A Media & Communications Checklist for Savvy Attorneys Sue Evans, Northwest Media Allies

Understand the fundamentals of communications: your goal drives strategy and tactics. Media, social media and marketing are tactics, not strategy. For most attorneys, the goal is to secure a strong result for their client. The second goal is to generate more referrals.

Start planning your media strategy when you sign your client. Make sure you understand early on what your clients want. Some clients are passionate about sharing their stories. Others prefer to maintain their privacy. Your job as an attorney is to comply with your client’s wishes throughout the litigation process.

 

 Screen your clients. Attorneys must work with real people and real facts. Does the client profile inhibit the case facts? Do the case facts hurt the client profile? Not all clients cooperate. Not all facts favor clients. Not all family members in a case agree on a media strategy. Make sure you understand how your client’s profile and case facts will impact the media strategy.

 

 Budget for marketing and media relations on high-profile cases. High-profile cases attract the media and drain law firm time. It’s inevitable. Maybe the client and the attorney don’t want the spotlight – it won’t matter. Either way, the cost is time. Plan for it. Get estimates from local media relations professionals on what it may cost to assist you in managing the media for you and your client.

 

 How to prioritize media strategies for a high-profile media case

 

 The press conference – The press conference is reserved for high-profile cases that already have a media following or will undoubtedly generate a media following. A press conference allows attorneys and their clients to address a large volume of media traffic at once in the span of 30 minutes. Press conferences are best suited for cases where clients want to actively share their story with the media. Clients and attorneys will need to be prepped with an event script, talking points and press handouts for the press conference. Attorneys should hold a press conference on the day the case is filed, settled or a verdict is rendered. Press conferences are expensive and should be reserved for big cases.

 

 Media availability – Designating a time for media availability is an effective way to handle a large volume of media traffic when the client does not want to be involved in the media process. Attorneys handling the case can make themselves available to answer questions and release a statement about the case at a designated time quickly.

 

 Distributing a press release – Attorneys and clients may want to distribute a press release and forego hosting a press conference. This enables both the attorney and client to drive the message around their case while minimizing costs to the client and involvement of the client. Press releases should be distributed on the same day a government claim is filed; a lawsuit is filed; a lawsuit is settled or a jury verdict is delivered. The media does not appreciate receiving press releases long after a case has been filed or settled. It is also important that press releases be sent to the appropriate reporters and editors. Sending press releases to the wrong media outlet, wrong reporter and wrong editor can hurt a law firm’s reputation with the media. Do not send out a press release every time you file or settle a case. Reporters and editors will quickly tune you out. (There is no such thing as the “embargoed” press release. Once you release the information to the press, consider it public.)

 

 Pitching an exclusive – Pitching a media exclusive helps attorneys get ahead of the media storm to ensure a client’s story is told in a preferred framework that favors your client. It gives the reporter and editor more time to investigate the details of your case. Reporters and editors are more likely to give the case a big spotlight from their outlet if they have the exclusive rights to tell your client’s story first. Pitching an exclusive is often the best option when dealing with controversial or complex litigation. Only attorneys and media professionals who have built trusted relationships with key reporters and editors should pitch an exclusive on a client’s case.

 

When to avoid media – Obviously when clients don’t want their profile in the media, then attorneys should not take steps to generate media. However, if attorneys believe a case is likely to garner media attention anyway, attorneys should prepare talking points or a statement on the case that can be released to the media if necessary. It’s better to be prepared and have a short statement available than to scramble with a reaction or simply say “no comment.” If attorneys believe the client’s profile may hurt the case or that the case facts are controversial or complicated, a law firm may want to consult with a public relations firm for advice on how to proceed before the case is filed. Do not wait until the day before you file the case to ask for professional help.

