In the interest of transparency, I am a public relations professional who has practiced for more than 20 years and have a bias toward PR as a superior marketing tool. Having said that, I want to opine about the confusion about the most effective marketing tools for lawyers and the reasons I think some work and others may not be the best choice.
Corporate budgets for social media have ballooned since that venue became popular. That has come at the expense of traditional marketing, such as print and media advertising. The trouble with social marketing is that it is very hard to measure unless you can track who is getting your message. Facebook is a social media outlet that is just that...social. It is not the best place to put your marketing dollars for the simple reason that the users of Facebook want social interaction, not business messages.
LinkedIn is an excellent place for networking and can result in business referrals if your message and profile are done properly. You can communicate with other lawyers and firms around the country and internationally that may need a Midwest partner for a case or just cannot provide service here but want to satisfy their client.
LinkedIn also offers specific professional groups, such as The American Lawyer, where you are interfacing with colleagues and can communicate your message to a known audience.
Manta has the advantage, at certain levels, of letting you know who has reviewed your firm's profile. You can use that information to follow up with an email or letter that encourages them to use your services. This is critical in that you know who is at least curious about you enough to visit your profile. Other services provide that at different membership levels, but that cost can be high.
I usually advise lawyers and their firms to go a more traditional marketing route because they offer professional services rather than sell widgets to the masses. The exception may be personal injury firms that need to reach large audiences that may need their services in the future and name recognition is very important.
The telephone book is not the first search choice for many people looking for legal services. Many people with computers use Google or other search engines as their primary search tool. Do you really want to be on the same page as all of your competitors?
The question becomes, "What do prospects search for on Google?" Many law firms break down their professional services into legal categories most people do not use.
Do you think people consider using search terms, such as ""Emerging Business Law" or "Intellectual Property"? Sure you know what they mean, however the average prospect will use simpler, generic terms with which they are familiar.
Web sites are usually where those Google searches end. That is why Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is critical when you create your Web site content.
I am not disparaging advertising but most people know that advertising is not objective. Rules in most states are very clear about what lawyers/firms can say in advertising so most legal advertising sounds the same.
Collateral material and direct mail are more effective, depending upon how they are packaged. Direct marketing firms can micro target your prospects and reach business leaders at their residence, so the likelihood of your marketing materials ending up in an assistant's circular file is lessened. Direct marketing gets your message into the hands of your prospect with your message. Similarly, email marketing can reach exactly the target audience your practice desires, assuming you do not end up in the spam filter.
All of the above are solid marketing tools for certain business sectors and I would recommend them to the appropriate client.
Public relations has some advantages over some of the traditional marketing approaches. Publicity is more believable than advertising because news is written by a third party. It is not a situation where you are saying you're good; it is an objective party saying you are good or successful at what you do.
In addition, good public relations can result in a small or mid-size firm being perceived as larger or more successful than the large firms through repeated exposure in the media.
PR also can help with face-to-face networking opportunities, positioning a lawyer as an expert, Web site copywriting, brochure development, support for litigation before during and after a case and many more benefits. As I said at the beginning, I am biased in favor of PR, however I also have seen it work for many companies and law firms and solo practitioners. It would be smart to consider adding it to your marketing mix.