Effective Communication During a Pandemic: One Firm’s Story
By Heather McMichael
April 22, 2021 | 4 minutes
Communications Media Relations/PR Content Type Article Additional Options Content Level: Essential Firm Size: Small Firm Size: Medium Firm Size: Large
In the wake of COVID’s disruption to law firms, PR and marketing professionals had to pivot to survive — one of the most striking changes was in re-evaluating their messaging and communication techniques. How should they package their content? How could they stand out in a crowded and constantly evolving digital landscape?
For many firms, this led to the development of COVID-19 content hubs to distribute timely messaging for clients. Like many others, national trial firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon’s marketing and business development team initially mobilized to leverage low- or no-cost technologies to quickly generate this targeted messaging. Working with a COVID-19 Task Force spearheaded by attorneys, our firm created toolkits to serve as a tactical resource hub. While we followed a path similar to other firms, Shook also took some unique steps to effectively share news and information.
Our firm was recognized for its business development efforts after earning LMA’s Regional Your Honor Award (Runner-Up, Midwest). Here we share the strategy behind the campaign.
Design a Campaign That Cuts Through the Noise
Shook, Hardy & Bacon created an easy-to-navigate, one-stop shop for attorneys and clients, sharing vital content related to everything from employment issues to price gouging protections and enforcement. The content was packaged with custom-designed infographics, animated videos and interactive mapping tools. On the PR front, we paused the announcement of awards and honors, instead developing quick-hit webinars, videos and industry-specific content bundles for clients concerned about future liability issues. While the firm responded to inbound media requests, energy spent on media outreach was shifted to a focus on helping with attorney article placement and other owned opportunities.
“The attorneys were generous with their expertise and time, allowing marketing to create numerous opportunities,” Alison Talbott, chief client development and marketing officer at Shook, says. “Our connectivity with clients and others increased significantly during this time period, compared to 2019. All in all, we were able to generate more than 6,250 meaningful engagements during the first six months of the pandemic.”
Given the uncertainty around the pandemic and the risk of information overload, the firm needed a way to quickly surface practical tips and guidance for clients and prospective clients. The department’s team of business development professionals, designers, writers and social media strategists worked closely with attorneys to identify the right format for delivering complex legal and scientific concepts in an accessible way. Animations, illustrations and multimedia were the key to distilling all this information into something readers could easily parse into actionable takeaways.
The response was overwhelmingly positive; many of the resources were also shared by third-party publishers and organizations. The firm tracked these engagements through its CRM system, social media and other proprietary tools.
Humanizing attorneys through more videos and webinars, simplifying messages visually and listening to the clients’ new needs delivered for the firm and, most importantly, clients.
Reviewing the year, Shook learned that humanizing the attorneys through more videos and webinars, simplifying messages visually and listening to the clients’ new needs delivered for the firm and, most importantly, clients. The biggest challenge ahead is an enviable one: applying the lessons learned during the pandemic to continually exceed expectations in the next normal
Speaking of Pivoting…
In late 2020, the LMA PR & Communications Special Interest Group (SIG) surveyed members to learn their leading consternations and which disciplines they would like to discover this year. Nearly half of respondents reported their No. 1 concern was the disruption of PR plans. Thirty-seven percent of marketers had reservations about whether their internal communication plans were transparent and accomplishing enough.
The survey also found legal marketers wanted more guidance on social media — in fact, it was their No. 1 topic.
For those who proactively seek out the media for story pitches, nearly 18% were troubled by decreased media due to COVID’s domination in the news, and inquiries about firm layoffs, furloughs and salary freezes that could result in this information leaked out to reporters. One marketer wrote, “While working from home due to COVID, everything is more complicated.”
For future programming and educational opportunities that address these survey results and more, be sure to join the LMA PR & Communications Special Interest Group (SIG).