As VP-group head for the professional services group at New York-based public relations firm Gibbs & Soell, Roger Ardan works with legal industry clients on their communications and public relations strategies. Prior to joining Gibbs & Soell two years ago, Ardan spent 13 years as the head of the professional services and law firm marketing group at Edelman Public Relations. BtoB recently spoke with him about communicating with a legal audience.
BtoB: What trends are you seeing in legal communications?
Ardan: This year, everyone is grappling with digital and social media—trying to figure it out and understand it, whether they're lawyers, or business consulting professionals, or vendors or other service providers that are trying to engage attorneys and other professionals. The biggest thing to note is that it's not going away. And instead of being afraid of it, we strongly encourage people to explore it and work with it, to figure out what their comfort level is.
The first thing we counsel clients on is that you have to have a digital media policy in place so everybody understands the ground rules about what they can and can't do. They should keep in mind general, common-sense things; [for example,] if you're out there doing stuff on these various media, you shouldn't be using a client name without permission. Second, we always approach this from a strategy standpoint. What is it you're trying to accomplish? There's a whole set of tools out there. You really need to think first. What are you trying to do and what kind of results are you trying to get?
From there you can pick the appropriate tool to reach out to those folks. It might be a blog; it might be a webcast; it might be using LinkedIn, or Twitter or a combination of them.
BtoB: What kind of messaging works with lawyers?
Ardan: You want to keep it short and to the point. Lawyers have to troll through reams and reams of paper and online content. So if you can get to your point precisely, that helps.
Also, in the 20 years I've been working with lawyers, one thing I've noticed is that they like humor. If you can do something witty and humorous in a tasteful way, you're going to stand out and get attention.
One way to do this that no one in the legal realm is really using yet is viral video. It's just a way for you to keep in front of them and let them know you're thinking about them. But it's underused at this point; if you're trying to market to a lawyer, there's a whole open area where you could do a lot with—as long as it's short, witty, funny and tasteful.