Why Law Firm Managing Partners Need to be on Social Media

How can law firms use social media to attract more clients and further their public reputations? As a digital publicity and online reputation management specialist working with executives on social media, my first response to that is to put more managing partners on social media and optimize their personal brands for the good of the firm.

In today’s new media world, leaders – including law firm managing partners – have the added responsibility to be the face of their organizations on social media just as they are expected to represent the company offline. However, buy-in for this notion has been slow.

According to Business Insider, celebrities and influencers aren’t the only ones using social media to bolster their career.

Chief executive officers — in between managing some of the world’s largest corporations — are using Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn more than ever to build an online following. The business advisory company Brunswick analyzed the social media profiles of 790 CEOs of S&P 500 and FTSE 350 companies to find the ones who cultivate the best audiences online.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, for instance, posts to Facebook nearly every day. Nasdaq’s chief Adena Friedman regularly engages with her nearly half a million LinkedIn followers.

Having a good social media presence leads to more trust among employees and shareholders. Around 65% of US employees say it’s important for CEOs to actively communicate about their companies online, particularly during times of crisis, the report found.

All of the above holds true for law firm leadership.

Act as a Spokesperson
Traditionally, marketing and public relations executives (in most industries) have been responsible for advocating and communicating the message about a company and its benefits to the public, while corporate leadership has been charged with “shaping the market” as a thought leader. And, up until now, the outlet for thought leadership has been traditional media, i.e., print, radio, and television.

To that end there are various executives who have been bucking this stereotype of the silent leader for a long time now, including Richard Branson of Virgin; Doug Conant of Avon and the former Campbell Soup CEO; Peter Aceto, the former CEO of ING Direct, now with Tangerine; and Bill Gates former CEO of Microsoft. Perhaps they are more inclined to be visible online because they are known to the public as the founders of their organizations and products, or, in some cases, they were naturally drawn to social/digital media from the get-go.

It’s only natural that a law firm managing partner who is not overly personable by nature will be less open and approachable on social media. He or she may be an exceptional leader, but may not be as vocal about his or her passion for the legal industry, and that’s OK. Not everyone can act in the same bold way on social media as the likes of Sir Richard Branson. However, managing partners are leaders, and therefore they need to do more than manage the direction of the firm. They also need to manage the law firm’s image by acting as its spokesperson, setting the tone for the firm, including the development of a viable digital persona across social media.

Get Social Media Support
Of course, a managing partner is accountable for the law firm’s brand in terms of whatever they say and do online and off. Their opinions can be taken out of context on social media, as information can be amplified, instantaneously transmitted and easily misinterpreted.

This is why it can be a prudent measure to put someone in place to manage your law firm social media, or at least edit and consult managing partners on the use of social media, to assuage any fears. This can be the job of the firm’s PR/marketing agency, the in-house marketing department or someone who is dedicated to supporting firm management.

In the digital age, law firm management shouldn’t be asking whether social media is right for them. The question is how they will use social media to enhance not just their own images, but the overall brand of the firm.


The power of Twitter as a true broadcast media channel

As a publicist who has worked in the evolving social and Web media industry for close to 10 years now, I have witnessed many industries that were once “afraid of new media” slowly embrace its reach and broadcast power. Little by little, organizations from financial services to politics continue to dip a toe into the unfamiliar waters of social media. A recent study by a British PR firm showed that some 264 world leaders now have Twitter accounts, and the researchers believe that 30 of them do their own tweeting. Altogether, world leaders have sent more than 350,000 tweets to almost 52 million followers – more proof that Twitter is a true (new) media channel (and, in case you haven’t heard, self-production is not a requirement).

While 16 of the G-20 leaders are actively using Twitter for public diplomacy, many heads of state and government leaders in China, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Italy still do not choose to broadcast on the social media channel.

As you probably have surmised by now, quite a few industries have just started to explore communicating in “the Twitterverse,” including the legal industry. Legal marketers, mostly on the agency side, are naturally very involved in social media, but it’s interesting to me that there are still so many legal professionals who cannot understand why we even need to bother with Twitter. Perhaps referring to this new media channel as the Twitterverse might be a deterrent? I’m not sure why the public relations firm that conducted the study even uses that term. Like it or not, Twitter is a real media channel, not another universe. I wonder if television was treated in the same manner back in the day – I have no doubt it was. Let’s not forget that Twitter was the “media channel” that actually broke the Japan earthquake news. I think that was the turning point.

Regardless, much like traditional media, most professionals in any industry who are not public-relations savvy should not self-produce or broadcast on Twitter at will. There is a difference between professional social media broadcasting on Twitter and the kind of broadcasting a teenager might engage in when talking to friends about a new boyfriend or the school dance.

How do we, as a public relations firm and legal marketers, support legal professionals (from partners and lawyers to vendors) in embracing the power of Twitter as a true broadcast media channel? Or should I say as “a broadcast channel that embraces brand journalism”? As a public relations firm, our job is to show our clients in the legal industry how to build a relevant and appealing content strategy, and how to broadcast resulting content in a tactical way that will support online reputation and build an approachable online persona that people will trust.

I believe that, if produced and managed correctly, social (or new) media is a great way for lawyers and firms to build “good public reputation,” as well as better publicity, via best online thought leadership practices, including broadcasting interesting and important (“good”) news about one’s firm, practice, clients or business or the industry overall. Building a better online persona via a broadcast channel like Twitter, as well as in other networks such as LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube, among others, is more important than ever before. In this age of new media, a corporate brand – and especially a personal professional business profile – that simply sits dormant as a directory listing does not do much for any organization or individual, unless perhaps you’re the president of the United States. But even then, what is the use of a stagnant social media profile in a highly active broadcast channel?

As social media continues to evolve as a legitimate broadcast media channel, those who do not use it as such (within reason and produced in a “human and lifelike manner”) will not reach the kind of PR or marketing goals they are looking to obtain on the Internet. There are ways to hold back confidential information, as well as ways to pull in the right audience by sharing interesting ideas, facts and news.

Designing effective content and engagement that will continue to attract moving and ever-evolving audiences is a key component to being successful on Twitter and beyond. Delivery and presentation of content must also rely on knowledge about the audience. We help our clients with both sides of the process.