Author Archives: scottmozarsky

8 Ways Law Firms (& Other Professional Services Companies) Can Use the Internet to Attract New Clients

legal marketingBefore moving into my current role as Chief Commercial Officer for PR Newswire, I worked for seven years as an M&A associate at two multinational law firms and then spent six years dealing with law firms (small and large) in my role as General Counsel for a large media group.   I have a unique perspective, having been involved in every aspect of law firm marketing, including:

  • Marketing to clients
  • Being marketed to, and
  • Marketing to law firms as a vendor, encouraging use of PR Newswire’s marketing & communications services.

I am passionate about law firm marketing because on the whole, law firms do a poor job of leveraging the tools available to them to drive business.  So, without further ado, here are my eight tips aimed at helping law firms optimize their online marketing efforts:

Your Website

A law firm’s website serves two purposes. It enables clients and others to find information about the firm and it also is the hub of a firm’s marketing activities.  Any marketer will tell you that your target audiences will spend more time on your site and click more often if your site contains multimedia elements, such as videos, photos and charts. Sadly, many law firm sites do not contain any of these elements (other than pictures of lawyers).  Blending the About Us section of your website with your News & Events content enables the firm to engage in brandstreaming (i.e. developing an ongoing flow of useful information that attracts potential clients and ultimately differentiates your firm from competitors while at the same time building authority and goodwill for your brand with the audience.)

Content Marketing

It is critical that a firm, regardless of whether it is small or large, engage in thought leadership activities online.  This includes publishing articles, white papers, webinars, short videos, etc. that address the questions and concerns your potential customers may have, and thus building credibility with this audience.  Law firms do a decent job of this, but the problem is that a significant part of the universe to which the relevant firm is marketing itself will never see this content.  That is because a very large majority of the content that law firms creates is placed on their website and maybe distributed to their email lists (i.e. a known audience).  In order to successfully drive more leads and clients, firms need to amplify what they are doing to their known audiences by distributing their content throughout earned, paid and owned media. Email, broadcast and print advertising can be effective, but they are that much more effective when the relevant content is distributed to numerous other relevant sites online.  This makes the content more discoverable.

Influencer Engagement

Bloggers and journalists produce content for communities that follow them.  Each of these bloggers and journalists owns a small piece or real estate online that is trafficked by interested parties.  By engaging with influencers, a firm is able to rent a portion of this real estate so that it can establish itself with the relevant audience.  How can a firm do this?  Well clearly, using a credible third-party distribution service helps because journalists and bloggers need content and are more likely to use content from a reliable source.  Another tactic is to use platforms that get experts (i.e. attorneys) quoted by relevant journalists and bloggers.

Testing

One of the most popular tactics being used by marketing teams is A/B testing of their online environments.  This involves serving up two or three different treatments of a webpage to an audience and then determining which of these treatments is most likely to cause the relevant audience to take the action that the firm wants them to take (downloading a white paper, watching a video, attending a webinar, reaching out to a specific attorney, etc.).

Social Media

Like most lawyers, I have control issues.  Giving up control by posting something in social media can be scary.  That said, more and more firms are doing it, especially to establish their attorneys as thought leaders.  Your clients and potential clients are on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and social media is often the best way to engage with them and establish yourself as the go to person on a topic.  There are many ways to increase your followers on social networks.

Driving Traffic Through Distribution

The adage “If you build it, they will come,” doesn’t apply to your web site, and when it comes to delivering your message to new audiences, your email list won’t fill the bill.  So how do you get the message out to the broader universe?  In addition to the social media tactics above, positioning the firm as a credible media source and distributing press releases  announcing the availability of new studies, articles or other materials will put your content on the virtual information map, and ensure it’s seen by broader audience.  Keep in mind that you can also distribute other sorts of timely commentary, which leads us to the next tip:

Newsjacking

Whether it be a key Supreme Court decision or some other event, things are happening every day that provide an opportunity for a firm to share its perspective and expertise.  We have seen many firms jump in on issues such as Obamacare, new tax laws, the fiscal cliff, gun control, etc.  By engaging in newsjacking, the firm is able to draft off of an event to accelerate its Marketing efforts and drive more leads.  And the beauty of this is that so long as the quality of the content is high, a small firm can be just as effective as a large firm.

