The Ultimate Guide to Public Relations for Lawyers

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A combination of evolving legal needs in industries such as technology, healthcare, and environmental regulations has resulted in a massive growth of boutique law firms focused on specialty niches [1]. As new lawyers and business leaders settle into their roles at new firms, one of their primary goals from the inception of their practice will be to focus on public relations in order to establish a strong reputation that will support future growth. 

In their focus on public relations, leaders of small boutique law firms must decide whether they will build their PR strategy in-house supported by technology platforms built for reputation management, or partner with a PR professional or agency to benefit from the expertise they bring to the table. But in order to decide which approach might be the most beneficial, the firm’s leadership must first understand public relations as a business process and why it’s important to the success of the firm.

What is PR for lawyers and why is it important?

For law firms, public relations is a strategic approach to brand reputation management that combines thought leadership, community engagement, and media relations. Public relations-focused campaigns executed by law firms are designed to boost their image and reputation and improve multi-channel communications in order to attract more clients and increase profitability.  

Benefits of PR for lawyers

Boutique law firms with a focused approach to PR are better positioned to grow a customer base that becomes increasingly loyal and invested in the brand over time, become leaders in their legal niche, and build a reputation that allows them to establish meaningful relationships with key stakeholders.

Benefits of PR for lawyers

Attracting clients

Modern consumers pose unique challenges for law firms looking to grow their client base. The increasing demand for legal services driving growth in the legal industry is accompanied by an increased cost- and quality-sensitivity that makes for extremely discerning leads making their way through inbound marketing funnels.

A public relations strategy that helps establish the lawyers and partners at your law firm as industry leaders positions the firm as capable of providing the premium level service clients are willing to pay for. This will not only increase engagements but will also ensure the cases your team handles are of a higher quality and more profitable.

Becoming established thought leaders

As your public relations strategy evolves and you increase your engagement with media and content outlets, your brand will be able to showcase your team’s expertise and insight into relevant legal topics. This can be accomplished through expert commentary given in interviews across various channels, written op-eds in relevant publications, and strategic ad or content placement across media platforms.

Seeing your brand alongside other voices of authority helps strengthen your firm’s reputation and positions your brand as one potential clients are more likely to engage with. They will be more likely to seek out your social media and web content in order to access the expert insight you’ve signaled exists. This is why every public relations campaign should be supported by a robust content marketing strategy.

Enhancing reputation

While the short-term benefits include attracting new clients and establishing your firm as a thought leader, the trust a well-structured PR campaign engenders with the legal community will evolve into a strong reputation. This will increase the likelihood that a client or peer will refer a colleague to you for representation or that your brand will be top-of-mind in your niche when someone is looking for legal advice. 

Public relations strategies can also help a small law firm expand into new legal niches and grow the firm by attracting additional talent. Over time, this provides the firm with stronger lawyers who might, in turn, become partners. This internal promotion helps build the firm’s reputation for having a strong and supportive culture that will attract stronger candidates.

How can a PR strategy help attract new clients?

A well-planned PR strategy greatly increases the likelihood of referrals to your law firm. Properly executed, public relations campaigns include a strong content marketing component that increases brand visibility across media channels. Public relations exposure can be accomplished by distributing content across:

  • Local television media

  • Press engagement

  • Social media channels

  • Online directories

  • Niche-specific online news and information outlets

  • Press releases distributed through channels designed to maximize distribution

These and other online channels help increase brand awareness, which encourages existing and potential clients and referral sources to learn more about your practice and engage with your firm’s digital assets. The increased traffic will, in turn, increase the number of well-qualified leads and subsequently improve your conversion rates.

Essential elements of an effective law firm PR strategy

Implementing an effective PR strategy for your legal practice requires careful planning so that you’re folding in the proper steps, departments, and team members in order to ensure your PR strategy is properly focused on results.

Elements of an effective law firm PR strategy

Research your target audience

Just as with any other marketing initiative, each PR campaign should be leveled at a specific target audience. Your team should have a clear understanding of the demographics of your target audience as well as how you might define your target audience relative to the services you offer and how that audience might already be aligned with your competition. Understanding your audience relative to your goals helps hone your PR strategy more effectively. 

