October 23, 2012

How Lawyers are Using Video

When marketing attorney services, video shows promising results. What started as an internal marketing experiment at my firm six months ago—creating eight short marketing videos—turned into a major firm-wide effort when early feedback showed that videos were one of the most effective forms of online communication. Not only do the videos convey what services and expertise the attorneys can deliver, but they also show how they might deliver those services as well. The “small experiment” has blossomed into a full-scale, video-centric website project with more than 80 videos slated to be launched through the end of the year.

Try before you buy
Early in my career when I marketed and sold software, providing a trial version was an effective way of getting potential customers comfortable with our products and their value. But when I switched to marketing and selling attorney services, that model was not an option. There is no “legal-professional-in-a-box” option available, but our early experiences with online video are bringing us a step closer.

Brand the practitioner, not the firm
One of the most formidable challenges in legal services marketing is differentiating legal services. For example, “Law Firm A” has as good of a reputation as “Law Firm B.” For this reason, clients will often say that they “hire the lawyer and not the law firm.” If this is true, presenting attorneys in the best light possible should be a primary goal of legal services marketing. By capturing attorneys in action, video places the attorney brand before the firm brand.

For years I hired (and fired) attorneys from highly reputable law firms because the services they provided bore only a loose correlation to the reputation of their firms. The level of service I received was as varied as the attorneys delivering those services. As long as firms market their standings, wins, reputation and expertise rather than the ways their individual attorneys approach problems and deliver service, they are missing a critical element in the legal marketing equation.

Benefits of online video
Online video has shown to have many advantages over other media. It highlights the attorney and provides an opportunity to demonstrate his or her persuasive powers. Through the combination of visuals and sound, video delivers ideas and positions with more authority and emotional impact.

Also, complex information can be explained simply. In fact, because effective videos are two to five minutes in length, they force attorneys to explain issues in a simple format that is ultimately more appealing to prospective clients. Finally, distribution is nearly free. Not only are there no incremental costs for distributing video online—you can post it on YouTube for free—but the medium is in such high demand that others will recommend and share it, thereby assisting in its distribution if the quality is there.

The rise of online video
Online video is a much more viable format now than it was a few years ago because of the changes in online user behavior, online technology advances and reduced costs. Here are a few other factors that have contributed to the growth of video:

Popularity. According to a recent Pew Internet study, “Generations 2010,” 66% of Internet traffic was video!

Sociability. If you use Facebook and/or YouTube, you’ve likely seen video emerging as a primary social medium that is regularly viewed, shared and commented on.

Discoverability. Videos are indexed, tagged and fed into the blogosphere and aggregated on websites at an astounding rate, especially when integrated with written summaries of their content.

Accessibility. More people can make reasonable quality videos more inexpensively than ever before.

But, like any medium, video presents many challenges in producing professional results. It isn’t easy to strike the right balance between delivering the production values of professional video and ease of creating of amateur video. Finding a balance that meets the standards of firms that guard their reputations and brand image carefully may be one of the most difficult hurdles in developing a video program at law firms.

Before embarking on developing videos at our firm, we viewed dozens of online professional services and product videos. We saw more mistakes than successes, such as bad sound, bad light, bad quality, overproduced videos, talking heads, unnatural delivery and too long.

Our approach
Our approach to video is very simple:

  1. Explore the video versions of every type of communication that we would provide clients and prospects. This approach provides us not only a purpose for each video, but a way of evaluating its effectiveness and identifying benefit.
  2. Don’t forget that we are developing online video and not feature films. This approach guides our view toward content, length, cost per video, number of videos and distribution.

Each of our videos represents a video version of regular type of firm communication. This approach allows us to understand the video format’s effectiveness in achieving our marketing results. The areas include legal alerts, press releases, educational videos and community involvement videos.

Leaving the “online” in online video
Understanding that video is an online social medium is critical to its marketing success. We have borrowed what we’ve learned from successful blogs.

