Keep Clients and Content Top of Mind When Announcing Awards

Keep Clients and Content Top of Mind When Announcing Awards

By Heather McMichael
April 07, 2022 | 6-minute read
Communications Message and Strategy Planning Media Relations/PR
Marketing Management & Leadership
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Great news! Your law firm just earned a prestigious award based on years of service and hard-earned results for your most sophisticated clients. Your immediate reaction might look something like this: Pat your lawyers on the back, post a glowing announcement on your firm’s website and share the news on social media. 

But before you do that, it’s worth considering how much more effective this announcement could be if developed through the lens of the client. You may wonder if the client cares that the firm — or an individual lawyer — has been honored in some way. If communicated properly, the answer is yes. But the award win must be framed properly.

An article published in Good2BSocial explored this issue after the author attended an LMA conference in New York a few years ago. At that event, the general counsel panelists stated that they placed little value on these awards, “In-House Counsel Cares About Content, Not Awards.” So how do you balance sharing the news, satisfying your lawyers and not annoying your clients?

Awards often result in media articles outlining your firm’s abilities and showcasing your attorneys. Nothing beats third-party recognition and consistently appearing before clients and prospects via media, whether it is earned, owned or paid. Recognition of your firm’s expertise can reinforce a client’s decision to retain and rely on your services and should be seen as a strategic opportunity to connect with clients. Awards are also good for recruiting purposes and morale within your firm.

Practice Group of the Year: A Case Study

Recently, our firm earned a “Practice Group of the Year” honor from Law360. The publication recognized the Shook team for excellence demonstrated in landmark wins that influenced cybersecurity and privacy legislation and litigation. The firm viewed this as an opportunity to highlight the various teams nationally who work across the country in a collaborative effort to meet and exceed their clients’ needs. The award was also important to publicize as Shook is known primarily for product liability litigation and this was an opportunity to showcase other areas of strength within the firm that impact every industry.
Upon hearing that we received the award, we built a PR plan and put it in motion with messaging and various audiences in mind. These audiences included clients, targets, potential hires, social media followers, alumni and the media. 

For this type of plan to be effective, it’s important to get attorney buy-in, including a time commitment to supporting the plan. 

Winning awards isn’t easy, so take advantage of the opportunity to promote your firm, your lawyers and your work.

Media Outreach

We drafted a press release titled, “Privacy Trends to Watch in 2022,” which touched on areas the attorneys were monitoring, including how private rights of action and the increased use of the Biometric Illinois Privacy Act (BIPA) are being used to file lawsuits. This was an opportunity to connect with reporters and remind them of our work in this area, and generate potential story ideas which could lead to our attorneys serving as resources to explain the issues. 

In addition to a PR Newswire distribution, we forwarded the release to two journalists who cover privacy. Did we gain immediate traction from the reporters? Not necessarily, but this is a long game. Our ongoing PR strategy is to communicate with targeted reporters by offering them substantive content throughout the year. This converts a standard announcement into valuable intel for journalists ― and potentially a quote for the firm in the future ― on this topic.

The press release garnered a total potential audience reach of more than 168 million, and more than 700 views and hits, including by the Associated Press and Market Insider.

Thought Leadership for Clients

Using the trends we identified in our submission, we created two podcasts on privacy topics that potentially impact businesses and our clients. Podcasts are great ways to distribute content. The audio format humanizes lawyers and allows listeners to engage with content on-demand rather than sitting through a traditional webinar, for example. They are also much faster to produce than a client alert or authored article. Our podcasts were posted on LinkedIn, and within the first week gained several dozen listens, which grew over time. We also created a LinkedIn ad campaign for the podcasts and targeted various sectors, which resulted in more than 4,000 impressions. 

Thanking Clients Directly

Another outreach opportunity surfaced with a heartfelt thank you to clients. We crafted a short message to notify clients of the award, but also to reinforce that the firm would not have won the award without the opportunity to serve them. The win also aligned with an event the business development team and attorneys had arranged many months prior. Part of the sponsorship included an e-communication to attendees, which included the award badge, and a link to the podcasts.

Keeping the Story Alive

After all our content was created, the pièce de résistance came when the publication granting the award produced a story covering our firm and our award. It offered a glowing account of our services and a look ahead at privacy trends to watch. Almost immediately after publication of the announcement, the firm gained a piece of new business from a company that had been a business development target for quite some time.  Upon spotting our award, the prospect hired us for privacy work. 

Wrapping It Up

A winning PR plan has many parts and players, from the marketing staff to the lawyers themselves. When applied to promotion of firm awards, the combination can be powerful. Winning awards isn’t easy, so take advantage of the opportunity to promote your firm, your lawyers and your work.  

The results may amaze you.

How to Prepare Attorneys for Media Opportunities

Media interviews can be intimidating but they don’t have to be if you take time to prepare. While lawyers are experienced professionals, most don’t speak to the media every day. You need to make sure your attorneys are ready for anything that may come their way. Helpful tips include:

  • Stick to key messages.
  • Remind attorneys what is “on and off-the-record.”
  • Research the reporter and provide past articles to attorneys.
  • Inform attorneys on how to handle pregnant pauses or lulls in the conversation. This is often when missteps occur.
  • Explain how to answer questions they don’t want to address. Redirect.
  • Reinforce that they can’t review the story before it gets published, in most cases.
  • If possible, take the opportunity to host the call. It’s an excellent opportunity to hear directly from the attorney on the law and/or trends that could be leveraged for future PR.  This came in handy during this instance when the reporter made a slight error and I was able to easily offer a correction as I had taken notes.

Heather McMichael
Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP

Heather McMichael is the public relations manager at Shook, Hardy & Bacon. A former journalist, she has spent more than 15 years promoting lawyers and currently serves as the LMA PR SIG co-chair in 2022. She produced a documentary on a woman legal trailblazer that aired on PBS stations across the country.