Align your PR strategy with channels that reach your target audience

Public relations messaging strategies can be executed across any channel already being utilized in your content marketing efforts:

  • Written content including blog posts, articles that appear in industry publications, and columns in periodicals and other platforms

  • Sharable content that can be leveraged across social media in the form of press releases, quizzes, lists, community engagement posts, guest posts and contributions to other local sites, and real-time communication during crisis management. Social media posts can also benefit from forms of infographics that can be incorporated into your brand messaging across other mediums. 

  • Networking events and industry gatherings in order to get exposure to a wider audience

  • Publications and websites to republish your content beyond your own digital assets

Depending on which channel of communication you’re working to engage in, each facet of your public relations strategy should have a call to action (CTA) that inspires the audience to take specific actions.

Communicate your firm’s corporate social responsibility initiatives

85% of consumers are more likely to engage with companies that present themselves as involved with the community and are interested in protecting the environment.

In the post-pandemic landscape, 85% of consumers have made it clear they are more likely to engage with companies that present themselves as involved with the community and are interested in protecting the environment [2]

Law firms can make corporate social responsibility (CSR) a priority through supporting philanthropic endeavors, getting involved with local causes and fundraisers, and participating in community events as sponsors or volunteers. Often, these activities give the firm visibility in event marketing material, and the firm can highlight its efforts through its established PR communications channels. This visibility will show clients the firm’s commitment to social responsibility and help boost their reputation overall.

Leverage backlinking to boost visibility

Journalists find industry experts to be the second most reliable source for gathering and validating information [3]. This is why partnering with and building relationships amongst journalists, bloggers, and media outlets opens the door to an extremely affordable and effective method for earning backlinks. By providing timely and knowledgeable insights on legal issues, your staff of lawyers can provide journalists and writers with much-needed sources while at the same time providing clear touchpoints in the customer journey back to your sales and services team. 

A well-planned PR strategy includes a media kit or an online profile that provides journalists with information about who to contact for relevant legal insight. These kits and profiles should be personalized and sent to representatives of local media outlets, specific journalists, and communications contacts on industry-relevant websites.

Pro tip

Your PR team, whether in-house or a PR professional you’ve hired, can also pitch potential articles to these same sources in order to create opportunities for backlinking. Remember that journalists and content directors are often inundated with irrelevant advertising and marketing pitches, so your pitch should:

  • Outline the target audience, which should overlap with the medium’s reader base.

  • Include a breakdown of the topic and why your staff has the experience to cover it.

  • Invite the writer or journalist to collaborate in order to bring an article to life in a way that best meets their needs.

Highlight awards and accomplishments with social-proof marketing tactics

There is an increasing reliance upon storytelling in marketing that prioritizes social proof marketing tactics to boost brand visibility and reputation [4]. In the legal marketing niche, social proof marketing can be leveraged in three primary ways:

  • Share the awards your attorneys might have received in the course of their career. A rundown of their accomplishments will show prospective clients your team has the expertise to handle their cases.

  • Highlight firm-wide certifications and awards granted by legal institutions, local community organizations, and associations relevant to the type of law practiced by your team on your website and in social profiles.

  • Use social media and other digital channels to communicate when lawyers at your firm win high-profile cases or cases with importance to the local community. Showing your firm can deliver results is a great way to build confidence in your firm’s legal expertise.

Reputation management for your attorneys is the most powerful PR tool

Ensuring your staff and leadership maintain a positive online reputation is vital for your firm’s ongoing success. Online reputation management can be challenging and often requires the assistance of a PR professional or agency to support your team of legal professionals. Whether reputation management has been outsourced or the firm has the staff with the knowledge and bandwidth to handle these tasks in-house, there are three main tools to focus on that will help a law firm improve its reputation and boost visibility.

Maintain your relationship with your contacts database

Success in the legal profession depends largely on referrals and interpersonal relationships. Over the course of your legal career, you’ll be creating meaningful connections with previous classmates and instructors, colleagues at previous firms, opposing counsel in cases you handle, and members of the local bar association and other local associations and business organizations you might be a part of, such as the local Chamber of Commerce. Your contact database should include fields for how likely a person can refer business to you, what sort of influence they can assert on your behalf, and what their legal specialization might be.

Newsletters help control online perception and help lay the foundation for a positive online reputation

Leverage your well-maintained database of contacts as a way to distribute a regular newsletter. A newsletter is a perfect platform to showcase what you have to offer as a lawyer. From best practices and after-verdict case studies to digital downloads and insight into the legal resources you rely upon most, a newsletter keeps both you and your firm top-of-mind for referrals.

