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How Legal PR is Changing in 2023

— May 12, 2023

For law firms concerned with how tech advancements are impacting their marketing efforts, investing into a well-planned, well-executed PR campaign is likely just what the doctor ordered.

As a college student and young professional in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the internet transformed public relations. I’m old enough to remember physically mailing press releases, and now I send many of my news pitches via text or Twitter.

The year 2023 introduced the newest, most disruptive technological breakthrough since the internet became widespread – artificial intelligence (AI). Just like the late 90’s though, there is still no real sense of how AI will change PR, or if AI is the biggest disruptor that public relations professionals face.

Additionally, law firms are often late adopters of new technology. Several of my law firm clients still use fax machines, a type of technology my 23-year-old employee has never used. It took law firms at least a decade to fully adopt the internet and cloud-based technology. Some have gone full throttle when adapting to new ways of doing business, but many spend far more time discussing these changes than reacting to them.

AI is Coming For Us All

Yes, article after article guesses what industries and professions will be eliminated or crushed by AI. However, for anyone who has used ChatGPT, it’s obvious this service needs a human at the wheel for just about the entire process. Silicon Valley loves to promote the idea that this latest round of advancements will transform the world and sell the public on the idea of everyone sipping piña coladas on the beach while robots do our jobs for us. Unfortunately, public relations professionals wrote press releases in 1983, are still writing them in 2023, and odds are they’ll be writing them in 2063.

AI will take a very long time to be adapted fully, will likely be legislated by Congress several times over, will be rejected by older attorneys who fear its impact, will be misused by younger attorneys who fail to understand the dangers, and will make life extremely annoying for public relations professionals. How do I know this? This is exactly what happened with the internet, computers, typewriters, telephones….every advancement to date.

Every law firm with any sort of marketing campaign must be aware of AI, but must do so cautiously. It is still yet to be determined if tech companies that introduce AI will start a fight with one another. For example, one can easily foresee Google developing an algorithm that makes Bing’s AI-generated content rank much lower for SEO. One can also see Congress passing intellectual property laws that seek to curb idea-theft by an AI program. Some fear AI becoming sentient and sending in the Terminator to attack John Connor. I fear added layers of bureaucracy and headaches.

Internet is Still King

There have been electric cars for quite some time, but gas-powered vehicles still dominate the roads and will…for quite some time. AI is shiny and new, but the average consumer isn’t using it.

So, for law firms trying to have a quality public relations campaign, the main focus must be how they are perceived online right now. This includes reviewing how press releases are coming up in search terms, how reporters are presenting the firm’s messaging, what the firm’s overall online reputation is, and how to consistently improve in each of those areas. Google, and to a lesser extent Bing, are driving forces behind PR, and for law firms that depend upon organic search clicks as their main source of potential new business, focusing on search engines is still priority number one.

Google is NOT Too Big to Fail

Of all the breakthroughs that AI brought about, the clay feet of Google might be the most shocking. This trillion-dollar corporation that became the dominant force in search almost overnight and stayed there for two decades is finally facing a serious challenger.

That being said, for many law firms this means moving now to make sure public relations campaigns are effective across all channels. Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo! News are still important ways firms can promote their cases (in addition to traditional forms of media such as news sites), but Bing is becoming an increasingly important part of online searching and lesser-known upstarts like Duck Duck Go are actually advertising their services as well.

For law firms and attorneys, PR campaigns and marketing often go hand in hand, but usually without coordination. For example, how often do attorneys promote a lawsuit on their website, in a press release, and in the media at the same time? The answer is, sadly, not often enough. Popular brands such as Coca Cola, Louis Vuitton, and Mercedes would never make these mistakes…but law firms do not act as brands.

The next step in adjusting to Google’s change place in the market is to spend time looking into how other search engines index press releases posted to your website, index newswire posts (such as PR Newswire, Businesswire), organize their news sections and so forth. For attorneys who do not have time to handle such matters, finding qualified legal public relations professionals is absolutely necessary.

Press Still Matters…QUITE A BIT

Man reading business newspaper; image via Adeolu Eletu, via
Man reading business newspaper; image via Adeolu Eletu, via

While the world of tech is seemingly on fire, public relations continues to be the most solid form of promoting the victories and successes of any firm. Developing relationships with the media and other audiences, writing quality press releases and articles to get attention, and sending newsletters to targeted mailing lists all have tremendous ROI. Having been in legal public relations for 20 years, I have seen first hand how one good article can lead to five new business phone calls, and one well-placed TV spot can lead to a dozen intake emails. These are always more difficult, and getting cases is NOT the prime product for PR, but it is certainly a by-product.

For law firms concerned with how tech advancements are impacting their marketing efforts, investing into a well-planned, well-executed PR campaign is likely just what the doctor ordered.

Joe Marchelewski is the President and Founder of AIJ Communications, a boutique legal public relations agency. He has 20 years’ experience in all facets of legal PR and marketing and offers free consultations on best practices.

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