September 28, 2021

Volume XI, Number 271

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September 27, 2021

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Legal Marketing in the Post COVID-19 Work Environment with Jaffe PR [PODCAST]

In this inaugural episode of the Legal News Reach podcast, Rachel and Jessica discuss marketing in the post-COVID work environment with Melanie Trudeau, Director of New Business & Digital Strategies with Jaffe PR. Read on below for a transcribed version of our discussion. 

Rachel:
Hello, and welcome to Legal News Reach, the official podcast for the National Law Review. Stay tuned for our discussion on the latest trends in legal marketing, SEO, law firm best practices and more.

Rachel:
My name is Rachel.

Jessica:
And I'm Jessica. We are the hosts for Legal News Reach, and web content specialists here at the National Law Review. In this episode, we'll be taking a look at marketing for the post-COVID work environment with Melanie Trudeau, Director of New Business and Digital Strategies with Jaffe PR. Melanie, would you like to introduce yourself a little bit to the listeners today?

Melanie Trudeau:
Sure, yeah. Thanks for having me. I've been with the agency since 2013, and we work with... Primarily law firms around the country, all different types of firms, different sizes, everything from unique boutiques, all the way up to Am Law 200 firms and kind of everything in between. And so my role at Jaffe is to be the specialist who handles anything related to digital marketing, and we function kind of as a team. Some of our clients we just do digital marketing with, sometimes we do more full service accounts. So we would do everything from PR to creative, to branding, to other... Like executing their full marketing program. We work with marketing directors, we work with marketing partners, managing partners, marketing committees, all different scenarios within law firms. And we also work with legal associations and legal vendors as well.

Jessica:
So to get things started, one of the big questions, what are some of the unique challenges, due to this year long pandemic that you're seeing?

Melanie Trudeau:
Yeah, so it kind of spans the gamut and it often depends on the type of firm. In general, there has been a shift from in-person events to more virtual and online events that attorneys and law firms are using to network and to promote their firm. Before the pandemic we'd have a lot of attorneys that would be speaking at conferences, even engaging in regional community events, whether those are chambers of commerce, those types of things, all of that ended with COVID and things moved online. So we've seen this shift towards webinars and podcasts like this one.

There's definitely maintained the writing side of it, so content creation, and it was just more the distribution tactics that have shifted a little bit. We're also seeing quite a significant growth in adoption of LinkedIn. I have a lot of attorneys, they use LinkedIn premium, even. So they're using it as more of a sales tool to prospect for people within their audience, and then using the sales funnel that premium creates to reach out to those people. So there's been, I think a good shift towards that, for social media, and something that was definitely needed within the industry.

Jessica:
That's something I think we've seen as well. A lot of what we do on the publishing side... Things that Rachel and I handle, we've seen a lot more webinars and things like that, like you were saying. Since they're doing a lot more digital, such as the webinars and changing their marketing for that, have you noticed more openness toward working environments that are digital as well and virtual?

Melanie Trudeau:
Yeah. Jaffe, we're a fully virtual agency and we have been for decades, but back before COVID, we kind of felt a lot of pressure that the only way to fully conduct that type of business would be to be in the office in person. I think law firms and... Whether it be the marketing directors or the marketing folks within a firm or if it's the attorneys, they realized that "Wow, we really can work virtually and we can be as effective if not more efficient with our time."

Jessica:
What are some ways that firms can adopt these challenges that maybe they didn't face before?

Melanie Trudeau:
Yeah. I think the impact of virtual workplace too has really transformed the industry. We'll have to see how it plays out. A lot of the firms we're working with now talk about, after the pandemic, having some type of split model where, if you want to work from home, you can work from home certain number of days a week, because they're realizing that attorneys can be productive from a virtual environment. So yeah, I think we'll have to see how it plays out in the next year or two.

