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Average person most trusted source : bodes ill for Martindale-Hubbell

March 13, 2005

As a result on the Internet, the ‘Average Person Like Me’ now ranks as high as academics and physicians as a trusted source of information about a company. This was the finding of the Edelman Trust Barometer 2005 – an annual study of 1500 opinion leaders in eight countries.

Here’s a snippet from Dick Edelman’s 6 A.M. blog. Dick is President of Edelman, the only independent global PR firm.

Nearly 60% of Americans and a comparable percentage of Brazilians, Brits, Canadians, Chinese, French, Germans and Japanese look to their peers for knowledge and advice, up from 20% only two years ago. What’s going on here? Part of this trend must be attributed to lack of trust in traditional figures of authority and institutions, such as business, government and the media. Some of this trust void is being filled by alternative institutions such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs). But it is also manifested in a greater reliance on those close to you, who form a personal web of trust that supplements what you read, see or hear in the media, or through official company channels and in advertising.

The Internet has made it easy to reach out to your friends, family and colleagues at work. But it has also allows those with similar interests anywhere in the world to link up in chat rooms. This type of horizontal communication with like minded souls is powerful.

Lawyer ratings from Martindale-Hubbell have served their purpose. They were started in 1868 by a Midwestern lawyer and business by the name of Martindale. He wanted to furnish to lawyers, bankers, wholesale merchants, manufacturers, real estate agents the name of a reliable law firm, bank or real estate office in other counties. If there was an Internet with the free flow of discussion and exchange of information, the Martindale-Hubbell ratings would never have started.

I have heard the stuff that the Martindale-Hubbell rating is the most reliable because it’s based on input from judges and lawyers that know the most. But I’ll bet you a dollar to doughnuts that in-house counsel is not going to say “I’ve got an AV lawyer’s name so I am all set.’ They are going to email around to their friends and business associates. They are going to Google the lawyer’s name and Google the area of the law and locale to see if they can find the best lawyers for their situation.

The parents of a brain injured child, the victim of medical malpractice, the young business professional who is the victim of sexual harassment or the injured worker who can no longer work at the mill is not going to be served by some peer reviewed rating system. They need to get out and talk with others in their situation and members of trial associations etc, all easily done online now.

Dick Edelman goes onto to discuss another problem for Martindale. “The traditional description of a brand is delivering on a promise of quality, service or benefit. Today, there is another requirement–forging of a close relationship with the end user.”

Dick describes the release of Microsoft’s Halo 2, which had a phenomenal first day of sales, with over $125 million of the new video game sold around the world, outdrawing even the largest of feature films such as ‘Titanic.’ He explains “the marketing process began 18 months ago, as Microsoft dared to show its beta version to gaming enthusiasts, who were then allowed to discuss the product (good and bad) on-line. As the product developers incorporated the critiques into the follow-on versions, the gamers felt vested in its success. The buzz on-line began to be picked up in mainstream media, establishing a powerful platform of credibility for the launch.

Martindale has no real online presence. Sure they have a Web site. But they’re kidding themselves if you think they can create an online buzz about new products. Where would they honestly start to get enthusiasts talking about a new product? Martindale uses traditional PR with press releases coming from presumably a Manhattan PR agency who does not encourage an active Internet presence.

The online and offline buzz from the average person about Martindale is not good. I hear the directory is a necessary evil (and I believe a bare listing is necessary). I hear from small firm lawyers who are unable to identify one case they got from their listing and Martindale produced “Lawyer Home Page.’

Martindale has some talented people. Have them publish a blog. Have them talk about their products. Have them write about what they read on other blogs. Have them comment on other blogs. It does not take that much time and it may be necessary your brand over time.

You guys from Martindale who read my blog (and I know you do from comments I get) pass this message on to LexisNexis’ Martindale-Hubbell’s CEO John Lawlor and LexisNexis’ CEO Lou Andreozzi. I know both of those gentleman personally. They are good guys and smart businessmen.

Heck, if you need some help, call LexBlog. We just turned down helping a company with a competing product to your “Contact Lawyers – client/lawyer matching product’ because I questioned the ethics of their management.

Anyhow, read Dick Edelman’s post – it’s good stuff from a guy who knows his stuff.

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