In this episode of the Wealthy Woman Lawyer podcast, we welcome Attorney Wayne Pollock to the show. Wayne is the founder and CEO of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm that helps attorneys and law firms resolve their clients’ legal disputes favorably in the court of public opinion. The firm also helps attorneys bring new client matters in the door by controlling the narrative of their clients’ stories and sharing their own stories to key audiences.
We chat with Wayne about balancing the goal of public relations with the directives of the legal department, as well as…
- Taking advantage of current events to ignite your marketing
- The power of planning your content with your audience in mind
- Bringing value to your clients and your business by positioning yourself as a credible authority
- The value of attorney-written content vs. non-attorney content writers
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Davina Frederick: Hello and welcome to the Wealthy Woman Lawyer podcast. Our mission is to provide thought-provoking, powerful, and practical information to help you in creating your own sustainable wealth-generating law firm without overwork or overwhelm so you can live your best life.
I’m your host, Davina Frederick, and I’m here today with attorney Wayne Pollock, founder and CEO of Copo Strategies. Copo Strategies is a legal services and communications firm that helps attorneys and law firms resolve their clients’ legal disputes favorably and bring new client matters in the door by telling their client stories and their own stories to key audiences, including the court of public opinion.
Welcome, Wayne. We’re so happy to have you here today on the Wealthy Woman Lawyer podcast.
Wayne Pollock: Hey, thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Davina: Good, good, good. So we have a lot to cover today because I have so many questions about the work you do. And I’m so excited to have a fellow attorney who also has a background in PR marketing. So we’re gonna have all kinds of things to discuss. Um, I want to start out by just getting people to sort of know who you are and what your background is in the PR world and in the attorney world and how you kind of came to be where you are today.
Wayne: Well, I will gladly talk about myself. Thank you for that invitation. So I’m a lawyer licensed to practice in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I’m based in downtown Philadelphia, but I have a national legal practice, international consulting practice. My firm Copo Strategies, which is short for “court of public opinion strategies…”
Copo Strategies is a legal services and communications firm. So some of the work I do is on the legal side, and some of the work I do is on the consulting and the marketing side. And I’ll get into that a little bit later. But I am a former big law attorney. I graduated from law school almost ten years ago, eleven years ago, in 2009.
And I had a public relations background before law school and always enjoyed public relations marketing. I was fortunate enough to graduate, even during the recession, with a job at a large international law firm. I was there for six-and-a-half years doing litigation.
And while I was there, I kept seeing a pattern, which was attorneys I was working with, attorneys on the other side of the table, and attorneys kind of in the legal industry generally struggled with dealing with high profile litigation that they were involved in.
They understood how to do the court stuff. But when it came to the court of public opinion stuff, they seemed lost. They didn’t seem to understand that the way that the media and the public perceives a legal issue can have a bearing on how that issue is resolved. And I just didn’t see attorneys grasping this.
And I looked around, I saw some PR firms that do what’s often called litigation communications. But they always did it from the public relations perspective. They were focused on the media, they weren’t really focused on the legal side of it. They didn’t know the ethics of attorneys talking to the media about their cases.
And they certainly didn’t know about defamation and how to avoid defamation when talking about pending lawsuits. So I did what I would not advise anybody to do, which is I had this lightbulb moment that I wanted to make a change.
I think this would be a great opportunity, a great thing to build. And I just, you know, resigned from my job with no network, with no client, with no website even registered, no LLC registered. And I just said, “Oh, well, let’s do this.”
Davina: You just dove right in. I love it.
Wayne: Which is why I do not advise anybody to do that. At the time I had a wife and two kids at home, I still do have that same wife and those same two kids. I took a risk. And I was one of those people doing that that was regimented. I’m type A, I’m a control freak, I’m regimented, and was so afraid of the unknown.
And now almost four years later, I love the unknown. The entrepreneurial spirit flows through me and it flows through you. It flows through a lot of people listening to this podcast, and I think it’s a big part of my views on life and how I approach business and my personal side of things, that sometimes it’s okay to take a leap and trust yourself and really gamble and bet on yourself.
And for three-and-a-half years, almost four years, I’ve been betting on myself and there were some trying times in the early going, like most entrepreneurs have to deal with, but you know, I’m here and I’ve expanded my business. I’ve grown the business and when I started, I was focused mostly on high profile cases.
So I would work with co-counsel or clients themselves as co-counsel. And I would be the second or third attorney that would come in and help them run the PR or the court of public opinion side of things. And then when I had client relationships, especially clients in the form of other attorneys, those conversations turned into some public relations marketing conversations.
And that’s how I developed the arm of my business that helps attorneys and other law firms with marketing, specifically referral marketing, which I think you’ll agree is one of the most untapped potential marketing areas for law firms. So often it just gets ignored because attorneys expect it’ll just happen.
And then through that offering, I started having more clients ask me to actually write their thought leadership pieces, their client alerts, their higher-end blog posts, their byline articles for trade publications because they knew I was a litigator. They knew I knew how to write and they didn’t want to be bothered when they could have been just billing time or doing client work instead of taking time to write.
So it’s amazing when you’re an entrepreneur and when you keep your eyes open and your ears open to what your clients are looking for. I think we developed and grew a business. So that’s my story, a lawyer with a PR background who had jumped in headfirst with no net to the entrepreneur world. And four years later is loving it.