Publish frequently: Volume matters in gaining followers and viewers. We publish approximately one new video per week, making them available to clients who access our videos through a subscription.

Keep videos short: Like blog entries, shorter is better. Based on our experience, online video is best at 1½ to 3 minutes. We may go up to five minutes for a very technical topic.

Tag and share: Like blog entries, tag content and share it through social networks and use syndicators to push out content.

Account for a short shelf life. Videos have a limited shelf life, so don’t make one that will take too long to produce, otherwise the information will be outdated by the time you release it.

Integrate. Integrate online video into your other forms of marketing. For example, you may find that marketing both through email and video may yield a better result than each of these media alone.

Measure results. Like all online media, you can measure views, referrals and the number of times videos are shared. Monitor this information and learn what works for you.

While our results are far from definitive, the inroads we have made and the potential we see going forward has prompted us to make an ongoing commitment to video. Like any marketing effort, we fully expect to continue experimenting with videos and our approach to promoting them, and monitoring and measuring our results. The ability to continually fine-tune and improve a video marketing program is one of the most exciting aspects of this new medium, and any firm with access to technical know-how, creativity and time can make it work for them. 

Is Your Law Firm Ready for Its Close-up?

You can compete with big players despite a smaller marketing budget by using specific demographic and industry information to create a cost-effective, targeted video that your prospective clients will stop to watch.

Video marketing is a powerful medium to communicate and connect with prospective and current clients. The good news is that, if you spend your dollars wisely, you can use video to compete with larger firms with bigger marketing budgets.

Shooting A Law Firm Video
Although you can buy a camera and shoot your own videos, quality and content can suffer unless you know how to use lighting, locations and audio to create professional looking and sounding content. And then you must edit. Bottom line: If your video looks sloppy, people might assume the same about your firm and the services you offer.

If you hire professionals to perform other marketing tasks at your firm including writing brochures, creating a web site, coaching or training your attorneys in business development, running retreats or setting strategy, consider adding another important tool, video production.

A video marketing strategy will be important for creating cost-effective videos. Here is a checklist to help you get started on your firm’s video.

Checklist for Creating Your Video Marketing Strategy

  1. Create a clear business, recruitment or training goal. What type of video and distribution will best accomplish that goal?

  2. What type of visual content do you want? Do you want to keep costs down by using stock video with voice over or do you want to film your business managers communicating the message? Live filming is usually more expensive, but if edited properly, it can have a long shelf life.

  3. Will the piece be humorous? Will it present a mini-story?

  4. Will music support the video or will it actively guide the viewers’ emotion?

  5. Do you want to develop a script for the video? Alternatively, the producer can ask well-planned questions to elicit authentic responses from your professionals, staff or recruits.

  6. Is the practice area to be highlighted full of jargon or sophisticated content? If so, seek a producer with experience in your area who can understand and communicate the content clearly.

  7. What look do you want to convey? Will you scout locations and props, or will your producer do that? You will always need permission and insurance to shoot a video in a building you don’t own and, frequently, you need permission even to shoot outside. On the other hand, picking a “cool” location may not be worth the hassle required to get good sound.

  8. Consider adding stock video from pond5.com or istockphoto.com to an inexpensive video with quality footage. If using a production company, how many rounds of edits are included in your contract? What additional rates apply?

  9. Does your production company address video hosting and distribution to your targeted clients?

If you consider law firms using video as “too out there,” remember that 15 years ago websites were considered by some to be a fad, a flash in the pan and an extravagance only used by large firms to impress clients. Within five years, we will likely see the majority of law firm websites with bios, firm practice area overviews or thought leadership videos.

Will you create yours now or wait for your competitors to take the lead?

By Linda Orton

Linda Orton is President and Chief Creative Officer of Intelligent Video Solutions http://intelligentvideosolutions.com/ in Rye, NY, a company that creates and distributes Web videos. She formerly worked in-house in legal marketing and recruitment for major firms in New York and London.