 

 A word on filing government claims – Major newspapers and television stations routinely check for claims filed against local governments before the case is filed in court. In Washington, government claims require attorneys to provide an estimated value of the claim. The media often relies on these forms and will mistakenly report that clients are demanding this amount to settle their claim. Not all reporters and editors understand that a jury or judge ultimately decides the value of a case if it is not settled before trial. It’s important to educate the media on this important fact:  citizens as juries have the last word.

 

 How you write your complaint brief can impact how the media covers your case. Attorneys either use form complaints or customized complaints to file a case in court. The media scours court filings in search of interesting cases to cover. Whether you want the media to cover your case, how you draft the complaint is likely to influence how the media frames your case in the headlines and on camera. Try to include as much factual information as you can. Many attorneys will go into great detail on a settlement demand letter, but scarcely cover the details in the complaint they file in court. More information in your complaint can help influence how the media covers your case. It is important to remember that complaints are public documents and hold much more power over how the media covers your case than a press release.

 

Prepare your staff and clients for the media. ALWAYS, ALWAYS direct your staff and clients to refer all media calls to your office or a designated media spokesperson so that you can coordinate media coverage as a team. You want to make sure your clients are on message and do not needlessly reveal details about their cases that could damage them. Make sure receptionists, paralegals, investigators or expert witnesses working on a case understand who is the designated media contact for each case. Attorneys and clients who will be participating at press conferences or media interviews should be prepped with talking points and media coaching.

 

How to respond to the media ambush. There is no such thing as a media ambush if you’ve done your homework and prepared your case for the media early on. As a rule, all clients should be instructed to refer all media calls to their attorneys – period. Attorneys should develop a plan for media that includes a strategy and protects the integrity of the case. If possible, attorneys should try and work with the media where possible and develop personal relationships with reporters. Be honest about what you can answer and what you cannot. Some helpful responses for reporter ambushes include the following:

 

 

1)    Let me get your name, media outlet, phone number and deadline and call you back ASAP. I’d like to pull up the case and take a look at it so I am prepared to answer your questions. Can you give me an idea of what you want to know?

 

2)    We are currently investigating this case and would be happy to discuss more details after we’ve completed our investigation.

 

3)    What are your questions? If I can answer them now I will. I may have to fact check a few things and get back to you. What’s your deadline and phone number?

 

 

A word on social media going viral………………………

 

Make sure your attorneys and law firm have accounts for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. You cannot impact social media if you are not a part of the social media stream. That means you need to be following relevant reporters, editors and media outlets that cover your issues and region before you file a case. Designate a law firm staffer to manage your law firm social media accounts. Do subscribe to a social media platform like Hootsuite so you can respond and track multiple social media streams at once. This is not a task you do on the day you file the lawsuit. This is a task that should be completed months in advance. It takes many months and time to build a following on social media streams.

 

 

Responding to comments on online media platforms and social media streams. Redirect hostile or misinformed comments to a statement, press release or favorable media story listed on your website politely. Do not argue, but simply redirect people to the facts like a press release on your website. Encourage clients to ignore online media comments and social media streams regarding their cases and inform them you are handling this for them. Too often, clients feel persecuted and obligated to respond to comments in a manner that could negatively impact the case. It’s not their job to respond. It’s the job of the law firm to determine the appropriate response.

 

 

Do not engage on social media about your case without a complete media strategy. Sometimes attorneys will engage on social media and online media before they have launched a press event or filed a case. Do not engage on social media or online media unless you have a complete media strategy for your case. Advise your clients that their social media accounts will be reviewed by media outlets if the media is covering their case. Attorneys should screen client accounts.

 

 

Build your law firm brand around your practice areas and expertise. Engage with opinion leaders, reporters, advocates and allies in the media and social media streams that share your values and reflect the issues of your practice areas. For example, attorneys should be targeting senior editors and reporters who cover the courts, social justice issues, public safety, health, government and specific industries of their practice.