Davina: That’s wonderful. That’s quite a story. And it’s interesting to me that you just kind of jumped in with no net and started your business. I love that. I love that faith, that you sort of stepped out on faith, you know, with that and just said, you know, “Hey, I’ll figure it out. The net, you know, the net will appear on the way down.”
Wayne: Yeah, there’s a big part of that. Part of that, too, is that I was at a big law firm and I saw the way, maybe not all of my colleagues, but I saw the trend, and it’s only coming up more recently about mental health issues, about work-life balance, about trying to have it all but having nothing when you are billing 2,000, 2,500, 3,000 hours a year to your law firm, to your clients.
And then if you get to the top of the mountain, you become a partner, which at most big law firms means you’re an income partner at first. Now, you’ve got to bill your 2,000 or 2,500 hours and you have business development responsibilities, you have mentoring responsibilities.
I thought to myself, you know, and we’ll get to this about the role of marketing, I thought, you know, if I’m able to bring in business myself, and create a company, and run it, and build systems that allow me to be profitable and satisfied and happy, why would I want to work for anybody else?
I had this idea. It may have not worked. Why not make the leap? And I think that’s why so many solo lawyers, or I should say new solo lawyers, would-be solo lawyers, they have this anxiety, and this anxiety… I understand that. I’ve been there.
You’ve started businesses, you’ve been there, but the idea that, especially now with resources like you, your podcasts, other things out there, where you’re no longer in the dark, like you may have been fifteen, twenty years ago, where you didn’t know about marketing, you didn’t know about processes and systems and procedures.
Now, it’s all out for the taking. I think it really helps you as an aspiring entrepreneur or a current entrepreneur, especially a legal entrepreneur. It gives you a little bit more support, and a little bit more than you may have had fifteen, twenty years ago.
Davina: Oh, yeah. You know, when I started my practice in 2007, I tell people that Facebook was just an infant and Instagram hadn’t been born yet.
I mean, like the changes in technology to take from case management systems that weren’t, you know, where you get the disc in the mail and you put the disc in, and then you load the software, you know, from that to now, everything being cloud-based and so many people being able to use remote workers and VAs and then, of course, all the wonderful marketing and PR tools that we have out there available to us we didn’t have even, you know, a decade ago, right?
So it’s a really exciting time to be an entrepreneur and start a business, and I love that you have really taken… You’re kind of a man after my own heart because one of the things I did when I started this business was I thought to myself, “What is it that I can do that will sort of combine all my skills and abilities that I’ve developed–being an attorney and the knowledge I have and my love and passion and all the experience I have around marketing and sort of combine this and create a business that I love and a mission that I’m excited about?”
And it sounds like you really did the same thing like this. You didn’t just go out and sort of start a traditional law firm which, you know, that’s wonderful for people who love that or are passionate about it. But you looked at it, you said, you know, “What’s unique and how can I combine all this other experience I had with this experience and create something that I’m really passionate about?”
And I think that, you know, was that something where you sat and sort of thought to yourself, you know, “I really need to think about this and decide what it is that I want to do,” or is it something where you like, you have this spark of an idea and you said, “I’m gonna just jump out on this spark of an idea because I think there’s something behind it.”
Wayne: Yeah, so it was more of the latter. I had spent the year before I left upping my networking game and talking to public relations firms that I know had this kind of legal public relations practice. And I was listening to what they had to say. And they obviously understood the media, and they just kept ignoring…
No one talked about ethics, no one talked about defamation, and certainly, no one talked, or they talked about privilege a little bit, but they didn’t understand attorney-client privilege. And real briefly… Because this was the final light bulb. You imagine like a range of light bulbs from like a little designer bulb to a nice big spotlight.
The final light bulb was like a huge fluorescent you see at large warehouses. The final big light bulb for me was when I realized, hey, wait, the case law across the country is that generally speaking, PR firms will not get attorney-client privilege to apply to their documents, communications with law firms that hire those PR firms to serve law firm clients, unless the attorneys say in court or on the papers that the PR person’s counsel was necessary for the attorney to render his or her legal counsel to a client.
So I imagine that’s not happening. Just either literally it’s not happening because you don’t need PR counsel to advise a client or legal counsel or because no attorney wants to go on the record and say that the PR person they render legal counsel.
And then I said, “Wait a second. I’m an attorney. I know public relations. There won’t be a question about privilege because I’m being hired as an attorney.” And there’s no good argument that when an attorney is retained by a client, that the attorney can talk to the media. Attorneys do talk to the media. There’s Rule of Professional Conduct 3.6, there’s literally an ethical rule about talking to the media, of course, being a lawyer.
That was the big lightbulb when I said, you know what, I actually have this, I want to call it a unique selling proposition as I’ve established it, but there’s this component that’s missing from the market I could provide that I thought was compelling enough to get people’s attention.
So that was like the last spark in a series of sparks, but from a purely financial perspective, I put myself almost entirely through college, put myself entirely through law school. I spent a lot of money for my education, my public relations and marketing education and my legal education. And I didn’t want either of them to go to waste.
And I thought, “Why couldn’t I just take these two roads and combine them–this public relations and marketing and this law road? I can combine them.” And one thing I’ve learned, and I’m sure you talk to your clients about this, to me, is the abundance mindset, the growth mindset versus the scarcity mindset.