Jessica:
Going back to the changes in the industry because of all these remote jobs or hiring or just web events with marketing, what are the top lessons, you hope, that the industry is going to learn moving forward? Especially in the next year or two when we see a lot of these changes really settling in after the pandemic

Melanie Trudeau:
A few things I would like to see stick around would be, the firms who were really adamant about people being in the office, and holding onto those strings... So giving some more autonomy to attorneys to just... They can do their work effectively from a home office, and then creating those efficiencies too, like, they don't have that daily commute, they don't have to spend all that time getting ready to go to work, and juggling childcare and all that. So you can create a lot more flexibility in the work environment and that's going to make firms competitive. Some firms are like "You marketing people, you to be in the office because you need to be taking care of us, and we need to watch you." And that's tough when you're saying then to your lawyers "Oh, you guys can work from home, but the marketing folks have to be in the office."

Melanie Trudeau:
So I've seen that, but I've also seen many more firms embracing this idea that marketing people can work virtually, and whether they go into the office once or twice a week to have those marketing committee type meetings, that they can still service the firm, and the practices, and the attorneys that they're working for. Again, it's going to become a... "Well, if you're going to force me to be in the office and have this extreme oversight when it's really not necessary, and I can get more independence working over this other firm..." They're going to... Talent's just going to move around to those firms that offer the best work environment.

Rachel:
Yeah. So sort of going off of these changes that you're seeing, do you see these... Sort of embracing remote working and other things like that, do you see permanently after COVID or do you think firms might slide back into old habits?

Melanie Trudeau:
Yeah, I think it's still TBD. We had a lot of firms in the spring we're saying, September 1st, we're back to either normal or a hybrid model, but firms are starting to pull back on that, now that... In various parts of the country, there is more spread of the virus. So now they're kind of backpedaling that a little bit, and now they're talking January 1st. They seem to set these deadlines, and then adjust as per what is happening with the pandemic. Generally, most firms we work with are going to start offering a hybrid model. So they're going to say... Whether it's marketing folks or whether it's their attorneys or paralegals or staff, they're going to say "You can work from home a number of days a week... Two or three days a week, and then we want you in the office [inaudible 00:08:04] days a week, and then we need you in the office for these specific meetings." Or whatever. So there seems to be this embrace of the hybrid approach.

Rachel:
Right. So you see all these news articles that talk about how work will change, you start to wonder, in the real world, will these changes really be permanent? And I think that hybrid model sort of hits that happy medium between, all right, we're not going to completely get rid of all these changes that we made during these times, but we're also sort of... We want to get back to that sense of normalcy.

Melanie Trudeau:
Yeah, and they've developed the infrastructure. So they have their IT set up, and so people are now able to work from home, whereas pre-pandemic, sometimes people couldn't even take a work computer home, or even use a VPN to get into their networks. So all of those technical pieces are still are in place now. So it's much easier for firms to create a hybrid model, whereas prior-pandemic, the IT folks would just... They wouldn't really accommodate a work from home model necessarily.

Rachel:
So to sort of go back to the specific tactics that law firms are using in marketing now. We've talked a bit about webinars, we've talked about videos and podcasts. So is email marketing still a thing that firms are doing no or is that going to the wayside now that people are focusing on these virtual things?

Melanie Trudeau:
Yeah. You know, it's funny, we think of email marketing as this kind of dinosaur of digital marketing, and it still remains one of the most effective ways to still reach your target audience... So, your list of subscribers, with information very, very quickly and very effectively. So surprisingly email marketing is still a very powerful tool in the kit. Now, it's often tied to a content marketing program and that's where... You guys know content, and you know that attorneys and firms who are writing thought leadership pieces, that's a great model for any type of law firm marketing program, and then email marketing becomes one of those distribution tactics for the content marketing program.

Rachel:
How does that play into this idea of law firms being able to diversify their marketing efforts post COVID-19? What are some ways that law firms can really stand out?

Melanie Trudeau:
I think taking a targeted approach has been the most effective. So, let's say a law firm has... Is a full service firm and they have a firm newsletter. And they've got all different areas of practice, it's very generic content, their audience is probably only interested in a segment of that information. Those types of generic newsletters don't work that well, but taking this more targeted approach to... Whether that's by practice or industry, then creating that message for the audience that where... How you've segmented your list, and just giving them the information that they need, is much more effective than a generic type of newsletter. Now, sometimes firms do firm news and firm announcements, whether those... They get some reads on them. Say for instance there's some rankings and recognitions or maybe they've done some community events. There's definitely interest for that, but I think oftentimes that type of material is better on social media versus an email campaign, whereas, I encourage my attorneys to use their email campaigns for informational content, thought leadership content.