Newsletters are also a great way to invite clients to provide reviews of their experiences with you. Newsletters are powerful tools for building trust and expanding the impact of positive brand perception and, because 76% of potential customers find online reviews as instrumental to their decision in hiring legal services, can be a great way to garner more positive reviews and negate the impact of negative reviews elsewhere [5]. As part of your newsletter outreach, you can invite clients and peers to leave reviews of their experience with you and recommendations.

Keep your firm’s website as tidy as your physical lobby

Your website is your digital lobby and often the first chance to make an impression on potential clients. Aside from up-to-date firm location and contact information, the firm’s website should include profiles of the staff that highlight the industries in which they have expertise, successful case resolutions, case studies relevant to their legal niche, and client testimonials. This information should be mirrored across social media channels, especially on LinkedIn, which is a powerful tool for networking and building relationships with potential clients.

Setting clear goals and objectives for your PR campaign

In order to accomplish the goals of growing your client base and improving the visibility and reputation of your law firm, your public relations strategy should be focused on achieving a number of key benchmarks and milestones in the process. Goals your firm might be looking to accomplish through your PR campaign in the course of building your brand’s reputation could include:

  • Building brand presence in a new market segment

  • Creating networking opportunities with other attorneys in order to generate referrals

  • Executing and communicating the results of a merger or acquisition

  • Announcing expansions into new markets or geographic locations

  • Boosting the reputation and visibility of lawyers and partners to provide overall increased visibility of the firm

  • Communicating the accomplishments of your firm in high-profile cases that impact the community in order to improve the perception of the firm.

  • Inspiring and maintaining goodwill amongst your employees

Measure the effectiveness of your PR strategy

The impact of public relations can be measured by a series of key performance indicators (KPIs). Each KPI helps your marketing team understand how the PR tactics in place are supporting your goals and whether leadership should pivot in order to strengthen the campaign’s overall impact.

Key message inclusion 

Tracking key message inclusion entails either tracking the percentage of industry-relevant articles that include your key messaging or measuring how often your key messaging appears in media placements.

Earned media impressions

Media impressions refer to how often your messaging is displayed, but not necessarily how often readers interact with it. Not necessarily a measure of actual viewers, impressions are more of an indicator of the effectiveness of your keyword targeting.

  • Target media secured is a related metric that indicates the percentage of a predetermined list of publications your team has engaged for advertising purposes.

  • Share of voice similarly is a measure of how much your brand dominates your niche by enumerating the presence of your brand or products in a specific marketplace relative to your competition.

Changes in web traffic and inbound leads

Keeping track of your web traffic as well as the number of inbound sales leads is a way to track the increase in qualified leads that can directly be tied to the impact of a PR campaign. It’s necessary to track leads by acquisition channel in order to get the most out of this data.

SEO performance

Tracking the impact of PR on your SEO requires you to track how often your listing or earned media placement appears in search engine results. Tracking the performance of your brand on these high-ranking sites can allow you to track the impact of your public relations efforts on your own SEO.

Customer sentiment

Customer sentiment is an indicator of the emotional response consumers have towards your brand when it is discussed in reviews, social posts, surveys, and other digital mediums. 

Outsourced vs. in-house PR strategies

For leadership in small boutique law firms, investing in the strategic management of the law firm’s public relations efforts should be a priority. That investment can be focused on hiring an in-house PR expert, outsourcing to a contractor or agency, or licensing a suite of public relations-focused technology platforms.

PR software is an affordable alternative to outsourcing that expands your team's ability to monitor media, track key public relations analytics, target social proof and media contacts to boost your messaging, provide you with an outlet for content and press releases, and manage client relationships. To learn more about leveraging PR software in your in-house strategy, you can explore our PR software directory.

Explore the benefits of leveraging PR management software solutions for your law firm

With the many KPIs that law firms must be able to effectively measure in order to make meaningful decisions and attract new business, it’s necessary to consider the options on how to best track and assess the relevant KPI. While an outsourced agency or contractor could be brought aboard to manage your firm’s PR strategy, many brands prefer the increased control and flexibility provided by software solutions.

Working through the process of whether or not to leverage PR management software, law firm leaders must first understand how a well-designed PR strategy helps bring in new clients, as well as the other benefits of leveraging public relations in the legal sphere. To better understand how public relations software can help your law firm grow, check out these additional Software Advice resources: