Law firm marketers are rapidly embracing video as an efficient medium for sharing legal knowledge with clients and prospects. They also recognize video to be an effective tool for creating market visibility for their firms. This was the clear message from a NYC Legal Week panel I attended entitled “Creating Competitive Differentiation: Where to Invest Content Marketing Time and Money.”
Since I am obviously a believer in the written word, I assumed this panel was going to discuss how law firms invest in blogs, email blasts and newsletters. I was dead wrong; still, I am so glad I attended because my eyes have been opened.
The panel, loaded with communications professionals from AmLaw200 big dogs, had a common message: while it is important to create content that is valuable to clients, it is also important to make that content accessible. Apparently, many people would prefer watching a three-minute video to reading through more text – especially if they are accessing the content after business hours from a mobile device.
What Do We Put In a Video?
At each of the panelists’ firms, the majority of the videos published contain quick examinations of hot legal topics by the firms’ attorneys. Other videos contain previously published white paper content that has been condensed and translated to video to enable easy sharing and digesting.
Arielle Lapiano, Director of Communications and PR for Paul Hastings, said that her firm frequently uses videos for client alerts. In these videos, the firm focuses on answering just ONE question in order to keep the alerts short (less than three minutes) but valuable.
Lapiano said that the firm has found this especially effective for ensuring immediacy of response to current news. Per Lapiano, it can sometimes take weeks for a lawyer to draft a written work addressing some current happening, but that same lawyer can quickly assemble three minutes’ worth of relevant thoughts on the same subject. Often this is just enough information for a client. And, if the client needs further information relative to the alert, they can reach out directly to the lawyer from the video.
Paul Hastings also gets more innovative with video content. For example, this year, Paul Hastings is going to produce a video in lieu of an annual report.
Shearman & Sterling’s use of video is extensive and extremely creative (for a law firm – this isn’t Pixar). Like its peers, Shearman produces the standard client alerts; however, it has also launched some eclectic series. One of these series, “Reflections,” features retired partners telling stories from their careers. The videos are fascinating, short, and highlight the firm’s work in a way that doesn’t feel like marketing.
Shearman has also created videos to highlight such things as LGBT inclusion and the 10th anniversary of the firm’s Women’s Initiative.
True to its overall marketplace reputation, Seyfarth is a video innovator. For a recent conference of in-house counsel, Seyfarth created this Level Up video and a corresponding video game for its information booth. GCs were invited to come play the video game during breaks in the conference, and while the game communicated the desired marketing message, it also created a fun diversion.
Brian Kiefer, Director of PR for Seyfarth, said they work hard to keep videos from being too lawyer-centric and dry. To that end, they sometimes film outside of the office or do voice-over on animated client alert videos which illustrate the concepts being discussed by the narrators. Shearman does a great job of illustrating this approach here.
Weil uses videos extensively as well, including a recent series on Weil alum. This video series does a great job of highlighting the quality of the people that have worked at Weil while perpetuating the firm’s relationships with those alumni. This is brilliant, because law firms like to refer to alumni that end up as in-house counsel as “clients.”
Similarly, Paul Hastings uses video collaborations with clients to deepen and strengthen their client relationships. The firm has also found this to be a great way to capitalize on the value of the combined knowledge of the client and the firm to the benefit of each party’s reputation.
I have interviewed several other law firm CMOs subsequent to Legal Week and they are all in some stage of experimenting with video. For example, Levenfeld Pearlstein has engaging videos incorporated in each of the attorney bios on its website.
HOW DO WE DO IT?
OK, “I’m sold,” you say. “How do I do it?”
It’s easy to start, even on a limited budget. (The panelists agreed that video production does not have to be expensive.)
Shearman’s Marketing Technology Manager, Harry Marks, described the evolution of his firm’s video capabilities as a journey during which he initially taught himself video editing and eventually lobbied the firm to build a small studio and invest in some reasonably priced but quality equipment.
While Marks now enjoys the benefits of his firm’s investment, he maintains that you can take quality video with a smart phone. He emphasizes, however, that purchasing inexpensive portable lighting will improve video quality and a lavalier will ensure good sound. Per Marks, lighting and sound quality should be non-negotiable.
Like Shearman, Paul Hastings has invested in video and lighting equipment but no studio has been built. The firm’s editing is outsourced to freelancers – a great idea if (like me) you can’t fathom the idea of learning another software platform.
HOW DO YOU MEASURE THE ROI OF VIDEO?
How do these firms know their investments are paying off? According to the panel, they start by tracking video engagement. Youtube makes this easy as it tallies views for each video. Also, to the extent your firm distributes the videos via email blast, most email distribution platforms allow you to track opens and link clicks. Video is easy to share and track on social media platforms as well. These metrics will give you a good idea of how well video is performing, especially as compared to legacy platforms like blogs and white papers.
Things like client goodwill are harder to gauge but one very simple way of assessing value is by asking your clients if they find these videos helpful. (More on that here.)
And yes, I think video is in AnitaInsights’ future. Stay tuned.