In today’s world, it doesn’t matter whether news is created or circulated by traditional media or social media. It could even be argued that news created and spread by social media is more powerful.

Knowing that, you would think major law firms, many over a billion dollars in size, would have an effective social media presence so as to have a voice in news about them. News that may reflect poorly on a firm — sometimes fairly, other times unfairly.

Take the recent case of the Boston Business Journal reporting on dozens of departures at Locke Lord Edwards.

Blooomberg’s Casey Sullivan reports that the firm’s chair, Jerry Clements (@jkclem), knowing the report would encourage more lawyers to leave, sprung into action with a scathing letter to the editor and news release posted to the firm’s website.

To suggest that the departures of those lawyers who left our firm will prevent us from achieving our vision may make for a sensational headline, but it is a very narrow, unsophisticated and uninformed perspective.

Clements told Sullivan that “we knew it was incumbent on us to change the conversation,” and added that it was “not spin control,” but a matter of providing “accurate information” to set the record straight.

The Boston Business Journal’s response, via its Editor Craig Douglas, was to stand by its reporting and refute that it passed judgment on the firm’s merger efforts. No surprise there.

What was the uptake of Clements’ message across social media via blogs, reporters citing blogs and Twitter? Perhaps her position was spread socially, but on a quick search, I saw only more of the negative spin, true or not, that Clements was looking to head off.

Speaking with Sullivan, Nixon Peabody’s CEO and Managing Partner, Andrew Glincher (@AndrewGlincher) nailed the dilemma for firms.

If you’re not careful, even if you have really good business, market perceptions can affect you, just like they affect companies’ stock market evaluations every day. You need to be mindful of that.

But do these law firms have an effective voice in the media which can shape and alter people’s perception of the firm?

Clements, named one of the most influential women lawyers by the National Law Journal does not blog and has only 50 some followers on Twitter. I understand social media is new and challenging to learn, but not even the firm’s lawyers follow Clements on Twitter.

Social media is by definition, social. It’s person to person, with trust being established in people, not so much their organization.

Law firms are better represented on social media by their leaders and lawyers, personally, as opposed to the firm’s brand. That’s why a publication such as the New York Times requires that its reporters and editors create personal identities and build an audience on social media — otherwise their stories do not get circulated and read. And we’d all agree the New York Times has the power of the pen.

What could Clements blog about? Personal and professional successes of lawyers and other professionals of the firm. Examples of firm growth. Citing and sharing stories on innovation in the business of large law. All the while doing so in an authentic and genuine fashion demonstrating her passion for Locke Lord and the law.

What would she share on Twitter? The same type of things plus retweet successes and news from tweets by clients, business associates and the firm’s professionals.

Doing so, Clements would develop a ready group of influencers on social media who trust her. They’d share socially the news she is passionate about like her response here.

Clements would engage a broad and far reaching community who would get to know and trust her. She’d have a following who’d call “Foul” along with her as half truths broke out in the mainstream media. Lawyers would be less apt to leave when reguarly hearing from her via social and seeing positive news about the firm reported by others on social media.

If negative news broke regarding Seyfarth Shaw, I’d expect their chairman, Stephen Poor (@stephen_poor) would take to Twitter and his blog on Medium. I shared earlier this year Poor’s take on social media.

I took to social media… in an effort to engage in candid conversations. I hope others who lead law firms will join the discussion. Do I think Twitter feeds from one – or even many – of us will materially change our industry? Of course not. I do believe that we need to speak frankly and listen intently and the more voices the better. After all, open dialogue can only be good for our clients.

Look at Mitch Zuklie (@MitchZuklie), the chairman of Orrick, who personally gives the firm a real presence on social media. He has 1,200 Twitter followers comprised of the legal media, innovative companies and business leaders in the areas in which Orrick is looking to grow, and Orrick professionals.

If an issue in the news arose regarding Orrick, I’d expect Zuklie would speak directly to his audience. His message via social media would likely be more trusted and effective than had he launched a campaign through intermediaries such as the traditional media.

