Top law firms understand that long-term success comes from building both strong relationships and talented attorneys.
Strong relationships generate repeat business and referrals. Talented attorneys generate successful outcomes.
Below, we will explore how an employee advocacy program can leverage these relationships, talent, and outcomes for the benefit of the firm in areas of awareness, recruiting, and sales.
What is Employee Advocacy?
Employee advocacy is when an employee talks favorably to others about the company they work for. These conversations can happen in many ways and taken different forms, but at its most basic level it’s word of mouth marketing.
And much like customer word of mouth, employees will only talk favorably about the company when they feel engaged at work. Recent research from Aberdeen Group supports this claim, citing that employee engagement is a requisite to advocacy. Here are some characteristics of employee advocates:
- Generate positive exposure and raises awareness for a brand through digital media or offline channels
- Recommend a company’s products or services to a friend or family member
- Represent the best interests of the company both internally and externally
- Can help build employee ownership of the organization
- Is an expert on your service and can be a credible spokesperson for your company
Let’s assume your firm either has an entire staff of advocates or can at least identify a healthy number of them across the organization.
For the purposes of this exploration into employee advocacy, let’s also assume that your staff, associates, and partners are protecting client confidentiality in anything being shared among their social networks about the firm or what they do there. We’ll talk more about how to get over this natural sticking point in a moment.
What we’ve done with these assumptions is set the stage for an engaged, talented employee to act as an employee advocate and bring the benefits of advocacy to the firm.
Now, let’s dive into those benefits.
Increase Brand Awareness for Firm
There is a natural hesitation in the legal industry to share anything on social media due to the confidentiality issues. Firm news is typically restricted to press releases about staff, operations (new offices, relocations), and successes. Many firms have also discovered ways to blog, produce video, and publish other types of content that positions them as a top resource and market leader.
At the bare minimum, you should be empowering your entire firm to share these stories with their social networks. You are already sharing them to media outlets and publishing them on your website, and their purpose is to generate brand awareness for the firm.
By providing your employees with the tools to amplify this content with their own personal networks, you achieve two things:
- Greater reach – A brand page on social media cannot expect to reach nearly as large and diverse an audience as the sum of its employees’ networks.
- Authentic voice – When someone sees an article or video shared by someone they know, it carries a more authentic and trustworthy connection than if that same article or video were to appear in their social feed from a brand page (sponsored or organic).
Employee Advocacy tactics for brand awareness
- Pre-write status updates – Providing pre-approved and compliant status updates means employees can confidently share content with their networks.
- Commit to publishing – If an employee sees that the firm has a strong social presence, editorial calendar, and budget for speaking and conferences, they will see that the firm rewards advocacy and be more inclined to participate.
- Elevate and celebrate peers – Every firm is made up of incredibly smart and talented people. Give them the platform to share their expertise. Turn that content into something employees can share with their peers. Hearing from peers is more authentic and trustworthy than reading about the CEO.
Recruit Top Talent From Attorney Networks
As a top law firm, you clearly have top talent. You also know that top talent helps you maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace. Chances are good that you have a heavy recruiting program to seek out new talent.
Are you tapping into the networks of your own attorneys to find this talent? You should. According to recruiting software platform Jobvite, employee referrals account for 7% of all applicants but nearly 40% of all hires.
Employees hired through referral are also hired faster and stay longer than employees hired through other channels.
Employee Advocacy tactics for recruiting
- Job postings – Empower your entire staff to share openings at your firm with their social networks.
- Employer brand – Showcase what it’s like to work at your firm. You can absolutely do this without compromising client confidentiality, by the way. Create content on topics like culture, diversity, growth, or even amenities for your staff to share with their social networks.
- Recruiting events – Create pre-written status updates for your staff to share with their social networks about any recruiting events your firm is participating in.
Empowering your entire firm to participate in recruiting efforts humanizes your firm’s brand, and helps create authentic bridges between people that will lead to higher quality recruiting.
Generate New Business Opportunities Through Social Media
Employee advocacy is a catalyst for creating new business opportunity through social media. As the employee participates in sharing company and industry content, their network will respond and engage.
This creates a cycle of reinforcement and participation while building up the employee’s authority in the eyes of their social network.
At some point, they become a go-to resource for referrals, press, speaking, and more.
Employee Advocacy tactics for “social selling”
- Provide social media training and profile optimization – If you are going to ask employees to be a valuable resource to their network, they have to look and act like one.
- Identify PR and thought leadership opportunities – Reward advocates who build up a strong audience with a speaking gig or interview. They will be more likely to share this content, and their network will respond in kind to seeing their colleague’s success.
- Curate subject matter content – Help your advocates insert themselves into conversations about their subject matter expertise. It doesn’t have to always be about sharing branded content.
How to Get Started With Employee Advocacy
Law firms who understand the power that employee advocacy can bring to awareness, recruiting, and sales, are in an advantageous position to become true market leaders. But you can’t just jump right in and expect everyone to participate.
Advocacy comes from engagement. Engagement comes from culture. Culture comes from the top. If the culture of your firm isn’t ready for an advocacy program, fix that first, then look at these next steps:
- Agree to empower your employees to be advocates. Make sure your social media policy accounts for advocacy, and consider training for those who are less established on social media.
- Identify a “seed group” of employees with established digital and social footprints. Use them to create a “quick win” for the program that can be used to encourage more to participate.
- Establish a content plan to ensure your employees can stand out as valuable resources to their networks, it will put more power behind the brand content when they share it.
- Provide tools to facilitate sharing, publishing, and conversation.
- Encourage feedback and suggestions, they will help you identify internal influencers and external champions.
A version of this article was published in the April 2017 issue of Marketing the Law Firm.