And I had the scarcity mindset when I first came out, which is to say, “Man, there are other people who kind of sort of do this, I’m screwed. Can I build a business like this? Like, I have competitors.” And then I did my reading and learned and lived life a little bit. I thought, you know what, it’s the exact opposite.
There are so many prospective clients. If you understand what the market is looking for and you understand how to market yourself, you might have competitors but not really competition because once people get to know you, like you, trust you, they understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, it really changes your perspective of “Gee, that person down the street does the same thing as me?”
Well, no, not really. That family law attorney down the street, that criminal law attorney down the street, they might literally do the same thing in terms of the same area of practice. But their marketing is all different. Their marketing is about something that’s crazy. You’re marketing the need for your services, you’re marketing you as someone who understands the clients.
So even when two people are doing something similar, there’s no competition if you know, if you understand, the marketing. So all of these things just blended into my head and my thought process and certainly, I look back and I didn’t know jack squat. When I left my company, I left my law firm and started my company, I mean, I was both naive and, I guess, ignorant.
That’s great. It’s a great combination because I had nothing to stop me. And I think that is helpful and, you know, I have a supportive family, sometimes people aren’t supportive. They’re cautious about “Gee, what if you leave your big law firm? How are you gonna go on vacation?
Davina: Oh, yeah, you gotta have that job, right?
Wayne: And guess what, again, fifteen, twenty years ago, big deal. That’s a big deal. And people should think about that. But we’re in an era now where you can hang out a shingle electronically, you could join a company or be a provider for a legal outsourcing company. There’s just so many ways to go about providing your service that if you just are willing to make that leap, you don’t know what’s on the other side.
And that can be fantastic for you, for your family, for your mindset. And I keep going back to it just because it’s been such an epiphany for me that it’s a roller coaster ride, entrepreneurship, and it’s not easy. And there are some days where you just, you know, you just say to yourself, “Why’d I do this?” There’s some days where you say, “This is why I did it.”
The Court of Public Opinion
Davina: Right. Right. And you know, nobody has your unique amalgamation of experience and personality, you know, so that’s the thing that the people who are going to be attracted to you aren’t going to be attracted to your competitors, you know, because they’re looking for what you bring to the table uniquely, right?
And which is, you know, what I just love about kind of this surge of entrepreneurship that’s going on now and people stepping out on their own and especially lawyers, you know, stepping out on their own. And our audience, they’re women law firm owners who want to grow, you know, successful, high-revenue generating law firms, and so they’re very entrepreneurial in nature.
And, you know, you look around, you go, “Gosh, there’s so many lawyers out there starting law firms, how am I going to compete?” And the way that you start out competing is you just focus on what’s unique about you and what you bring to the table. And it sounds like you really were able to do that.
I want to get into the substantive part of this because I have questions. And I’m sure our audience is going to have questions. And so I really want to dive into this first piece. And I want to talk about all three of the services you offer. But the first piece really intrigued me because that’s the part where you help the parties involved in litigation.
So you serve as co-counsel, and you deal with the sort of court of public opinion. Now we’ve been seeing, of course, over the last, you know, few decades, we’ve been seeing a lot of these high profile cases, and of course, it’s gotten more and more viral, you know, like where there used to be something going on in California, we weren’t really paying attention here in Florida, right?
But now, everything is on social media. So it feels like Harvey Weinstein is right here in our own courthouse down the road. And that whole case and that whole story, right? O.J. Simpson was a really pivotal moment because it was on court TV, you know, it was on TV for us to see live.
And that’s something that’s kind of new that’s happened over the last few decades, and it’s becoming more and more of an issue. And I wonder, because I know that a lot of attorneys are going to be… There’s always been a conflict between PR and legal advice. Your lawyer, if you’ve gone and, you know, done, if you’ve been involved in something and now you have a case, the lawyer’s gonna tell you no comment.
Your answer is “No comment.” And the PR firm’s gonna say, “No, we need to get in front of this. We need to get in front of this and we need to tell our story. We need to talk about it.”
Like, remember when Tylenol was… Somebody had, like, tampered with Tylenol, and they had to, you know, so the PR firm in that situation is going to say, “No, we need to get ahead of this. We need to frame the narrative and tell the story because we have the court of public opinion.” And I promise you the attorneys in that case were saying, “No, no, no, no, no, we need to be careful what we say.”
Because what you say can come back to bite you. So how do you marry those two? And how do you… Do you have pushback from lawyers, other lawyers that you talk to about this? And say, “Well, you know, we need to not comment.”
Wayne: Yeah, well, we can spend the next three hours talking specifically. So I’ll try to hit all those questions in an efficient and informative matter. So what’s interesting is that legal attorneys, the legal side of the equation, and the PR side of the equation, they have the same best interests at heart, a client, but they often don’t pass each other.
The lawyers don’t want anything to come out that could impact the settlement negotiations or, obviously, a trial down the road or the merits of the case. And PR people want to keep the client in good standing and maintain the reputation, maintain their business interests.
What ends up happening is that, for a number of reasons, the PR people and lawyers tend to speak past each other. A: primarily because of those different interests mentioned, because of privilege, and which I just explained a while ago, and there are lawyers who will not tell the PR people everything that they know, the lawyers know, about the case for fear of having to turn it over during discovery, if you get the right discovery questions or document requests or interrogatories asked of you regarding that topic.
