In last month's issue of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, we presented an overview of the value of personal branding and reputation management. We are back this month with a specific inventory you can review, as either in-house or external counsel, to make sure that your on-line and public reputation aligns with your actual strengths, as well as the needs of the clients and markets you are targeting for new business. Please note: lawyer ethics rules apply to online marketing and social media activity, so please be sure to read applicable rules before launching a new profile or project. Your firm or company may have policies that you need to abide by, as well. Outside counsel can rely upon their marketing and business development teams to partner with them on both the creative and thoughtful aspects of their branding program, as well as the ethical considerations required prior to launch
What is your purpose in being online? What do you need to achieve with your brand presence? Which of your core values do you wish to highlight in order to attract clients? Which clients and markets require a strong online profile (international clients certainly use online resources frequently) – and which don't see your online profile as essential? For in-house counsel in particular, how are you using your online profile to secure your next job or promotion?
Write a simple plan – no more than a page – to get started, and don't get overly caught up in the details. As above, outside counsel should reach out to their marketing and business development departments for best practices and new ideas. In-house lawyers should ask their communications and marketing directors for advice, as well.
Here is a basic step that many professionals miss: Google yourself. I recommend that you enter a recurring calendar reminder to do so on the first of each month to see what clients and potentials see when they enter your name, with and without your firm name, on the major search engines. Without being too technical, Google adjusts its algorithms on a fairly regular basis, so the order of certain stories and mentions may change. You want to be on top of those mentions and changes. Be aware that there are opportunities to raise your profile higher on the search engines via a process called search engine optimization. Your marketing team can explain how that process works. There are also positive ways to lessen the impact of negative or neutral profiles or stories that crop up on the first page of search engine results. Most of those strategies involve an influx of good press that pushes the negative stories down further in the search engines. Either way, you can control to a reasonable extent what searchers find on search engines.
When you Google yourself, you will note how solid a contender LinkedIn is in owning the first spot on the search engines. This is true no matter how many Google changes or search engine optimization strategies exist. So for those still on the fence as to whether LinkedIn matters – the answer is an unequivocal yes. How does your profile read? Does it align with the bio you maintain on your company's or firm's website? It's a wise investment of your time to make sure that your profile paints a clear and concise picture of the areas and industries you serve so that clients and potential and future employers can easily seek you out. The biggest mistake that lawyers make, almost universally, is that they load their profiles with turgid legalese that no one finds compelling. I believe that you can be a little bit more of an individual on your LinkedIn page than you can on your firm’s website. Just keep in mind that viewers will stay on your page only five seconds before they decide to move on to the next name, so consider what you want them to see immediately to "hook" them to stay longer and learn about all your credentials.
Many of us don't engage in Twitter and think its kid’s play. Well – take a look at how journalists at the Wall Street Journal tweet stories while they are on the scene of a court case or a huge auction at Sotheby’s. You will often hear critical information before news outlets can get them up onto the Internet (note of caution – the information in an individual tweet is not verified in the same way that a news outlet's might be). Each one of us should take a hard look at the value of issuing tweets, but I recommend that you consider getting an account and “following” those sources who may offer you critical news. Wouldn’t you like to be the first to let a client know that their competitor has just announced a deal or won a relevant court case?
There are many schools of thought as to whether or not professionals should mix business and their personal connections on Facebook. This is really an individual decision, but I think you should be conservative when posting anything online. After all, it's hard to wish away that picture of you in a Yankees tee shirt after your boss casually mentions that she is a die-hard Red Sox fan!
Carolyn Sandano has led marketing efforts for several AMLaw 20 firms in the last several years. Please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.