When it comes to marketing your law firm, all the branding in the world won’t get you very far without proper framing.
Framing is the way your practice is presented to the public. Just as an actual frame affects (perhaps in a subtle, subconscious manner) the way you look at a picture, law firm framing affects whether people hire you or not.
Stories are great framing devices. The story does not have to elaborate. In fact, the simpler the better. But it has to be memorable, vivid and true.
“Our firm has deep roots in this area.” “Founded in 1910, we are the oldest firm in Orange County.” “We help startups turn dreams into reality.” “We specialize in bankruptcy law.” “If you can’t come into our office, no problem. We’ll come to you.”
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Here are some other framing techniques:
- Tradition. This draws on cultural and geographical ties.
- Slogans, jargons and catchphrases. “Avis: We try harder.”
- Artifacts. Some objects that have intrinsic symbolic value. Think scales of justice or dollar signs.
- Contrast. Distinguish yourself by describing what you are not. “We don’t charge for an initial meeting.” “We only handle motorcycle injury cases.”
- Spin. This is a way to present a concept so as to convey a value judgment (positive or negative) that might not be immediately apparent.
Political consultants know all about framing. They tell their clients to say “I’m going to provide tax relief” instead of “I’m going to cut taxes.” Why? Because “relief” puts a positive, curative frame around the concept of lowering taxes. “Cutting” has a negative, harsher connotation.
Just Do It
To create a strong brand, you need to frame it in a way that resonates with people. A great example is Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It.”
“With those three words, the company effectively framed their brand as the one for people who are serious about sports, conditioning, and working out,” writes marketing expert Reid Neubert. “That frame moved Nike out of just being an athletic shoe brand, albeit the leading one. It subordinates the weight of stories that their sneakers were made in Asian sweat shops. ‘Just Do It’ frames Nike as being apart from the competition who are now ‘the other guys’ who also make athletic shoes. It makes Nike athletic shoes somehow better than the other ones, because Nikes are for Serious Athletes. It’s a club that beckons us to join, even if we are more couch potato than athlete.”
Neubert practices what he preaches. His firm is named Reid Neubert & Friends, which evokes images of a kinder, gentler, people-friendly bunch.
Some other notable business frames:
- Enterprise is the rental car company that will pick you up.
- Kentucky Fried Chicken is finger lickin’ good.
- Coca-Cola is the real thing.
- Pepsi was the choice of a new generation.
- Seven-Up is the Un-cola.
- Harley-Davidson riders are American by birth, rebel by choice.
- Calvin Klein believes that between love and madness lies obsession.
- Imax thinks big.
- Volkswagen thinks small.
Of course, legal services are not fried chicken or motorcycles. But when you boil it down, the goal is the same: to get people to know you, like you and trust you enough to choose you.
And consider this: there was a time when computers were thought to be unmarketable. They were too big, too expensive, too ugly for anyone to ever want in their home. Pretty soon they got smaller and cheaper. But it was not until someone came up with the idea of calling them “personal computers” that the market exploded.
A narrative was created. These new machines were personal, life-changing, essential. It was a brilliant bit of framing.
- Mass Communication Theory http://masscommtheory.com/theory-overviews/framing-theory/
- Erving Goffman, An Essay on the Organization of Experience http://is.muni.cz/el/1423/podzim2013/SOC571E/um/E.Goffman-FrameAnalysis.pdf
- Reid Neubert & Friends http://www.neubertweb.com/articles/article-framing.html
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney who has practiced North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact him at email@example.com.