The other thing that we do is, if there is a firm email marketing campaign that's been built, we often encourage... Even though your audience could be in the list, we often encourage attorneys to just forward a more personal approach. So, "I thought you might be interested in this legal alert it talks about blah, blah, blah, that you are interested in." So taking that... Thinking outside of a campaign, and using very personalized communication is often very effective, especially with in-house counsel or C-suites or those people who are getting hundreds of emails every day, and they just can't deal with them. If they get... Of course, an email from their outside counsel, they're more likely to read that versus some newsletter blast that they get.

Rachel:
You sort of touched on this a little bit earlier, but has the pandemic had an effect on how law firms execute these marketing strategies? So have you seen them sort of feel the transition and make sure all of these goals still get met? Or how has that really affected legal marketing?

Melanie Trudeau:
I've seen that legal marketing doing more types of trainings since the pandemic. And I don't know if it's a "Hey, let's all get together at lunch and let's do a LinkedIn training." Or if they're just like "You guys, you're not out speaking and there's all kinds of other things that we can't do during the pandemic. So let's focus on what we can do virtually." I have done a lot of lunch and learn programs since COVID and... Oh, you bring a relatively small group into other teams meeting or zoom meeting, and it's a very interactive type of collaborative session, and I think that helps from the firm perspective that it's informational and educational for the attorneys, but it also serves the purpose of "Let's have some connection outside of us sitting at our desks at home and pounding out client work." And that's been very different. We did it prepare endemic, but it just seems like way more of that is happening since we've all been more virtual.

Rachel:
What are some unique ways that attorneys can use both LinkedIn and other social media accounts to their advantage?

Melanie Trudeau:
So finally I'm seeing some really neat stuff, take LinkedIn, for example. So I'm starting to see some attorneys with more personal content on LinkedIn. Whereas LinkedIn is a professional platform and that's where you go for business stuff versus TikTok or something. But within that kind of professional platform, we're starting to see a little bit more personality. When I was having lunch today, I was looking through my home feed and there's one of our attorneys who... He's a named partner of a small boutique IP firm, and he's driving his daughter to college, and just talking. Posting a picture of that, it creates this relatability for people. So if that attorney's audience is maybe someone approximately his age, going through those same life experiences... While there's no informational or interesting content within that post about him driving his daughter, he becomes relatable, he also becomes personable too, and people want attorneys who they can relate to, and who are real people. So it breaks down a lot of those barriers of being able to connect. So that's been great.

There's another attorney that I follow, and she talks a lot about being a mom and having a work-life balance. And she's a very talented attorney, and she's very busy, but it's neat to see how she's been able to balance. She does LinkedIn live videos as well. So she's got that where [inaudible 00:16:11] but then she's also posting "What am I going to make for dinner tonight? Because I've just worked all day." So she's got a very good mix of that, and she has incredible engagement. People really seem to relate with that. And so she gets likes, she gets comments, and then that feeds the algorithm, right? So, them more engagement you get with your posts, it's going to... I engage with her posts. I see her posts all the time in my feed now, so that when she shares something that's informational, I'm more likely to see it, because I've engaged with her more personal posts too. So while there's just a get to know me a little bit better, there's also a bit of a digital strategy there too, to play that LinkedIn algorithm.

Rachel:
What would you say to an attorney? What tips would you give them, to someone who wants to make their feed more personal? They're apprehensive. They don't quite know where to start. Where is a really good place to make your feed more interesting?

Melanie Trudeau:
Yeah. That's a good question because, obviously there's a fine line between your personal and your professional. Oftentimes if you're involved in community outreach, any type of community events, those are always really good to share on social media. So whether you're participating in a 5k run for a local charity, or if you're meeting a bunch of local business owners at a chamber of commerce meeting, that's a really good segue into starting to share information other than legal information on your feed. When you delve into the really personal... Like family type of stuff, I would say find your place. So with this one woman I was talking about, she's really talking about work-life balance, and the work life balance of being a mom. So all of her posts tend to relate to that.