Search Engines

I saved this one for last, for a reason.  And no, I’m not talking about spending a fortune on targeted ad-word buys.  One of the biggest benefits of publishing the content and fostering the interactions mentioned above is the fact that these activities can have a powerful impact on your web site’s organic search rank.   Providing fresh and current information gives search engines incentive to come back to your site repeatedly, and social interactions send potent signals to the search engines indicating people are finding the content useful.  Because the majority of internet searchers choose to click on organic links rather than sponsored ads within their search results,  it is easy to see why getting your firm onto the first page of search results is important.

So if you want to increase your client base, a good place to start is your web site.  As you develop and publish content to your site, use social media, press releases and multimedia elements to drive discovery and reach new audiences.

PR Newswire will be exhibiting at the Lawyernmomics Conference, April 26-27. Tickets are still available and can be purchased here.

Scott Mozarsky

Author

As EVP – Global Chief Commercial Officer, Scott oversees PR Newswire’s commercial activities worldwide, spearheading the company’s efforts to meet the communications, marketing and investor relations needs of its customers. Scott and his team ensure that PR Newswire’s services align with industry demand by identifying and integrating new tools and technologies that mesh with the company’s core communications offerings and provide a platform for continued growth.

Social media, the SEC & the impact for public companies

Author Scott Mozarsky is PR Newswire's Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer.

Author Scott Mozarsky is PR Newswire’s Executive Vice President and
Chief Commercial Officer.

The Securities and Exchange Commission issued guidance yesterday that permits public companies to disclose material information such as earnings through social channels — such as Facebook and Twitter – as long as investors have been alerted about which social media will be used to disseminate such information.  The SEC guidance related to an investigation that it has completed concerning a post by Reed Hastings (Netflix’s CEO) on his personal Facebook page that contained material information regarding Netflix’s performance.

So, is the SEC guidance a good thing or a bad thing, and what is impact do we expect this guidance to have on disclosure and the investing public?

We believe fact that the SEC is embracing social media and encouraging companies to use social channels to disseminate information is a very good thing.  Companies benefit by disclosing information as broadly as possible.  Using social channels in addition to company websites and press releases to distribute material information ensures more engagement with a broader audience.  In fact, PR Newswire is encouraging our customers and other public companies to complement their disclosure of material information by using social channels in addition to press releases, their websites, emails, etc.

That said, similar to the guidance that the SEC provided regarding web disclosure back in 2008, yesterday’s statement by the SEC was ambiguous and could be read to permit disclosure of material non-public information solely through social channels.  This would not be a good thing for companies, investors, capital markets, analysts, traders, journalists, or anyone else with a stakes in public companies.  We believe it is highly unlikely that companies will use social channels as their sole means of disclosing material information.  Doing so would limit severely limit the audience.

What does this mean for our customers?

The SEC has clearly stated that the purpose of Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure) is to promote broad and simultaneous disclosure of material information.  Investors should have an even playing field.  Selective disclosure is not a good thing and is prohibited by Reg FD.  Given that the internet and social channels have become a central part of everyone’s lives, the SEC wants to encourage companies to use their web sites as a core part of their overall disclosure strategy and this now extends to social media.

Companies that use their websites as the sole means of disclosure run the risk of uneven disclosure that disadvantages certain types of investors.   The SEC has been clear that the idea that investors might have to go and look for the information rather than getting it through a broader distribution is far from ideal.  The SEC has also previously noted that some investors don’t have easy access to the Web.  Additionally, law firms have consistently been advising their clients that the only way that such clients can be certain that they are meeting their disclosure obligations is to push the information to investors using press releases and other online distribution.

For more on the implications and risks of this ruling for the financial markets and investing public, please see Scott’s discussion on the Building Investor Compliance blog titled, “PR Newswire applauds SEC guidance on social media.”

Some Clarity on Web Disclosure, and Transparency

Today’s New York Times has an article relating to my blog post last week regarding the tenth anniversary of Regulation FD and Disclosure.  The article can be found at:
http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2010/11/08/a-lack-of-transparency-in-s-e-c-disclosure-rule/

It is great to see the mainstream press focusing on the issue of web disclosure.  While I obviously agree with the points that the article makes, the interesting thing for me is the focus on Wall Street.  While Wall Street is important here, the bigger issue is the way that uneven disclosure hurts retail investors.

Individuals who neither have the technology nor time to monitor numerous corporate web sites are at a distinct disadvantage in situations where companies use advisory releases or limit disclosure solely to their corporate websites.

