In another of our popular series of guest blogs, positive impact coach Deborah Ogden shares some thoughts on the importance of personal brand for lawyers and their firms.
The Law Society’s report, ’The Future of Legal Services’, published last year, discussed the changes in the provision of legal services and the impact these will have on the solicitor profession. They quoted a number of factors at play: the current business and economic climate; the change in how people buy legal services; technological innovation; new competitors entering the market and political agendas.
Consumers have more choice, technology continues to innovate in ways we wouldn’t have imagined ten years ago, and a younger generation are buying services in a different way. Beyond Generation X and Y, we now have Generation C who worryingly would rather communicate virtually than face-to-face. They don’t pick up the phone and ask for a recommendation; instead they consult their social media networks when looking for services. This group will seek out contacts who have had a similar problem, ask where they sought help and details of that experience – ‘how was it for them?’ The report commented; ‘Many law firms believe they are delivering good client service based on their legal knowledge, but clients are looking for a level of value that goes beyond legal expertise.’
An exceptional customer experience is expected. Reputation and brand are crucial when it comes to making a buying decision. The former CEO of IBM, Sam Palmisano said: ‘when your business is primarily based on knowledge, then people – rather than products – become your brand.’
Firms invest thousands on marketing: revamping logos (your logo is not your brand – your brand is a promise of what you are going to do and how you are going to do it); glossy brochures and slick PR and email campaigns, often forgetting that employees are their greatest ambassadors of the firm. Regardless of role or seniority within a firm, it is crucial that all staff know, understand and demonstrate the company’s vision and values consistently through the way they work, communicate, and their behaviours.
Warren Buffett, the American business magnate and philanthropist once said: ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that you’ll do things differently’. Wise words especially when you consider the potential for staff to put a foot wrong: new clients; networking; reception staff, and that’s before we consider hospitality events and the Christmas party.
Developing and managing a personal brand can seem simple, but is often not easy. I work with clients on the three ‘c’s – clarity of personal brand and audience, communication of the brand and then capitalising on it; building profile and reputation. Add to this: consistency. Taking the time to clarify your message; what you stand for, reflecting on core values and motivations, needs reflection and a good deal of self-awareness. Communicating that message consistently can seem simple, until we consider how we communicate verbally and non-verbally when tired, under pressure or stress.
Capitialising and building profile come more naturally to some than others. I regularly speak to solicitors who share their dread of presenting, networking, and building business relationships. Networking is an essential part of the job description these days and perceived by many as a ‘necessary evil’. A lack of training and understanding often leads to an uncomfortable experience, poor results and a potential dent in the firm’s reputation; instead of the opportunity to standout and make a memorable connection for the right reasons.
A recent study of professional services in Canada has highlighted that firms benefit directly from employees who build a strong, visible, personal brand. Individuals who network effectively, build their personal brand and reputation become ‘visible experts’ and the benefit is seen to extend beyond the individual, impacting positively on the firm and their peers. This is due to a well-known psychological phenomenon called the halo effect which explains the positive bias often displayed when we identify a quality we admire in someone. In this instance, the buyer who sees the expert in a positive light is likely to believe that the expert’s firm is wonderful too.
We all have a personal brand – Jeff Bezos of Amazon is often quoted as saying ‘it’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room’; therefore, it’s crucial to ensure you and your staff actively manage that brand and don’t leave it to chance.
It’s about being ‘so good they can’t ignore you’, whatever the context: networking; presenting; a pitch or promotion. People hire the person, not the firm. The stronger the individuals, the stronger the firm will be.
Deborah Ogden is a nationally respected speaker on Personal branding, Impact and Presence.
Whether it’s building better relationships, winning more contracts or presenting with confidence, Deborah’s expertise has delivered results time after time for businesses and individuals across the UK.
Her approach centres around increasing personal impact and making a positive, first impression. From body language and visual impact, to powerful communication skills – and understanding how these impact on others.
Having trained as a solicitor, Deborah has a strong background in professional services giving her a personal understanding of the importance of backing up content with strong presentation.
Deborah is a regular commentator on BBC Radio, has featured in national publications and had her work published in Your Success, a personal development book in 2015.