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Future of law firm PR is participation by lawyers, not pitching by PR agencies

Blogs are not meant to be published by a PR agency or law firm communication folks. By their very nature, blogs are written by the lawyers participating in an online conversation on their niche area of expertise.

Steve Rubel explains in his post this weekend that PR is participation, not pitching.

Communities like Facebook, the blogosphere and digg are becoming even more influential than certain traditional media outlets. Their relevance to PR pros is rising and the industry is responding by wisely trying to beef up its new media acumen.

Unfortunately, the biz is not evolving quickly enough. Many in PR seem to be treating Web 2.0 as simply an extension of the traditional media – another venue for buzz. They are pumping thousands of email pitches into the community every day……Journalists are accustomed to the PR mating dance. They know that as soon as they get a desk, a phone and an email address they’re going to get bombed with inquires from PR pros. Some of these will be helpful, others won’t be. Journalists know that PR inbound is an occupational hazard that comes with the territory.

Online social networks and communities are completely different. Bloggers, social networkers, diggers, social bookmakers and Wikipedians don’t want to be pitched. They’re collaborating on these sites for a reason – to share, be entertained, to become informed, to connect, etc. They place value on people who contribute regularly and selflessly.

Unfortunately, most PR agencies and communications professionals working with law firms do not understand PR by participation. Worse yet are the agencies that belittle blogs and social media when law firms bring them up.

I’ve heard more than once that a law firm’s PR company did not think blogs were appropriate for the firm. In each case, the PR agency did not understand blogs, how they were used, and had never used blogs themselves.

Innovative law firms need to educate themselves or find agencies that are keeping up to speed with the changes in PR. As Steve Rubel says, “the PR community must step out in front of the curtain, become a bit more technically adept and participate transparently as individuals in online communities.”

  • http://www.thomsinger.com Thom Singer

    In addition to not understanding how to propely utilize blogs, law firms also suffer from “Me-Too-Marketing”, which means when they see a competitor with a blog that is successful, they will try to copy the process. By their very nature, blogs are unique and take on much of the character and charm of the writer(s). To let your PR firm or your marketing consultant design and oversee a blog will allow law firms to stand out the way they do on their websites and brochures (which means NOT AT ALL, since most firms all look alike in their marketing)
    Take a chance when you write a blog and put your personality into it.

  • http://www.briansolis.com Brian Solis

    Hi Kevin,
    I recently wrote, “The Future of Communications – A Manifesto for Integrating Social Media into Marketing,” that explores these ideas and also goes way beyond social networks to help PR people (and lawyers too) understand what’s going on and to teach those who want to learn how to jump in.
    PR, as we know it, is dying. And, the real challenge is how to get the majority of PR to participate in these conversations.
    New PR is shifting monologue to dialogue, from broadcast to participatory and conversational marketing. I have been working extensively with Chris Heuer, Jeremiah Owyang, Stowe Boyd and Todd Defren, who are all helping PR learn how to make the transition.
    The future of PR is about conversations, knowledge, sharing and relationships. It will have greater alignment with sociology and not be based solely on the technology – as tech represents the tools to facilitate conversations, and will always evolve.
    The fundamental principles are:
    Listening is marketing.
    Participation is marketing.
    Media is marketing.
    Conversations are marketing.
    This renaissance represents an opportunity for passionate and smart PR people to reinvigorate an industry long associated with used car salesman to put the “public” and “relationships” back in Public Relations .
    It’s the realization that focusing on and cultivating important markets and the people within them, will have a far greater impact than trying to reach the masses with any one message or tool.

  • http://www.furiarubel.com Gina Furia Rubel, Esq.

    Kevin,
    Although this is true that many most PR agencies and communications professionals working with law firms do not understand PR by participation, I have found it just as common to counsel law firms regarding their need to reach their target audiences via strategic and well planned social media programs only to be told, “all we need is a brochure. . . . ”
    The problem is more complex than just blaming the slow-and-afraid-to-adopt-social-media Neanderthals. Law schools need to start teaching their students about legal communications and business development so that more law firms will have an understanding of the communications landscape. I’m still getting questions like: “Well, what’s the difference between advertising and public relations?” Getting many firms to adopt strategic communications, let alone social media, is like climbing Mount Everest without proper gear.
    The time has come for communicators and lawyers alike to embrace all strategic and well-planned communications including social media, to learn how to use these tools strategically, and not to throw caution to the wind when it comes to communicating within the bounds of legal ethics.