Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Latest Changes to the Legal Marketing Landscape

Some changes in the legal marketing landscape to pass along to you this week:

Total Attorneys Acquired by Internet Brands

Internet Brands is the company that gutted Martindale-Hubbell, Nolo and Total Attorneys is a 13-year-old company based in Chicago that focuses on lead generation for small and mid-sized law firms. An Internet Brands press release says the Total Attorneys brand will “remain intact” and the company will continue to operate from Chicago. Time will tell.

Avvo Running TV Ads

Avvo has two TV spots — “When You Need a Lawyer” and “Let’s Find Your Divorce Lawyer” –that it is running nationally. According to TV commercial tracker, the spots have already aired more than 500 times on networks like CMT, trutv and SyFy. Here are the spots:

2 Million Small Businesses Now Advertising on Facebook

According to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, there are now more than two million small businesses advertising on Facebook. What’s nice about Facebook advertising is you can get very granular with your target market, zooming in to capture users by age, sex, location, ethnicity, interests and more.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

National Fraternity Shows How to Handle a Crisis

National leaders of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity not only responded with rapid force after a video was leaked of members participating at the group's University of Oklahoma chapter in a racist chant, they set a course for resolution for the future.  SAE announced the formation of a confidential hotline for reporting racist incidents at all college campuses where their chapters reside. 

This positive step follows SAE's decision to suspend the charter of the fraternity from OU while an investigation was underway.  The group also is putting more money where its mouth is by announcing they will be hiring a national director of diversity, the first of its kind in all fraternities, and require all SAE members to take diversity training.

That's the way to respond to a crisis, back up words with action and emerge as a national leader in a topic that could have sunk the group.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Clinton Aide Breaks Cardinal Rule With Testy Emails

Kevin Allen, Ragan's PR Daily
If you’ve worked in public relations or media relations for a certain amount of time, you’ve probably had the urge at some point to send an angry email to a reporter.

Hopefully, you slept on it and thought better of it—either tempering your rhetoric or deleting your draft. But longtime Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines, though not specifically a PR pro, didn’t follow that advice.

In a series of lengthy (and often angry) email exchanges with reporters, Reines’ intention, no doubt, was to put an end to questions around the use of personal email for government business.

The story has dominated the news as the news media’s vetting process for soon-to-be presidential candidate Clinton has begun early. Clinton asked the State Department Wednesday to disclose her emails to the public and then tweeted her first ever response to a crisis situation via Twitter:

Reporter CJ Ciaramella reached out to Reines via email for comment. What followed was a now well-publicized series of exchanges, where Reines decided to bring in more reporters to the mix who had also written (in his estimation, unfairly) about the Clinton email scandal.

Here’s part of the exchange below (Gawker has the exchange with updated replies). Let us know what you think, PR Daily readers: Justified indignation, or ill-advised communications?
Email No. 1:

From: CJ Ciaramella
To: Philippe Reines
Date: Tuesday, March 3, 6:47 p.m.
Subject: Comment on private email address at State Dept
Hi Philippe,

This is CJ Ciaramella, a reporter for the Washington Free Beacon and Vice. Wondering if you have any response to this Gawker article alleging that you and Huma Abedin used private email addresses to conduct official government business while at the State Dept:
As I'm sure you well know, not archiving official business conducted on a private email address is a violation of the Federal Records Act. A FOIA request for your State Dept. emails is also currently being appealed. Please email or call: [phone number redacted]
CJ Ciaramella 

Email No. 2:

From: Philippe Reines
To: CJ Ciaramella, J.K. Trotter, Erick Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill
Date: Tuesay, March 3, 9:57 p.m.
Subject: Email
Hi CJ. And hi JK.
Since this fundamentally comes down to honesty, transparency and accountability, I thought we'd go through an exercise together - with Erik Wemple of The Washington Post and Brian Stelter of CNN included as observers.
In your piece, which CJ references below, you wrote:
“'Her top staffers used those Clinton email addresses' at the agency, said the source, who has worked with Clinton in the past. The source named two staffers in particular, Philippe Reines and Huma Abedin, who are said to have used private email addresses in the course of their agency duties." 

That's a pretty clear assertion by you through your source that they had firsthand knowledge of my having and using an email account on the domain. You then wrote:
"We were able to independantly [SIC] verify that Abedin used a address at some point in time. There are several email addresses associated with Abedin’s name in records maintained by Lexis-Nexis; one of them is An email sent to that address today went through without bouncing." 

A few questions:
1) Did you attempt to verify your source's assertion of my use of such an email using the same creepy methods you did with my close friend and colleague Huma Abedin? Assuming you did, why doesn't your piece note the results of your creepy methods? 
 2) Did you attempt to send an email to me at that domain, and if so did it go "through without bouncing"? Assuming you did, why don't you note the results of your test?
3) If your lying liar pants on fire source worked with me at a federal agency as you and they contend, did you ask them to provide even a single email exchange with my using that account?
4) Better yet, in the off chance they don't have every single email they ever sent or received, have you availed yourself of the same FOIA laws to petition the lying liar's agency for any email between them and me that you have with our email? 

