The crew couldn’t convene this week because of the Clio Cloud Conference, but here’s Joe’s interview with Pamela Smith talking about lawyer public relations.
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Joe Patrice: Hello and welcome to Thinking Like a Lawyer-ish. As you may have noticed by me not being rudely interrupted during that intro, we are not a full complement. That’s because this is the week of the Clio Cloud Conference and I was at the Clio Conference and therefore we weren’t able to record a full episode. However, we do have a bit of a special treat which is that if you’re a regular listener of the show, you know towards the end I always explain there are multiple other shows on the Legal Talk Network, one of which is called On the Road which is their rotating host coverage of conferences that a lot of us go to to cover the industry. And I conducted an interview while I was there for On the Road and we thought a way of having an episode this week when we didn’t have the whole crew together was to share with you that episode from On the Road where I was the interviewee or no, interviewer. Well, whatever. It’s a fun conversation. Anyway, so check that out and we’ll have a new episode next week.
Joe Patrice: Hello. Welcome to another edition of On the Road with Legal Talk Network. This is Joe Patrice so you’re in luck I’m hosting this one. So if you’ve tuned in, you got one of the good ones. But anyway, yeah, Joe Patrice from Above the Law here and I’m hosting this episode here live in Nashville at the Clio Cloud Conference. And today, I’m talking with Pamela Smith from Clio. Introduce yourself. Tell us what’s going on.
Pamela Smith: Yes. So, hello. Thank you for having me. My name is Pamela Smith as you said and I am the senior manager of Corporate Communications at Clio which is a huge part of what Clio does. We have a very large PR social calms portfolio, so yeah. I have the privilege of doing that every day.
Joe Patrice: Awesome. Well, so you just got done with a session.
Pamela Smith: Yes.
Joe Patrice: It was a big session. It was packed. I’ve been told by people who wanted to go but they couldn’t find a seat. So for those of us who weren’t able to go then tell us a little bit about what happened in the session, what you were talking about?
Pamela Smith: Yes, happy to. So, I had a panel in my session so it’s Erin Levine of Hello Divorce which we all know she does an amazing job of PR because we all know who she is.
Joe Patrice: We all know it, yeah.
Pamela Smith: And then I also had Gina Rubel who runs her own PR firm and specializes in PR for legal. Literally wrote the book on PR for Law Firms. So Gina has — she’s a consultant but she also just has this huge career of knowledge of PR specific for a law firm. So yeah, both very different experiences but we got some very cool insights from them both.
Joe Patrice: So, let’s tease that out a little bit. What is different about — I mean, we all kind of have a vague sense of public relation. What are kind of the unique challenges when it comes to be doing PR for a law firm?
Pamela Smith: Yeah, so exactly. And that’s where we started off. I’m here at Clio. Not every law firm has a PR person or multiple or agencies and it can be a big investment especially if you’re a solo or small firm but then maybe it’s also just not your focus. And from someone who has worked with lawyers in PR situation, there’s often this tension between what we say officially on behalf of the lawyer and what we say publicly on behalf of the PR professional. And so, there’s often a lot of tension there.
It’s a funny spot to start off with but I think we are starting to see law firms realize the potential of public relations. It is a part of marketing and good PR has integrated with other forms of marketing but it’s not something that a lot of law firms set up and think, “Oh, I got to get a PR person.” So, yeah, we talked about everything from what kind of professional help you might bring into your firm or if not, what can you do yourself to elevate your profile or to start interacting with media and why you would do that.
Joe Patrice: Right.
Pamela Smith: And then also, some of the risks associated with that because you’re not just — once you put something out publicly, it’s very hard to curl it back.
So, anyways, there’s a lot in there that we are able to talk about.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, so what steps would a small solo, somebody who’s not a big budget situation? Obviously big budget situation, you go out, you hire professionals.
Pamela Smith: Yes.
Joe Patrice: What does somebody do to raise their profile? When they don’t have access to that, what are the cheap and easy ways that they can start building a brand up there?
Pamela Smith: Yeah, and there are a lot. So first of all, we talked about the importance of your LinkedIn profile.
Joe Patrice: Okay.
Pamela Smith: Yourself being a journalist. You know, that’s usually the first place you’re going and embedding whoever you’re going to talk to. So one of the first things that you can do is just assess your profile. You don’t have to have a profile on every single platform but making sure that when people are looking you up, they’re not only learning your resume that gives you credibility, but also the benefits of why someone would want to talk to you should be evident on those public platforms. Especially if you’re a solo firm and it’s just you, having that profile really well-established is worth the investment of time to have that credibility when you are starting to go more external in your communications. Yeah. So that’s very foundational. We want to make sure that everyone’s doing that.
