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The Friday Five

Pull Back or Press On? Reevaluating Your Social Media Strategy During a Pandemic

By Michelle Garrett

The COVID-19 pandemic has now touched nearly every facet of our day-to-day lives. Social media and digital marketing are no exception. It’s essential for law firms to press the pause button as they continue evaluating how to proceed in this new environment. Some members of your audience are seeking information related to the virus, while others would rather not be immersed in news about it 24/7.

“I think firms should be realistic and human,” says attorney Chris Brown, founder of Venture Legal in Kansas City, Missouri. With regard to projects, “there are going to be delays. Things are going to slow.”

Before you proceed with posting as usual, here are some pointers to help you determine how to move forward.

1. Hit Pause to Review

Don’t completely halt your social media posts. But do be certain you continue to check any prescheduled posts or previously set up automated messages before they go out.

Review the posts so you can remove or rewrite content that sounds tone-deaf. If you don’t have time to review some yet, pause them until you can. It only takes one insensitive post to turn your audience off.

This includes email campaigns. Be sure to check your automated messages so that you can pull any “save the date” emails or messages about upcoming events or the like.

It’s OK to slow down a bit right now. For example, if you normally post multiple times per day, you can cut back on that. Don’t bombard your audience with so much content that they tune you out.

2. Know What’s OK to Post

The consensus is that if you don’t have anything to contribute to the discussion around the virus, don’t focus on it. It’s acceptable to publish a post about what your firm is doing to protect clients and employees.

If you have a perspective on a topic related to the virus, for example, crisis communication planning, that can be timely and useful to share.

“They should try to help,” Brown says. “Law firms should be putting out blogs on force majeure provisions, and on other topics that can help their clients and the community at large. First, it’s nice to help people. But second, it’s also great for marketing and improving your brand.”

“Business clients are desperate for relevant and practical information about the laws and regulations that are changing to deal with COVID-19,” says Mark R. Weaver of Communications Counsel and a partner at Isaac Wiles in Columbus, Ohio.

“Start by showing photos and videos of how attorneys are still assisting clients while working from home or social distancing,” Weaver continues. “Savvy firms will post longer-form video content featuring discussions with attorneys from the various legal disciplines of the practice. A video roundtable with useful tips can provide great social media engagement and might serve as a nice break for those working from home who need a change from binge-watching Netflix.”

Otherwise, you can use pre-planned topics that are evergreen.

3. Know What Not to Post

Many are hurting because of the virus, either physically, mentally, emotionally or financially. Use care and compassion in making decisions about what sounds appropriate. If in doubt, hold off on posting it. And, of course, content related to in-person events or travel should also be placed on hold.

“To try to put out a tough-guy image and say to a client that everything will proceed like normal is, in my opinion, telling the client that the firm doesn’t place any value on the health (physical or mental) of their staff,” Brown said. “They need to be honest with their clients, and their clients need to understand this is just the reality of the situation we are all in.”

4. Engage With Your Audience (Now More Than Ever)

Beyond merely posting, it’s always a good idea to engage with your followers. Interact with them and respond if they make comments or ask questions.

When so many are working from home and may feel isolated, people value conversation. Share information that could be helpful to them. For example, Brown shared a thread on Twitter with advice to help those who have lost their jobs and want to freelance in the interim, answering questions that arose and sparking a discussion that drew in veteran freelancers who also provided tips. That type of activity helps build community, which will be there for you not only during this time of crisis but afterward as well.

5. Be Consistent for Comfort

If your audience expects communications from you on a particular day or time, it’s best to continue to deliver that content, if you can. Why? Because we’re all in search of those we can count on, especially during this time of uncertainty.

Be there for them. For example, if your followers count on receiving your weekly email on Tuesday mornings, you should keep that cadence. They know when it’s coming and where to look for it.

Pausing to Plan Is Part of Thinking Ahead

Taking the time to thoughtfully plan your social media strategy now will pay benefits in both the short and longer term. If you have a communications professional on your team, now is the time to lean on them. Many are trained to help you say the right things and respond appropriately.

In everything you do, remember that how you handle your outward-facing brand during this time can help you be better positioned for when this ends, and work and life return to normal.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

Crisis Evaluation and Messaging Help

For more help with messaging, download Gina Rubel’s “Crisis Evaluation and Messaging Checklist” and “Key Message Matrix,” excerpted from her book, “Everyday Public Relations for Lawyers,” 2nd Edition. The checklist is free to anyone who subscribes to Attorney at Work.

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Michelle Garrett

Michelle Garrett is a public relations consultant and award-winning writer with more than 20 years of agency, corporate, nonprofit and startup experience. She works with clients worldwide ranging from small businesses to enterprises, assisting them in crafting and carrying out a PR strategy. Learn more at michellegarrett.com and follow her @PRisUS

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