Great firms with excellent communications and public relations professionals work hard at protecting a firm’s reputation. In years past this was done by influencing “earned media.” It doesn’t work the same any more. Law firms and their leadership would be wise to develop real media presences today — a presence that includes real and authentic voices on social media.

As a trial lawyer I’d make pre-midnight trips down to the newsroom of the local newspaper to brief a reporter on an evolving legal story.

I knew that coverage in the morning’s paper would drive continuing radio and television coverage the next day. The newspaper reporter knew by providing coverage of the matter that I was involved in meant I would come to them first again.

If a matter was too controversial, ala involving state or local politics, reporters would not want me to be seen coming in to the newsroom to brief them. In which case, I’d leave documents relating to the story under the windshield wiper of the reporter’s car.

Of course there were always press releases, phone calls with reporters and press conferences inviting all of the local media to a briefing at our law office.

This has all dramatically changed in the world of blogs and social media.

Lawyers and law firms are journalists, they can break and report stories via blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Reporters quote blog posts and tweets directly without contacting sources via phone.

Alex Evans, a communications specialist writing for PR Week, reports social media has totally changed journalism from just a few years ago.

Seldom would you publish something verbatim, and the only ‘sharing’ an article would get would be when you browsed the newspaper clippings folder on coffee tables in company reception areas or when the articles in your local daily were discussed in the pub.

Fast-forward to 2015 and the world has transformed. News stories can break on Twitter well before printed editions of a newspaper are published.

In 2015, everyone can be a journalist, or at least that’s the idea.

Cheryl Bame, a leading PR and media professional, tells me blogs are a popular place for the media to find content and sources to enhance their stories.

Reporters may not even speak to their lawyer source, per Bame:

It is the same thing as the media quoting Tweets by celebs or public officials. Today, the media uses Tweets and Instagram photos in their stories but I always see them being referenced from the sources of the content…

Evans shares that this “direct reporting” can extend to video as well.

Rather than emailing a media list with the same old press release, hoping for success, I can post a YouTube video I’ve produced about a campaign to each of our digital channels and watch it go viral in a matter of hours, generating thousands of views / clicks and reaching out to our audience directly, without even speaking to a journalist.

The takeaway for law firms is that if you want to reach the media in an effective fashion, you’ll want to be blogging and using social media.

Reporters competing at Internet speed don’t always have time for press releases or even interviews. Reporters are going to sources directly by quoting a tweet or a blog post.

Furthermore, reporters are also apt to see lawyers blogging and using Twitter as thought leaders on niches. Such lawyers can be seen as more reliable sources.

We’ll still some press conferences and press releases, but the world has totally changed in the last five or seven years.

It used to be a big deal as lawyer to get a call from a local reporter. Heck, it still is so long as you’re not the subject being covered.

What’s changed is how you get those calls. Historically, some firms hired public relations people to get the names of their lawyers out there, some firms put together story kits packaging a story and sources for reporters and some, like I did as a trial lawyer, held press conferences to which reporters were invited.

Today the Internet, and particularly social media, has changed everything. A lawyer can build relationships with key reporters by networking with them online. Blogging, Twitter, and Facebook all represent avenues of engagement.

Not only will a reporter get to know you as a real person, but they’ll come to know you as a ‘go-to’ lawyer in your niche. The flip side is that you get to know the reporters, their interests, and their needs.

One set of influencers you ought to be building relationships with are the reporters and editors of your metro business journal. For most of you this means your local business newspaper owned by American City Business Journals (ACBJ).

ACBJ is the nation’s premier print and digital publisher of local business news. ACBJ has 40 business newspapers and sites in cities such as Seattle, Washington, Austin, and Albany. There’s a good chance their newspaper is sitting in your conference room.

ACBJ has a ton of reach: 3.6 million print readers, 10 million unique visitors a month to their sites, and 225,907 attendees to their conferences and events.

