Stories & advice from two legal marketers on a quest to shake things up in the law firm community. Learn from our mistakes.
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With email, we can sometimes inconsiderate and too quick. We miss typos, accidently send to someone we didn’t want to, or hit the “Reply All” button and have all recipients see our response when we didn’t want them to.

We don’t always give a lot of thought to email composition, and that can sometimes lead to trouble.

Recently, a friend of mine was going through her superior’s email inbox to look for an email that was relevant to a project. Imagine her surprise when she opened up the inbox to find an email about her from another manager in a different department. Let’s just say he wasn’t singing her praises, and not for any good reason that she, her boss or her firm’s HR department could attribute.

Let me make clear that email is not the kind of tool to you use to reprimand anyone. The same advice we give attorneys about using social media—don’t post anything you wouldn’t want on the front page of the New York Times—applies to emails. Instead of talking calmly with my friend’s boss, this manager decided to put it in writing, only to have the object of his frustration see it. The results? Upset marketing and HR departments, and now a total lack of professional trust…something all departments of a law firm need.

Be very careful with your wording in emails. Even a bit of frustration could creep into your composition, and if the recipient decides to forward it on, then what? So keep your two cents to yourself, and don’t make a record of it.

If you have an issue, instead of writing an email veiled in tones no one but you can decipher, talk face-to-face. Address the issue in a calm matter. The thing about working with other people is that we all have different backgrounds and experiences, and our meaning can be misconstrued without corresponding body language and vocal tone.

Story update: I asked my friend what happened after her firm’s HR department talked to the manager who said some unwarranted things. She got an apology…an apology that this manager wasn’t aware my friend had access to her boss’s email. That was it. Not the type of conduct you’d want to see in your managers.

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If you work in communications at a law firm, I’m sure you’ve dealt with this issue (and c’mon, it’s holiday card time!).

Technology has come a long way in the past few years, especially with all the new email marketing tools that are available, and all the statistics that come along with it. And sometimes, as great as those statistics are for your marketing department, they’re not so great for your attorneys. Why? Because now they are able to see – in black and white, in numerical form – that not every person on their list will open an email-blast.

Something’s got to be wrong with our email system, ‘so-and-so’ would never not read our emails.

This is always an awkward situation where you can’t just tell him/her that most people don’t read mass-blasts (well, ones that aren’t relevant…more later). So you think of some other ways to get the message to the client, including a strong suggestion to personally forward the email blast with a note.

Yes. It’s very easy to have the marketing department put together an emailed communication, and that’s easy to do when it’s holiday time and you’re a busy, billing-billing-billing attorney. But what are recipients really looking for?

  • Personalization (recognition?)
  • —A good relationship with the sender (why is this guy sending me an email?)
  • —Relevance (why open? what’s in it for me?)

The problem isn’t the email system (more often than not). The problem could be the volume of emails (and really, only 700+ unread?), method, lack of relevance…

Give your attorneys the facts. Email marketing is great, yes. But recipients are more likely to open an email that comes directly from the attorney. And it never hurts to send a second note, to show that the email is of importance. This is true for not only holiday card time, but every time the marketing department sends out a communication. Every time.

Instead of sending to thousands, send to a hundred. Or 10.
To the ones you send – give them a reason why. “Hey, I wanted to make sure you got this. Would really like to catch up at the event.” or “This might affect your business.”

Just don’t click a button and forget about it.

But you don’t have to take it from me—read our colleagues’ blog posts about the season of “giving”:

Happy holidays, friends!

 

[photo courtesy of thepartycow favicon on flickr]

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Copyright 2011: Laura Gutierrez, Rebecca Wissler. The Legal Shakeup.
Logo and header images designed by the talented Janet Klingbeil.