So sometimes, PR people and attorneys might not even have the same basis, the same set of facts that they are working off of. Attorneys now, I think we’re seeing now, in 2020, and it’s been the past couple years, but I think it’s been escalating based on, to your point, the Harvey Weinstein issues, the Me Too issues.
There is a direct connection between the court of law and a court of public opinion. And I think you see that embraced by lawyers more because more and more lawyers are getting pulled into this. So you have the chairman of, I think it’s Willkie Farr, of a huge international law firm. The chairman was ensnared by the Operation Varsity Blues, recently, where you had the college admissions cheating scandal that played out.
And I think people look at him and they say, “Well, there’s an attorney who had an amazing book of business. He was the chairman of an international law firm, and his reputation is shot.” And his lawyers have to now necessarily be thinking about his future, as much as they are thinking about his future earning potential, his future business prospects, as much as they’re thinking about the current case.
And that’s typically how these things play out, which is to say that people have legal issues, but there’s legal issues, oftentimes, when we’re talking about litigation and any kind of legal dispute that could play out in courts, complex commercial litigation, employment discrimination, criminal law, people are accused of doing bad things, and they have to defend themselves.
And if you rely simply on what happens in courts, that defense is not going to trickle out to the court of public opinion. And if it does, it won’t be persuasive. It’ll be piecemeal. So you have clients who say, “Well, Davina, look, I know you’re helping me with this legal issue litigation, but what do I tell my friends and family when they read about this in the newspaper?” or “What can I do to keep my business from going under?” or “How can I get hired again?”
And lawyers, most lawyers, are ill-equipped to handle this conversation. So there’s two sides here, there’s the plaintiff side, which has to say, “Look, this organization, this person did something wrong to me, the plaintiff. I want to tell my story so more people don’t have the same issue and aren’t hurt the same way that I was hurt.”
And there’s something to be said about the skill technique to put the spotlight on a case and bring it forth to the media [inaudible]. You have people who are accused of doing bad things and doing awful things. And they deserve to be defended because they have families. They have businesses, reputations that they want to maintain.
And we’re attorneys. We know that just because allegations are made, doesn’t mean they’re true. We know that just because allegations are made a certain way, does not mean that unlawful conduct actually happens. But that’s often glossed over when we’re looking at media reports of litigation.
And on the flip side, we know that the mere allegation of something often taints our perspective of a person, even when we’re not thinking about it. I mean, there are times where I read a long, maybe a long New York Times or Wall Street Journal expose on some alleged wrongdoing on the part of a company and I’m reading it, I’m like, “Man, that company really messed up.” I’m like, “Wait a second. This is my job. I should know better. These are all allegations.”
Davina: They’re tarred and feathered already in the public media.
Wayne: And attorneys, for the longest time, just thought those articles happened. Like “Oh, gee, they’re just writing an article about this wrongdoing. Look at that.” But attorneys have to realize they can be part of the process. Oftentimes, for a number of legal reasons, reporters are reaching out to the counsel for the people that reporters are talking about and are writing about.
They oftentimes, more often than not, almost all the time, would love to speak to an attorney about the wrongdoing the reporter is covering in his or her piece, but attorneys are gun shy. They don’t know how to actually communicate to the media.
They don’t understand how to translate legal theories or defenses into plain English sound bites that actually resonate and could persuade people. And they oftentimes think, “Oh, geez, this won’t affect the case. I’m not worried about it.” But again–
Davina: There’s fear of like, from an attorney, of saying, you know, like you mentioned before, am I going to cross some ethical line here? Am I going to, you know, get into a defamation situation or whatever, right? So there’s that as well, not just knowing, you know, not knowing how to talk to the media. There’s also this kind of thing, like, as an attorney, I shouldn’t say things.
Wayne: There’s a concern about that, absolutely. It’s a concern of hurting the case. And I think that concern just comes about like most things, based on lack of education, lack of knowledge of what you can say ethically. Most states, especially ones that mirror the American Bar Association model rules, you can always, always, always talk about the contents of a public record.
You can always talk about the claims you’re making in a case or your defenses. So you’re covered if you’re talking about that kind of thing. But of course, you have to be cognizant of defamation. Just because you can ethically repeat an allegation doesn’t mean it’s not defamatory if you frame it or phrase it the wrong way.
So yeah, so all these issues I think you’re seeing now, and you saw with Harvey Weinstein’s attorney writing an op-ed while jury deliberations were going on. And she caught flack for that. I think that what she did was ethical. She walked a very tight line. I think it was ethical.
But you see people who scoff at lawyers who are media-friendly, and it goes back to the entrepreneurship, where people look at you if you zig when other people zag or you zag when people zig, people look at you and go, “Huh, why is Davina doing that? There’s something wrong with her.”
But maybe Davina’s onto something by zagging when everyone else is zigging. So we still have attorneys who look at their colleagues talking to the media and think that it’s problematic. It’s unbecoming of an attorney. I think it’s ridiculous because the ethical rules support it and, more importantly, clients need it.
You can’t have a high profile case, when I say high profile, I don’t mean just Harvey Weinstein, I mean, you represent a client and the litigation is covered once or twice in your local newspaper or your local TV station. That’s high profile in your area. You can’t expect that a client will have a high profile dispute and not have some negative impact on their business, have some negative impact–
Davina: On their lives.
