In April, Steven Andersen moderated a panel on the effective use of video in law firm marketing for Law Firm Media Professionals in New York City. We asked him to give us a few pointers.
Last year I went to a reunion of sorts with a couple dozen former colleagues from my college newspaper. Itinerant profession that it is, journalism had scattered us across the country into a broad range of media industry jobs. Over the years I kept in touch with a few of my closer friends, and followed others’ bylines, but had lost touch with most of my former peers.
A funny thing happened as these familiar faces gathered at our old post-deadline watering hole: I immediately struck up long conversations with a couple of reporters that I didn’t know particularly well. There were many closer friends and acquaintances in the room, but I found myself strangely at ease with these guys I hadn’t seen since I pulled up stakes for Chicago and my first legal magazine job in 1996. Then it struck me why that was: The power of video.
Both of these guys, who write for my hometown daily, the Minneapolis StarTribune, post video frequently. So, although I hadn’t talked to either of them in almost 20 years, I saw them all the time. The time I invested watching their reports translated to a clear and palpable sense of familiarity.
What Advantage Can Video Offer You?
Video, done well, has the biggest upside of any law firm marketing medium. Video creates a sense of connection second only to a one-on-one conversation. When people click with a specific video presenter, they come back again and again because they trust the source, and they know their investment of time will be rewarded with quality information and valuable insight.
The problem is, not many firms do video well. That’s not a knock. It’s not easy. Video is an extremely challenging medium, and it’s unforgiving. If the opening line of a bylined article or white paper falls flat, the reader just turns the page. No harm done. Bad video can be positively cringe-inducing, inviting snarky comments and re-posts that ultimately damage the brand. Navigating the common pitfalls and learning to craft content-rich video is no small task for the uninitiated.
I speak from experience. In the last few years of my journalism career, I was dragged reluctantly into video production. I’d always been happy to work only in print, but the evolution of the media business means reporters now each have to be their own multimedia one-man band. My first efforts were hard to watch. I was ill at ease and struggled to make my delivery seem natural and authoritative. I spent one whole day in a soundproof closet talking into a recorder over and over again until I didn’t sound affected. It was rough, but it paid off. Incrementally, I got better at it, and with that came confidence, followed by quality.
I still wouldn’t call myself a video pro, but I’ll share a few hard-earned lessons, in hopes they smooth the path for attorneys to make the most of this powerful medium.
Be yourself. You’re not Walter Cronkite and no one expects you to be. Don’t affect a newscaster-y tone, or act professorial. (And definitely don’t act like you’re hosting an infomercial.) Talk like you are telling a story to a friend. Let your personality show through. That’s what people connect with in the end.
Don’t sell. This isn’t a pitch or a TV ad. You don’t need to sell yourself or your firm. A good video delivers useful guidance to clients and prospects. It’s a showcase for you to demonstrate your value.
Be brief. Focus on quick-hit takeaways. This is not a keynote speech. Viewers have little time and less patience, so get to the point quickly and get out. Shoot for a total length of two minutes—three at the absolute max.
Quality and quantity. A lot of firms pour big bucks into one slick, highly produced video. It’s much better to put out 20 quick hits with lower production values but a clearer focus—for the same price. For lawyers to find a core audience, they need quality content, and a lot of it. Return viewers are the prize, and you always need something new for them. It’s nice to look polished, but not necessary.
Learn the basics. There are many formats for video interviews. Do your homework to see what’s out there and what works. Read a film 101 textbook to learn the fundamentals of framing, composition, lighting and editing. It’s straightforward stuff, but surprisingly few people learn the basics of visual language before jumping into video, and it shows.
Stake your territory. The best video sources are narrowly focused on a specific subject, legal area or target audience. Don’t try to be all things to all people, you’ll get lost in the digital ether.
The bottom line is that video works. It doesn’t need to cost a fortune or take forever, and lawyers can use it to effectively drive business development. But you have to respect the medium and its many pitfalls. Video presents a steep learning curve, and few firms are over the hump yet. Those who master it will have a significant advantage.
Steven Andersen has been a professional writer for 20 years, and was a legal sector journalist from 1996 to 2012. He is now director of content and client strategy for Infinite PR in New York, and editor of the blog IPR on Message.
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