Bravery in Branding: How to Put Teeth in Your Messaging Without Getting Bitten

If you missed Elonide’s presentation to the LMASE chapter on May 6th, not to worry. You can find the slides below, or on Slideshare.

Elonide discussed how most firms understand they are competing in a crowded marketplace, yet many continue to send watered-down messaging that blends in rather than stands out. Differentiation comes from having the guts to communicate your firm’s authentic value, and to communicate it in a different way. Style is as important as substance. That is how you get noticed. And more importantly, how you get remembered. But just being brave isn’t enough. There have been enough Twitter fiascos to prove that. You have to be smart, too. She shared strategies for choosing the right risks to take so you get remembered for the right reasons.

The “Who-What-What”: Advertising Strategy Made Simple

In the advertising business, where “The Strategy” has always held mystical significance, many thousands of person-hours have been devoted to refining how a strategy is developed.

The goal is a document that puts everyone on the same page: creative people, account people, research, media, and yes, the client. A good strategy document imposes order and unity of purpose on any marketing effort. Most important, it gives the creatives a single, coherent platform they can use to bring the strategy to life through advertising.

In my time, I have seen strategies take dozens of forms, most of them tedious. My favorite, the one I have stuck with — the one that has pulled me out of any number of creative jams — just happens to be the simplest.

It’s called the “Who-What-What.”

It asks just three questions, which I have slightly modified for my own purposes:

WHO are we talking to?
WHAT are they stressed about?
WHAT can we do about that?

Note: While I’m talking specifically about advertising strategy here, the same questions may be applied all the way up the strategy food chain. Any general marketing strategy can benefit from this exercise. As can your overall firm strategy. Whether you view your market from 40,000 feet or from ground level, a good strategy should work at any altitude.

Let’s take the questions one at a time:

WHO are you talking to?

This question usually has a short answer, but that doesn’t make it any less important in your thinking.

The default target audience for AmLaw firms is the C-suite of mid-to-large corporations. While the C-suite is assumed to include general counsel, it is sometimes preferable to target GCs separately, tailoring both the messaging and the language to in-house legal departments.

Well-reasoned variations on the default target set can be refreshing, but you need to know how to reach the targets you decide on. Are you going vertical — targeting specific industries in trade publications? Or will you go horizontal — using general business and/or legal pubs to carry your message across a range of industries?

Generally, the “Who” question should be answered as narrowly as your marketing plan and budget allow. Targeting everyone in the technology sector is probably far too broad. Targeting GCs in mid-sized software companies serving digital media start-ups in the NY-NJ metro area might be too narrow (though a good media planner will regard it as a worthwhile challenge). Mostly, your “Who” answers will fall somewhere between these extremes.

WHAT are they stressed about?

Clients in every industry — and of every practice area — have their “pain points.” Some are general to all companies in the current business environment — adapting benefit plans to comply with Obamacare comes to mind. Some are specific to particular developments in particular industries — increased regulation of financial services falls into this category.

But whatever keeps your clients up at night, you want to know about it. You want to describe it in your strategy, in as much detail as you can muster. You want to be inside the head of your prospects. And you want to understand their business problems on a personal level.

In a client service business, a deep understanding of client mindsets is crucial.

WHAT can you do about it?

Armed with that understanding, you next want to lay out your firm’s singular ability to reduce clients’ stress. I say “singular” because your messaging must never promise to be all things to all people. Rather, you should be able to address your targets in specific terms, based both on your firm’s understanding of their pain points and its ability to mitigate them. The more detail you can bring to this question, the better.

This is where differentiation, that most elusive of qualities, comes in. For all but the most rarefied high-stakes matters, savvy prospects regard both attorneys and their firms as fungible — with few if any differences between them.

But that doesn’t excuse you from seeking those differences wherever you can find them. If your firm is particularly strong in a certain type of matter, this belongs in your strategy. If you have particular insight into topical issues of specific industries, these need to be included.

Nowadays, differentiation needn’t come just from your lawyers. If you can tell a good story about pricing, project management, or budget predictability, GCs will be all ears.

Keeping it real

Whatever goes into your Who-What-What needs to be firmly grounded in reality. It can’t be faked. If your firm is not fully — and demonstrably — capable of delivering on its promises, no amount of marketing will make it so.

Similarly, at the risk of overstating the obvious, your strategy exists to address the firm’s prospects — not its partners. Far too many firms end up running ads that talk to themselves. They address their markets in self-centered terms, unsupported by meaningful insight into the needs of their target audience. The partners decide — in the absence of any compelling evidence — what their prospects need to know about the firm. They are often wrong.

In a way, your strategy’s entire reason for being is to avoid this mistake. In compiling a Who-What-What, you first need to take a rigidly realistic view of your firm, and then get the partners to buy into this view. It may not be easy. But the results can be highly rewarding.