Wayne: On their livelihood. And the irony is that when attorneys engage the media ethically, strategically, and proactively, good things happen for those attorneys. It’s a great form of marketing. It’s a subtle form of marketing.
You’re not saying, “Hire me,” but you’re proving in your communications to the media, in your getting out there and representing your clients on camera, you’re showing people that you know what you’re doing.
You show people you can handle these kinds of cases. And why would someone Google, you know, Orlando criminal defense attorney, when they see you on TV, just last night, and they have a similar problem?
Davina: You know what’s a good example of that is Jose Baez, who was the attorney in the Casey Anthony case here. And he, that guy, you know, he hadn’t been in practice a long time or anything. And he hadn’t had any sort of high profile cases. And then he had the Casey Anthony case. And now he’s just like a spokesperson.
Every time there’s a big high profile criminal case, you know, he’s either involved in it or he’s talking about it, you know, and so it’s powerful. If you learn how to navigate those waters, you know, and still keep your integrity and protect your client’s case, legal case, but learn how to also, you know, answer and have a conversation with the media…
You know, what strikes me, as you were talking, I was thinking about the Varsity Blues case, you know, with all the parents who, you know, allegedly bribed schools or whatever to get their kids in and how there’s been such a change in that case.
Over time, you know, they had some like Felicity Huffman, who immediately just said, “Yeah, you know, I did it, I’m gonna go serve my time and get out.” And then there are others who took a plea and then there are others who are holding out for trial. And it’s interesting how that case has changed over time because now things are coming out where people are saying, “Well, you know, we were…”
The guy who was behind the whole operation is saying, “Well, you know, the FBI, at a certain point was trying to get me to entrap people, basically. And you think about that coming out in the media, how that could impact if the people who are in trial ultimately prevail, how their reputation is going to be more intact because there’s information out there in the court of public opinion, then if that information was never put out there, and I don’t know who put it out there, I don’t know who, you know, what press was involved or what attorneys were involved in talking about that case or whatever, and putting that out there.
But you just see how the court of public opinion really impacts cases and I think we as attorneys, we’d like to think that we’re kind of in this just silo, like, we’re just going to go and we’re going to do our work and litigate this case, and whatever the outcome is the outcome is, right?
And then our clients are just going to have to deal with that, right? But what you’re suggesting is you’re going to have to deal with loss of reputation, loss of job, however long that case takes, right? What you’re suggesting is there’s a way we might be able to mitigate that, right, while the case is going on?
Wayne: Absolutely. And remember, there’s the aspect of client service here. Even if you fight the good fight for a client and can’t get, especially on the defensive side, you’re defending someone, you fight the good fight, you just can’t get them to turn, you can’t get the media to turn around the publicity and turn around the coverage.
But you’ve made an effort. And that means a lot to a client because the client wants their story told. And imagine the referrals that come from a client who has an attorney who, whether successfully or unsuccessfully, at least tried to tell that client story.
That is someone, that client is someone who is likely to refer the attorney because at least they tried, as opposed to an attorney who turns a blind eye or ear to the publicity and just hunkers down.
I mean, that, to me, is on the same kind of egregiousness as the attorneys these days who don’t understand that they’re running a business as much as a law firm and just expect the bills to get paid and the clients to come in just by them writing briefs and motions for clients. It doesn’t work that way. You have to be more active.
Use PR to Boost Your Business
Davina: Yeah. Yeah. So I want to talk about what, you know, not all attorneys have these high profile cases. And not all attorneys are going to be comfortable talking to the media while cases are going on or whatever. But how can we use… So I want to ask you, how can we use PR, you know, if we don’t want to talk about our clients’ specific cases, how can we use PR to raise our profile of our business?
What are some of the things that we can do to attract the interest of reporters and, you know, other news sources? Or maybe create our own media opportunities or whatever to promote our firm and let people know about us?
Wayne: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. There are some practices that just… some practices of attorneys that are more likely to generate media coverage than others. I mean, most family law practices, most wills, trusts, estates practices, they’re just not going to generate publicity because the cases are typically private.
The cases are not in court, you know, being the kinds of litigating cases that reporters are monitoring dockets for. So we’re in an interesting era where, for many law firms, you can become your own news network. It’s not the same news that you expect from your local newspaper or for your local TV stations.
But you can create awareness amongst your key audiences that can help you boost your business. And I have a very broad definition of public relations. I consider public relations to be engaging with audiences that are vital to your business’s or your personal success. So that’s including the media, but it’s also referral sources.
It’s clients, it’s the community, it’s your own employees. So most PR people still have a media-first mentality or they’ll view social media as big PR steps and big PR tools. But based on my clients, I’m sure based on your clients, too, Davina, I see referral marketing as a big way to get out in front of your would-be referral sources, new referral sources.
I see thought leadership when you’re writing articles about and writing content about the issues that either prospective clients can find you about by SEO, or you’ve got referral sources whose practices overlap with yours and you can connect them and explain to them how they’re connected.
That leads to referral sources, too, or referrals as well, excuse me. So just getting back to the medium, I think current events and what’s known as newsjacking are pretty well-established ways to try and get to the media if you don’t have a high profile practice, meaning, you know, if you’re a wills and trusts or estates attorney and some high profile person passes away, there’s almost always some follow up coverage of that person’s will.
