Optimize the Return on Your Investment with Publicity

For sponsors, reaching prospective clients motivates and dominates their thinking about whether to roll out a survey. Survey reports promote the expertise of the sponsor and raise awareness of it among potential buyers. Burnishing a firm’s brand, a survey showcases the knowledge possessed by the partners or executives, their relationships with prospects and clients, and what they know about legal issues. Combining those resources with proprietary data, previously unseen findings, and graphical capabilities, a survey’s published report makes tangible the smarts of the sponsor.

My assessment of the best returns on investment (ROI) for publicity is reflected in this list of potential actions. Based on my understanding of the legal industry world, I’ve put them in decreasing order of effectiveness.

Articles: A reputable survey with a minimum number of respondents should generate multiple article ideas. Articles of 1200 to 2000 words usually satisfy editors, while a graphic in the article brightens their day. You can reuse graphics that you prepared for your report. Articles can include quotes by people who are knowledgeable in the field. A firm might team with a journalist who brings skills and an eye to sniff out new ideas, quotes, and a different perspective.

Executive meetings: Another approach is to schedule a visit to a major client or prospect. Your entre is a tailored discussion of the findings and your recommendations, the recommendations being embedded in the report or offered extemporaneously at the meeting. You shape your findings to fit the company’s situation and address the issues the executive(s) bring up.

Breakfast briefings: By this term I mean inviting a handful of clients, respondents, or prospects to share a bagel with a few your law firm’s partners. During the meal they talk about the report, or anything it triggers. The get-together lets attendees meet and network with others who have the same interest (or appetite). While not as personalized as an executive meeting, they take less preparation, cost less per person, and yet create opportunities.

Webinars: We have already written about webinars, and how they engineer opportunities to deepen your contacts with respondents and other attendees. Successful webinars result from thoughtful preparation, presentation skills, and technical prowess.

Customized mailings: All law firms and legal vendors have lists of key clients or prospective clients. They might mail the report to them (and possibly collateral material). Mailings take time and funding, but the task can be delegated and its reach is broad (plus take-up is measurable).

Press releases: Once you send a press release to news outlets that might want to write about your findings, journalists will call about the release and want to ask questions. They are particularly eager to find out what’s new, what are the trends, and what surprised you. The articles they write position whoever is interviewed as knowledgeable, an expert in the field. Such articles also have the benefit that the journalist might reach out to others and get their views on what you have discovered.

Trade Groups: Surveys done by law firms often focus on particular industries and their legal issues. Most industries have organized a trade group to lobby for them and to serve as a clearinghouse for information. If your survey meshes with the goals of such a group, they can help get in touch with members and let them know about the opportunity. They may well have a monthly publication or a list serve that will bring your survey, and later your report, to the attention of many potential clients. Also, most trade groups organize conferences.

Interviews: Survey sponsors can leverage their respondents by asking to interview them. This invitation could be extended in the thank you email that you send with a canned email. What they say about the topic may stimulate articles, white papers, webinar content, and more. Law firms and providers of services to them cherish the chance to speak with executives at corporations or senior lawyers.

Conferences: To put on a conference is a major undertaking, but to link the publication of a survey report to a major conference that shares a topic is an excellent idea. The conference organizers might welcome your survey invitations alerting invitees to the conference and in return they might promote your survey as a bonus for conference attendees. This kind of synergy shares similarities with what book publishers look for – you help me, I’ll help you.

Blog posts: Many law firms maintain a blog, and some practice groups or individual partners host one on their own. Either way, the blog gives a means for reaching readers of the blog as well as those who come upon it by searching on the web. Search engine optimization (SEO) techniques are beyond the scope of this guidebook.

YouTube: To be trendy and adventurous, publish a video on YouTube regarding your key findings. It will not likely lead to much, but it is au courant and you can cite to it in your other forms of publicity.

Podcasts: This method of publicizing a survey’s findings would be unusual, but judging from the myriad legal related podcasts, many people find them rewarding to release. For example, the law firms Baker Donelson and Buchanan Ingersoll both host podcasts. Other podcasts that cover management issues include “The Mostly Legal Podcast”, “Legal Toolkit,” and “Un-Billable Hour.”

White papers: White papers deliver deeper thoughts than a survey report. They have less graphic glitz and more text and they refer to other studies in the area. A white paper should be more sophisticated, more academic, and more profound than an article.

Series of surveys: When a firm carries out a survey for a few years in a row, it builds a brand. The series survey becomes increasingly better known by the market and penetrates increasingly more widely. The series can produce trend data and analyses.

Other promotional techniques exist (such as talking points for partners and marketing collateral), but the 13 techniques sketched above account for most of the survey publicity I have seen. The intellectual capital generated by a completed survey project should propel all manner of promotions over a prolonged period. These methods all feed on each other and boost each other. A full-scale publicity campaign for a survey report can reap significant benefits in awareness and opportunities.