Given that quotable experts are the lifeblood of every news organization, it’s no wonder thousands of public relations outfits are working overtime trying to package their clients as the ‘go to’ source for a specific industry. Thanks to the Web, now every law firm—no matter how small its PR budget—can do the same.
“Once you fill a niche and provide a unique perspective on your area of expertise—and once people are drawn to what you offer—they continue to return to you,” says Bob Baker, author of Poor Richard’s Branding Yourself Online. “Not only because of what you do, but also because of who you are and what you bring to the subject.”
Not surprisingly, cultivating an image on the Web as an authoritative news source demands many of the same qualities necessary for any respected product. Building trust, developing a consistent theme and reinforcing your authoritative image with unrelenting repetition must be part of the package from the very beginning, Baker says.
But equally important is creating the aura of authority or celebrity, he says. “Successfully pinpointing an online brand identity can mean the difference between attracting patrons and creating fans,” he says. “The radio program ‘All Things Considered’ has listeners; Howard Stern has fans. Entertainment Tonight has viewers; David Letterman has fans.”
Web Tools to Give Your Image Legs
Once you’ve hit on an image package you believe will help catapult you or another key member of your law firm into the media limelight, there are a number of Web tools you can leverage to give that image some legs:
- About.com. Already the home of hundreds of experts in a wide array of industries and special interests, About.com is one of the highest profile stables on the Web. Essentially, each of these experts receives a home page on About.com, which features a generous selection of links related to the area of expertise, ongoing online chats related to the subject, at least one newsletter, a bulletin board and an open invitation from the expert to answer email questions on the subject area. Without a doubt, signing on as an expert on About.com represents a major commitment. According to About.com, most experts or ‘About Guides’ put in 10 to 20 hours-per-week keeping their own little corner of the Web up-to-snuff. And all are strong writers who are able to generate a 300- to 500-word feature related to their area of expertise at least twice a month.
- Experts.com. This site is a basic clearinghouse for industry and other authorities, and a relatively inexpensive place to post word that your CEO is ready, willing and able to be quoted. A considerable amount of effort is invested promoting the site online, and ensuring that it consistently ranks high in search engine returns when Web surfers search for “experts” in general, or a specific expert in particular.
- Profnet. Run by PRNewswire, one of the oldest press release creation and distribution service providers, Profnet is a stable of 30,000-plus experts who have agreed to answer email queries from the news media via the Web. Reporters and editors stop by here, punch in a question, and Profnet distributes their queries to the appropriate experts four times a day. PRNewswire has a fairly high profile as a disseminator of press releases, so booking your law firm here may pay off handsomely.
- LivePerson. Not a traditional media authority clearinghouse, LivePerson enables lawyers and other experts to chat real-time with Web-cruisers who are looking for answers to specific questions. People stopping by with questions about the law may be turned into clients here. And there’s as good chance at least some of those people are reporters with questions. Besides serving as an excellent promotion forum, LivePerson also enables company experts to charge for the advice they give. As a registered expert, your law firm designated expert will be listed according to their professional expertise, and receive all the tools they need to communicate with clients and colleagues via LivePerson, for free.
(You’ll want to make sure you are complying with ethics rules when dispensing advice over the Internet, of course, or when describing your services online or in advertisements.)
Don’t Forget Content-Hungry Ezines
There are dozens—often hundreds—of specialized industry ezines crying for authoritative articles from industry experts. Check your puff at the door, provide truly useful articles and you’ll never run out of industry forums to place articles featuring your firm’s experts. “Good content is hard to find,” Baker says. “Experts on specialized topics are even harder to find.” For leads on ezines to publish in, check out Ezine Hub.
Joe Dysart is a veteran journalist covering the Web and ecommerce. He specializes in stories illuminating new Web trends, as well as detailed case studies featuring implementation of new Web technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, the Financial Times of London and 40+ other publications.
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