‘Big Feet’ Are Good in Law Firm Web Design

When I hear “big feet” I think about not being able to fit into Jimmy Choos. And that makes me sad. But when it comes to Web design, big feet, or footers, are actually a good thing. A modern footer, which is like a mini site map at the bottom of each web page, has become increasingly popular to improve site navigation and provide for a better overall user experience. So let me ask you this: How big are your feet?


Footers used to be small so viewers could avoid scrolling. Remember having to click on the scroll bar and drag it downward to see the rest of a page? What a hassle. No wonder we tried to cram everything onto a single visible screen, calling it “above the fold”—a leftover from newspaper days. Changes in hardware, particularly swiping features on trackpads and tablets, and tapping the spacebar on computers, loosened the physical limits of longer pages. As a result, we are no longer as constrained on page length.


This is great news for usability. One of the major benefits of a big footer is always having a convenient site map at your fingertips. Since a law firm website has many audiences—clients, prospects, potential new hires, the media and alumni—you can’t expect them all to be looking for the same information. The big footer is just one way to make it easier. Those who prefer can still use top-level navigation and drop-down menus to find what they want, but they can also just look to the bottom of the page. This means visitors are more likely to stay on your site longer and visit more pages.


As with most things in life, moderation is key when it comes to building big footers. If they are too big, perhaps mega-big, they can actually thwart navigation. Too many layers and lists of links make all the information start to blend together into a confusing mass. There are a few ways to avoid this pitfall, such as editing down the amount of links to display. For law firms, this could mean only displaying top-level pages rather than drilling all the way down to subpages in the footer. Some megafooter pitfalls can also be managed with clever designs. For example, it is important to show a hierarchy of links with the headings differentiated from the rest of the list. These headings will grab the eye and quickly draw attention to the desired pages.


Finally, especially if your firm is active on social media sites, consider adding social media links and even feeds to your footer. This will encourage visitors to engage and connect with your firm. After all, 67 percent of general counsel checked LinkedIn in the past week, according to a recent new media engagement survey. Take a look at your firm’s website and ask yourself how easy it is to locate your firm’s LinkedIn page from your homepage. If the answer is “not so easy,” consider dropping a link into the footer.
Since your firm’s website is often the first way a prospect learns about your firm and the best tool for your clients to tap into your thought leadership, making your key information easy to find and access is one of the best ways to make a good impression.

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Reprinted with permission from the MARCH 18, 2014 edition of the Law Technology News © 2013 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited, contact 877-257-3382 or

Newsjacking: How to Keep it Classy

Remember when you had to wait for the morning paper or the nightly news to get your current event fix? That seems like forever ago. Today all you have to do is log into Twitter. And although the public has always had a fascination with breaking news, the way we experience these stories has evolved, and in turn so has our hunger for them. During the last Super Bowl, for example, 26 million tweets were sent out. With that many people watching and participating you can bet marketers were looking for ways to get in on the action. How many of those 26 million tweets do you think were from fans, and how many were from brands looking to prosper from the media surge?

Introducing “newsjacking.” The term is an obvious combination of “news” and “jacking,” and refers to brands or companies capitalizing on the hype surrounding current events to promote their own messages or products. The term was popularized by David Meerman Scott’s book, Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. The title is intriguing, and who wouldn’t want to take advantage of such a hot resource? Unfortunately, much like the other words that end in “jacking,” newsjacking is not always the noblest pursuit. But is there a way for marketers to get a piece of the pie without looking desperate? Can newsjacking ever be classy?

The dark side of newsjacking…

Audiences are not dumb. Audiences are in fact very savvy, and shameless promotion does not fly past them undetected. Look at the thinly disguised newsjacking that took place during the birth of the royal baby. From Las Vegas tweeting “see you in 21 years,” to Fergie’s shoe company brazenly telling the Duchess of Cambridge to “keep calm and wear Fergie Footwear,” everyone seemed to want to get on the royal baby-bandwagon. While the Las Vegas tweet is at least clever, all either brand really communicated was a bid for attention. And they got it. Lots and lots of negative attention. 

Newsjacking can sometimes have even graver consequences. The company American Apparel learned that the hard way when they asked on Twitter who was “bored” with hurricane Sandy. Needless to say their tweet came off as grossly insensitive and was met with major consumer backlash. When Kenneth Cole noticed that #Cairo was trending, they tried to newsjack the term and use it to promote their new clothing collection. Imagine their horror upon discovering the hashtag was being used to discuss Egyptian unrest. This type of newsjacking is certainly not classy.

Waiting for the right moment

Although there are lots of ways to get newsjacking wrong, there are also a few strategic ways to get it right. Current events do affect us all, and as brands develop more human-like personas online, it is only logical that they should be part of the conversation.