Their audience is a perfect demographic for lawyers and law firms: 66 percent are in top management at their companies, average net worth of more than $1.68 million, household income of $227,000, and 85% have college degrees.

I had exchanges with three reporters this morning after tweeting their stories earlier in the morning. Each of the stories were relevant to what I do and of interest to my followers.

In each tweet I shared the essence of the story, added a comment, and attributed the story to the reporter. By doing so the reporter gets notified of my Tweet and sees my take. Each of the reporters responded, one of whom I had a longer exchange with.

Two of the reporters were with ACBJ business journals, one in Memphis and one in Buffalo.

I picked up the stories by following relevant keywords and key phrases via Google Alerts. The stories are then fed to my RSS reader on my iPad (Mr. Reader) where the content from all the blogs and mainstream media I subscribe to are fed to me. I shared the stories directly from Mr. Reader with my comments and attribution.

You are nuts as a lawyer not to be engaging influencers like those from ACBJ. Reporters love the exposure you give to their stories. As a lawyer and law firm you have a lot of trusted followers.

It can be fun to engage these folks. They are often as new to social media as you are. There are no rules of proper etiquette. You’ll not embarrass yourself by being yourself.

Reporters for ACBJ publications are particularly good to network with online. Each has their email and Twitter in their byline for easy engagement. They are local. You can meet them for coffee, be a local resource for stories they’re working on, be quoted and, in time, become a guest columnist.

It’s a win-win for both of you. Reporters are leveraging social media for both exposure and to grow their network so as to do a better job of reporting. You’re growing your influence as a trusted and reliable authority in the locale in which you practice.

Politico’s media blogger, Dylan Byers (@dylanbyers), is predicting the death of the Sunday morning news shows that for decades have set the tone in American politics.

The public affairs shows — “Meet the Press,” “Face the Nation” and “This Week” — used to set the agenda for the nation’s capital with their news-making interviews and immensely influential audience. Now the buzz around the shows is more likely to center on gossipy criticism about the hosts…

The reason for the decline is social media.

Increasingly, what “Meet the Press” and its competitors represent are still-powerful brands struggling to maintain influence in a radically changed media environment, where news consumption is more fast-paced and fractured than ever and “the news cycle” these shows used to command no longer really exists.

Per one former Democratic White House official:

There was a time when everything would stop on Friday afternoon and Cabinet members and senators would gather around a table and say, ‘Who are we putting out on Sunday?’ Now if you want to make news, you can tweet it, or you can call any number of outlets.

Amazing to think of “institutions” crumbling as a result of empowering everyone with a smartphone to publish, broadcast, and engage the audience they wish to reach.

Let alone the social publishing impact one’s message has when the message is disseminated to “friends” and “followers” who trust the messenger more than a national broadcasting company.

Law firms have always played in the “influencer’s world,” whether locally or nationally.

In rural America in a small law firm I wanted to be on the evening news or in the morning newspaper discussing a case I was involved in or offering insight on a story a reporter was working on.

Large law firms positioned their lawyers as authorities so as to get quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, the New York Times and major periodicals such as Forbes, The Economist, Barrons, and Fortune. They also chased being sources in the major metro daily newspapers and business journals.

In addition to mainstream media, everyone wanted to pen a story or be included in a story in trade media, whether legal or industry related. The Recorder, New York Journal, Lawyers Weekly, and Los Angeles Daily Journal are just a few of them.

Television was also there as well for lawyers. Getting on the national news as an expert was a big deal.

But are these as big a deal as before? Are they essential to your messaging strategy? Does your story or the fact that you were in or on the news break through any more? Would you pay as much to your public relations agency to get your lawyers “in the news?”

I was on a panel recently with social media analyst, Ashwini Anburajan (@anburajan), a former associate producer of the Today Show and national campaign reporter for NBC News. I was pretty jazzed sitting next to someone who worked in network news. Her response was something to the effect of “Please, do you have any idea how old the demographic is for network television? It’s not long for the world.”

