The most exciting aspect of my book The New Rules of Marketing & PR is I have the honor of showcasing some of the best examples of building successful marketing programs. There are more than 50 profiles throughout the book, many of them featuring the marketers’ own words from interviews with me.
This is an excerpt from the new 8th edition about a lawyer who learned the frustration of relying exclusively on expensive advertising and high-priced PR agencies to deliver an organization’s story is long gone. Today smart entrepreneurs and marketers craft compelling stories and tell the world directly via the web.
Existing and potential customers as well as members of the media will see this content. It brands you as an expert. The tremendous expense of relying on advertising to convince buyers to pay attention to your organization, ideas, products, and services is yesterday’s headache.
Reaching Your Buyers Directly
When the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020, Russell Alexander was just beginning a trip with his family. Russ is founder and senior partner at Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers based in Ontario, Canada. He was in Atlanta’s Hartsfield–Jackson Airport waiting for a connecting flight to Florida when he noticed on an airport TV that Canada’s prime minister was recommending that Canadians not fly internationally. Russ decided to turn around and go home. Soon after he and his family returned, the U.S.–Canada border had closed, schools and businesses were on lockdown, and his law firm went to full-time remote work. Things were changing quickly, almost hourly, as the pandemic took hold in North America.
Russ, whose firm specializes in the Canadian legal issues related to divorce, knew that the pandemic was creating fear—and a leadership vacuum. He and his team quickly realized they had an opportunity to educate Canadians about the ramifications of the pandemic on families.
“We were getting questions from our clients that we had never gotten before,” Russ says. “Every ninety days or so, the pandemic would throw us a new curveball. In March 2020, people didn’t know how COVID was transmitted and weren’t sure how to stay safe. Some parents weren’t sending their children for access with the other parent because they didn’t want to put their kids at risk. We heard from people who told us they weren’t being permitted to see their own child. Judges heard some cases and determined that access must continue.”
COVID-19 & Divorce Information Centre
Whenever new issues like this popped up, Russ and his team created content in real time that addressed the issues. They published them on a newly created COVID-19 & Divorce Information Centre section on the firm’s website. The site included videos originally published on YouTube, a podcast, blog posts, and free virtual events. “The next bump in the road was summer holidays in 2020,” Russ says. “Some families rented cottages and wanted to have extended family and friends to the cottage. The government decided the various protocols about numbers of people who could gather, and it was up to families to comply. If they didn’t, a judge could intervene and say, ‘No, that’s too many people. You can’t do that.’ Then in September that year, it was back to school, a whole different area for parents to fight over.”
Russ says that one parent frequently said one thing, such as wanting their child to go to in-person school, while the other parent disagreed and wanted virtual. That became the kind of issue in which Russ’s firm represented one of the parents. Courts sometimes stepped in and made important decisions.
None of these issues had significant precedent, so there was no place for families to get reliable legal information. Russ and his team stayed busy, creating content to educate families and the media.
“If a case were breaking, we would write about it on our blog within a few hours,” Russ says. (I call this technique Newsjacking, and I describe it in detail in Chapter 20 in The New Rules of Marketing & PR.) “We started with a blog post of about 500 words and got that out right away. Next, we did a short video about the blog post. Later, we would do a longer video, maybe ten minutes, talking about the issue in depth. For important issues such as back to school, I invited other lawyers to a discussion that I would host. We released those as podcasts and YouTube videos. We also shared links to our original content on our social media accounts, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. We started jumping into TikTok too. The opportunities to repurpose content are endless once you have something compelling.”
All the content on Russ’s COVID-19 & Divorce Information Centre served, and as of this writing continues to serve, as the basis of family discussions about the issues surrounding COVID-19 and family law. These posts also brand Russ and his firm as Canada’s premiere experts in these subjects. That’s true as well for the free virtual events Russ continues to host, such as “Top 10 Things You Should Know About the Divorce Act Changes” and “How to Divorce during the Pandemic.”
The content also educates reporters about the issues and helps them to craft their stories. Journalists quickly learned that Russ had the best information in all of Canada about COVID-19 and family law. Many reached out to interview him for their stories.
“Frequently, reporters would call us to book an interview soon after we wrote about a new issue,” Russ says about his successful newsjacking. “We’re always mindful of working with the media. We ask them what their deadline is and what kind of story they are working on. It’s important to do the media interviews, so I will rebook a client meeting to get on a call with a reporter. The media goes to the top of the list. During the pandemic, I did more than fifty media interviews, including radio, TV, and print publications. I’ve been featured in newspapers like the Globe & Mail, our national network, and many others.”
Russ and his team always share links to the resulting news pieces, so their clients can see them. “Once we see a new story in the media quoting us, we post it to our site and promote it on our social channels,” he says. “We have many dozens of links to news stories, so that adds credibility for people looking for help on these issues. Many people will also refer us to friends and family.”
As a result of these efforts, Russ is seen as the best place to get information about COVID-19 and family law. “The combination of content and newsjacking has led to many new clients and has been the reason we’re up 30 percent this year,” he says. “And in an environment where many law firms are cutting back or even shutting offices, we’ve hired five new lawyers and are bringing on new staff to keep up with demand.”
Russ recently told me that the ideas in The New Rules of Marketing & PR have helped him grow fourfold. How cool is that? The best part of my work is that my ideas help people to grow their businesses!
There’s no doubt that getting the word out about an idea, a product, or a service is much simpler when you can rely on social media sites like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. The web allows any organization (including law firms like Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers as well as nonprofits, companies large and small, government agencies, and schools) and any individual (including candidates for public office, artists, and even job seekers) to reach buyers directly. This power is clear to nearly everyone these days, but many executives and entrepreneurs still struggle to find the right mix of traditional advertising and direct communication with buyers.