We have some attorneys who are involved in sports and exercise, and so they talk about "It's really important to exercise. I go to every morning." And then they'll take a picture of "Here's my morning run today." So they kind of have their little niche of what they're going to start talking about. Always, always, I advise, before you hit that share button, make sure you're okay with everybody on the planet, seeing that post. Obviously never disparaging comments, you wouldn't want to be making fun of anybody. You really need to keep all the information positive, whether it's professional or personal on your LinkedIn account.

Rachel:
Yeah. Really good advice for anyone really. So have you seen attorneys embrace video content as well during the pandemic as probably this greater social media, virtual COVID strategy?

Melanie Trudeau:
Yeah. It's really interesting. So many studies have been done about visual content versus written content. And in general, in marketing, visual content does usually much better than written content. And so for the last decade, lawyers have been coming to us and saying "I need to make videos. I need to do videos." And just the idea of they need to use that platform, seems to be a tactic in and of itself, and we have to say "Let's step back." And say "Why do you want to use video? How are you going to reach your audience that way? Are you even good on video?" Because a lot of people aren't. So they create these talking head videos and expect that they're going to get thousands of views, they're going to be the next YouTube star, right? That stuff doesn't happen. I think with COVID, we've had more attorneys playing with the phone camera and trying to think, how can they use social media from a video perspective, versus "I need a video for my bio page, it's going to be highly produced."

It's more like "Okay, here I am. Can I do an informational type of video?" We work with an immigration firm and of course, early on in COVID, that was a big, hot area of law. And so one of these firms, they started doing Facebook videos. So they would put one up... Anytime there was something relevant that their audience would want to know, they would put something up. And instead of it being written, they were able to just do relatively a quick... Like a two to three minute informational type of video. They struggled at first a little bit, we had to play with backgrounds and they'd have their glasses on and the screen would be reflecting off their glasses, you couldn't see their face and they... Or they'd be crooked... The camera was crooked.

Jessica:
Or the cat filter that covers the attorney.

Melanie Trudeau:
Once they figured out the technical stuff... Then they were just kind of rinse and repeat that process, and then just change up the content that they put up. So that was really good. We worked with another... He's a managing partner and he doesn't do a lot of practice of law, but he does a lot of law firm management. So he runs his firm and he's really into inspirational type of videos, and like how to run a business, and how to motivate people and inspire people. And so he created a video series where... And he posts them on LinkedIn, and now he... Granted he has about 10,000 connections on LinkedIn, but these videos are getting thousands of views and likes, for relatively low production time, he just shoots them on his phone. People are really engaging with that. So I think depending on the place... I think on a website you tend to want to have something a little bit more slick, and more produced in your video content, versus if you're doing something for social media.

Jessica:
Just the question I'm thinking about, for a lot of the firms that are out there now, they're still very paper-driven. So a lot of these I think, marketing tactics, or just being available and open online is like super foreign to some people. Where is a really good starting place for those firms to start getting out there, like you say, even just fooling around with video? Because a lot of them are still really paper behind the books driven, it seems like.

Melanie Trudeau:
So good place to start, that's a good question. I would recommend... So for an individual attorney, I would recommend, just get a LinkedIn profile, get your LinkedIn profile optimized so it's... All the information is there. Whether you want to start engaging and posting, that's a whole other thing. So we usually say "Get your profile built, because if somebody Googles your name, they're going to see your firm bio page, and then they're going to see your LinkedIn profile, and you control both of those assets. So get that in place." The next step I tell them is "Okay, at least three times a week, go to LinkedIn, look at your homepage feed, read some of the posts, and then start liking a few posts. You don't have to post anything, you don't have to comment anything, just like a few posts."

And so just gradually getting them used to LinkedIn is a good way to kind of dip their toe into the waters. We always need to find that marketing tactic that's going to be best suited to each lawyer. Some lawyers don't want to write... Or they do a terrible job of writing for consumer facing content, it's just doused in legalese, and really nobody but another attorney might understand it. It's fine if you're looking for referral sources, but if you're kind of going after that consumer audience, it's pretty tough.

