I’ve followed with great interest the stories in legal industry media covering how firms struggle mightily with return-to-office issues, while others seek to capitalize on a hybrid-friendly approach. My recent move from an in-house position in a hybrid environment to an agency that’s fully remote had me thinking about how firms can ensure their marketing, business development (BD) and public relations (PR) teams work together and thrive in a hybrid environment.

Where Do I Start?

It’s important for marketing, BD and PR to have a shared understanding of the firm’s brand, positioning, financial goals and related KPIs to succeed in reaching and resonating with the firm’s targeted audiences. Making the time to connect and collaborate here will lead to a clearer understanding of the opportunities, pain points and bottlenecks in your firm as they relate to marketing, BD and PR.

Start by asking questions that foster critical thinking — and a dialogue — and allow each respective team to share its perspective. Great thought-starter questions include What’s unique about our firm? What speaks to our clients’ needs? What messages do we want to convey? What educates our clients and makes them feel secure and validated in their decision to hire our firm? What information do clients and prospects need at each point in the decision-making process? What results can we highlight to engage new clients?

Document the collective understanding and answers to these questions in great detail because these will inform your strategy, identify relevant tactics, introduce processes to make collective efforts more efficient, define your metrics and generate a feedback loop for continuous improvement.

What Will We Measure?

Management guru Peter Drucker once said, “[Only] what gets measured, gets managed.” Setting up a formal reporting structure can be simple and direct. Marketing, PR and BD teams would need to convene and determine a set of KPIs, identify methods of capturing data, decide who needs to receive data reports and analysis, and grow efforts from there.

Eight Ideas to Jumpstart Your Measurement Program

  • Ask directly, during attorney business planning meetings, what’s worked and what hasn’t.
  • Measure your firm against a competitor in a particular area. Develop a plan of attack to take market share from them or increase yours. For example, is a competitor earning media coverage on a hot topic? Are they producing owned content available on their website, in their social media feeds, and in mediums like podcasts and video? What’s their share of voice on the topic and its related issues compared to yours?
  • Socialize relevant and timely content by email with prospects/clients and measure the responses you receive.
  • Use Google Analytics or a keyword planner to uncover hot topics and have the respective teams create opportunities around those. Use landing pages to capture emails and data from interested parties.
  • Measure growth over time in contact databases, social media followers or pitch/RFP win rate.
  • Set quantitative and qualitative goals for BD, marketing and PR outreach before, during and after your event (e.g., new contacts, leads generated, newsletter opt-ins, webinar attendees, proactive media placements, targeted media outlets, etc.).
  • Share successes with the attorneys, practice group chairs and other appropriate parties to increase participation in your efforts. Measure and document the increase in participants over time.
  • Visualize your data and findings to compare annual or quarterly results. Be sure to include specifics about the value of wins arising out of profile-raising activities, especially if you have client/matter numbers and can track the revenue generated.

Action Items for Fostering Marketing, BD and PR Collaboration

Let’s go! With your documentation in hand, pair PR professionals with practice-specific marketing and BD teams so they are immersed in the substance of the practice and can be better at identifying the PR initiatives that will achieve BD goals. An effortless way to accomplish this is to attend meetings hosted by each counterpart.

For example, include PR team members in internal BD team meetings so they understand the current direction of the practice, can suggest ways to leverage PR to support BD efforts and can take advantage of new developments, new hires, big wins, emerging trends and notable achievements. Likewise, include the marketing and BD team members in internal PR team meetings, so they understand the communications strategy. If appropriate, invite marketing and BD team members to meetings with the firm’s external PR agency. The BD team can play an integral role in helping the external agency understand the firm’s business goals as well as how it can support the BD and marketing teams.

If your role is primarily public relations, conduct research and deliver information meant to generate visibility for the firm with a focus on awards and rankings, bylined articles, media pitch topics, an editorial calendar, speaking engagement opportunities, and webinar or seminar ideas.

If you're in a marketing or BD role, research revenue and financial metrics for the office, practice or industry group and present to your PR counterparts to determine priorities. Provide data on the top areas where clients are receiving counsel.

What Can Results Look Like?

This example demonstrates the outcomes of your planning, collaboration and action.

Your BD team is singularly focused on identifying trends to drive new business. A recent trend is litigation stemming from food and beverage false advertising. Any of the teams — marketing, PR or BD — recognized the nascent trend and identified an attorney who would partner with the teams to demonstrate their litigation capabilities to this industry. The PR team added industry publications to the editorial calendar and nominated the attorney for a national industry award, and they won!

The publicity from the award generates leads where new clients attributed the decision to hire your firm, at least in part, because of the award and corresponding media coverage. With the credibility of an earned media placement, you coach the attorney to reconnect with contacts in the food and beverage industry. The BD team reports this effort garnered pitches for your firm respective of the industry and litigation trend. With the BD team hard at work on the pitches, the PR team expands on the foundation of the existing media coverage and nets additional opportunities to provide commentary, strengthening the attorney and your firm as a thought leader in this area.

Now What?

Find a niche area or where a small group of attorneys have a depth of experience. Create PR plans for this group and partner with BD to establish your metrics. Execute and work collaboratively and diligently to measure and report against your KPIs. While this may seem overwhelming, imagine your efforts as an incubator leading to establishing processes and strategies adopted firmwide.

Return-to-office, hybrid or fully remote work settings is something entirely out of your control, unless you decide to resign. The framework here guides you to ensure your marketing, BD and PR teams work together and thrive in any environment.

Here’s to your success!

This article originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of ALM's Law Journal Newsletters Marketing the Law Firm.