Keeping it relevant

There are occasionally stories that pop up that are both relevant and appropriate for certain brands to engage. One of the best examples of successful newsjacking is from Joe Payne, former CEO of marketing software provider Eloqua. When he came across breaking news that Oracle had purchased Market2Lead (one of Eloqua’s biggest competitors) he quickly wrote a blog post about the acquisition. When journalists began searching for information to fill in their stories, they only came across two sources: a hasty press release from Oracle and Payne’s well thought out blog. Which source do you think they quoted most? By staying on top of the news and jumping at an appropriate opportunity, Joe was able to steer major publicity away from a competitor and focus it on his own company. This is newsjacking at its finest!

Keeping it valuable

Opportunities like this do not come along often, but as Joe proves, you do not have to newsjack every story to be successful; you just have to newsjack the right story (in the right way). His idea to write a blog post was brilliant, since evergreen content—content that will rarely expire due to its scope and information—has proven to be incredibly effective. His contribution got long-term traction and he ended up with, according to him, “a million dollars in new business.” Not a bad ROI on one blog post.

Keeping it in line with brand messaging

Not only should a story be relevant in order for newsjacking to stay classy, but also responses need to be in line with brand messaging. The London Fire Brigade, for example, found out that Kate Winslet had recently rescued someone from a burning building, and quickly extended her an invitation on their website to train with them at their local center. As a result, the brigade’s website received tons of traffic, inbound links, and media exposure. The fire brigade newsjacked successfully because they kept their response in line with their brand messaging by supporting the idea of fire-rescue and praising courage in the face of danger.

Keeping it timely

Most of newsjacking success stories are also immaculately timed. Breaking stories are constantly rushing in, and audiences are just as quick to move on to the next. If a newsjacking attempt comes in after the hype, it will be dead in the water. On the other hand, stories are not static entities but constantly develop and expand. Newsjacking that swoops in too soon may not be sensitive to all the details of the event, and be met with consequences down the road.

Stay classy

Newsjacking works when all the pieces fall into place and it flows naturally.  If a story pops up that is relevant to your brand and you can respond in a way that adds something of value and stays in line with your brand message—go for it. And if the timing is right, why not have some fun engaging with it? As Brant Barnhart notes to Sparksheet, “Newsjacking is most effective in moderation…and has the potential to become a peripheral part of your content strategy rather than something integral.” The key takeaway is that as brands do develop personalities in new media outlets, they need to follow the same basic etiquette rules as the rest of us. 

Timing is Everything: How to Increase Engagement Levels for Emails, Blogs and Social Media

It is not uncommon for an inbox to be too full to even glance at anything but the absolute necessities (I’m talking to you, Wednesday morning). Messages that we want to read that don’t quite make the cut get stowed away in the “Read Later” folder which never gets open and is inevitably forgotten or deleted. Luckily for marketers, there is a way to minimize this trash effect with some clever timing strategies. The same holds true for blogging and social media. By properly timing emails, tweets, blog posts, and even tweets about blog posts, the exposure and engagement levels of your marketing message can be dramatically increased.

E-Marketer recently released some insights, based on a study by GetResponse, which found that most email marketers send messages out on Tuesdays. While Tuesday does have the highest open rate of any day of the week, Friday is better. Friday has the highest click rate at 4.9% compared to Tuesday’s 4.5%. Friday also has the dual benefit of being the least likely day for marketers to send emails and the most likely day for audiences to engage emails. So your best strategy is to send email marketing on Friday. And besides, everyone’s in a better mood on Friday.

Twitter timing is a little different. According to most research, optimum days to tweet are Saturday and Sunday while least optimum are Tuesday and Wednesday. Although most of us know that the best way to maximize your Twitter impact is to tweet frequently and consistently, less diligent twitterers can still increase their impact with strategic timing. According to an article by Fuse Work Studios, tweets sent out between 8:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m. have higher engagement levels than those sent at other times. Problogger is a bit more precise in their timing advice and suggests that Friday at 4:00 p.m. is the most retweetable time of the week.

Timing blog posts gets a bit more complicated. The ideal time to post is obviously when a topic is hot and relevant. If you can pull this off, you’ll have no problem generating traffic. But if you aren’t an expert trend-spotter, then posting consistently is your best bet. At least one post per week is recommended. Social media scientist, Dan Zarrella, believes that this allows your audience to depend on you and can keep them coming back. He suggests posting on Monday between 8:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. yields the most views while posting on Saturday during that same timeframe most likely increases engagement. Finally, he recommends publishing blogs earlier in the day and then tweeting them in the afternoon in order to get the most out of possible Facebook shares and retweets.

If this seems like a lot to absorb, check out these handy infographics from KissMetrics and Fuse Work Studios, which illustrate the ideal timing for publishing content online.