And then also, for the firms that are looking to start strategizing about PR or taking on some more public facing communications, we had a couple of things but the main thing is, don’t try and do it all. Maybe pick two or three times a year where you’re going out and saying, “Okay, over the past six months, this is really the core story.” This is what we want to go out with and Erin’s done a really amazing job of that where she two to three times a year is putting aside time to create her stories, go out externally and decide, “Okay, this is what we want to talk about right now” versus just all the time putting emails out there and sort of a wasted effort because no one has time for that.
Joe Patrice: Right.
Pamela Smith: Yeah.
Joe Patrice: So I kind of embedded in there is this idea that you don’t want to be kind of scattershot messaging. You pick your theme over a period of time and — yeah.
Pamela Smith: Yeah.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Pamela Smith: Yeah. And sort of you’re always relationship-building I would say. You’re always keeping tabs on what journalists are saying in your area or what the temp — you’re doing temperature checking all the time to see, “Okay, how’s this going?” I mean, we have podcasts you can listen to, roundtables, a whole series of different things that you can do to stay on the pulse of what’s happening in your sector. But in terms of actually outreach and going out, it’s not happening all year round especially if you’re a lawyer. You’re busy. You don’t have time. Save your research and networking to be consistent. Listen to your podcast and your dog walks, all those sorts of things to stay consistent in the scene. But when you actually reach out, it’s pointed.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Pamela Smith: To exactly what you want to talk about.
Joe Patrice: And that’s another aspect of it too I would assume. You mentioned the practice area because it would seem to me like I came from a litigation background where you would think clients are who you’re trying to send this message to but sometimes, not really. Lots of my business was referral business. So for me, — I mean I was in a firm so I didn’t have to do any of this, but imagine if I was running the firm. It would be very much — my PR message would be aimed at other people who would refer the stuff to me which is a different kind of messaging than if you’re trying to make sure you’ve got a brand out there or somebody getting a Hello Divorce situation or somebody getting divorced. That’s not usually a referral situation one would hope.
Pamela Smith: Yeah, hopefully not.
Joe Patrice: Is that somebody who’s just handing out, “Oh yeah, you’re getting divorces.” Yeah.
Pamela Smith: Yeah. So, we did touch on that and are two different things. We’re thinking about how do you elevate brand. That’s definitely a component of PR but then there’s also the audience. So your brand can get a lot of recognition if you’re in Wall Street Journal, New York Times, sure but your purpose of doing this which is 99% of the time law firm growth who were your customers and your customer or your clients and your clients aren’t necessarily in the New York Times but they’re in a local newspaper or something like that where you’re being much more targeted and specific.
And also, the types of stories that we put out, if you’re putting stories in the New York Times which good for you if you do that, you should absolutely celebrate that and toast to it but it’s going to be much more general. Because that’s a much more general audience where if you’re a legal tech founder or something like that and you want your thought leadership to be in your sector, then you want to go to the trace. You want to go to the audience that’s going to resonate.
So it’s not just I want to get — the biggest brand ever is what are you actually trying to achieve. And then what? And then what is usually to gain more clients and so you have to think about that end goal when you’re thinking about who you would reach out to in the media.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. And I think that is — that strikes me as really important. The idea that this is a strategic decision. You need to take a step back and think what am I even doing here?
Pamela Smith: Yeah.
Joe Patrice: Before you start going off.
Pamela Smith: Because it is time consuming.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Pamela Smith: It is. It is absolutely time consuming, yes.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. We are going to take a quick break in the middle of this here and be right back.
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Joe Patrice: Yeah. So LinkedIn we mentioned and I would assume that the other channels that you might go through might very well be influenced by where you think your business is going to come from.
Pamela Smith: Yeah.
Joe Patrice: If you’re getting all referral business, maybe website isn’t — a consumer facing website isn’t as much as you need. But if you are getting walk off the street business, you do want that.
Pamela Smith: Yeah. And actually, when you think about when you’re getting into these publications or you’re being covered by certain media or (00:13:50), you don’t necessarily have to be the feature of the story. Commenting on a story is still participating in that story.
So Erin brought up two methods that she uses where she’s like quotes are really important and I got to break that down even more for a second. When you’re quoted in something, you can sometimes achieve a backlink to your website. So if you say, “Pamela Smith on behalf of Clio said this about a certain topic,” Clio, I sometimes approach a journalist and say, “Hey, I would love to have a backlink to my website which is great for a CEO like there’s other purposes. Whether or not you’re successful in that, pin and miss to be honest. But if you can think about doing quotes as well, not just big feature stories, you might not get that right away.