So some people aren't good writers, some people just never would want to talk to media, some people don't really want to do a social media that maybe have a LinkedIn profile. So it really it depends, and it's tricky I think, for marketing folks within a firm to be able to cater to so many different styles and personalities, so that's a big challenge, and oftentimes we work with marketing folks within affirm and they're overworked, and pulled in so many different directions, because obviously politics and different levels of folks within a firm are going to think that they should be doing various things and they can't do everything. So that's a challenge.

Jessica:
Yeah. Digital landscape, right? This has been very interesting. I'm hoping that the people that listen to this and listen to a lot of your expertise can find new ways to really get their helpful, legal advice out to people, especially with this new digital world. It's always been there, but I feel like it's really been leaned on because of the pandemic. So a lot of your advice is, I think, super helpful in making them really professional, but also open, like you said, Sharing information that's very relatable is definitely a great way to get people engaged too. So I think Melanie has a few questions for Rachel and I, so whenever you're ready, Melanie, go ahead and ask those for us, and then we'll probably just take turns answering them for you. So, whenever you're ready.

Melanie Trudeau:
So I thought because you are... Got this huge content machine for the legal industry, it would be helpful, from my perspective, to understand what you guys are seeing in the legal industry as well. A lot of our clients use National Law Review, probably the most of our clients do. And so we're very familiar with it and we know... I've seen incredible growth on your platform in the last couple of years, and specifically since the pandemic. So I was wondering, where do you stay, from a content perspective, since the pandemic? So is there more content, less content? I guess that's the first part of my question. I'll ask the next part after you have a chance to answer that.

Rachel:
Right. Definitely more content for sure. We've seen both the amount of content that we've published, and also our page views grow a lot since the pandemic began. So throw some general numbers out there. We average about 2,500,000 million page views a month now, whereas before the pandemic, we were averaging about 300,000 to 400,000 visits a month, and that's just from numbers I pulled from March of 2019, which was before I started here at the NLR. And I know right when the pandemic started around March of 2020, it was just overwhelming, the amount of stuff that we were getting sent. And a lot of it was content about, what's going on with COVID-19? How does it affect business? How does it affect labor law? How does it affect immigration? Because as we all saw, it affected multiple facets of the legal industry.

And that just sort of, I think, has been the trend in terms of what people are reading, specifically... Recently stuff about immigration and travel. Can we mandate the COVID vaccine? Can we not mandate it? What's the situation with visa processing, and what's the situation at the Canada border? That's been a big topic for us recently. And I think that just shows that... What we were talking about earlier is that, there will always be an audience for this very well-researched, and well-written thought leadership content, especially now that so many companies and consumers are looking for guidance on these topics.

Melanie Trudeau:
I know there's been a lot of COVID related content and as you say, that spans a lot of different types of practices, but still that's huge growth. The second part of my question is, what's happening with engagement metrics. So stuff like time on page, bounce rates. Are people engaging with the content? So I look at, there's the quantity, and then there's the quality of the visitor, and I was wondering if you could speak to that.

Jessica:
A lot of what Rachel and I both do, along with the rest of our members of our team, seems to be a lot of SEO practice. We see what people search for and we're trying to connect our clients articles to those people, by how they're searching for it. So a lot of those trending topics that Rachel was talking about, we really try to pay attention to those things so that we can get our content to reach the right people, so that it is relevant. People are going to stay on your site if you're providing content that's relative, and so when they search the CDCs latest mandates in the state, they'll find our articles that are directly related to those topics, making sure that our clients are able to help the people they want to reach, who may need their services to later down the line.

Rachel:
So from what I looked at for the analytics, the time on the page doesn't seem to change much from what I researched, and then also it seems like more people over time retain to read articles and find them for social media. That sort of ties into our social media discussion earlier about how important it is to be on those channels. Someone picks up an article and shares on a page, suddenly other people are seeing it and they're sharing it as well. So that's been interesting to see.

