To a fellow lawyer, you might be a construction litigator. To the public, it might make more sense to call yourself a dirt lawyer.
Finding that unique description for your practice can help distinguish you from the competition.
“Your brand is your story. It is what earns you your reputation,” said Amy Goldstein (Grayson Allen). “It’s not what you tell people; it’s what you show people.
On the recent CLE webinar, “Identifying And Leveraging Your Authentic Brand,” Goldstein and Randi Rosenblatt (Upward Stride) examined how lawyers can cultivate their own brand and gain new clients in the process.
Who are you?
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Before you take any steps to change your brand or influence the narrative, think about what you would want people to say when you’re not in the room, advised Rosenblatt.
Questions to ask yourself: Who are you? What’s your value? What makes you unique?
Rosenblatt said lawyers should first establish an awareness of how they’re actually perceived.
“Google yourself. Ask friends and family. Really try to create a sense of what’s already out there. Really get an idea of how people are viewing you,” said Rosenblatt. Then shift that. Consider feedback and then pivot.”
Think about whether your desired perception matches your actual perception. “Maybe you’re too cursory and need to be detail-oriented?” said Rosenblatt. “As well, don’t let one person’s opinion dictate your shift in brand. Sometimes, you are required to act one way at work because it’s required by the landscape.”
Confidence is the secret ingredient
Goldstein recalled that a court reporter once asked her if she wanted the word “OK,” her usual space filler after a pause, in the court transcript. When she realized how often she said it after a pause, she consciously tried to eliminate it from her presentations.
“Building the trust and confidence is key. How you say something is just as important as what you say. It is just imperative to present with confidence.,” said Goldstein. “If you are not presenting confidently, others will be less sure of your message.”
She demonstrated the impact of speaking with confidence by standing up straight and using her hands strategically versus holding her body in, touching her arms and not projecting her voice.
Dress presentably and appropriately given the circumstance, said Goldstein. It is better to overdress than underdress for meetings.
Align your facial expressions with the conversation. Checking emails and messages during videoconferences can be disrespectful. “Show that you care. Be prepared and do your research in advance,” advised Goldstein.
Rosenblatt agreed. “You don’t want to waste your time or others’ time if you had done some simple diligence. That goes a long way.”
Who’s your audience?
Identifying your audience is essential to branding and it starts with creating a character/persona in mind, an “imaginary friend,” suggested Rosenblatt. It can be as detailed as a married pharmaceutical executive with two kids and a golden doodle, who lives in the Philadelphia suburbs and listened to The Dropout Podcast.
“Start thinking about the messages you want to convey to them,” said Rosenblatt. “Think about the target audience and what problem can you solve. You want your pitch to be comfortable and confident. Practice it so you can own it.”
Consistency is the key to brand building, so messages should be consistent. Your “elevator pitch” should be short and sweet but lead to questions and a further discussion that will allow you to establish a relationship. It can and should change as you progress in your career; you will have different things to present and your goals might change.
Rosenblatt recommends having more than one pitch for different audiences. For example, a regulatory lawyer in the pharmaceutical space could say “I deal with rules around drugs” to more easily explain their work to a potential client.
It starts with digital
Digital presence is how people get to know you before they meet you, even without the COVID-19 pandemic. “You have control over it and can dictate what that looks like,” said Goldstein.
To ensure a good first impression, consider your critical LinkedIn photo. Smiling will make you more approachable and help you draw people in.
Your headline should help distinguish you from your peers; writing “Associate at the Smith Law Firm” is not enough. It should involve your practice areas or perhaps a hobby that will add another dimension. Aim for getting more than 500 connections on LinkedIn because the more connections you have, the more people will see what you are doing.
To strengthen your brand, put yourself in places where you can establish a following, said Rosenblatt. Being a podcast guest will expose you to new audiences as well. It will help establish you as a thought leader. Even commenting on LinkedIn can help position you as a leader.
“All of this is helpful in moving your career forward and growing your client base,” said Rosenblatt. “Bridge the brand you have to the brand you want.”