During this year so far, our country and our world have navigated crises daily, with each event having the potential to generate tremendous backlash if a brand misspeaks or mishandles even the smallest aspect of communications. It is now more important than ever for law firms to be a source of truth and assistance for the rightfully concerned public. Despite our feelings about current public health and social justice issues, when we choose to speak out about them publicly, we expose our employers and ourselves to increased scrutiny. Since none of us can afford to remain silent, law firms need to not only vet content more carefully but also monitor online mentions of law firm names and attorney names now more than ever before via Online Reputation Management.
The quicker your firm and attorneys respond to issues, the better positioned you will be to contain them. Online reputation management (ORM) involves much more than damage control. Right now, as many still stay at home to some degree, business deals are not being closed over lunch or at a big conference. To weather these dramatic shifts, your best approach is reaching potential clients online; and, they need to be able to learn as much as possible about you – both on your website and elsewhere around the Internet.
Organize, Manage, and Optimize Your Law Firm’s Online Reputation
Reviews, search engine rankings, online directories, and badges on your website are some of the elements that matter most right now as they provide what prospects are looking for before they decide to reach out – independent third-party verification. Because of this, you cannot afford to take a break when it comes to your online credibility. While some businesses, including law firms, have set up internal protocols for monitoring and appropriately responding to digital brand mentions, most have not. Below, please find our top tips for managing your law firm’s online reputation.
- Create an internal protocol for responding when someone name-drops a lawyer or law firm online, which is called a mention. Your law firm needs to formalize how it will respond to the various digital mentions of its brand name and its lawyers’ names. Be sure to include maintaining a consistent professional voice and the steps to take once you are notified of a digital mention, which will vary by channel.
- Ensure your law firm owns its brand name on all potential channels, accounts, domain names, and other important potential digital assets. Do this for the lawyers’ names too if the entity is run by a solo practitioner or a small number of attorneys. It is important to ensure that someone unaffiliated with your firm cannot acquire a domain name or social channel that utilizes your law firm’s branding elements or one of your lawyers’ names. The best way to ensure this is by buying and/or setting up as many accounts as possible so that the firm (or each individual lawyer) owns and controls them.
- Once you establish an internal protocol for handling online mentions and ensure your firm owns and controls its own digital identity (name) on all of the important digital channels, set up monitoring tools to track mentions. Your first step should be to set up Google Alerts to receive real-time or daily emails with alerts on any variation of your law firm name (and its D/B/A, if any) and the full names and nicknames of any partners or shareholders. You will not want to wait to read these reports once a week – I set my Alerts up to arrive in real time for clients so I can be aware, as soon as possible, if someone has said or done something that negatively affects the firm’s reputation. In addition to Google Alerts, you can engage in more sophisticated monitoring with tools like Mention, TalkWalker, BrandWatch, Rankur, and more.
- Content marketing is an important way to establish an attorney as a legal industry thought leader; and, it also provides digital credibility. When you engage in content marketing – both on your website and off-site on other industry platforms – you can answer legal questions prospective clients are searching for on Google. Write content with a 500-word minimum, including the applicable keyword phrases users most commonly search to find the related information they need. Publishing your own content online is another way to engage in online reputation management – speaking in your own voice about the topics on which you are an expert.
- Claim, build out, optimize, and respond to reviews on your firm’s Google My Business Listing (GMB). Implement a review response strategy if you do not already have one in place. Adjust your response techniques as needed, such as replying calmly during the current pandemic. Ensure your team has management-approved language to use in review responses while ensuring brand continuity.
- Since many digital legal industry listings (also referred to as citations) show up organically on page one of search results for a lawyer’s name and a law firm’s name, it is important to claim, build out, and optimize each listing, and to respond to reviews on sites such as Avvo, Martindale-Hubbell, and more.
- Social media platforms are built for virtual interaction. Responding to mentions, comments, and questions on social media is one of the most important aspects of a social media strategy. Watching for tagged mentions is one thing, but 31% of company mentions on Twitter do not tag the brand’s account; therefore, you need more sophisticated systems in place to monitor social mentions that do not tag, @ mention, or link to your account in any way.
- Monitor other review sites like Yelp. Respond to reviews within the first 24 hours to protect your brand’s reputation. This shows former, current, and potentially future clients that you are listening and taking their concerns seriously.
- Magnify the power of positive reviews by reformatting them and posting them on your law firm website, social media channels, email marketing, and other communications – both internal and external. Sharing good reviews engenders trust and encourages potential clients to retain your firm.
- In order to make the funds and time you spend on marketing and internal processes worth it, you must implement a regular schedule by which an internal employee or team of employees are responsible for monitoring and responding to all online mentions. If your law firm is small to medium sized and you do not have sufficient staff with the requisite time and/or skill set, consider outsourcing this work to an experienced digital marketer who regularly works with lawyers.
Digital Marketing For Lawyers: Only For Lawyers.
During times of uncertainty, it is essential that businesses monitor and maintain the health of their online reputations. Responding to an online mention quickly is often the only thing preventing it from snowballing into a public relations disaster. If you would like more information on how to set up internal alerts and how to engage in meaningful online reputation management of your law firm’s reputation, please contact us today.