As one of the people who commented on the Times article stated, "disclose means making something visible for an audience, not just making it visible." This is a key point and one that should be top of mind at all times to all who are involved in the financial communications field.  It cannot be understated.

Unfortunately, it is a message that is not always appreciated by all.

The New York Times article also quotes an unnamed corporate lawyer who implies that by limiting disclosure to a corporate website, a company can avoid sharing its information with third parties thereby mitigating the risk of leaks.  What this lawyer is recommending is nothing less than communications agoraphobia!

PR Newswire has been in business for over 55 years handling market-moving information well in advance of such information becoming public.  We have invested millions of dollars in security and training and background checks to ensure that leaks do not happen.  Simply stated, leaks do not happen. Basing an argument on the most remote “what if” is specious at best; irresponsible at worst.

Thankfully, the majority of corporate lawyers I’ve spoken with contend that a company that limits disclosure or that engages in selective disclosure is making the lives of its shareholders and journalists who follow the company more difficult - and may be creating the exact uneven disclosure situation that Reg FD was designed to prevent.

Using a corporation's website should be a key part of a company's disclosure methodology as long as it is part of an integrated disclosure strategy that employs all push and pull elements available to a company.  Anything less is just an attempt to take a shortcut at the expense of one’s investors, stakeholders and the public at large.  It is wrong.  Plain wrong.

The good news, however, is we are seeing more and more respected thought leaders, such as Andrew Ross Sorkin, call out these inequities and praise the true value of full and fair disclosure.

Authored by Scott Mozarsky, chief commercial officer, PR Newswire.

For more ideas on engaging investor audiences online, read PR Newswire’s new paper, IR Rising, on how IROs are leveraging online content to build audience for key messages.

Take a Pause, Reflect, Remember – The Spirit of Disclosure

With October marking the 10th anniversary of RegFD, now is an appropriate time for everybody in the industry – communicators, IROs, CEOs, institutional investors, retail traders – to take a step back and consider the true value of this landmark legislation.

In a nutshell, RegFD is designed to ensure that all individuals, companies and investors, everywhere, no matter size of fund, geographic location or industry status have access to the same information at the same time and with the same degree of opportunity.  To borrow a phrase from the military, RegFD is meant to guarantee that “no one is left behind.”

It is a simple, direct, egalitarian concept that should be applauded at every turn.

Yet recently, in a select few but visible instances, the foundation upon which RegFD is built is coming under threat.  Under the auspices of “SEC interpretive guidance” and the notion that certain corporate websites may attract enough traffic to be perceived as a common meeting point, the best intentions of “full-and-fair disclosure” are being brushed aside in favor of the limited engagement and single-pronged disclosure associated with advisory releases and/or website only disclosure.

Plainly and simply, this practice contradicts the intent of Reg FD.  It limits engagement and creates an uneven playing field among investors. It makes life more difficult for the large majority of investors and for the media disrupting their workflow.  In most instances, it limits or delays pick up and opens the door for companies to engage in selective disclosure. While it very well may allow a company to comply with its legal obligations, it is not the right option for anybody who has any involvement with a publicly traded company on any level.

Sure, you may accuse PR Newswire of being biased because our business will be impacted if a large number of companies move towards web only disclosure.  And yes, part of our business is built on providing a proven, efficient system for disclosing material information to the widest possible audience.  That said, this part of our business accounts for less than 10% of our overall global revenues, and we have significant revenues relating to hosting and managing investor relations websites that benefits from web disclosure.  This issue is a lot bigger than PR Newswire or any of its competitive set.  An integrated approach to disclosure is the only way that a company can accomplish maximum engagement with its constituents and create a level playing field.  This can only be achieved through the use of push and pull tactics including a strong corporate website as well as press releases and other tools.

If you take a moment to reflect on RegFD and the spirit of disclosure, it becomes quickly apparent that the “solutions” being proposed today are not in the public’s best interests.

RegFD is about enhancing access.  Not limiting it.

RegFD is about ubiquity.  Not selectivity.

The Spirit of Disclosure is about being open and engaging.   Not restrictive.

The Spirit of Disclosure is about understanding the needs of the “man on the street.” Not just the “man in the suite.”

So, to the vast majority of investors, media, corporate communications professionals, attorneys and public executives who still recognize the immense value that full-and-fair disclosure provides, I ask you to celebrate ten years of improved disclosure due to RegFD and join me in ensuring that it remains as vital tomorrow as it is today.

Authored by Scott Mozarsky, chief commercial officer, PR Newswire