 

 

Distribute your message about your case via social media streams. How often you do this depends on the social media stream. Since social media is an interactive platform, you drive the frequency of your interactions with followers and friends. Here are some suggestions: Post an interview or press conference about your case on YouTube once a day. You can post a Tweet about your case on Twitter hourly from 8 am until 7 pm. You can post on LinkedIn and Facebook twice a day. More if you have a high-profile case that commands attention. Hashtag (#) key words that mark the case issue and client name if you want to promote the case. Distribute favorable media stories about your client’s case on all streams as they emerge in real time. Educating the public about your client and case facts is an opportunity to educate the potential jury pool in your favor. Social media platforms like Hootsuite allow law firms to schedule social media posts throughout the day in advance. Nobody needs to stare at their social media streams all day to be effective on social media.

 

 

The rules of engagement for social media are slightly different than traditional media. Generally speaking, expect sloppier, mistake-ridden posts on social media streams because anybody can participate. Traditional media outlets generally have stricter guidelines about fact-checking stories. But in the age of social media, all media types (bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers, online media, traditional media, etc.) are working harder to drive content out to the public faster and in real time. If you or your law firm mistakenly send out wrong information on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, the general rule is to acknowledge the mistake and provide the correct information – not to delete the post. If you repost content from another party, you are expected to credit the author or source and note if you’ve altered the content. For example, on Twitter, if you modify a Tweet, you repost with MT (Modified Tweet) to acknowledge you’ve edited the original Tweet by another party.

 

 

Collect photos and video from clients early on.

 

Photos and videos of your clients help tell your clients’ stories. You may need them for a settlement-demand package or trial, not just the media, so do not delay in acquiring digital versions of old photos. Purchase a scanner to scan old photos if you do not have one. Train paralegals and staff to collect these items from clients early on and make sure you have a variety of quality images. You will want photos of property damage, crashes and injuries. In wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases, you will also want photos of clients during happier times to illustrate the impact of injuries or loss of life and relationships. Don’t just ask for standard family portraits. You want photos and videos of milestone moments, hobbies, sports, birthdays, graduations, weddings and births to capture your client’s narrative in an emotional way. The media always appreciates access to these kinds of photos. Open a Dropbox account so you can collect digital images quickly over the Internet with clients.

 

 

Communications planning builds brand ambassadors.

 

There is no such thing as a “media ambush” when you’ve done your homework. Build relationships with traditional media, social media, clients, allies and advocates – they are all potential brand ambassadors for your firm and practice.

 

 

 

 

 

Why I love Tumblr and gifs

 

Nobody has time to investigate every social media app or stream every second of the day. But I’ve fallen in love with Tumblr, Instagram and Gifboom, here’s why. Sheer impact. Like an asteroid aimed at Earth, these images give you pause. They tell stories that captivate your imagination and heart instantly. You either dig it or hate it.

More than 90 percent of the way we receive communication is visually driven.

 

One snapshot on Tumbler, Instagram or Gifboom slaughters words and blogs with instant, creative visual messaging. Take any of these social media streams for a ride and you will instantly fall in love with strangers who echo your heart or twist your mind in pictures.

 

I’m in love with ridinggirl10 on Tumblr. She sees horses the way I want to see them – big and bold. Tumblr is more interesting than Pinterest because it forces you to focus on the image. Pinterest overwhelms you with images: like a shopping spree you can never afford.

 

On Gifboom, I’d like to see more sophistication. Too many teens on Gifboom are stripping and posing. Gifs and photos on Tumblr are more sophisticated and provide little bookmarks in history that capture a moment in time. They allow an intriguing pause on life. I dig it when I can.

 

When you are forced to tell your story in pictures, you witness a new narrative you never knew existed. It’s more emotional, spiritual and grounded in what you love the most. What you choose to share in pictures is very different than what you share in words. And that’s an adventure worth having.

 

 

 

 

Owning 2012 – Mapping measured success

Happy New Year!

As we launch 2012, I am reminded of just how important our allegiance to transparency and the truth is to public relations. When you make truth your friend, you have to answer for less. It’s a great resolution to follow in all things politics, friends and family. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Most of public relations is the art of managing what we mean to say to the world. A lot of people spend big checks and time on trying to reinvent what comes out of their mouths when it’s simply too late. So why not create a plan to say what you really mean when you first say it? It’s a simple strategy.

