What Baseball Taught Me About Law Firm PR and Content Marketing

by JD Supra Perspectives
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[The latest in our series of inside perspectives by marketing, communications, and business development professionals doing excellent work at law firms today, with a perspective on PR, content strategy, and baseball:]

It’s that time of year when hope springs eternal. That’s right, baseball is back! Each team and its fans is brimming with hope as the squad completes spring training and heads to opening day. As teams break camp in a quest to achieve World Series glory, each is a composition of control, accuracy, agility, speed, and power.

So what does this have to do with public relations and content marketing?

Let’s open some peanuts and Cracker Jack and go through it:

I believe that pitching and defense wins championships. Sure, the team with the most runs wins, but even the best hitters can look foolish facing an elite pitcher. The pitcher and catcher are known as the battery. When in sync, they are an orchestra playing 60 feet, 6 inches apart.

I see the battery as your integrated content marketing and public relations strategy (the pitcher) combined with your measurement plan (the catcher). These two aspects are the most critical components of your efforts, and I encourage you to spend as much time as you need here in order to get it right.

Control and Accuracy 

Your strategy should focus on the control part of the composition (the same way a pitcher selects his pitch depending on a hitter’s tendencies and then controls the motion of the ball). Then measurement is the accuracy piece (the catcher frames home plate to give the pitcher a target and adjusts as necessary) meant to keep the strategy on track and course correct as needed based on metrics.

Pitchers and catchers often use the phrase “pound the strike zone.” Through a defined and documented strategy and measurement plan, the battery will know a hitter’s tendencies and look to exploit those in every at bat. The key takeaway here is to play to your strengths by staying in the strike zone and focused on your strategy. By doing so, you’ll work diligently to avoid scope creep or distractions that are bound to transpire during the course of the game.

Unless it’s a perfect game (which has been accomplished only 23 times in more than 140 years of Major League Baseball history), you must have a solid defense. So, let’s consider the additional position players (infielders and outfielders) as the other components of a great team.

Agility

While I confess that pitching is my favorite part of the game, defense is a very close second. Agility is paramount to a good defense. A quick first step towards a fly ball can mean the difference between an out and a base hit. Likewise, reacting to the crack of the bat with cat-like reflexes to nab a ball deep in the hole can result in a spectacular play in support of your strategy.

Obviously, your integrated content marketing and public relations strategy is built with a number of tactics, each supporting the overarching objective, so that you can be agile and adapt as necessary. Establishing key performance indicators is paramount here, and a solid understanding of Google Analytics is worth as much as an All-Star. Search engine optimization (SEO) can also play a critical role in an agile, integrated strategy. Targeting long tail keywords can help put your content or messaging in front of the right audience at the right time, which will reinforce the accuracy component that is so critical to success.

Native advertising or search engine marketing may be two other avenues to consider based on the data and analytics you gather during the execution of your strategy (creating a double play opportunity, if you will). Because they can be so targeted (like a fastball down and away), both are great ways to capture leads for content marketing activities and reinforce your PR campaign. Consider other tactics that can be intertwined in order to create more double play opportunities, as some tend to fit into your strategy more naturally than others.

As much as I love the pitching and defensive side of the game, the speed and power components are thrilling. An offense that can manufacture runs eases the pressure on the pitcher and allows him to further settle into a groove. Offense is often infectious, whereby each player looks to build on the success of the batter before him and create additional opportunities for his teammates down the lineup. A stolen base here, a bloop hit there, and a home run blast to clear the bases can all but assure a “W” after nine innings.

Speed 

Speed is an asset to an offense. Speed can advance the runner (either your strategy or one of your tactics) in key situations in a game, bringing them closer to home plate and scoring a run (aka advancing your objectives). For example, you can use speed to propel your PR and content marketing efforts by being the first to report a development, quickly assisting a reporter on deadline, leveraging social media, especially Twitter, and newsjacking. Listening tools, like Google Alerts and social listening tools, help enable speed by allowing you to deliver a key message to a target audience, often with very little lead time. Use speed as a way to create a quick win for your objective.

