Effectively Managing Your Online Reputation
Tips for minimizing the chances of a law firm social media crisis.
I recently presented to a group of Bar Association members at a CLE seminar on the topics of legal ethics and professional liability. For this seminar, Dave Slovin from our marketing firm PracticeProfs helped add new content about reputation management. So many heads were nodding in agreement during this part of the discussion that we decided to share some of the information through my blog.
What is law firm reputation management?
Reputation management is the understanding and influencing of an individual’s or firm’s reputation. It shouldn’t be limited to just the internet, but that’s where we seem to get in the most trouble. We can now “share” our lives and information quickly and easily, with social media and review sites offering a fun and informative platform for that communication. Unfortunately, we can also get hurt faster than ever before, and in a variety of ways:
- Personally. Damage your personal or business reputation.
- Professionally. Get you fired, by a firm or client.
- Legally. Put you at risk of a bar grievance or lawsuit, as In the Matter of Margrett A. Skinner, discussed in my article about online reviews.
Social media is not private. You never know who is watching or reading information linked to you. Once you post something (or something is posted about you), it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to change or delete that information. Many sites share information, so addressing or deleting a negative comment may require you to chase it all over the Internet. That said, there are a number of things we can do as individuals and law firms to minimize our chances of suffering through a reputation crisis.
Reputation management tips for individuals – be cautious about posting:
- Personal, religious, or political information. Like it or not, clients often make business decisions based on their (and your) personal preferences.
- Alcohol or party images. Set image tagging so that you can approve requests, and resist the urge to memorialize late-night behavior.
- Harsh negative reviews. You’ve probably read these, and they often say more about the reviewer than the establishment being reviewed.
Reputation management tips for firms – control is critical:
- Communicate with your clients. In addition to complying with GA Bar Rule 1.4, accurately set (and reset) expectations. Copy clients on all communications. Provide regular updates, even when there is no news.
- Protect your brand. Register it on all social media platforms.
- Ask clients for reviews. A steady stream of positive reviews, endorsements, and testimonials minimizes the impact of a negative post.
- Handle negative posts professionally. Take it offline, meet with the complaining party, resolve the issue, and ask for an update or retraction. You will never win an online argument.
- Develop a social media policy. It’s best to have one person responsible for complaint management and responses so you have a consistent message and response process. In fact, GA Bar Rule 7.1(a)(4) requires the disclosure of the name of one lawyer in the firm who is responsible for the firm’s marketing content.
Actively monitor your brand
The process of managing a lawyer’s or law firm’s reputation requires an organized ongoing effort. Being proactive gives you a level of comfort that you’re protected, and allows you to react quickly in the event of any negative incident. The PracticeProfs team offered a few suggestions:
- Search for your firm and attorneys on Google each month.
- Set Google alerts to send you emails when your firm is mentioned.
- Use a reputation management tool like Rankur, TweetBeep, Trackur or SocialMention. Many tools are free, and some of the more expensive tools offer free trials.
Whether you do it yourself, or hire a marketing firm to do it for you, don’t compromise your reputation or potentially your insurance coverage. Take the time now to develop a plan and policy to proactively manage your firm’s reputation, and your clients will see that you’re living up to that reputation.
Douglas Chandler, Chandler Law, LLC
David Slovin, PracticeProfs, LLC
Join Douglas’ LinkedIn group: Attorney Ethics and Professional Liability.