
To harness the power of employees as digital ambassadors, you should create effective, companywide policies for social media use, covering how to identify oneself as an employee when promoting content, how to respond to customers, and subjects that employees should steer clear of.

4. Know when—and how—to respond.
Sandra Fathi, president of Affect, says the basic tenets of social media crisis management are responding through the same medium on which the offense occurred, apologizing quickly and sincerely and offering a remedy.
Knowing when to employ these tenets is paramount. Brand managers don’t have time to do battle with customers who are intent on voicing anger or being Internet trolls.
Jay Baer, founder of Convince&Convert, says social media crises have three key characteristics: information asymmetry (Does the company knows less than the public?), a change from the norm (criticism that falls outside of everyday conversation), and scope and scale (how much a situation can affect the company overall).
Creating a crisis communications plan will also help brand managers and their teams know when and how to respond in a variety of situations.

5. Use a cross-departmental editorial calendar.
Social media is a team effort.
Brand managers who use an editorial calendar can schedule promotional posts well in advance, leaving more time for social media monitoring and interaction—provided they also reschedule posts if a crisis or tragedy pops up.
When many departments are involved with an editorial calendar, promotions become more streamlined and customer service issues can be more easily resolved. In some cases, the legal team might get involved to make sure responses don’t feed social media fires or get the company into deeper trouble.
You can learn more ways to use an editorial calendar and other tools to mitigate social media crises in our #RaganSocial chat Tuesday, Feb. 3, at 2 p.m. CST. Caleb Gardner, a partner in the communications firm 18 Coffees and deputy digital director of Organizing for Action, will be our guest host. You can also hear Gardner speak at our Ragan Disney conference.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How the Price of Oil is Affecting Litigation

Historically litigation experiences the same high and lows of oil prices. Oil prices impact cash flow and that in turn, can impact a company's P&L. But the decrease in exploration or operations doesn't mean all litigation is drying up- in fact, different kinds of litigation is most likely ramping up.

For instance, lower oil prices may force some companies to be in breach of obligations because a project does not meet economic realities or the cost of development may be too high to meet lease commitments, or debt may become due that cannot be paid amounting to increased legal services needed to address delinquent accounts.

The need for legal services to address these issues can already be seen by comparing oil and gas disputes filed in Harris County District Courts in the first two weeks of January 2014 compared with the first two weeks of this year. There were 5 times more disputes filed in this timeframe in 2015 than in 2014.  Historical trends with over-leveraged companies also indicate bankruptcies and related litigation is also on the rise.

The downturn in pricing may also force some companies to look for more value in terms of their legal spend.   Now would be an excellent time for forward-thinking attorneys to market their value to clients who may need these particular services in the near future.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Legal Marketing Trends to Try in 2015

We recognize that with every year that passes, technology becomes more powerful and it allows consumers to more efficiently shop for products and services. As the owner of a personal injury law firm, you know that “keeping up with the times” is essential to not only growing your practice but also sustaining your practice. Here are some legal trends to consider as you focus on the months ahead:

If growth is your plan for 2015, then you must have a website. According to a study done by Hinge Research, 77% of all leads are generated online!
Your website should include more than just your contact information and what types of cases you specialize in. It should also include reading materials for victims to prepare for what’s ahead, whether or not you take cases on a contingency basis, your success stories and why you are the best attorney out there.

Having a website is no longer recommended, it is essential. If growth is your plan for 2015, then you must have a website. According to a study done by Hinge Research, 77% of all leads are generated online! 
  • Be conscious of your online reputation. Victims in search of an attorney can be skeptical about legal representation. We have all heard of those lawyers that didn’t give the client what they were promised.Be sure to check-in on what others are saying about you on review sites like Yelp and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Not only should you monitor what’s already being said, you should also encourage happy clients to comment about their success stories and why they would recommend you to others. Information about you is just a click away. Be sure what people read entices them to contact you with their case.  
  • Engagement increases conversations and increases cases. Research shows that the number one way to increase conversations with potential clients is to engage them with content driven newsletters. A great way to do is with email marketing. Stay top-of-mind by regularly communicating helpful information to your contact list. Give them tips for what to do in accidents, educate them about statute of limitations, inform them of new laws coming into effect, etc.  
  • Do not overlook the power of social media. Social media is a sign of the times. Most people today will engage in some type of social media every day. Just as they keep their “milestones” up-to-date, they will expect the same from their lawyer. Keep your profession profile current on LinkedIn. Tweet success stories. Promote your firm and any firm news you have on Facebook. Be sure to respond when clients and new victims comment on your posts.

    Effectively marketing your firm so you can survive amongst all the competition can be tedious and cumbersome. However, you have options to help you. There are legal marketing firms that have well established websites, a great online reputation, effective email marketing strategies and a strong social media network. If you’d prefer to focus on representing the injured, leave the footwork leading to increased leads to the marketing professionals.

    Director of Marketing, National Law Review


Monday, January 5, 2015

Biggest PR Goofs of 2014

This year's rundown of bad public relations decisions includes swastika Hanukah wrapping paper courtesy of Hallmark, Old Navy charging more for plus sized women's clothes than plus sized men's and misused #hastags. Perhaps the most important lesson learned last year however? How a company responds to bad PR and how quickly makes all the difference in a hand slap or a falling stock price.
Click here to see the top oops moments of 2014.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas !

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at Media Masters!