And if that person passes away without a will, that’s an opportunity for you to introduce yourself to a reporter and tell them that you are an attorney who practices this area of law. And you can comment on what it’s like to pass without a will or what family could expect now that there’s no will.
You hopping on top of current events is usually an easy way, or at least a low friction way, to go to the media. If you are an attorney that tends to practice certain areas, for example, if you tend to practice special education law or you’re in some other somewhat niche practice, figure out the media outlets, both locally and in the trees, that you think will tend to cover the kinds of things that you litigate or that you help your clients with.
So for example, if there’s a new bill being passed in your state regarding some aspect of education and you’re an education lawyer, you should be reaching out to reporters in the area that cover education because you can position yourself as an expert, “lower case e” expert for ethical purposes, but an expert nonetheless, in this field, mastery of the subject and then that local news article, that blurb, or that clip from the local TV station has been put on your firm’s website, blog posts on your social media feeds, in your email newsletter, and it just is self-perpetuating.
As you get more exposure, more and more people will see you. They’ll understand that you do what you do. They’ll perceive that you do it well because you wouldn’t be quoted by the reporters, by the media, if you have something interesting to say.
So they view it as social proof and hopefully they move you up on their mental list of someone to send referrals to if you’re a client. Or if you’re a client, they look at you and they think, “Gee, this person knows what they’re talking about. I should probably reach out to them about my situation.”
Davina: Right, right. Yeah. You know, like, I just saw an attorney today in my feed had written an article about connecting it to the coronavirus. It was an estate-planning attorney and say, you know, be prepared, be prepared if you are, you know, in the population that’s being, uh, you know, that we think is really being affected by this, which is a lot of the elderly population, you know, get your paperwork in order, be prepared, you know, we don’t want…
Nobody expects death. Nobody likes to think about it. But one thing that you can do is prepare your family, you know, if something were to happen, right, in light of this pandemic, and I thought that was a really interesting sort of person who has taken it and made a connection to a current event and said, “How would my clients be affected? How would my prospective clients be affected by this?”
Wayne: Yeah, it’s great. It’s great to take advantage of current events because people care about it. It’s a hot topic. But what’s interesting, too, is I’m going to flip what you just said. You just said, “How my clients are thinking about, are affected by some of the content.” I would argue a lot of your content should be focused on your clients.
And when I say “your,” I mean, my referring attorney. So for example, I work with a consumer law firm that helps their clients when their client’s credit reports or background checks are wrong. They’ve got bad information that’s keeping them from getting a job, keeping them from getting a loan or other financing, or what have you.
And they said to us that a lot of times this background check comes up, this issue comes up, in employment cases, and I said, “You know, are you writing about the background check issue in the context of employment law, and with kind of a nod to the employment law community that you practice with it?”
And they said, “We’re not writing any articles.” I said, “Perhaps it’s time to write some because you are introducing yourself as someone who could help other attorneys’ clients get where they want.” And imagine that if, Davina, I know from what you’ve written that you could help my clients because you’ve made it clear to me the kinds of issues my clients might have and how you can resolve them, even though I don’t know exactly what those issues are legally.
I don’t know the exact statutes, but you’ve told me the issues these clients face and you’ve explained the path forward. Well, of course, if I don’t have a go-to consumer law firm referral, I’m going to send it to that firm because that firm is writing and explaining to the referral sources what they need to know.
And I think that is something that is often unexplored by attorneys. Some are knee-deep in this but most aren’t. And same thing with CLEs, you know, depending on your jurisdiction, some CLEs are very easy administratively to put on. Here in Pennsylvania, it costs 25 whole dollars to register with the state.
And there’s $1.50 per attorney hour, who attends. So if ten attorneys attend, it’s fifteen bucks. And then you buy them lunch and, you know, perhaps give them some snacks and some soda. But the idea that you can position yourself exactly how you want to be positioned to the exact audience you want to be positioned to, to me, is something that attorneys often leave for chance, you know.
The real estate attorneys who could be getting referrals from realtors, the wills and trusts, estate attorneys who could be going to financial planners. There are attorneys who are way ahead of the curve, who do as follows.
They’re thinking about that audience, the referral source, and trying to get into their head the same way how many attorneys with their direct-to-client marketing think about the questions their clients have. Well, just turn it on its head. Think about the questions the referral attorneys have. And I think you’ll be surprised by how effective it is once you get some momentum.
How to Think About Audience Segmentation
Davina: Yeah. And you’re really talking about audience segmentation. I mean, we tend to think, oh, we have one audience, but really, we don’t have one audience. We may have multiple audiences. We may have our past clients and current clients as an audience.
We may have our best referrers as an audience. And though the best referrers may be segmented, they may be segmented by, you know, attorneys and, like you said, financial advisors, we may have more than one audience.
So as we’re creating content, we can think to ourselves, you know, a lot of email services, for instance, allow you to segment your audiences and send out one type of content to one type of audience and another type of content to another type of audience. And sometimes we don’t think in those terms, we don’t think in that way, you know?
Wayne: Yeah, and I’m sure that you guide your clients to this process, which is sometimes a difficult process. It’s marketing. It’s not meant to be easy. If it was easy, everybody would do it. Everybody would be successful. But it’s hard to think, “Okay, gee, I practice in this field, who are other attorneys that I think tend to have clients with these problems?”
