Online reputation management represents a powerful marketing opportunity for lawyers.
Whether it’s a scathing one-star rebuke of your staff on Facebook, or a glowing review of your dedication to the practice of law on Yelp, reviews and ratings of your law firm aren’t just the ramblings of fanatics or trolls anymore.
But, is it even possible to monitor, control, and guide the digital conversations around your law firm?
Yes, it is.
Lawyers and legal marketers can take control of their online reputation and find success by (1) understanding the current ways marketers handle online rating and review platforms, then, (2) establishing systems to generate, monitor, filter, and curate client feedback, and finally, (3) engaging in proper public relations on behalf of their law firm. Let’s dig in!
How Are Marketers Handling Online Reviews and Ratings?
Legal marketers know word-of-mouth is one of the most important drivers of referrals for a law firm. And it’s been that way forever. What people say about you and your law firm’s reputation to their friends, family, or close connections is free advertising. So how do you keep this potent marketing channel delivering?
Easy: You just do good work, and the clients find you.
Given that one Google search for a lawyer within your area of practice in your city will show over 20 million results, the idea of “If you build it, they will come” is just a Field of Dreams.
The Internet, consumer review sites, and social media have replaced water coolers, and word-of-mouth (WOM) referrals are happening online.
Lawyers have to generate, monitor and leverage mentions of their law firm to tilt the search odds ever in their favor.
While the vast majority of law firms understand the power of traditional WOM referrals, very few have a system in place to monitor, understand, or handle them, according to the 2018 Online Reputation Management Survey from BrightLocal.
At a recent Local Business Insights Summit, over 300 marketers from small business to enterprise-level companies answered questions about how they are handling online reputation. Here are the important takeaways.
First off, every marketer agrees, handling online reputation is essential.
How important is a positive reputation to the success of your businesses?
Do you currently use software to help manage your online reputation?
Marketers say that handling their online reputation is important, no one has staff, software, or even a strategy in place to help manage it.
Monitoring and maintenance of mentions of the brand, generating customer reviews, and training staff on the importance of the process were all cited as top difficulties.
How difficult are the following online reputation tasks?
To synthesize the findings above; marketers across industries, including legal, are all keenly aware of how important online reputation management is, but they find it difficult to establish a system to manage it.
And, more importantly, if marketers across every industry are having difficulties handling their company’s online reputation, there is an evolutionary advantage to the law firm and legal marketer that handles this now.
Establishing Your Online Reputation Management System
As a former marketing director for a personal injury law firm, I can tell you firsthand how transformative it is to get a grip on your online reputation.
It was a game changer.
To get ahold of your law firm’s online reputation, I suggest getting these things:
- Software to monitor and notify you of your brand mentions across the web
- A central place to track all reviews and ratings
- A way to mitigate negative reviews and keep them in-house before they go feral
- Training on protocols for eliciting reviews
- Firm guidelines on proper responses
- Reporting on brand sentiment
- Staff to implement, monitor and provide accountability
By handling the above at my old law firm, we shot up in ratings across every major platform, we began to guide the narrative of our firm, and by responding to every review, good and bad, we took advantage of the free marketing and advertising opportunity that exists with this “new” form of word-of-mouth.
When you think of it, online reputation management is something public relations professionals have been dealing with forever. Which leads us to our final step.
Proper Public Relations Advice for a Digital World
Your law firm’s reputation, like it or not, is in the hands of the public, so in handling your reviews and ratings, you are now able to act as your own PR agent. And among the many things PR professionals know, consistency is the real key to properly handling reputation.
Here are more insights on how to consistently handle your online reputation from the same BrightLocal marketer’s survey above:
The reviews of your business can feel personal. Indeed, the reviewer may even mention your name. Multiple times. And use colorful language. The most important thing to remember is to be nice.
Not because it’s courteous, or the right thing to do (it is), but because your future clients are watching.
Ask for Reviews
You get what you ask for, and if you don’t ask for reviews, you won’t get them. The best time to ask for a review is when the client is in your firm’s office. Create a process where the client can leave a review while handling other business, picking up a disbursement check for instance, because you are asking them to leave a review on your time, not theirs.
When it comes to asking for reviews, this quote has it all: “It’s a long game. If you’re not playing it now, you’re already behind. But, not many other businesses have mastered it, you can start now, do it right, and slowly take advantage.”
“Don’t try any schemes or tricks, if it hasn’t been pegged as spam yet, it will be. The way to success is to make reviews part of your process, tell your team, and make sure every client gets asked to leave a review.”
Train Your Team
Bearing in mind your local bar regulations, see if you can incentivize your staff to generate reviews. If the employees know you’re serious and supportive, and they have the proper training and review request templates, you’ll see an increase.
Establish guidelines on proper responses to reviews, flagging fake reviews that violate terms of service, and follow-up processes that keep the reviews flowing.
Respond to all reviews, negative and positive, and in a timely fashion. Your client took time out of their day to write a review of your firm, you have to be willing to respond.
When it comes to your law firm’s reputation online, the single worst thing you can do right now is nothing.
And that’s what over half of your law firm competition is doing: nothing.
Not only does Consultwebs have a guide on how to remove negative reviews from Facebook; an episode of LAWsome, our award-winning legal marketing podcast, where we dive into online reputation for law firms and talk about client experience; and a Client Reviews Resource Bundle to help you implement the advice above; but we also help law firms handle their online reputation as part of our full-range of legal marketing services.