Will the media institutions you and I grew up with (I am 58) be relevant for that much longer? Will they even be around? Look at Martindale-Hubbell.

Will everyone be getting their media socially? It’s a real possibility.

Today already younger people (think 18 to 35) are more likely to be influenced by something they see or read via social media than through the mainstream press or trade media.

NBC News Veteran, Tom Brokaw, told Byers, “For political junkies and those who just want to catch up, the Sunday shows still are relevant, but they’re not the signature events they once were.”

For you as a lawyer or law firm, whether large or small, whether in rural America or a major metro, you are going to need to produce your own media and learn how to get that media distributed socially.

The media institutions you used to use are not likely to be signature events for that much longer.

Press Release deadSpeaking to an association of public relations professionals last week, the UK’s executive director of government communications, Alex Aiken, called the press release dead.

As reported by Kate McGee (@katemagee) of PRWeek (@prweekuknews), Aiken told the group,

The press release is dead.  The “cosy” process of writing a press release and sending it out to journalists was “just telesales.”

And to replace the press release?

You should not start with three pages of A4, but a tweet, an infographic or a video. If you are writing more than 200 words on any subject, you’re probably in the wrong place.

Rather than multiple press releases, Aiken sees regular tweeting. This way organizations are going where the audience is, rather than looking to broadcast at the audience.

This is the end of the big budget advertising and marketing campaigns. We will have to dip into the tool box and broadcast now and again, but it is no longer ‘SOS’ (Send Out Stuff).” Instead, it is about ‘OASIS’ – press officers thinking about objective, audience, strategy, implementation and scoring.

Is the press release really dead? How about in the legal industry?

We see a steady supply of press releases posted to law firm websites, releases presumably distributed across media channels. I know I get multiple press releases a day by email.

Little question social media has leveled the field between citizen journalists and reporters. Reporters can find stories and research directly from blogs and social media. Reporters don’t need to rely on a press release from a PR agency.

It’s a legitimate question to ask, “Does it still mean anything to send press release to editors and reporters?” How about to send a press release to bloggers?

My gut tells me press releases have some lasting value in the law.

  • Reporters will still take a story, and, in the case of a publisher. perhaps an entire piece, from a reliable and trusted source. Good public relations professionals develop and maintain relationships with the media – both mainstream and bloggers.
  • Lawyers and law firms need help developing copy that’s ‘social media worthy,’ which copy can be used to engage journalists on social media, whether it be via blogging, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Many public relation’s agencies are hiring and training professionals in this area. Some of this copy may be akin to a press release to get a story out.
  • Law is lagging a bit as an industry, both on the reporting side and on the law firm communications side. Things have not progressed as rapidly as in the popular and news press. This makes for more of an opportunity for a press release.
  • Most, but not every journalist is social media savvy. A press release may be viewed as a favor or of help to many journalists. Perhaps to even those who are social savvy.
  • Copy from professionals often reads better.

I also believe that real and meaningful relations with reporters and editors, legal media and otherwise, developed via blogging and other social media are now just as important, if not more important, than a press release.

As a lawyer, you connect with and engage with reporters in a meaningful way. You establish mutual trust by sharing each others’ stories via social networks. You establish yourself as a reliable and trusted authority in a niche so a reporter feels comfortable quoting your blog or calling you. You’re establishing a competitive edge over other lawyers.

What do you think? Are press releases dead? Are they going away?

Update: Conner O’Keefe (@connerokeefe), who does some intern work at LexBlog, tells me from first hand experience that law firm press releases help a good deal when looking for background information on people at a law firm. So in addition to distribution to the media, press releases, indexed on Google, provide additional value to a law firm.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Charlie Dave.

20130714-112955.jpg Americans were asked to rate 10 professions on their contributions to society. Lawyers were dead last.

This from a Pew Research Center survey shared by Kent Hoover (@SmallBizOnHill), Washington Bureau Chief for American City Business Journals, who warned business execs they had sunk so low only lawyers were below them.