Here’s the truth I know for most clients and businesses: Times are tough. We have more work to do with less money. We have less people who have money to buy things. We have more people with problems and troubles than time. We still have big dreams for our children, but small resources. Our challenge is hard, but not insurmountable. We need more smart people doing more quickly. We need to be inspired to face these odds. Who and what can inspire us to tackle what lies ahead?

What inspires you? Who inspires you? Share that with the world in 2012. Make that the foundation of your public relations plan. Here’s 12 ways to make that resolution a reality:

1) Tackle one new technology that frightens you – Iphone, Ipad, Android, laptop, social media, software, etc. Make a point of mastering something in technology that keeps you current with the world.

2) Make a commitment to change the way you do business  – Pick something that is not working and change it. If you know your customer relations is bogging down your business, make improving customer relations your No. 1 goal for 2012.

3) Dare to be different – Adopt a new marketing tactic to solidify and grow your referrals. Launch a social media program, schedule more lunches, critically evaluate your existing client base, develop a creative ad strategy, walk at lunch, get up early, go home early, eat better, live better, work smarter.

4) Research and read about people who are smarter than you each week. Invite them to breakfast or lunch.

5) Review your biggest accounts and successes in 2011 and examine why they worked.

6) Don’t forget to look at the numbers. The numbers don’t lie. Look at how much you spent and how much you earned and embrace it truthfully. Know your client base.

7) Celebrate and honor your top referrals. They love and trust you best.

8) Celebrate and honor your top disasters. They will tell you what you need to know about your business.

9) Create 2012 goals that are achievable based on measurable outcomes. Measure this: Increased referrals, diversified client base, higher income, steadier income, stronger brand identity, higher client/customer satisfaction, and/or better return on investment, more time to walk the dog.

10) Create a strategic plan for the future. Decide who you want to be in five years and map the path to achieve that end game.

11) Connect with people who matter. Identify 10 people who you admire and invite them to lunch to discuss your plan for your future. And be honest about what terrifies you the most and see what they say.

12) Identify your worst habit that negatively affects your productivity and eliminate it.

Our commitment to transparency and truth will always set us free to succeed. The answers to 2012 are already there.

 

Smart tips for building a trusted brand of truth on social media

Jumping into social media streams can be like inhaling a cloud of gnats up your nose. How do you screen social media content for value? And how do you create it?

I recently attended Seattle’s Interactive Conference #SIC2011 where the top social media gurus and brand managers gathered to highlight what’s working and what’s headed our way. I walked away feeling validated by one repeated theme – social media is not a marketing strategy, but a tool.

It’s clear that people tune social media out when they are besieged with useless content. People follow trusted brands of truth that cut through the noise.

The frenetic output of social media can never match our personal ability to consume it. So at the end of the day trusted brands of truth prevail.

I screen social media like a mother eavesdrops on a teen-girl slumber party. Amid the hailstorm of useless chatter, I’m listening for what I want to know and what I need to know: “I hate her, I love Muse, I’m failing biology and Matt is a brat.” The same rule applies to the marketplace. Who loves who? Who loves me? Who hates who? Who hates me? And why?

Consumers and brands operate with motives. Know your motive and know the motives of your target audience. Tools for communication may change, but rules for strategic communication remain. Here are tips from #SIC2011 that stuck with me:

  1. Social media is not a brand/marketing strategy. It’s a tactic.
  2. Embrace ALL third-party testimonials – the good and bad. Don’t  abhor, ignore or delete them.
  3. Adopt transparency to create credibility. People scan for trusted sources.
  4. Speak concisely and with relevance. Edit like an umpire.
  5. Know why you’re in it. Answer this question: What’s my home run?
  6. Respect social media tools. Hiring cheap labor to manage your social media communities is like asking frat boys to plan a wedding. (Inspired by Louis LoPresti @RedPantsMeme)
  7. Metrics for social media must be tied to a marketing strategy and goals – brand lift, allegiance, buy-in, transactions, market share, customer service and referrals – not just increased traffic.
  8. There are no substitutes for good products and content. Have something worthy to sell and say.
  9. Consumers and clients are your best brand ambassadors. Celebrate them.
  10. Shut up and listen. What are your social media streams telling you?

