There is a lot of buzz around the term reputation management online in this age when consumers can easily go online to review items or services and compare and contrast the options available to them. But it was when reading an interview between small business consultant Matt McGee and national reputation management expert, Andy Beal that it hit home as to why this is an important area for lawyers particularly to pay attention to. In the interview Beal discusses how when speaking with his clients he refers to “reputation management” as “referral management.” This clarification is an important one, especially when it comes to marketing legal services. Historically attorneys have depended largely on word of mouth referrals to obtain clients. Now, many people turn to online resources such as reviews and social media to try to get background on a business or service provider. So in a sense, online reputation is the new word of mouth.
Within a few keystrokes, someone searching online for a “Los Angeles criminal defense attorney” is given a list of potential attorneys to consider. The first step is of course to make sure your firm is returned for that search through search engine optimization. However you also want to make sure that what potential clients find there and in subsequent searches presents your firm in a positive light.
With natural search and online reviews you of course cannot have the same level of control as with other types of marketing where you are paying for advertisements that you have created and approved. On the other hand, this often gives online reviews more sway as they are not viewed as paid advertising by those seeing them. With reputation management you need to be cautious, especially as an attorney that you are acting ethically and staying within your state bar regulations for online marketing. Obviously you want to avoid practices such as impersonating clients to either promote your services or criticize your competitors.
With this in mind, whether you are small lawyer practicing locally such as an attorney in Fort Wayne or a trademark lawyer who is handling cases nationally, there are steps you can take to be pro-active about how your firm is coming across online. You can take these steps yourself, or hire a consultant such as Beal, to help you.
Where do I start?
Monitor your presence online. The first step to managing your reputation online is knowing what that reputation is. Search for your firm name and attorney names online and see what is returned. Check out what is being said about your firm on local directory sites that include reviews such as Yelp and see if there are any reviews attached to your Google local listing. You can also set up Google Alerts for your firm name and check out other reputation management tools.
What should I do about a negative review?
Answer them. Post a response to their review as way of explanation or to ameliorate if it is legitimate complaint. By responding, you are showing others who could read this review that you are actively engaged in working through their concerns rather than ignoring them completely.
Learn from them. An important lesson: learn and utilize those negative reviews to see what it is specifically that a client did not like about your business. What was it about your service that they were unhappy with? Was it too much time in between communication? Was there a verdict or settlement that left the client unhappy? Take these reviews and try to make sure that your new clients do not have the same experience.
Be Pro-active.Encourage satisfied clients to post reviews online about their experience working with the firm, and be proactive about soliciting testimonials for posting on your own websites’ testimonials page.