First things first: Flip Cat is a consulting business. We work with firms on specific project assignments, as interim senior marketing leadership, and as the primary marketing resource. The premise of this post, however, was inspired by the present and future state of the legal industry, and the coming need (I believe) for greater and more diverse staffing related to digital marketing. Presently, the legal industry must deal with new pressures from outside the firm. Soon, pressure will arise from within the firm - developed in part as a result of the need to alter staffing.
For budget planning and marketing, communications, and business development purposes, do you need a full-time marketing staff? The answers are yes, no, and the popular legal response: it depends...
How busy are you, and what skills do you need?
Hiring the right skills sets requires examination of current and anticipated production such as: to originate or outsource content.
If you blog once or twice a month and post social content once or twice a week, your periodic social and content requirements would better suit a part-time or contractor situation. Both you and your marketer must work well meeting deadlines, and communicate well regarding edits. A great fit would come from a marketer who so well understands an attorney’s objectives for the material and the clients and prospects targeted, that the marketer can anticipate blog/content topics as well as compatible links and visual content.
This is not to say the marketer should write the blogs for the attorney. To preserve accuracy, I suggest the primary goal would have the attorney craft original content. This should be easier to achieve when production is low or infrequent.
Busier attorneys who communicate often and produce an abundance of content (or a setting in a firm where multiple attorneys, practices, and activities generate content) would be better served by a marketer with writing and social/digital savvy. High production requires that marketing be adept with planning editorial calendars (planning ahead) with the attorneys, to the extent possible, to schedule the publication of items, where they will be published, and to anticipate the hours required to bring those items to final publication.
Several services around the country offer to a) write blogs for you, and b) supplement and assist with your original writing. The former option would suit either a busy attorney (too busy to write) or a small office that lacks the capacity to write original posts and also may not need a marketer for any other activities (i.e. the lawyer only wants to practice and blog). For situations where an attorney wants to outsource the bulk of writing, I encourage selecting a service that uses writers with legal backgrounds. Yes, a writer could learn to compose posts in the style of legal writing, but if I were going to select a service for one of our clients, I would prefer a service where writers were put through the rigors of Legal Writing in law school and in practice. Therefore, I recommend The Rainmaker Institute for blog and content development.
Most Marketers are adept at wearing many hats and switching among skill sets in order to accomplish the work required. Yet, with the expansion of tools, the deepening nature of what we can learn through social and analytics, and the basic preferences of law firms and lawyers regarding how they want to communicate and, more importantly, how their clients and prospects prefer to communicate – a single marketer cannot “do it all.”
Therefore, I suggest studying what social platforms and technical and digital tools best suit your needs, and preparing now to hire in the future for more specific niches and talents than you may have previously as well as considering where you might supplement full-time employees with part-time and periodic workers. For example:
- Social platforms: LinkedIn, Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube, Live-streaming (Meerkat, Periscope), Pinterest, Instagram (among others). Hire a social media generalist or a platform maven based on your expectation of where you will spend time promoting your knowledge and services and based on where your clients live online and how they communicate there.
- Video composers and editors: The progress of video and visual tools have made it easier for the non-professional to capture and produce worthwhile product. Still, as I note below regarding graphic artists, your needs will dictate the level of skills required of your marketer or IT staff regarding video, and the instances where you should seek the assistance of a pro.
- Graphics designers: At a minimum, your in-house marketer should have rudimentary ability to produce simple ads, graphics, and logos with Canva, Corel, Illustrator, Photoshop, PowerPoint/Prezzi. Hire graphics professionals for more elevated and involved projects, and leverage their expertise with dedicated project budget to support the valuable expenditure.
- Analytics: Here is where marketing and tech coincide. Setting up useful analytics monitoring and then obtaining the data produced and interpreting it for actionable business development and responsiveness may require cooperation between marketing and technology or may be handled by someone wearing an IT rather than a marketing hat – depends upon your activity and your targets’ activity, as well as your follow-up plans.
- Crisis Management: Traditionally, Crisis Management (CM), has fallen into the public relations bucket, underneath marketing. CM today also involves an overlap between IT and Marketing because issues may arise from online activity (think Social Media) or tech activity (think data and security breaches). Hiring for this area might look like: full-time IT to maintain security and troubleshoot common errors, as well as a plan for recovering from hacks, viruses, etc., plus either an in-house marketer with crisis management experience, or a go-to (public relations) agency as needed.
- Coaching: Does your marketer have the skills to mentor and lead attorneys in business development and communications via coaching? If not, one choice might be to simply engage with an outside coach who would work with firm leadership and marketing to design a plan for all attorneys (an Associate Development plan, for example), or a coach to work one-to-one with key rainmakers. Another choice would be to have the coach craft a plan for coaching, then hold “train the trainer” sessions to equip the marketer(s) to execute the plan – supervised by the coach and firm leadership.
One note on coaching: I suggest you seek licensed coaches for their training and ethics when choosing an outside source. Internally, because coaching can reach personal motivations and topics, your marketer must display strong ethics and shun gossip.
Part of yesterday's posts (It's Not About Marketing the Law Firm Anymore, part one and two) emphasized the importance and value of basing marketing and business development activities on what clients and prospects tell you they want (listen and learn from them rather than market blindly). Similarly, your marketer, whether in-house or an outside entity, should view the attorneys as their own clients – and deliver service accordingly. Henry Dahut in Marketing the Legal Mind said, “The evidence indicates that what clients care about most…is service.” Attorneys as clients of marketers seek service, and results. Paramount for both parties: quantify and define what service and results represent, then set KPIs and benchmarks accordingly to measure achievement.
Is your marketer’s well stagnant or dry? It’s easy for any employee to become trapped by the daily grind. A marketer, however, must strive to stay ahead of trends and bring fresh approaches to their work. Hire internal staff who embrace learning and demonstrate continued effort to seek out new information – it is integral to the world we live in today, and of utmost importance for a marketer. Your outside sources and contractors should likewise be measured for their currency of ideas and abilities.
Today’s digital and social tools provide vast opportunities for telling your story as a firm or as an attorney. Do this well and you will influence those whom you attract as employees – who will want to work with you. Hire now to create the means to enhance your future hiring.
Are you looking for the right marketing professional for your firm or practice? Feel free to contact us. We stay in touch with marketers on the move; we have a stable of tech, digital, social and other professionals we recommend; and we may be able to address your needs, too.