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For law firms, reputation management for lawyers is an undeniable necessity. Today, most people search online to find a lawyer — they aren’t talking to the bar, asking their friends for recommendations, or going through the Yellow Pages.
Because of this, lawyers need to make sure their reputation speaks for itself when it comes to Google.
And that’s no easy task.
What is Reputation Management for Lawyers?
“Reputation management” refers to the technique of controlling information presented to the public about a lawyer, firm, or practice. In essence, it’s a type of “PR.”
In many cases today, reputation is digital. What someone sees about a lawyer online is going to taint their perception of that lawyer. Proper reputation management puts you in a positive light online.
When people search for information and stories about the lawyer, they will find positive reviews, anecdotes, press releases, and more. When people do find negative information about the lawyer, they will also see that information countered.
Reputation management has a significant impact on a lawyer’s ability to accrue new clients. Even when a client refers you to another client, they are still likely to look you up online.
In fact, people are increasingly relying on the internet to make all of their decisions. The better your reputation is online, the better your chances are of building your new clientele.
Perhaps most importantly, reputation management is most effective when you complete it early on. If you don’t have a lot of information about you on the internet, it’s easy to start out positive and remain positive.
Once there are negative stories on the internet, they tend to proliferate; a single negative review can be copied to dozens upon dozens of legal sites. This can be far harder to counter if you deal with it later on.
Why are Negative Reviews So Damaging?
As mentioned in our previous section, people are reading reviews about your law practice before deciding whether or not you’re right for their legal needs.
In fact, people around the world rely on online reviews to make purchasing decisions, regardless of industry. These reviews are trusted as much or more than personal recommendations by friends and family.
Negative reviews not only hurt your reputation; they also put your financial security at risk. Bad reviews erode the trust you have between your firm and your clients. Potential new clients confronted with negative reviews are likely to avoid your firm altogether — effectively pushing those new clients to your competitors.
Can you afford to miss out on new clients because negative reviews are standing in your way?
How Can You Get Better Reputation Management for Lawyers?
Reputation management for lawyers begins with a thorough understanding of how the internet works. There’s no way to “delete” information from the internet. You can’t alter it or change it.
What you can do, however, is override it. Here are a few of the most common techniques used to improve reputation management for lawyers.
Pushing Good News Up and Bad News Down
Because you can’t delete information from the internet, the most common technique for improving reputation is to instead push up “good” information. In other words, releasing articles, blog posts, and press releases that speak of your firm or practice in a positive light.
If these articles, posts, and releases can “outrank” the bad information (such as negative reviews), they’ll be the first thing that people see.
Google always tries to deliver information that is most relevant to the person searching. If a prospective client searches for “[your firm] reviews,” Google will try to deliver the page that is most applicable. If it’s a negative review, they will get a negative review first.
But if you’ve made sure that there are tons and tons of positive reviews out there, it’s far more likely to be a positive review. People are very unlikely to go digging around past page one of Google!
Responding to Negative Reviews
There will always be negative reviews. Most people know that. When people see negative reviews, they’re really looking for the company’s response to it.
It’s best to always talk to people about their negative reviews. Respond professionally and courteously and try to solve problems.
While you definitely don’t want to accept any fault on a public forum, you can always reach out to clients online, apologize for their experience, and ask them to consult with you further.
In many cases, negative reviews may not even directly relate to your practice.
Those reviews may be erroneous, mistaken, or put up by a competitor. When reviews are false, you can petition to have them removed. Either way, it’s important your reputation management for lawyers strategy addresses them quickly.
Creating a Personal Brand
Your brand tells people what to expect of you. And when they know what to expect, confusion and disappointment will be far less likely.
Reputation management goes a step further than just mitigation and damage control. It also helps you shape your personal brand and organizational identity.
Often, the best reputation management happens before a reputation has been “tainted” at all — in fact, before a reputation has been established.
You can control your brand reputation and your narrative by engaging with reputation management for lawyers early on.
You can determine how you want to present your organization, how you want to interact with your clients and the tone that you want to use in your marketing and messaging.
Providing the Best in Customer Service
Customer service can absolutely be the determining factor when improving your reputation. Simply asking your clients how they feel about your services, whether there is anything they need, and whether there is anything they want to discuss can head off negative feedback online.
Usually, people go online to air grievances because they feel that they have been unheard. Even if the client is ultimately right, their complaints could be tremendously damaging if they are online.
You have a vested interest in identifying potentially disgruntled clients early on and mitigating them, often by talking to them, listening to them, and finding out what they need.
Of course, it’s impossible to make everyone happy all the time. There are going to be angry customers.
But that’s where responding to negative reviews comes in. For the most part, if someone is being unreasonable, other people will see that they are being unreasonable, too — without you needing to call it out.
Not sure how to improve your customer service? Getting feedback as frequently as possible is usually the best first step. In retail, there are survey cards that individuals can fill out regarding their retail experience.
As a lawyer, you can always conduct an “exit interview” of sorts with your clients, or a periodic check-in, to make sure they’re still satisfied with the quality of the care they are receiving.
Engaging in Social Media
People tend to feel more favorably toward individuals and businesses they have interacted with one-on-one. When it comes to the legal profession, maintaining social media accounts (such as Twitter and LinkedIn) and interfacing directly with potential clients can help.
Social media is highly visible and highly public; even if you are responding to someone who will never be a client, your responses can be seen by prospective clients. This gives everyone more of a feel for your personality and brand, as well as what you can do for them.
Take a look at some service-oriented positions. It’s not a surprise that they continually engage with their customers.
When it comes to being an attorney, it’s a busy job. It can be easy to be brief with clients, especially when you know you’re supporting them to the best of your ability. A bit of “bedside manner” can mean all the difference.
What Are Some Common Mistakes With Reputation Management for Lawyers?
There will always be mistakes when it comes to publicity. But while everything on the internet is permanent, it’s also quite often forgotten. Common mistakes dealing with reputation management include:
Trying to remove information too quickly
This invokes the “Streisand Effect“; the harder you try to get something taken down, the more likely people are to talk about it and share it. That’s why the worst information should be ignored, avoided, and otherwise pushed down, rather than taken down entirely.
Doing reputation management too late
Lawyers know they need reputation management, so reputation management for lawyers should be something that is immediately sought out. The earlier reputation management begins, the more effective it will be.
Trying to perfectly preserve your reputation
You shouldn’t try to get rid of all negative reviews. Companies are flawed. Clients understand this. Clients will be wary of a perfectly sterling reputation; they still want to know what they’re dealing with.
Ignoring the most useful tools
The world has changed. People are going digital. They’re spending more time on social media sites, review sites, and more. Reputation management goes far beyond press releases and other traditional methods of media, and into social media accounts, emails, and newsletters.
Arguing with negative information
No one wants to see another person being dismissed out of hand. Clients don’t know whether you’re telling the truth or a negative review is telling the truth, but they’ll have a low opinion of you if you try to quash all conversation.
What do you find online when you look for your firm? Remember that the best way to deal with your reputation management is to get ahead. The sooner there are positive things posted about your practice, the less likely it is that negative things will gain traction.
Need an effective reputation management for lawyers strategy?
If you’re ready to get started, call us today at 844-461-3632.