Spreading the Word: What to know before you advertise
A good marketing plan is a multi-faceted document. Done well, it should incorporate traditional and social media, eNewsletters and blogs, public and media relations, and website development.
Another potentially important marketing discipline is paid media, or advertising.
Before you spend a dime – or thousands of dollars – on advertising, however, remember that The Florida Bar has the final word on what can be said in any legal services advertisements.
Between bar rules and reaching your audience, consider these tips before planning or releasing any advertisements:
Who is watching? Think about who you’re trying to reach. If you rely on referrals from other lawyers, accountants, or professionals, advertise in their trade or industry publications. If targeting potential clients, consider local, consumer-oriented publications.
Tailor the message. Use meaningful and deliberate language and imagery when crafting your ads. From language to fonts to the images used, tailor ads so your practice area, from personal injury or medical malpractice to family law, for example, speak to your audience. Avoid legal jargon in consumer ads, though it may be appropriate for peer-to-peer advertising.
Match your message with your media. How the ad looks should align with where it will run. Available ad style or space for television, print, online, or social media will vary in size, style, font and graphics, and messaging. Since the smaller the ad space, the less room you have to work with, do not crowd the given space. Create multiple versions of the same ad for different platforms and publications. Whatever you choose, make it stand out. In media full of ads, a memorable ad will drive phone calls.
Think ‘Campaigns’. Repetition drives recognition; one-time ad placements rarely do. Creating a “campaign” is critical to market resonance. Negotiate a deal with your media sales representative that will drive up frequency at a reduced cost. The more often someone sees an ad, the more likely they are to remember you when seeking a lawyer – or talking with someone who is.
Socially secure. Social media posts must also abide by rules set by The Florida Bar. While a lawyer’s personal social networking profiles used strictly for social purposes are not subject to regulation, pages intended to promote the lawyer or firm are. Misleading info, references and statements that are not verifiable, and predictions or guarantees of results are regulated. Check out the social media site guidelines for more information.
Keep track. When the phones do ring and the emails come in, make sure to note how people the person on the other end found out about the firm. This will help determine if you need to make a tweak to where your ads are placed. Change language or placement when they’re not driving inbound calls or emails.
What’s required – and taboo? Under Florida Bar rules, ads must include the name of at least one lawyer at the firm and one city, town or county. Practice areas are allowed. Electronic newsletters can be sent, as long as the recipients have opted into receiving them. And in a significant change from past rules, lawyers and firms no longer must include a disclaimer about hiring a lawyer being “an important decision.”
Rules and regulations. Completed ads must be reviewed and approved by The Florida Bar’s Ethics and Advertising Department; if you run ads outside Florida, other state bars will need to review for compliance for their markets. This applies to all ads, including TV and radio, print, direct mail and email and internet advertising. The review process takes time; submit ads well ahead of placement deadlines to ensure sufficient time to make any changes they deem necessary.
With these rules in mind and your marketing plan in place, a savvy law firm will be ready to release its ad campaign and win over new clients and referral sources – without wasting a dime, or thousands of dollars.
Julie Talenfeld is the president of BoardroomPR, one of Florida’s largest integrated marketing agencies. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org