And then you map it out. And likewise, what are the non-attorney referral sources I should be thinking about? You map it out. You see, first of all, who should you even be talking to? And then you think about “how do I actually talk to them?”
And importantly, how do I translate what to me is very easy to understand language and very easy to understand concepts to an entire audience that has no freaking clue what I’m talking about?
And that is always a challenge, is how do I place everything and recast all this information so that it’s in the self-interests of the audience to understand it, and they think they’re making themselves better and helping their own clients by reading my content? But really what I’m trying to do is position myself as a resource, and hopefully, someone they could send their business to down the road.
Davina: Right. Right. And this is a nice segue into the ghostwriting and thought leadership service that you offer. Because I think that, you know, you said, I’m sure you guide your clients through this.
I kind of chuckle to myself, I’m thinking a lot of my clients, oh, just getting them to start creating content and creating consistently to, you know, just one big audience, you know, just say, let’s just start letting people know what it is you do and create content. You know, oftentimes it takes a while to get them to start segmenting because I just want them to create some consistency.
And the reason it feels overwhelming that, okay, I’m this attorney, I’m trying to do all this work and grow my practice. I’m a law firm owner. That means I’ve got to lead a team, I’ve got to put systems in place, I’ve got to get the admin stuff running, you know, I’ve got all these things, plus they have to serve clients.
And now you’re telling me I’ve got to have a job creating content for, you know… And so oftentimes, what I tell them is you don’t have to be the one to create all the content. And I will hear back sometimes, “Well, I’ve tried to hire people, but then I had to rewrite it because they didn’t know what they were talking about.”
Yeah. And it’s a problem. You can’t, as attorneys, you can’t just go hire any writer off of Upwork or Fiver or whatever to help you write content because… I used to create blogs for attorneys when I started doing this. This is a long time ago.
And it’s different when you have an attorney create content for you because they don’t have to explain to you, you know, we’re researchers, whatever. And that’s the service that you provide. There are people out there like you who can create attorney-created content, right?
Wayne: And that’s exactly the key. You could hire a freelance writer, maybe an ex-journalist to write some content about, you know, the why of your firm, the how of your firm, your firm’s web content, your bio, your about us pages, your practice group descriptions, by all means, if you find a writer that you think writes well and knows what they’re talking about, then it may not be an attorney, it could be someone who’s just a naturally gifted writer.
But as you move down the spectrum of not legal content, to legal content, to legal analysis, then you start to see that if you have an attorney or you have a writer who doesn’t understand the concepts, then you’ll get a piece of writing back that might be well written, but it’s like these loose ends are never connected.
There’s no segue, there’s no explanation of how the concept three hundred words back connects right now to what you’re talking about because the person writing it doesn’t understand it. On the flip side, you know, many attorneys, I’m sorry to say, many attorneys are not particularly good writers.
They write what they think they need to write in the forms of their letters to opposing counsel, to the insurance company, in their motions or other court papers. But actually writing in a way that’s compelling and makes the other person want to read the next paragraph is not easy. And I think attorneys often give short shrift to writing style.
And they just assume that if we’re writing about legal things, we’re writing in a professional way about legal topics, it needs to be dry and bland and junk. It doesn’t. It can be.
Davina: It won’t get read.
Wayne: Right. And that’s the point is that we want this to get read. We want people to say that this piece was written up by a particular attorney. And we want that piece to convey that you are, the attorney who wrote it or whose byline appears, has such a mastery of it that they can explain it in easy to understand terms even when talking to another attorney.
I think a lot of times, attorneys expect other attorneys to be real careful readers when they’re writing content for other attorneys. And attorneys are human beings, right? We’re all human beings. We’re all over. Our brains are fried between work and home to the kids. And we don’t have time to reread the last paragraph because you, the writer, didn’t make it clear for me the first time around.
So yeah, there are plenty of people like me, attorneys who write, and I try to position myself based on my experience as more up-market, you’re in the kind of corporate defense firms and big law firms that have strict billable hour requirements. And the attorneys know they have to do this work, this thought leadership, but they just don’t have the time.
And that’s really where I’m able to help them and say, “Look, I’ve been there before in your seat, in your shoes, working for your partners. But I offer the service because I know it’s stressful for you to have to write about the topics that you want to write about because you’ve got hours to build, you’ve got trial next week, or depos that you’re flying out for in a few days.
So yeah, it’s something to me that we know, that I think most lawyers know fundamentally, they should be writing about the areas of law they practice. It’s the most low-friction, easy way to get your name out there and to show your knowledge of the topic, but more often than not, it’s either poorly executed or not executed because we’re too busy, as attorneys, running our business, dealing with family issues, to actually be able to spend time writing.
Thought Leadership–Content That Proves Your Expertise
Davina: Right. And I wanted to talk in particular about the phrase “thought leadership” because I love the idea of thought leadership and that really distinguishes us, that phrase distinguishes us from people who are, you know, like, generating content and putting it out there.
And you know, I’m explaining ABC or whatever. Thought leadership is really about a perspective and a point of view. And really giving your prospective clients, your best referrers insight into who you are and how you think about certain topics, right? So I love that idea of thought leadership.
And that really is something that fits into that PR category because you’re trying to give people an idea of what you stand for, what your mission is, what you’ve built, you know, what your thoughts are about your area of practice and certain cases and things like that, right?
