Eight Steps to Thought Leadership Greatness: How Hogan Lovells Established Itself as a Cybersecurity Powerhouse

Presentation Review: "Attention Will Be Paid — Differentiate Your Thought Leadership From the Crowd" by Jennifer Brooks and Brooke Haughey

Summary by Katherine McCoy Rivera, Communications & Public Relations Manager, McGlinchey Stafford

In a crowded global legal marketplace, how effective is your firm at capturing the attention of clients in a new area of interest?

That challenge is what the Hogan Lovells marketing team faced in 2015 when the head of an emerging practice called with a request that was simple on the surface: we want to hold a cybersecurity event.

Armed with a plan that forced them to think bigger than a single event, the Hogan Lovells marketing team thought of ways for its cybersecurity lawyers to reach a broader range of clients and make a real impact on the firm’s market position. Their plan involved research, creativity, and critical flexibility.

The result? A comprehensive, integrated thought leadership campaign that paid dividends far beyond a partner’s initial request.

Jennifer Brooks and Brooke Haughey of Hogan Lovells delivered an engaging presentation at the LMA Annual conference that told the story of how their team’s thoughtful planning and smart execution resulted in a huge win for the firm’s cybersecurity practice and its marketers.

Better yet, the presenters shared the framework they followed to develop a successful thought leadership campaign. Jennifer and Brooke served as excellent storytellers and shared actionable tips for marketers to make thought leadership dreams come true at their firms. The outline they shared, below, is something any firm can follow or scale, regardless of size, practice focus, and resources.

1. Assess viability. Before hosting a successful Cyber Summit in March 2016, the Hogan Lovells marketing team conducted in-depth research to ensure an event was a good fit to help promote its cybersecurity practice group. When research indicated it was, the team knew the event could serve as the first block of a fuller thought leadership campaign and could help generate content for its target market.

2. Identify firm differentiators. What can we offer that no one else can? Hogan Lovells looked at the factors driving key issues in the market, and whether the firm was ahead of or behind the curve in an emerging practice area. The firm’s marketing team also assessed the needs of clients, seeking to define the issues that keep them up at night or things clients might not be aware of that could threaten their future success.

Next, Hogan Lovells took a good look at its internal capabilities to take on the challenge of a campaign. Was the proposed level of the thought leadership campaign appropriate for the potential opportunity it could generate? Was there management-level support? Did the firm have the capability to build a strong internal advisory committee on the proposed topic? All these questions essentially answered one: Is this a good fit for us right now?

Lastly, the firm took a close look at the competition in the cybersecurity arena and how competing firms (and non-law firms) were addressing concerns in this space. To make a campaign work, the presenters explained, Hogan Lovells had to offer something to clients and prospects that competitors couldn’t.

3. Set objectives. The Hogan Lovells team established objectives for each portion of its thought leadership campaign, including SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based) goals. Then they established which key performance indicators (KPIs) were important to their firm management team and the cybersecurity group.

Jennifer and Brooke also explained how KPIs differed among different portions of a campaign, from events to microsites to social media, and shared real-life examples of how they approached this in practice. For an event, the RSVP rate, resulting new business, and client feedback were important. With a microsite, they looked at how much time visitors spent on a site and the number of shares the microsite content received on social media. When the team developed videos, they knew the number of views and shares were important.

Of course, these are only a few of the KPIs the team tracked to ensure each portion of the thought leadership campaign was successful—the lesson learned here is to ensure each portion of a thought leadership marketing campaign is measured independently. Success in one branch of the campaign could look different from success in another.

4. Draft an approach and craft the budget. This is a straightforward portion of the planning process—the marketing team developed a plan for creating a team of lawyers, established a budget for activities, and prepared for next steps by taking a high-level view of what was to come.

5. Build internal coalitions. Buy-in was critical to the success of the Hogan Lovells cybersecurity thought leadership campaign. Jennifer and Brooke talked about how lawyers and marketers worked together to fill roles: champions and chairs of the project, steering committee members to represent varied interests of the firm, and working group members who were responsible for getting the actual work done.

As the speakers pointed out, it is critical for marketers to assert their expertise and work to build the firm’s confidence in their knowledge, skills, and plan at this stage of the process.

One additional tip Jennifer and Brooke offered was to think of associates as resources who can help make a campaign happen. Often, associates are working to establish their credibility or position in the marketplace, and they’re eager to tie their names to an important project. Thought leadership campaigns create ample opportunities to reach clients and develop business, so marketers can frame this as a win-win situation for younger attorneys to get their support of a thought leadership initiative.

6. Plan the campaign. In this stage, the marketing communications campaign was fleshed out: identifying audiences, picking channels, deciding what types of content to produce, establishing metrics for KPIs, integrating the right tools into channels, and thinking ahead about how the group would be prepared to regroup/recalibrate/readjust.

During their presentation, Jennifer and Brooke challenged the audience to come up with as many places for content distribution as they could think of, then shared their list of more than 40 distribution channels, ranging from print ads to community partnerships to directory rankings to webinars. They also shared a list of deliverable formats: tweets, case studies, newsletters, email campaigns, press releases, FAQs, and editorials, to name a few.

Because a thought leadership campaign doesn’t exist without participation, the speakers highlighted how different groups play a role in distributing content. Marketers should plan to engage different groups such as internal audiences, clients/prospects, influencers/the media, and alumni/recruits.

Jennifer and Brooke also noted it’s important to ensure at this step that the campaign is broad—one format of thought leadership content on a broad variety of channels doesn’t result in thought leadership, so marketers should ensure a varied approach. Creating an action grid with aspects of the campaign can help a team stay organized and on-track.

7. Execute and go to market. This is where the magic begins—let ‘er rip! Whether thought leadership resides in an event, on social media, in a white paper, or in snippets of video, think about how content can be repurposed for different audiences in different channels. Looking back to campaign objectives, this is the time to ensure systems are in place that will allow marketers to track the KPIs that are most important to their firms.

8. Assess and recalibrate. Measure marketing efforts and see how results stack up to what the firm expected from different parts of the campaign. If something isn’t working, or if marketers learn something through analysis, they should be prepared to try something new.

Interestingly, Hogan Lovells learned that expectations of how content would perform and be consumed weren’t reality. It turned out that audiences for their content weren’t where they expected them to be, and audiences preferred certain types of content over others. Thorough analysis of campaign data, plus the team’s ability to pivot when needed, allowed for flexibility so the campaign was able to evolve, moving to different channels and in new forms of content that proved successful in the end.

By remaining engaged with this process and taking steps to listen, adapt, and change course, Hogan Lovells’ marketing team demonstrated an excellent example of how an integrated thought leadership campaign can influence market perception and create opportunities for lawyers. It was easy to see how the process of refining an approach to thought leadership approach allowed the campaign to became more effective over time and reach a broader audience.

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