What Do Law Firms Need to Budget for PR in 2020?
- Posted by Poston Communications
- On November 12, 2019
- budget, content, legal marketing, PR, pr budget, PR tactics, public relations
Legal marketers ask us all the time: What should my law firm budget for public relations? We’re excited to finally put pen to paper on the question we’ve been asked about for years.
Regardless of your budget, the most successful PR programs are planned and executed in alignment with the law firm’s strategic plan and business development goals. But the complete answer to the question depends on which level you are at in your PR effort.
Level 1: Need to Start My PR Program
If you are the sole marketer at your law firm, your PR budget needs to be reasonable for the time and resources you have available to execute an effective PR strategy. Remember, PR for any organization is a long-term commitment that requires patience and realistic expectations.
It’s important to have good content as the basis for PR. Start by budgeting for and crafting one 500- to 1,000-word client alert or evergreen article each month that you can recycle for PR purposes. Then, budget and look out for ways to maximize the client alert beyond your typical distribution. It may take a few hours to research and identify media outlets that would be interested in each piece of content as a bylined article. Having an annual budget also gives you a bit of flexibility for when you need to replace a client alert with a press release, award or some other tactic. If a bigger budget is not attainable, commit to alternating one content piece each month and one PR effort the next month. It’s important to just start somewhere (even with one attorney or practice area) and now.
Level 2: Get to the PR Baseline
Our experience serving law firm clients has given us an informed view on budgets being set to get to the baseline – in other words, matching and then surpassing what the competition is doing.
A recent BTI Consulting Group survey listed digital marketing, business development training and client feedback as the top initiatives for 2020. This makes sense as the focus of professional services marketing is relationship-based marketing, even as technology automates some daily tasks and touchpoints. Law firms need to at least be on par with the competition in business development efforts. For example, distributing breaking news and information in a timely manner is key, which explains why content and PR are so important to our industry.
It’s not unusual for larger law firms to spend up to $50,000 per month on PR plus $120,000 per year on content production. These law firms realize that it is cheaper to outsource PR and content services than it is ask attorneys to stop billing and write articles on their own. The additional benefit with this approach is that necessary content is being produced on a regular and consistent schedule and then used for PR, which makes the whole program more successful.
Scaled down, apply the 80/20 rule. We see law firms with 50 attorneys spending a minimum of $10,000 a month on PR and law firms with 75 attorneys spending $15,000 a month on PR. These budgets follow this rule, which means that 20 percent of the law firm’s attorneys can be expected to be actively involved. For example, 20 attorneys in a 100-attorney law firm doing a PR activity every month at $1,000 each would total $20,000 a month.
No matter what your law firm size, for the 20 percent of active business developers in your firm, a good rule of thumb is budgeting $1,000 to $2,000 each month for PR for each of them. Then, add an additional $1,000 to $2,000 per month for content for each of them.
Level 3: Advancing a Mature PR Program
The possibilities of going beyond traditional PR and content functions are incredibly exciting. Law firms that are aiming for the next level are embracing approaches that will increase the PR and content ROI significantly and enable integrated sales success.
However, the budgets for these higher-level activities can get complicated.
In recent years, we have given a presentation to various legal marketing groups titled “Building a Communications Department of the Future.” We present 12 new ways to utilize communications tactics, including PR and content, as a strategic business development and revenue-generating opportunity.
As an example, when integrating target list and sales PR, we are only presenting clients with PR opportunities aimed at the specific needs that the law firm’s target list wants to address. This involves research, highly focused pitching, communication with prospects to arrange interviews with our clients, media training for executives and following up on the entire process to move the law firm’s prospect along the sales funnel. As a result, there may be fewer classic PR placements to report. There should, however, be greater revenue-generating results.
As another example, when doing crisis communications or other work that involves the law firm’s clients, innovative firms are providing their internal PR staff with billing rates and formalizing a relationship with the firm’s PR agency of record or other outside agencies. Any law firm with a litigation practice may find additional revenue by managing the client’s litigation PR needs, particularly during a large litigation event. Some law firms have made significant revenue this way and even spun off communications agencies as ancillary businesses, transitioning PR from a line item and cost center to a revenue-generating item. Now that’s exciting!
A Few Final Thoughts on a PR Budget for Your Law Firm
We hope this information and innovative ideas on PR budgets for your law firm inspire you for 2020. If you’re just starting out, sell a smaller budget so that you get a commitment and buy-in for the long term. (Don’t worry, PR results also serve the ego and make everyone happy, especially the first successful results!) If you’re coming up to baseline, congratulations on implementing a solid program fueled by content marketing and PR best practices. And as you progress into developing the law firm communications department of the future, enjoy and embrace the transition of measurement from counting placements to counting revenue!
Dave Poston, Esq., is CEO of Poston Communications and a licensed attorney with 25 years of experience in international in-house and agency communications positions for professional services and B2B firms. He has counseled thousands of executives and marks their leadership success as the ultimate ROI. He leads the agency’s strategic growth, product development, client creativity sessions and process orientation. He may be reached at [email protected] or (404) 875-3400.
About Poston Communications
Poston Communications is celebrating its 15th year as a national media relations, content and crisis agency. We are lawyer-owned and led, and our team includes PR professionals, journalists and digital strategists who are skilled at sharing your stories. We have relationships with national, regional, local and trade media outlets, and we focus on securing media opportunities to showcase your thought leadership.