While there have been modest declines in public appreciation for several occupations, the order of the ratings is roughly the same as it was in 2009. Among the 10 occupations the survey asked respondents to rate, lawyers are at the bottom of the list. About one-in-five Americans (18%) say lawyers contribute a lot to society, while 43% say they make some contribution; fully a third (34%) say lawyers contribute not very much or nothing at all.

Business execs, journalists, artists, engineers, clergy, scientists, doctors, and teachers were all above us–most by far. Military personnel, understandably topped the list.

Should we care about how the public perceives us as lawyers? Dam right we should. The law in this country is what separates us from anarchy. The law allows the little guy to stand up to the big guy.

When the public thinks so little of lawyers, people don’t seek out the help of a lawyer when they need one. To enforce their rights, to negotiate an agreement, or address family affairs. Applies to businesses and consumers.

I’m not looking for full employment for lawyers. I’m looking for people’s rights, liberty, and property to be protected.

Lawyers have done little, if anything, to demonstrate their value to society. If scoring things by what society thought of lawyers 30 years ago and today is fair, state bar associations and the American Bar Association have done nothing to help.

What can lawyers do? They can start engaging with members of society in a real and authentic way. Engage folks where they’re interacting with friends, family members, business associates, classmates, and the like. On the Internet. But lawyers, law firms, and bar associations are too busy coming up with policies and procedures guiding the proper online behavior of lawyers. All we’ve accomplished is scaring lawyers who care about helping people from participating on social networks and in Internet conversation.

Lawyers can also get real and authentic in their use of the net. Hiring someone to write blog content for you so you can sit on a raft on a lake is not engaging with people – whether execs, small business people, or consumers.

Hiring someone to handle your social networking, even internal marketing professionals, makes as much sense as sending someone else out to a networking event or town hall meeting where, because of what you know, you’re one of the honored guests.

Legal marketing and bar association conferences, rather than talking about search, traffic, and visibility, let’s talk about how individual lawyers are helping their target audience through the lawyers online activity. How can we, as professionals serving lawyers (some of us lawyers ourselves) help lawyers help their target audience through the lawyer’s Internet contributions and engagement? Lawyers helping people online and growing their business are not mutually exclusive.

The Internet, and what we’re calling today social media and social networking, is a great equalizer. Used smartly and properly, lawyers can improve their image. Not through a facade, but buy really making a difference.

That’s important not just for lawyers, but for the people we serve. After all, being a lawyer is all about serving others isn’t it?

Image courtesy of Flickr by Marc Falardeau

The Internet is a fast moving and unforgiving place.

The appliance maker, KitchenAid (@KitchenAidUSA), learned this after a tasteless tweet regarding the President’s grandmother was sent from their corporate Twitter account during Wednesday night’s presidential debate.

The person behind the KitchenAid tweet made the mistake of sending the tweet from the company Twitter account instead of their own personal account. Although only up for moments, it was enough time for others to re-tweet, capture and respond. In the world of social media, the “delete” button can’t be used fast enough.

Social media faux pas such as this do happen. They cost people their jobs and create PR nightmares. But this situation could have been easily avoided.

Scott Kleinberg (@scottkleinberg) Social Media Editor for The Chicago Tribune, shares three ways to avoid such a social media dilemma . Lawyers and law firms may wish to make note of them.

  1. Until Twitter applications have tools that effectively segregate personal accounts from business accounts, all companies should consider requiring the use of two separate Twitter applications for the those Tweeting under the corporate brand; one for your personal Twitter account and the other for the company Twitter account. This may be more of a hassle but it will definitely lesson the chances of a KitchenAid nightmare. Applications such as Hootsuite do allow you to manage multiple accounts from one login point. However, they do not keep the accounts neatly segregated. Better to use Hootsuite for only business accounts and another application such as TweetDeck for personal accounts.
  2. All employees should be trained on how they should tweet and what they should tweet, even after business hours. Social media by its very nature means communication and engagement with one’s target audience, during and after business hours. Not all tweets can be scheduled and pre-approved by another person ahead of time; this is why social media training is vital for employees.
  3. Have a social media crisis management plan. The Internet is very fast, you won’t have time once something like this happens to sit down and figure out the best solution.

