Other than heavy reliance on alliteration what do these three things have in common? They’ve all been on my mind in recent months. And as such things go, what I’ve seen and read about the first two have influenced the third. Here’s how:
A few years ago I scratched a long-standing itch and re-engaged with my childhood love of motorbikes, purchasing the machine I’d dreamed of ever since my parents sold my 50cc minibike. Now I’m back on the road, but the middle-aged realities of running my own business and raising three kids means days spent actually riding are few and far between. More frequently my “motorbike time” consists of chatting about bikes with friends who ride and perusing motorbike websites – over lunch hours, or late in the evening after the kids are down. And one such website draws me back with unflinching consistency – Revzilla. It’s an e-commerce site selling motorbike clothing and accessories. But what makes the site unique – and sticky – is its ubiquitous use of video. Virtually every product sold on the site (and there are hundreds, perhaps thousands) has a short accompanying video about it. Each video is shot in the same environment and each one features “Anthony” – an extroverted, engaging and thoroughly believable bike guy who not coincidentally is also one of the company’s co-founders. I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent watching Anthony explain the nuances between different helmet models or boots over the last few years but it’s more than I’d care to admit. The result is that I feel I know what Revzilla is all about as a company, I’ve become a devoted customer, I’ve purchased most of my gear through the site, and I’ve recommended it to all of my riding buddies.
My anecdotal take-aways from looking objectively at my own user habits in this regard: 1) video works; and 2) a strong spokesperson helps to put a human face on your organization and creates customer buy-in.
Like many tech enthusiasts, I have been watching with interest the efforts of former Google Wunderkind Marissa Mayer in her role as Yahoo CEO over the past 18 months as she attempts to reverse the steep decline the Internet giant had lapsed into in recent years. And some of her boldest moves of late have involved two key things. The first is a focus on video. A November 2013 report in Mashable quotes Mayer from a recent earnings call saying “[advertising for] our video content sells out months in advance. . . we are working hard to drive traffic and video views and will make this a primary area of investment over the next year”. And the second is bringing in two very high-profile journalists – Katie Couric as Yahoo’s Global News Anchor and former New York Times Technology columnist David Pogue as Technology Columnist – to act as key public faces for the Yahoo brand online. You can bet they will both be front and center in a lot of that video Mayer is keen to focus on in the year ahead.
So that brings us back to where law firm marketing might be headed.
“Content Marketing” has been a growing phenomenon both in law and across the marketing world generally in the last few years, and it’s an approach that is particularly well-suited to law firms because it allows lawyers to play to their natural strengths – showcasing their deep subject matter expertise in specific practices or industries – and it de-emphasizes the “sales-y” side of marketing that is anathema to so many lawyers’ psyches. Legal blogging has flourished as a viable approach to increasing visibility and winning new business. Law firm websites – particularly for larger firms – have added considerable depth in the form of articles, case commentaries and industry-related news. Increased use of video content is the next logical step.
The use of video on the web has been growing exponentially as bandwith, production costs and other technical issues subside, and Canadians are at the forefront of this trend. In fact, ComScore’s 2013 report indicates that Canadians now rank 2nd worldwide in terms of monthly hours of video viewing (25) and number of videos per viewer (291).
As use of video continues to increase, firms will need to find a way to effectively use this format to present and to humanize key portions of that frequently dry, complex and jargon-laced material that is every lawyer’s lifeblood. And I think the good folks at Revzilla and Yahoo are pointing us in the right direction – the law firm news anchor/spokesperson. This person (or duo) would act as a key public face for the firm appearing in videos that reside on the firm website and social media channels. The news anchor or spokesperson could act as a unifying element for the firm’s video content, interacting with different practice group leaders or firm clients on key issues. Emcee duties for firm seminars and client events also fit logically within this role. If the selected spokesperson has a strong media background, acting as a media liaison between the firm’s lawyers and reporters from mainstream news organizations seeking firm commentary on high profile stories might also come into play. Having a strong personality fill the role of news anchor in-house would assist with a very real branding challenge that most firms face – distinguishing the firm from its similarly-situated competitors in a crowded market. It would also give the firm another potential point of connection to their clients in situations where a rain-making partner or senior associate picks up and walks across the street to a competitor.
An intriguing question becomes who the right person or people to fill this newly-imagined role might be. In a small firm the managing partner is one obvious choice. In larger firms, the possibilities open up even more. A national firm might well consider bringing in an experienced business journalist or television news anchor with some name recognition factor. Perhaps a combination of a very seasoned partner and a young up and coming star would make sense. One journalist and one rain-maker? Staffing issues aside, it’s inevitable we are going to see increased use of video in the legal context and I, for one, will be watching with interest to see if firms opt to highlight one or two individuals in the “news anchor” role as the public face of their law firms online.