Sunday, June 14, 2009

The 10 Things Every Lawyer Should Know About Online Press Releases

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Before the internet, public relations came down to who you knew in the mainstream media and how much you were willing to spend to build visibility and awareness. Back then, marketing promoted your legal services to consumers while public relations was far less controlled by you and relied heavily on media filters and contacts. With the advent of the web, that has all changed.

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Courts’ ruling on Bates vs. State Bar of Arizona in 1977, attorneys have been (with certain limitations) been able to move beyond the shingle and advertise their services to the public. Prior to the proliferation of the web, public relations primarily dealt with press releases and media outlets such as television, periodicals and the like. These were the most common vehicles of the time in which your prospective clients could be conveniently interrupted with announcements of your services. Over the past decade or so, customer behavior started to change and instead of being interrupted by TV’s, billboards and the like, they started to turn to the web as part of their daily lives. With the help of search engines, an amazing transformation started taking place – people starting looking for attorneys on their time without interruptions. If they have an issue, they now look online for legal advice and attorneys who can handle them, on their own time.

All of these changes have now clouded the once separate functions of lawyer marketing and public relations since technology now allows them to cross some very important paths – chiefly having to do with press releases. In the past, press releases were sent from the attorney to the “press” for the “press” to release through their own channels. This in effect served as a filter to the consumers to which many attorneys had little control. But three important technological changes happened to dramatically change all of this. First, press releases can now be published to the web by anybody at anytime at very little costs. Second, press releases are now indexed in the search engines just like websites and blogs for people to search for and find. Finally, many traditional media outlets are increasing relying on web content for their news and research - or they are simply dying off like dinosaurs with other print media.

So how can your law firm take advantage of these changes? Here are the top 10 things you should know:

1.) Define your goals and objectives. What are the goals and objectives for your law firm and how will press releases help you get there? This is a fundamental question you need to ask before you start a press release campaign. Remember: you cannot manage what you cannot measure. If you want to measure the success of your PR efforts, make sure you have clearly defined your objectives. These will commonly include: increased awareness and name recognition, communication of major events or cases, client retention, new client generation, building a case (such as new plaintiffs for a class action case), generating new referrals, etc.

2.) Use your press releases to support your website and blogs. Every press release should help support the visibility and client generation effort of your firm. If you send out a press release, ALWAYS make sure it provides and easy path for users to find and contact you – a place where a call to action can occur. Links to your websites and blogs not only direct traffic, but also provide inbound link value to your website thereby helping to increase your ranking in the search engines as well.

3.) Every press release should include Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Keywords: When it comes to the web, content is king. The more targeted content you have, the better your chances of showing up in the search engines for those types of searches. Do some research on the words and phrases that people commonly use for such related practice areas and incorporate them into the title and content of your releases. We have provided tools to assist in your keyword discovery process at:

4.) Every press release should include Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Inbound Links: It is also important to include inbound textual links from your press releases into your website – which will act as a vote for your website in the search engines and help increase your visibility and rankings online. Although some press release services will limit the type and amount of these links, it is important to take full advantage of as many of textual and inbound links to your website you can. We have provided an overview to assist in your inbound linking process at:

5.) Make the press aware of your press releases. This might strike some as a bit odd since this process can help bypass the press all together but that is not the point. If you have something important to say and want to become a thought leader in your practice area, you should make the relevant press contacts and outlets aware of your press releases. Remember, if your goal is increased awareness, visibility and client generation, than leveraging your current PR efforts to bigger outlets should always be welcome. Do some research into the major press contacts who have written about your area of expertise and gather their contact information. When you have a press release you think may be of interest to them, send them a personalized email to their attention about your work and do so on a frequent basis for each release. At the same time, make sure to invite them to your blogs if you have one as well. You never know – they may just have an interest in what you are writing about and one day and all of the sudden you can become a star.

6.) Write your releases with your target market in mind. If your press release has to do with trucking accidents and is intended to help generate trucking accident clients, they stay away from the legal jargon such a “litigation”, “plaintiff”, etc. – words that mean nothing to somebody who just may have been crushed in their car and need legal help for the first time. Find the words that your customers use and use them in your press releases.

7.) Timing can be critical for your press releases. This may come as a surprise to some but a good steady stream of press releases can be just as important as an event drive release as well. In the past, PR was all about timing – news today, ancient history tomorrow. Unlike traditional media with shelf-life measured in the hours, the web now indexes, stores and provides press release content for months, years and even decades later. So a good steady stream of press releases is always a good way to flood the world with information for whenever they may need it – when they need it.

8.) Include compelling offers to potential clients in your press releases. If you law firm offers free initial consultations, make sure to include that prominently in your press releases. Look back at your goals you have set for your press releases and always make sure that you try to support those goals with an incentive and/or call to action within the press release itself.

9.) Place press releases on your website and blog. Many press releases provided to the online news services have a limited shelf-life – in many cases two years or less. Since you want the search engines to index these press releases to your benefit, why run the chance of losing that content and links into your website if they expire? To help avoid this, publish your press releases on your website and blog – it will add to your visibility and create more inbound likes to your website as well.

10.) Publish your press release online through distribution services. Once you have your press release ready to go, you now need to distribute it through a press release distribution service (or news wire) so others can read and index it. These services number in the hundreds and range from free to hundreds of dollars per release. The benefit of using the good paid ones are that then can often reach hundreds and thousands of websites in a single release. The free ones are good to – just understand that with most forms of business, you get what you pay for. Below are some of the more popular paid and free news distribution services online today:


Free (Or almost free):

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