KitchenAid’s senior director of branding, Cynthia Soledad, handled the situation well by quickly tweeting an apology to the President, followed by an explanation.

Kleinberg makes a valid and, in some eyes, a controversial point. A point I agree with.

As an employee of the Chicago Tribune, I wouldn’t tweet anything on my personal account that I wouldn’t put in the paper. If KitchenAid had a similar rule, this probably could have been avoided.

I’d have the same rule for your law firm. Lawyers and other professionals ought not to be tweeting anything from their personal account that the firm would not want its target audience of clients, prospective clients, and the influencers of those two audiences to see.

Sure, we are entitled to our personal opinions. But is broadcasting them on social media platforms worth putting not only your job, but also the reputation of the firm you work for at risk?

A lawyer wears one hat. It is really impossible to have a personal side and a professional side. They’re both one in your clients and prospective clients eyes. Expressing poor judgment or bad taste and then claiming that was you personally and not you as a lawyer or on behalf of your law firm is not going to fly.

Be prudent and wise. Rather than using separate accounts and applications for personal and business Twitter accounts, don’t say or share anything via social media which could damage your reputation or the reputation of your law firm. Anywhere. Anytime.

twitter public relations law firmsShauna Causey (@shaunacausey), VP of Marketing at Decide and veteran PR/Communications professional, told the lawyers at Avvocating last Thursday that she is nine times more likely to get a response to a Twitter direct message to a reporter than if she sent a press release. Nine times.

The day before, Kevin Livingston (@k_livingston), a veteran reporter, PR/Communications director at three AmLaw 200 law firms, and now a principal with Bame Public Relations, told the lawyer audience at a PLI social media program in San Francisco that Twitter was the one of the most powerful tools he had to connect his client lawyers with reporters covering relevant stories.

Despite Twitter being more effective than traditional PR, many law firms and public relations professionals working with and for law firms are ill equipped to use Twitter.

  • Some don’t use Twitter.
  • Some have policies limiting the use of Twitter.
  • Some only use Twitter in brand or law firm names, severely hampering the trust and engagement that using Twitter in your own name fosters.
  • The majority of those who do use Twitter haven’t mastered how to use Twitter effectively.

I am not saying public relations professionals no longer play a role in law firm PR. They do, perhaps more than ever.

Good PR professionals have historically been a trusted source for reporters. They had exellent relationships with ‘go to reporters.’

The Internet has not changed the value of trust and relationships. In fact Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogging, and the like has strengthened relationships founded on trust. But you have to use these social media platforms — and use them well.

Livingston, while sitting on a PLI panel in San Francisco, was following news on the Google-Oracle trial via Twitter hashtags and engaging reporters covering the trial via Twitter and Facebook. He wanted to be right there – virtually sitting with those reporters at the courthouse waiting for the verdict.

Livingston was going to have a client lawyer ready to go to speak with reporters who trust Livingston the minute the verdict came down. Probably a lawyer who uses Twitter and other social media to build trust and influence.

There is simply no way PR professionals not adeptly using Twitter the way Livingston does could do PR the way he does. And my guess is Livingston’s social media methods are much more cost effective.

I keep a list on Twitter of hundreds of reporters, columnists and media professionals who cover our nation’s courts and legal profession.

I follow this list to get information and insight from these media professionals. I share Tweets of theirs which would be relevant to my Twitter followers. Many of the media professionals follow me on Twitter in return. We’re building relationships founded on trust.

The beneficiaries of my work on Twitter? Members of LXBN (LexBlog Network) and my company, LexBlog. I know how valuable mainstream media coverage remains. So I work on getting the coverage via my use of Twitter, my blog, and other social media.