And that is a much more powerful and interesting piece, whether that is a blog or an article in a journal or a video, whatever it is, right? If you can present your viewpoint from your experience, it makes it much more powerful, don’t you think?
Wayne: Absolutely. And I think that sometimes attorneys perhaps listening to this episode will think, “Gee, thought leadership, that sounds very corporate. That sounds very big law firm. What about me, I’m a solo? I have a small law firm.” And to me thought leadership is just a way, it’s a nice, shiny way, shiny term.
It’s really just used to explain content that displays that, you know, you’re talking about just content that shows that you know what you’re talking about with respect to your legal practice, and content marketing might be a bit more of a personal approach. Content marketing might be a little bit more of tangential things that relate to your legal practice but aren’t really about it.
But thought leadership is explaining what people should be thinking about. It could be what people should know about the future. I’ve made much more of an effort in my own writing and when I’m interviewed about the court of public opinion to keep an eye toward the future because it’s very easy to say, “Well, this is right or this is wrong, or they did a good job or a bad job.”
But it’s much more difficult, I think, much more persuasive, as a person who’s going to be a thought leader to say, “Well, here’s how I see that trend developing.” Or looking back and saying, “Over past history, you know, this is how things were done. And I see a return to that based on these factors.” And you can do that, as an attorney, any practice.
If you’re writing about a new law that’s changing DUI or that’s changing how you would create a will in your states, then you can show thought leadership, even if you’re writing what is really direct to client or to consumer content that’s meant to be consumed and found by SEO and online versus an article in your legal newspaper, your local legal or State Bar Association publication that goes a bit more in-depth because the reader, the readership is made up of attorneys.
So yeah, to me, it’s a classic way for attorneys to demonstrate they know what they’re talking about and almost prove to someone who doesn’t know them that they deserve their phone call or their initial email. Because if I didn’t know what I was talking about, I couldn’t produce what I just produced and what you just read.
Davina: Right, right. Well, we are about to wrap up here. Before we do, I want to ask you a kind of a last question here, which is for women law firm owners who want to grow sustainable, wealth-generating practices, so they want to create million dollar plus revenue generating practices, what kinds of, you know, what are the top one to three, you know, how many you have, depending on how many you’ve got in the top of your head, ideas that you can give them for how to start creating more PR for their firms today?
Wayne: So I would answer that with one thought and six words: everything is marketing; marketing is everything. Everything that you do as a lawyer, regardless of your gender, regardless of your practice, your age, your seniority, everything you do is marketing. And everything you do is public relations.
The way that you pick up the phone and that your team picks up the phone, the way that you speak to clients, the way that you respond to their inquiries. The way that you write your content directed toward would-be clients, would-be referral sources, the way you greet random people at a cocktail hour.
This is all public relations, all you creating connections with people, and it’s tempting to think about the shiny-object-in-the-room medium for publicity. But in order to have a business that lasts long and that’s profitable, you have to not focus on the shiny once-a-quarter, once-every six-months.
Let’s think about the day-to-day public relations. Think about how people perceive the experience. They have clients, referral sources, vendors, everyone that you deal with is a would-be referral source, everyone is a would-be client. And think about whether if you’re on the receiving end of how you treat or your team treats your clients and vendors, would you recommend your firm to other people?
Davina: That’s a powerful question there.
Wayne: And if the answer’s no, what can you do? And I will offer… And I lied, so the first thought is, “everything is marketing; marketing is everything.” The second thought is be a sponge. Keep your eyes and ears open to what people and organizations around you are doing.
Look at how your dentist office confirms appointments and seeks feedback. Look at how your local grocery store or your restaurants, look at how they treat you, how they market themselves, and how you feel when you consume their products or services.
Think, is there a way that you can ethically and realistically implement some of that when you are reaching out to your clients, you’re talking to your referral sources? Just always find inspiration. There’s really very few new and novel ideas. It’s how they’re applied.
Davina: And I would add to that reach out for help. Reach out for help. I mean, you know, you’re not expected to figure all this out on your own. There are resources available, resources like Copo Strategies available and, you know, other types of businesses available that can help you craft a plan for how you’re going to, you know, what is your brand and your message and how do you want to put it out there and what kind of opportunities you want to create for yourself because, you know, there are experts who can probably think off the top of their head opportunities you can create for yourself that would never occur to you, right?
Davina: All right, so we need to wrap up, but tell us where we can find out more information about you.
Wayne: Very simply, it’s Wayne Pollock, like Jackson Pollock. You can google me or find me on LinkedIn or Twitter. My firm’s website is copostrategies.com. All of my social media accounts are linked there. And if you are interested in chatting, just let me know that you heard me on Davina’s podcast. I love to riff on my own time with people about marketing, about PR. And yeah, this conversation could go on three more hours.
Davina: I know, I know. There’s so many more things we could talk about and really take a deep dive into, so maybe we’ll have to bring you back for that and we can get into some of these topics deeper.
I really… It’s fascinating how you’ve combined your skill set, and I really love this, you know, as an attorney being able to be a resource for other attorneys, to help them with their position, their case in the court of public opinion. So I think you’re really on to something, and I’m excited to continue to watch you grow and see you out there. So thanks so much, Wayne, for being here. We really appreciate it.
Wayne Pollock: Thank you for the kind words and thanks so much for having me.