Branding law firms to inspire & empower people to change their world and own their future

I can honestly say, I have worked with some of the top trial lawyers in Washington and the country and never get tired of it.

The trial lawyers I work with are among the most passionate, smartest, hardest working and fiercest advocates for people on the planet. They empower their clients to change the world and make it better. They challenge their clients to define destiny as they want to know it.

Developing brands and marketing plans for this sector of humanity is a joy for me. And there’s one reason: Trial lawyers embrace marketing strategies that move their firms and client goals forward. And they do this for one simple reason: They routinely test their messages and objectives before judges and juries – the toughest focus groups and truth squads on the planet.

Trial lawyers are tested on their client truths every step of the way. It’s what makes them model marketing clients. They get the drill and own it.

Northwest Media Allies had the privilege to work with one of Washington’s top employment lawyers Vicky Vreeland.

Attorney Vicky Vreeland

Vicky launched her law firm and brand with a commitment to showcasing more than three decades of trail-blazing legal work, a stellar reputation and a unique aesthetic and style that only she could own.

The results of our collaborative marketing process showcase her commitment to integrity, results, courage and dedication to the clients she serves.

We invite you to take a look at the branding and website design we recently launched with NWMA partners TrueGood Creative (who provided web design and development) and  Kirsten Hopperstad (branding designer):  www.vreeland-law.com.

Vreeland Law inspires and empowers and is a model brand.

Know what the shot is

“You want to learn the first rule you’d know if you’d ever spent a day in your life? You never open your mouth ‘til you know what the shot is.” -  Ricky Roma, Glengarry Glen Ross

Only three questions matter in marketing – Do you love me? Do you hate me? Why?

Knowing why you’re loved or loathed is critical to identifying your position in the worlds of the marketplace and the media. I ask my clients to conduct an inventory of their brand assets and liabilities to develop a savvy marketing/communications plan.

The strategy is this: You have to know where you are if you want to know where to go.

If you want a long-term relationship with a targeted market share, you can’t dodge tough questions that rock your world. Ask people why they love you or hate you head on. Testimonials prove your worth and credibility. If you can’t find a single person to boast about what you do, you need a marketing intervention.

On the other hand, if you have more than 20 people stalking you with their love, ask them why they love you so much. Harness their passion with a direct request for a two-paragraph testimonial. Keep it short. Ask for a valentine, not a sonnet. Don’t be greedy.

Not knowing why you are loved is just as bad as not knowing why you are loathed. We dig deep for this kind of intelligence when it comes to our egos, dates, marriages and holiday dinners. It’s human nature to want to be validated. But we don’t always do it for our business or our politics.

Clients are typically happy to brag and tell you why they’re loved. Yet when you ask them to go out and grab testimonials to prove it, they  shrink like a chubby at Weight Watchers. Weigh in on reality to inform your goals, strategies, tactics and plans. Any brand manager will tell you that you are only as good as your testimonials and brand ambassadors.

Every candidate or company who looked at a poll or focus group knows this. It’s tough love. But there’s only one thing worse than bad feedback: flying blind. Al Pacino explains the foundation of all marketing in Glengarry Glen Ross: Never open your mouth ‘til you know what the shot is.

You are a message strategy pro, but you don’t know it

Diane Evans (left, Sue's mother) and Sue (right)

When you inform the waiter that you would like the Cobb salad with the ranch dressing on the side, minus the croutons, you are a message pro. You know what you want. And you know who needs to hear it.