Are you using Twitter for public relations? Have you found it effective? I welcome hearing from you. I also welcome comments from PR professionals who think I’m nuts.

public-relations-twitter-social-mediaI blogged last week that PR professionals ought to have a Twitter account. My post was prompted by a LexisNexis UK press release from Melissa Higgs. 

This morning Higgs let me know through her personal Twitter handle that she had left the below comment on my blog.
Hi Kevin,
 
LexisNexis UK has a corporate handle @LexisNexisUK which I manage. The release was tweeted about from this account on the day that the release was sent.
 
I do have a twitter account which I use in a personal capacity to pursue other interests. I don’t feel it’s appropriate for my employer to be associated with my personal tweets, which tend not to be law-related. I use twitter regularly and have done for a year.
 
I don’t feel that the story is about me, and therefore have made the decision not to publicize myself as a PR professional via twitter.
 
I wonder if the title of this blog should be "Should a PR professional have a solely personal online presence?"
 
I do agree with you, however, that the @LexisNexisUK handle should be added to press releases, which is something I have suggested that we add to press releases from now on.
 
Very interesting, if odd, to find myself the subject of a blog in America!
 
Best wishes,
 
Melissa
 
Simon Goldie (@Simon_Goldie), Head of External Relations at LexisNexis UK, also responded to me in a blog post regarding public relations and Twitter on the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) site. (interesting to use ‘independent association’ for your own company message)
What Kevin missed in his search is that there is a LexisNexisUK feed [@LexisNexisUK]. It gives him all the information he needs.
 
Goldie raised a few additional questions, including:
  • Should bloggers check their facts before posting? (misguided dig of me)
  • Should all PR people have Twitter feeds wit their names instead of using corporate handles?

Goldie and Higgs miss a few critical points when it comes to how most people, not corporations, view Twitter.

One, I’m not looking for ‘a LexisNexisUK feed’ to give me all the information I need. I monitor the term LexisNexis from Google news and rely on Google to give me what it believes is the most important news. In this case, the release from Melissa Higgs arrived in the reader on my iPad. 

I don’t follow corporate feeds on Twitter. I don’t know who they are coming from and I’m likely to be deluged with self serving info from the corporation.

If I follow such corporate feeds on Twitter, I only do so to let who ever is running the feed know I am out there or so they can direct message me on Twitter. The corporate feed is then never seen by me as it won’t be in my personal Twitter lists I follow to learn and engage.

Two, as I explained to Melissa Higgs in a comment on my blog, I guess I could have looked for the LexisNexisUK Twitter handle, but it frankly never crossed my mind. I’m always thinking of Twitter as personal in origin when it comes to relations with the press and corporations. 

I did see a personal Twitter handle that might have been Higgs (@Melissa_Higgs). I found out later from Higgs it was actually hers. But seeing at the time of my post that she shared political views, I did not feel comfortable using it in my Tweet referencing the LexisNexisUK release – especially if I possibly referenced the wrong Melissa Higgs.

Three, for most people, including leading journalists and corporate leaders, Twitter is personal. 

I follow many reporters and bloggers on Twitter on their personal handles. The reason is to get to know them as people – both in the work place and personally. 

For example, I follow Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) for the info she shares on Twitter. I saw an amusing Tweet she made about beating up on a car sales person she bought a car from on Saturday. She told us all to go buy a car from him. That sort of tweet makes her a person to me – a person I trust more.

If I am sharing a WSJ story of Swisher’s on Twitter, I share her Twitter handle, not the WSJ’s Twitter handle, so as to give her the personal attribute and so that she will know I tweeted her story. If I reference the WSJ Twitter handle, she would never know I tweeted a story of hers and I would lose an opportunity to engage her.

I presume that if I attribute a company Twitter handle, as in this case of @LexisNexisUK, that Higgs would never see my Tweet. I have no idea who is monitoring or tweeting on behalf of LexisNexisUK. It turns out she runs the Twitter handle, but how do I know that? There is no mention of her name in the LexisNexisUK Twitter profile letting me know she handles the tweeting.