And so Erin uses help a reporter out which is Harrow or quoted and she’s created a profile and she does a scan every so often where she’s like, “Hey, I could comment on that. That reporter might benefit from my expertise.” The only thing about that is that’s a 24-hour news cycle.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Pamela Smith: You don’t quote in the first hour that journalist getting it. They’re probably moving on.
So, yeah, I do say that it’s a great way to get your name out there and to quote on something but it’s fast and competitive.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. No, it’s true. And I mean, I certainly know as one of those journalists who has to write things out, we are on such a schedule like our editorial schedule at Above the Law is such that I’m churning out stories as they happen. I don’t have the luxury of other publications where it’s like I write one thing a week or whatever.
Pamela Smith: Right. How many do you write a day?
Joe Patrice: Three to four?
Pamela Smith: Oh my goodness, yeah. So that’s cycle. I mean if we think about publishing three to four times a day, that’s a lot.
Joe Patrice: Which is why if I were to quote you, I would absolutely put the link. I would do it instinctively because I don’t have time to get them back.
Pamela Smith: You don’t have time to circle back — in question. Yes, yeah. But we do love backlinks. Again, integration, thinking about PR is a bigger part of your marketing strategy. You’re going to think about, “Well, hey I’d love some web traffic as well.” Anyways.
Joe Patrice: You say anyway like this is what we’re supposed to be talking about.
Pamela Smith: Yeah.
Joe Patrice: No need to move on. We can keep going. Anyway. But no, that’s great. I think we are going to have time for one last substantive question.
Pamela Smith: Sure, yeah.
Joe Patrice: Which is this show, obviously, it’s great to have everyone back in person, wonderful to see everybody. So how has the show been going for you like exciting, like anything you want to say about it, about Clio generally?
Pamela Smith: Yeah. So this is my first in-person Clio Con. I had only done it virtually before and because of the nature of my role, we release a lot of things at Clio Con which is really great to do at your desk. Not so easy to do when you’re walking around but I wouldn’t trade that. It’s incredible to me and our customers and our media partners and everyone else that we’ve been working with virtually at least since I joined Clio. And yeah, it feels incredible. It’s so nice to see you. It’s so nice.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. In-person, yeah.
Pamela Smith: Yeah. Emailing all the time, it’s not the same. I will say though, I had to adjust to what everyone’s LinkedIn photo look like, who they were as a person so that was an adjustment. And then on some of the things that we’re dressing up for. It’s like, “Oh, it’s a whole other.” It’s them on LinkedIn, in person and fancy as well. And you rocked the tux last night.
Joe Patrice: I did in fact wore a tux, yeah.
Pamela Smith: Yeah. Anyways, it’s so nice to see everyone.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. No, always a great conference. If you are out there and have been considering coming or not, you should because it’s great and we’re going to be back here next year I gather.
Pamela Smith: Oh yeah.
Joe Patrice: All right.
Pamela Smith: Yeah.
Joe Patrice: Excellent. By then I will have figured out how to navigate this hotel. That’s my theory. If you give me a whole year.
Pamela Smith: A whole year, love it.
Joe Patrice: Well, great. Well, thank you for joining us. That’s again Pamela Smith from Clio talking about PR. I am Joe Patrice from Above the Law and Thinking Like a Lawyer so you can check out those places for me. Is there any way to follow what you’re putting out other than just following Clio’s backlinks?
Pamela Smith: Well, Clio’s my priority so just follow Clio at GoClio but yeah, I’m on LinkedIn of course. Always happy to connect with people but I think when you run as many profiles corporate and personal as I do, my own is probably the last of that list. Yeah, anyways. GoClio, best place to find us.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, excellent. And with that, we have reached the end of the road. I can’t bring my stuff but yeah.
Pamela Smith: I’m here for it.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, all right. By the way.
And that was our episode of On the Road that I was the interviewer for. Anyway, as we said, we’re going to be back next week. In the meantime, you should be following Above the Law. You should be subscribed to this show. You should follow ATL blog on Twitter. You should follow Joseph Patrice on Twitter. You know, the usual stuff I always talking about. And now, you should listen to more episodes of the various Legal Talk Network shows including of course On the Road. You can hear interviews conducted by people who aren’t me which I mean, they’re more serious than I am. But the point is, there is good content there so you should be listening to that. And in the meantime, we’ll have a good week and be right back next week.
And thank you as always to Posh and GoDaddy Domain Broker Service for sponsoring the show.
Kathryn Rubino: Thanks.
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