Consider your mother. Mothers broadcast and signpost that a message is coming so you won’t miss it when it hits you.

Mothers are especially savvy because they are committed to achieving the result they want when they want it. These are some of my favorites:

  • “I’ll tell you one thing, the homework gets done or you’re not going.”
  • “Please don’t make me worry. Wear your seatbelt and be back by 10.”
  • “Let me tell you something: Don’t fight with your brother. He loves you.”

 

When we know what we want, we cut to the chase to achieve the outcome we want. Our messages are naturally short, snappy and sharp.

Effective message strategy identifies the target audience and the goal. This process ensures we choose the words that resonate. That’s why mothers have real power.

 Let’s breakdown a simple mom message for strategy.

“I’ll tell you one thing, the homework gets done or you’re not going.”

“I’ll tell you one thing” is the signpost of the message that alerts the target audience – the kid – that an important message is coming.

“The homework gets done” is the objective of the message.

“Or you’re not going” conveys the urgency and impact of the message.

In the fancy world of public relations, you would hire a consultant to focus group and test the effectiveness of this message. But moms don’t have to test their messages. These messages have been tested over generations of focus groups called grandparents. We inherit them and launch them because we know they work.

The next time your mother calls you, take the call and listen. She’s a message strategy pro who’s already on your side.

Persuasive writing means show me, don’t tell me.

Persuasive people tell stories about other people. They don’t lecture you. They let you decide for yourself.

Consider these openings.

  1. Sally was profoundly sad.
  2. Sally cried in her car for a half an hour before blowing her nose. She looked into her rearview mirror, using the same fast-food napkin she used on her nose, she wiped away the mascara encrusted into the corner of her eyes.

Which narrative has more power?

Persuasive writers engage with the subject on a human level so that readers see what that person is feeling. Rather than clobbering readers with opinions, they rely on observation.

When we share stories of real people, we gain impact and power over the issues we care about.

So how does this tactical writing work in the real world? We respond to pictures first. More than 95 percent of all communication is done visually first. Pictures have more power than words. When you write, paint pictures.

Let’s look at my dogs. My dog Brinx is a German Shepherd rescue from working lines. My dog Mut (pronounced “moot” – it’s German for “courage”) was purchased from a breeder. Originally, I intended to show him in obedience.

Both dogs are working dogs. Both have had extensive obedience training. Each dog differs in temperament and drive. Brinx is a working dog. Mut is a family dog. Rather than say it, I’m going to show you.

BrinxBrinx is a slim, brown-sable German Shepherd with a big head and fierce eyes. I decided to keep him at 18 months after housing him as foster dog because he was so brilliant to watch in action. He is athletic with high drive and loves to swim. If I chuck a rubber ball into the whitecaps of Cannon Beach, Brinx will bound into the ocean head first to retrieve the ball at least 50 times. We’ve counted his retrieves on the beach. He gets anxious at feeding time and wolfs down his food and requires a special dish to slow down his feeding. He paces the house if he has not had at least a one-hour walk. He follows me around the house and lays where I sit or stand. He jumps off my bed and goes to his dog bed when he hears my husband’s footsteps coming toward the bedroom. He respects his place in the pack inside the house. Outside the house, he fence-fights and barks at the neighbor dog. The hair on his back is raised when he does it. He whines when the cat runs down the hall because he knows he’s forbidden to chase her when she does it. It kills him to just have to watch. He quietly lays where you are and waits to be invited onto the bed or couch. He never assumes it’s his furniture. When you take Brinx for a walk, he will be in the lead, struggling to get there faster. I’ve been told by other people that Brinx is scary looking. People have stopped me on the street to ask me if he is a wolf or wolf-hybrid. People also often ask me if he’s a police dog. Brinx is not that interested in other people and more interested in playing hard with other dogs. I don’t go to dog parks because Brinx is too rough and dominant when he plays with other dogs. The other dogs don’t like Brinx. Brinx loves the pool in the backyard and plants his front feet in the pool after a long walk or a hot day. He would spend the day fetching rubber duckies out of the backyard pool if you asked him. He never turns down a chance to retrieve a stick, a ball, a bone or a toy. He’s always ready to go.

