Usually, communication in companies is the first adjustment variable, however companies should not forget that a lack of communication can drive clients away. Ian Badiola, managing partner of Audentia, a legal communication and marketing consulting firm based in Chile, shares his thoughts on how law firms should manage their communications strategy during a crisis such as Covid-19.
Leaders League. Why do you consider it is important to avoid cutting off communication in a crisis period?
Ian Badiola. There are different dimensions and purposes to a communications strategy. In the case of law firms, it is fundamental to transmit certainty, trust and closeness. These are essential attributes for decision-makers in times of crisis. Customer service is a core component of the work in the legal services industry. In scenarios of great uncertainty, such as the ones we are going through right now, people need to feel secure and supported. At the same time, public communication in the context of this crisis allows law firms to position themselves in the media as leaders in their fields by giving their interpretations, guidance and recommendations on the large number of laws and regulations that are being implemented to counter the effects of the pandemic, many of them related to labor and economic matters. An open attitude toward the media gives them the chance to communicate their vision of the situation in a complex scenario, which shows proactiveness, bolsters their reputation and ultimately creates new consulting opportunities.
Many of us in several countries are currently in lockdown and are, in effect, a captive audience. Would you agree that this affords a unique opportunity to get your message across?
The social distancing and quarantine measures implemented because of the health emergency mean that most interactions are taking place remotely. It is without doubt a chance to integrate and focus communication efforts on a strategy that allows a rational and emotional connection to be established with the needs of the existing client base and potential new prospects. It's important to be careful not to overload people with unnecessary information or the mere promotion of legal services. The messages that attract the audience's attention are relevant and timely; they must have value and meaning for the recipients and lead to calls to action, invitations to go into greater depth on the contents on the different platforms available, or contact to receive direct and personalized advice, with all of the tools to facilitate such communication. It's about encouraging conversations and engagement.
Some clients had approved a huge budget for participating in events such as INTA Singapour, IBA Cartagena, IBA Miami etc. Now that these events are postponed or cancelled how do you advise clients to reallocate this budget?
The best decision right now is probably to invest in digital transformation and concentrate on services and quality, creating value from the communication and content to anticipate clients' needs and supply them with regular information on legal and regulatory aspects that should be paid attention to. To replace the face-to-face relationships with content distribution platforms that put them at the forefront of their service category. These platforms can be their own, external or a virtuous combination of the two. For example, legal directories provide excellent content platforms for reaching new audiences. But to use them successfully, you must dedicate the time to get to know their audiences and understand their segmentation. Nor can one overlook internal communication, especially in law firms with a large number of staff and collaborators who have had to adapt their time and routines in a particularly demanding context and deserve to receive acknowledgement for their commitment.
And for smaller clients with reduced marketing budgets, what communication and marketing efforts should they not fall into the trap of cancelling?
Following the above logic, in the case of medium- and small firms, a good alternative is to focus communications and marketing efforts on customer loyalty. The pressure to renegotiate fees could have a major impact on their business segment, which makes it necessary to build distinctive features and to focus heavily on service quality. Along these lines, digital communication presents the great advantage of allowing highly segmented actions and precisely measuring the return on investment thanks to metrics that provide quality information to evaluate the actions deployed. The majority of medium- and small firms do not have communication and marketing departments or directors, but there are specialized agencies that offer the possibility of outsourcing these services. Both strategies represent cost-effective solutions.
What do you think this crisis is teaching lawyers and law firms? Which lessons will stick with lawyers in the years to come?
Innovation often arises under extremely trying circumstances and the need to respond to urgent problems. If the market demand shifts abruptly, then business services and models must be adapted. The legal industry was already undergoing an accelerated transformation with the incorporation of technologies, process automation and administration and management tools, but the characteristics of these crises have the potential to shake up their entire service culture, challenging their capacity to put themselves in the place of others. Communication plays a central role in facing this challenge. Captivating clients and consolidating a corporate reputation requires a sustained effort and takes time. The playing field can change quickly in these circumstances, for better or for worse, depending on how you do things.