Melanie Trudeau:
And I think with... From an SEO perspective, you start getting this authority... Like your domain has probably incredible authority with Google, and you constantly have fresh content being published there. It feeds on itself, which has probably led to that huge growth. I follow all of your channels on social media, so I see you have really high frequency, and it looks like a lot of work. You have a lot of posts every day. So I had a question here about the type of content, like where are you seeing any trends? Obviously COVID has created all different areas... Like you mentioned, the U.S Canada border is a hot trending topic. I know that employment issues... Everybody's writing about those, related to COVID and vaccine mandates, and we're also seeing insurance law being impacted by COVID.

Rachel:
I would say definitely all of the things that you said, anything that's related to how Corona Virus impacts labor. Whether that's vaccine mandates or quarantine requirements, things like that. We also do have sort of this global reach, so often... Like U.K employment law - we have really great content on that. I'm trying to think what else. Is there anything that you've seen Jessica that we haven't touched on?

Jessica:
Yeah. Trending topics. Cryptocurrency is huge right now. What's the other one? I think because of that digital... People are starting to look at other industries digitally in a different way now, but yeah, mostly I'd say, COVID related... How it's affecting the workplace. Mandate changes, state legislation. Those are some interesting spiking topics right now for us, especially the global stuff like Canada travel. I think people are ready to get out, so we've been trying to put that info out too for people, so they know what's available and how to handle those situations.

Rachel:
Yeah. And the main thing with what the Biden administration is doing... And that was true with the previous administration as well. So the infrastructure bill has been a big thing. And then of course when the administration was focusing more on COVID relief, anything with the eviction moratorium or when they passed that provision for free or reduced COBRA, we got a lot of questions on that. Just things that consumers and U.S Citizens who are impacted by these decisions, they are asking these questions, and so then they find our content.

Melanie Trudeau:
It's kind of amazing how vast the impact has been across the legal specter of what firms do. Just a question about your readership. You have a lot of legal marketing folks who read NLR, I assume. I know it has a lot of legal content in there for any lawyers or business leaders, but also you do get the marketing content on there as well.

Rachel:
We have a client in particular who focuses mostly on... Very sort of How To, law firm articles. So, how to set up a virtual practice, like the importance of LinkedIn for lawyers, it's sort of just got very general business law things, which we have a specific section on our website, that's focused on similar articles, and so we do get that content as well.

Jessica:
This conversation has been awesome. We really appreciate having you Melanie, hopefully our clients can definitely use some of these skills that you've offered, and this is really beneficial information that we get to share with them, it's invaluable, honestly, to be able to market your workplace the best you can, especially with all these changes. So we appreciate having you on, this is Melanie Trudeau from Jaffe PR. Thank you so much.

Melanie Trudeau:
It's my pleasure. Yeah. Thanks for asking me.

Jessica:
Yeah, we're excited.

Melanie Trudeau:
Honored to be your inaugural guest.

Jessica:
Thanks again so much.

Rachel:
Thank you for listening to the national law review legal news reach podcast. Be sure to follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts for more episodes. For the latest legal news, or if you're interested in publishing and  advertising with us, visit www.natlawreview.com. We'll be back soon with our next episode.

Copyright ©2021 National Law Forum, LLCNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 256
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About this Author

Rachel Popa National Law Review Web Content Specialist
Web Content Specialist

Rachel Popa is a Web Content Specialist for the National Law Review. In her role with the NLR, Rachel edits and manages client content, authors original thought leadership articles for the publication, and manages the production of the NLR's new legal news podcast, Legal News Reach.  Additionally,  this past year, Rachel spoke about how to launch a successful law firm podcast in a webinar with McDougall Interactive.

Prior to joining the NLR, Rachel was a reporter for Becker's Healthcare in Chicago, where she covered the ambulatory surgery beat and authored custom content...

708-357-3317 ext 705
Jessica Scheck NLR National Law Review Web Content Specialist Editorial Team
Web Content Specialist

Jessica Scheck is a Web Content Specialist for the National Law Review, and authors original thought leadership articles, and manages the production of the NLR's new legal news podcast Legal News Reach. Prior to joining the NLR, Jessica spent more than five years in the legal industry as a Virginia Circuit courtroom clerk, and a paralegal in Virginia and North Carolina.  Prior to her years as a legal professional, she worked in communications as a writer, copy-editor, social media specialist, and marketing coordinator.  

She graduated...

708-357-3317 ext. 709
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