Higgs and Goldie may presume it to be Higgs handling the LexisNexis UK PR Twitter account, but for all I, and others, know its corporate leadership, editorial, or customer service. I have no idea. Bad assumption on their part.

If PR professionals are going to build relationships with the media (mainstream press and bloggers), PR professionals are going to need to use personal Twitter handles. Perhaps they’ll have personal Twitter handles for work related items and another for truly personal items, but we need to know who we’re talking with. 

Ideally, PR professionals would have one personal Twitter handle. In this day where we people do not trust corporate brands, people do trust other people — if they know they are real. 

For a company looking to get its message out, the company is going to need to use real people who are unafraid of not dividing the world into personal and professional. That’s what social media, a very real concept, is all about.

It’s this personal relationship that breeds trust. And it’s this trust that moves media and information today.

Good engagement between LexisNexis and I here. I appreciate Higgs’ and Goldie’s willingness to discuss.

Bill Pollak, CEO of ALM (f/k/a American Lawyer Media), shared his take on the role of social media in the news industry today in a blog post this morning.

The genesis of Pollak’s blog post was this week’s issue of The Economist which reported on the state of the news industry.

Its point is that we are headed away from an era of mass production/consumption of news, and toward a time of more personal and collaborative information sharing — akin, they argue, to the way news was transmitted 200 years ago (but, of course, much faster).

As to social media:

One section of the report focuses on Social Media, which has evolved from a sideshow to a “valuable adjunct to traditional media”. As the report says, traditional journalists are now increasingly using social media tools to not only engage with their audience but to source stories and spot trends.  Facebook and Twitter, in particular, have become legitimate tools in newsrooms around the world, with YouTube and other sharing sites also playing important roles.

Pollak shared how much news he now gets from social media and why such news is so valuable.

…[I]n my case, recommended articles from those I follow on Twitter now make up  5-10% of my reading.  Not a big share, but certainly a slice that did not exist a few years ago.  Those socially linked articles tend to be much more eclectic than my normal reading, leading me in directions that I probably would not have gone without those Twitter recommendations.  If we are entering a world where one’s social media connections act as curators or guides to content, than it certainly behooves us to do all we can to ensure that our content is linked to and “liked” by those who are agenda-setters in the industries we cover.

Anne Jackley, Director of Digital Products at ALM, in a comment to Pollak’s shared that 50% of her reading comes from info and news shared by social media.

I’m surprised that social recommendations represent only 5-10% of your reading. Curated content has dramatically changed my reading habits over the past year. I highly value content that’s linked to from people I follow, and these days a recommended link takes precedence over something that’s passively waiting for me to come to it. My reading from social feeds has increased to at least 50%, probably even more some weeks.

The key for you as a lawyer or law firm leader is to realize three things.

First, you are too busy to rely on the old form of reading news and information as a means of staying up to speed. Finding ‘intelligence agents’ you trust to share information, news, insight, and commentary via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and now, Google+ is invaluable.

Not only do you get info in an elegant and more effective way from those you trust (trust is key), but you also are getting information from those most knowledgeable about the subject. No way a reporter interviewing two or three authorities can offer the same quality as a domain expert on a subject.

Second, you need to get your insight and commentary as an authority out in social media so that people who others trust can share your insight and commentary through social media.

This does not come from auto-feeding content into social media. Such a practice reflects poor judgment as no one joins a social network or participates in social media to have articles or alerts (or evan blog posts) pushed at them.

Getting your information and insight shared requires you to share others’ contributions first. That way you build social media equity. The result being that others will share your contributions with others that trust them.

Third, reporters and editors are not sitting on their can waiting for a press release or public relations professional to contact them regarding a story. Those days are over. Reporters and editors are not even running Google searches to get insight and identify experts to call. The media is relying on social media to identify lawyer experts and get insight on stories as well as ideas for new stories.

If you don’t have an effective presence in social media as a lawyer or law firm, you don’t exist in the media’s mind.