I mean, you either naively or knowingly swallowed quite the whopper. Not sure which is worse. Actually, that's not true. 

Now, on the subject of FOIA...
You have to ask State about your requests, appeals, etc. 
But while I have you I'm really hoping you can explain something to me. You wrote that "The use of private email addresses may explain the State Department’s puzzling response to several FOIA requests filed by Gawker in the past two years," continuing, "That request was confoundingly denied on the grounds that the State Department had no record of Reines—whose job it was to communicate with reporters—emailing Hastings or any other journalists." 

So, is your cockamamie theory that the reason there is no record of my emailing with reporters is because I improperly used my personal email address to email with those reporters in an attempt to circumvent FOIA, and that every one of the many reporters you reasonably assume I emailed with are in on this conspiracy of having only emailed with me on my non-official email? All sorts of media outlets reached out to me, including FOX and The Daily Caller. Are they in on it? Is everyone in on it aside from Gawker? 

Now, to answer your question: email is a two way street. You'd be surprised how many reporters deliberately email government officials to their personal accounts. You'd be equally surprised to know that when they did, I moved the exchange to my account because, between you and me, my personal account is about the last place I want to be emailing reporters or conducting work. 

Which brings me to my last question(s) - for both JK & CJ:
Have either of you ever deliberately emailed a US Government official anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so, why? Have you ever received an email from a US Government official from anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so did you ask them why?
Looking forward to your responses!

Email No. 3:

From: CJ Ciaramella
To: Philippe Reines, CJ Ciaramella, J.K. Trotter, Erick Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill
Date: Wednesday, March 4, 2:30 a.m.
Subject: Re: Email
Hi Philippe,
And hello JK and Erik and Brian and Nick. It's wonderful that we can all be here, together.
JK can speak to his article, but the reason I'm interested in your response is because if, like you say, you didn't use private email and copied any work messages to your account, then State is either lying through its teeth or wildly incompetent, and flouting the Freedom of Information Act either way. That's a distinct possibility, although I'd note that Ben Smith tweeted out tonight that your exchange with Michael Hastings was conducted over a Gmail account.
CJ Ciaramella 

Email No. 4:

From: Philippe Reines
To: Ben Smith, Josh Gerstein, CJ Ciaramella, J.K. Trotter, Erick Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill
Date: Wednesday, March 4
Subject: Re: Email
Good Morning All,
And let me welcome Ben to our little party, because, well, he’s flat out wrong.
Michael emailed me that morning on my State account, I responded from my State account, I even added a second State person’s State account to that exchange, and it entirely remained on our State accounts without my personal account being referenced or used in any way.
But hey, why let truth or facts get in the way of a good Tweet. 

And along those lines, I’ve also added Josh Gerstein of Politico since I’m now noticing that he is simply swallowing JK's dreck whole and stating it as fact. And so Gawker will be repeated over and over because someone flat out lied to them about my email habits, claiming firsthand knowledge that I had an account that I never did. Which was why I originally initiated this group exchange. Still looking forward to JK’s answers. 

As for your requests, I understand your point — and even your frustration — but I simply can’t address or explain any of that, the Department has to. That however doesn’t mean I and others shouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt. As I think we can all agree, USG officials are permitted to use non-official accounts in the course of their job. There are reasons that happens. An outsider could email you at your personal account, maybe because they only have that address. Maybe their official email is on the fritz. Maybe they lost their device. Maybe they made a mistake. I don’t know. But again, there are legitimate non-nefarious reasons, and there should be a measure of benefit of the doubt afforded to people. In four years, I must have sent and received nearly half a million email. The vast vast vast vast majority, maybe four ‘vast’s, the overwhelming majority, whatever term means closer to 100% than 99%, that’s where I’m guessing my average is. If you want to skewer me over a non-100% rate, I can’t do much about that. 

From my perspective, if I were emailing with a reporter, I had to assume that it could end up in the public domain, as the exchange with Michael reminded me the very hard way. That’s just the nature of the beast, and what email account you use isn’t going to prevent that. Not to mention that much of what’s written to reporters is purposefully meant for the public domain since that’s the job. And believe me, I’d be far happier with you all having a field day poring through my largely boring and tedious email, than unfairly and erroneously reading that I intentionally undermined or circumvented the process. That frustrates me as much as State responses are frustrating you.
Anyway, hope this helps.

Email No. 5:

From: Ben Smith
To: CJ Ciaramella, Philippe Reines, CJ Ciaramella, J.K. Trotter, Erick Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill
Date: Wednesday, March 4, 7:37 a.m.
Subject: Re: Email
Hey guys: this is my fault. I misremembered. I'm sorry for sewing confusion.
I have corresponded with Philippe on his gmail, but this was not that.
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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 Video reviews of your website for $49 each Ask half a dozen questions to 10 people for $40 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

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.