MutMut is a beefy, black-and-tan German Shepherd. I’ve had him since he was a puppy. He has thick hair and an undercoat like a bear and a big beautiful head with dark black eyes. People stop me on the street every day to tell me how beautiful Mut is. Mut always stops to return the favor, showering strangers with equal love and admiration: “No, you’re beautiful!” he says with his licks and eyes. Mut has followed my son around the house since my son was about five. My son is now 15 and Mut still guards him like a pork chop. If my son wades into the ocean, Mut follows to retrieve him and stands in the shallows where Paul plays. If anybody in the house dares to play the piano, Mut howls along. If you’re on the couch, so is Mut. You might have to kick him off the couch to get the space. If you throw Mut the ball he will retrieve it, but he will likely grab it and tumble over onto his back with his feet in the air in the clover. He’s happy just watching Brinx retrieve. Like Ferdinand the bull, he’s happier laying in a field than running in it. If you are sitting in a chair, Mut will bury his head in your lap with the full force of his body. Mut likes to sprawl in the middle of the kitchen when we’re cooking dinner. When you take Mut for a walk, he’s always right by your side. Mut cuddles like a kitten in bed with me when I’m watching TV. Mut looks for kids to lick on our walks in the park and relishes pats on his head from strangers. Mut is possessive of his toys. Especially his giant stuffed hedgehog. He brings it to bed with him each night like a small child.

Brinx is a loyal working dog. Mut is a loyal family dog. But the bigger question is this, have I persuaded you?

Facebook less. Book more face. Go have lunch!

Facebook less and book more face and your social media marketing will flourish

Connecting with people on a personal level is direct marketing at its basic and best. And it makes your work life happier and more productive. If you have 500 connections on Linked-In, but only have lunch with targeted peers and clients twice a month, put the smart phone down and find somebody to take to lunch.

Meeting with people in person is the most powerful and effective strategy in marketing and media relations. There’s simply no substitute for your face, your laughter and your personal anecdotes over lunch. Everybody loves a story and a human being behind the story. And everybody prefers to meet with people they already know because it’s less awkward. When you genuinely know the people you connect with on social media, it also reduces tension when you have to reach out to clients, peers and allies in tough times. And you discover ways to help each other.

So in order to diminish your awkward quotient, you must meet with more people more often. If you feel intimidated by the intimacy of a one-on-one lunch, invite somebody to go with you. Lunching in threes eases the performance pressure some people feel when presented with a face-to-face meeting. Know who you are and address it head on.

And if you’re concerned about running up a big lunch bill, then meet people for coffee or a walk. Lots of people, especially in the Northwest, love the idea of going for a mid-afternoon walk to break up their sedentary time in the office. You both create a shared experience while improving your health.

I make it my business to ensure my clients, peers and professional allies know me as a human being first. This builds trust and confidence in our relationship, especially when faced with a difficult situation that may put us at odds. Building this kind of trust can turn a crisis situation into a bold opportunity.

My No. 1 recommendation for building market share, referrals, allies and friendly media is to develop a direct outreach plan for the year. And this includes meeting with allies and adversaries if you want to dominate your professional universe. Ask yourself this question: How often do I have lunch or coffee with a client or professional peer each week? If you have lunch or coffee just once a day, five days week with one targeted client or peer, you are potentially generating 20 “referral ambassadors” a month. Clearly, with whom you choose to meet can dramatically increase that referral number if you are smart about it. Meeting with people who are savvy, high-traffic networkers is key. You should make clients and prospective clients your first priority. Adversaries and problem partners are second. Vendors and business partners are third.

People who know their friends and enemies simply get more things done for their clients. They see bridges, not walls. They build a strong social media network that brings real value to their business. And they book more face.