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Law Marketers Win Key Ruling with Florida Bar Settlement

Ginger Reichl comments on the Bar’s decision to exempt online directories and social media sites from the advertising rules and treat them as ‘information upon request.’

See the full article here.

Tampa Bay public relations

Florida Bar gets it right with social networks

networkThe Florida Bar Association surprises me on a regular basis… but rarely in a good way. Over the last couple years, there has been a lot of discussion in the legal marketing community about client testimonials – those that appear in directories like Avvo and social networks like LinkedIn.

The rules on advertising prohibit testimonials, statements of past results, and commentary on the quality of service. However, by nature, the directories and social networking sites collect unsolicited comments by clients with little or no control by the lawyer.

Here comes the shocker. Today, the Florida Bar agreed to exempt those sites from the rules and are considering the content ‘information upon request.’ This is very good news for lawyers, as online client-generated content, reviews and recommendations begin to supplement the traditional referral.

I’m not anticipating a flood of new LinkedIn profiles from lawyers, but this decision finally removes the doubt and confusion associated with its use.

Now I can focus on training them how to use the tools effectively!

Tampa Bay public relations

Build top-of-mind awareness with an e-newsletter

enewsThere are some kinds of businesses that are a part of their customers’ weekly, if not daily routine—grocery stores, drycleaners, and gas stations to name a few. Other companies, such as clothing and hardware stores or even restaurants, also typically attract mostly repeat business. As long these operations offer competitive prices, good service and are conveniently located (with no new arrival in the market appearing significantly better on any of those points) customer loyalty should remain fairly strong.
But how can businesses instill loyalty when clients may need their services on an annual basis at best, or perhaps only a few times during an entire lifetime? This is the common situation for many professional service providers such as attorneys, CPAs, medical specialists, IT solution providers, or architects to name a few. An e-newsletter may be an economical and effective way to maintain top-of-mind awareness with prospective clients during those long stretches between having a need for the provider’s services.

Simple name recognition is good way to initially differentiate your business from others in your market. But more importantly, an e-newsletter emphasizes the expertise that’s available from professionals at your company.

The greatest challenge associated with producing any e-newsletter – one distributed via email – is getting an audience to read it. And even when a recipient originally made a conscious decision to request the newsletter, it’s not unusual for that person to soon find himself deleting the communication unread, marking it as spam, or taking the final step of asking to removed from the subscription list.

Here are few dos and don’ts that will help maintain reader interest in an e-newsletter from a professional service organization.

Do offer news the reader can use. For instance, attorneys might offer tips as to what to do when starting a business and accountants could point out frequently overlooked tax deductions. Make the articles memorable, pithy and to the point.

Don’t make the publication just another advertisement. In fact, it will enhance the credibility of your e-newsletter if you don’t overtly “sell” anything at all. While articles can address issues that readers may be facing as well as the available solutions, avoid talking about your own company’s specific offerings. Consumers are savvy. If they read about a problem in your newsletter, they’ll assume you have a product or service to meet their needs.

Do make it plain that you’re local. People are more open to information that comes from a “neighbor.” Work references to area landmarks or events into the various articles. As silly as it may seem, people enjoying saying to themselves, “I know where that is.” Referring to local places and events will make your business seem less abstract to potential customers.

Don’t pontificate. A “message” from the company president or CEO is generally bad enough as a reader turn-off, but it may be forgivable if that message offers the “news you can use” component mentioned earlier. Observations about the state of the union, environmental policy, what’s wrong with kids today, or any other topic outside of the author’s professional expertise however, is a definite no-no.

Do keep it brief. While you may have articles that link to your Web site for more additional (non sales) information, the amount of content visible at first glance, should not take up much more room than one screen length. The format should also make it easy for the reader to scan for topics of interest, and quickly glean the facts.

Don’t overload your readers. Make sure the people to whom you send your newsletter have a reasonable chance of being interested in the information you’re providing. And your total number of broadcast communications (the e-newsletter plus any other announcements, alerts, sales promotions, etc.) should appear in their inboxes no more frequently than twice a month. Once a month or once every three months is probably often enough for your newsletter to make an impact without becoming an unread annoyance.

Do encourage reader interactivity. Solicit and make it easy for your audience to provide feedback about your newsletter. Not only is this good PR but their ideas could very well have great merit and can enhance your publication. Also make it easy for audience members to introduce people they know to your newsletter. And finally, make it easy for readers to unsubscribe if they wish to do so.

Properly executed and written with your audience’s interests in mind, an e-newsletter can help keep your business in the minds of potential customers for that specific moment when they may need your services.

Tampa Bay public relations

Try social networking – for business and pleasure

networkAlmost everyone in business has heard how important it is to “network.” But for many people, the idea of making the rounds at the local chamber of commerce luncheon isn’t at all appealing. Now, thanks to online social marketing, it’s easy for anyone to make hundreds (if not thousands) of contacts.

Whether or not you’re active in a social network on the Web, you’ve probably at least heard of many of these sites (i.e.FacebookLinkedInTwitter… etc.) But for a definition, Wikipedia (itself quite an example of a socially engineered site) describes social networking as “online communities of people who share interests and/or activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most social network services are Web-based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as e-mail and instant messaging services.”

Read the rest of this article at Examiner.com

Tampa Bay public relations

How DO you do it?

I’ve been doing a lot of presentations about social media, web 2.0 and online reputation management lately. After 50 minutes of running through the design of a social media strategy, policies and a variety of executions, I inevitably get the question, “How do you keep up with it all?”

The short answer is that we make time for those things that are important to us.

The long answer is more complicated.

You don’t have to tell me that you’re already overextended.  I know. I get it. I am too.  But when you see the power that social media has, and how it can change (or at least enhance) the conversation, you’ll understand.

For instance, when I use my social media tools as filters for ‘the good stuff’, it actually saves me time digging through all sorts of news outlets, blogs, and other meaningless posts.  I have the people that I trust to provide the best information, and those are the links I click. Those are the sites or posts I read.

This is a topic that I’ll continue to cover, but in the meantime, here is a post from Michael Gass’ blog,Fuel Lines in which he discusses how he keeps up. And Amber Naslund just posted her plans for several posts about social media time management on SocialMediaToday. Becky McCray wrote Managing your social media timeon MyVenturePad. All good resources

If you determine that social media marketing is important to you, you’ll find the time.

Tampa Bay public relations

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