Let’s face it, we cannot concentrate anymore. We have attention spans of milliseconds. In part this is due to the overwhelming number of messages we are exposed to every day. Depending on the source you want to believe, the average person is exposed to between 3,000 and 20,000 commercial messages daily. These messages come in many forms, including traditional ones, such as television, radio, print outdoor (billboards) advertising and signage, of course.
More insidiously because of exponentially growing technology and our dependence upon it, we get hit with targeted Google ads, algorithmic Facebook messages tailored to you personally, spam email, robocalls that avoid the “do not call list” laws, and one trillion Web sites, each with an average of six commercial messages. Our phones have become like the heroin addict’s needle; constantly with us feeding our addiction to information. We relentlessly check our email every 10 minutes, whether we are expecting a message or not.
When we really want to know what’s going on, we turn to the news. Bad news about news, according to The State of the News Media 2013 published by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. We are getting less news and more commercials than ever before. Not only that, sports, weather and traffic account for 40 percent of local television news and add commercials to that and a half hour newscast contains very little hard news. News staffs have been cut at newspapers by 30 percent since 2000, so fewer reporters are covering news and they have to write it, get a photo and get it posted on the Web site at the same time.
Even on cable news, “packages” or stories that go in depth about a subject have been cut in half from 2007 to 2012, according to the Pew report.
So, as you can see, we are a very distracted nation, which poses a serious challenge for professionals, such as attorneys who want to tell people about their services.
What is a good law firm to do? (Full disclosure here: I provide Litigation PR services to law firms)
The best approach if you do not have millions of dollars in your marketing budget is to use social media to establish a presence. Blogging takes time but if you have a good story, that does not breach confidentiality, tell it in a blog on WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr. Those are the top three sites where your blog will get noticed. The Web often picks up topical blogs and peers and prospective clients can find you when they Google a subject. Blog a lot and you can begin to establish yourself as an expert in your field. Lawyers are great story tellers, which is why it is baffling that they do not tell their stories on the Web. Just stay within the rules of professional conduct relating to trial publicity and lawyer’s services and you will be fine.
Get on LinkedIn if you are not there yet. LinkedIn is the top professional networking site on the internet. Just posting your CV on your page is not enough. Join groups, such as the Litigation Group and start a discussion. This also will help establish you as an expert or at least a leader in your field. It also may generate referrals.
If you have a real hot topic, issue a press release to local and St. Louis media. As noted above, the news media is overworked and underpaid and being given a good story is often appreciated. Just don’t overdo it by sending our press releases that are not really news. That is a sure way to permanently close that door.
In some ways we have come full circle from sending messages to mass audiences through advertising and hoping for the best, to direct marketing through personal interaction. Host a reception for your best referring sources as a thank you. You don’t have to make a speech or “sell” them because they already know you do good work.
Serve on a not-for profit board. They always welcome lawyers and their advice and need your help. Many board members of such organizations are community leaders who are well connected and it cannot hurt to endear yourself to them.
Those are just a few thoughts on cutting through the clutter of advertising messages that assault all of us daily. You will not benefit long from relying on the old habits of gaining new clients and it is not advisable to ignore the new reality of “Overchoice” as Alvin Toffler called it in his prescient book Future Shock.
The worst thing you can do is nothing.
Jim Grandone owns Grandone Media Strategies and provides Litigation PR and Strategic Counsel to law firms practicing in Illinois and Missouri.