...stay focused on your strategy and measurement to avoid chasing fads and inviting scope creep. 

On the other hand, speed can also be a distraction to the defense, pitcher, and catcher. Certainly, speed is something you should pay attention to (a pitcher certainly considers the speed of a runner on first who might steal a base), but stay focused on your strategy and measurement (the battery’s perspective, anyway) to avoid chasing fads and inviting scope creep.

Power 

Everybody loves to see the big blast, walk-off home run! You hear the crack of the bat; the batter knows it’s gone; the pitcher knows he’s lost; and the crowd goes nuts!

Be sure your strategy has places for plenty of pop. Here, I’m talking about positioning your best assets—thought leaders, industry insiders, proprietary knowledge, value proposition, and all things truly unique to your organization—to enable your content marketing and PR efforts to clearly resonate. This requires proactive media relations; a target list of publications, reporters, and influencers; well-defined editorial calendars; key messages that are aligned with your strategy; and a robust, yet targeted, publishing schedule. You can lead from a power position once you have the bedrock strategy and metrics in place.

Technology can also fuel your strategy. This could be a modern website, leveraging some digital marketing tactics, a CRM system, marketing automation capabilities, a robust media database and monitoring platform, or mobile capabilities. There is no shortage of tools that can positively impact your strategy; however, it is very easy to be overwhelmed with choice, so be sure that any technology you choose to use is aligned with your strategy.  

Filling Out Your Roster

So, you’ve built your PR and content marketing efforts around these five components. While you are ready to hit the field, consider filling out your roster with a bullpen and bench players. Managers typically make a flurry of moves during the late innings of a game—trying to rally the team from behind or bringing in the lock-down relief core to assure the win.

Take the pinch hitter as an example. Often, a pinch hitter will step up to the plate in the pitcher’s spot to boost the offense. Think of tactics within your composition where you can provide an offensive burst. Perhaps video, white papers, case studies, surveys, webinars, a content distribution service, and/or infographics lend themselves well. Events, although more expensive, can be a good option.  

Coaches 

It’s the coaches and manager that orchestrate the team while they players are on the field. Consider your coaching staff to be your subject matter experts or those who lead quality control efforts. For example, if you don’t have the PR capabilities in-house, consider using an agency. Likewise, for some tactics, a consultant may be more efficient than doing it all in-house. After all, many of these components can be a huge undertaking on their own.

The Skipper 

Finally, at the center of it all is the manager, aka the Skipper. This is you! You can control whether to put on a defensive shift or instruct your slugger to swing for the fences. You’ll know why and what to do based on the composition of your team, the input from your coaches, the effectiveness of your strategy, and what your metrics reveal. Plus, think of all the cool hand signals!  

The Game Within the Game

One of the gems of baseball, which some are beginning to loathe, is the game within the game. The season is long at 162 games, and Major League Baseball is looking to incorporate rule changes to speed up the game.

Rely on your strategy as your guiding principle, and your measurement plan will navigate what is certainly a circuitous path to success.

Remember, you can score multiple, quick short-term victories by executing on any one of the components. However, you must remain dedicated and focused on the long-term. You might receive a weird call every so often, but focus on stitching together a win streak.

Rely on your strategy as your guiding principle, and your measurement plan will navigate what is certainly a circuitous path to success. Leverage your data/analytics to find bright spots, and exploit them to your benefit. Sometimes you will find one component taking the lead but remember, you are the manager who positions the players, calls up the big bat, puts on the hit and run, and asks your speedster to swipe a bag. The tools are at your disposal.

It doesn’t matter if you perceive your efforts to be A, AA, AAA, or Major League, the principles remain the same as you move through the Minor League system up to The Show. So, here’s to our great American pastime and your success!  

*

[Ryan King is the director of communications at law firm Ogletree Deakins. He is an avid baseball fan who roots for the Braves and Red Sox, and thinks Opening Day should be a national holiday. You can reach him by email at ryan.king@ogletree.com or on Twitter @RyanATL.]

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