2017 Winners - Communications: Media and/or PR
Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt PC
Schwabe Media Relations
Summary: The history of legal practice in the United States is lengthy, honorable and hidebound. To better serve today’s business leaders, firms must think like business leaders. At Schwabe, they hear one question more than any other: “Do you know my industry?” They decided to say, “Yes,” and to back up their answer with action. Re-creating Schwabe as an industry-organized law firm required strategic messaging to multiple stakeholders both within and outside of the organization. Schwabe knew they were flying in the face of tradition; law firms typically grow by accretion rather than by streamlining. For attorneys and clients who did not fall neatly within our six core industries, the decision to communicate this shift was a challenge. Their goal was to communicate the deep commitment to Schwabe’s focus on six key industries while not polarizing members of their network.
After a year of strategic planning, Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt decided to break with tradition and fundamentally change the way they do business. In 2016, they relaunched our firm's organization around six industry focus areas. It was critical that attorneys, clients and potential new hires understood that Schwabe is completely committed to these six industries. This effort was not just window dressing. To announce that Schwabe is the first law firm in our region, and one of a handful in the country, to fully embrace this client-centric approach, they deployed an integrated communications strategy that enabled them to reach audiences in each of Schwabe's primary markets: Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and Bend. They needed things to look different, feel different and still retain the core of what made Schwabe the right fit for their clients.
In Jun. 2016, they launched their new brand, and website, and leveraged social media and traditional email marketing strategies to announce this change. Their core audiences included attorneys, clients and potential new hires. The messaging was 100-percent industry and client focused. Their strategies included telling their story broadly, so it appealed to leaders within the industries they are focused on. This was a business story, not just a story about a law firm. This strategy helped them overcome the perception of being “Oregon-centric” as Schwabe looks to expand their footprint in new markets. The second strategy, focused on communicating directly with Schwabe’s network of clients, was to emphasize the motivations driving the shift in approach. Finally, the third key strategy was to leverage all forms of media (social, earned and paid) to raise the visibility of the firm across all industry groups. Objectives included gaining earned media coverage in each of Schwabe’s primary markets, driving traffic to Schwabe’s new website where they tell our new brand story and increasing the engagement rate on the firm’s social media channels.
They achieved each of these goals. Within a week of launch, business publications in each of their primary markets published articles announcing this shift. Notably, they had in-depth, full-page coverage in both the Portland Business Journal and Puget Sound Business Journal on the day of launch. These articles covered the firm’s new organization, raising the visibility of key messages about “driv[ing] growth throughout the Pacific Northwest” and “going down to our studs and rebuilding the firm.” This coverage led to additional business stories highlighting 10 notable Schwabe moments over the years that the firm leveraged for greater engagement on social media. They also leveraged the networks of every attorney at the firm to achieve the marketing effort’s goal. The firm generated more than 28,000 impressions on social media during the initial public launch phase (Jun. 8-14), and Schwabe attorneys quadrupled these impressions by sharing the firm’s official posts with their own networks. A blog post from Managing Partner Mark Long was shared on the firm’s new site and linked to from Schwabe’s social channels. This resulted in approximately 2,500 website views on Jun. 8 alone. As a result of this communications effort, they have been able to focus on moving forward past the launch phase and wholly focus efforts on doing the work inside their industries so they can best serve their clients.
This brand exercise touched everything. What began with the website reached back to our firm’s logo and forward with advertising, e-blasts and even trade show materials. Never is an undertaking as extensive (or exhaustive) as you think it might be, and this investment was both, but with stellar results. The firm took a risk to stand and declare our deep industry knowledge in six industries that more or less define the Pacific Northwest. Schwabe went to market with a bold declaration that was reminiscent of the “Good Housekeeping” or “JD Power” seal of approval for competitors to aspire to. They did this via a designed “seal” that was used in each of their industry ads. This seal became the identifying design mark across our identity, ads and digital presence. Such as the seal is embedded in all of their materials, so too are Schwabe attorneys embedded in their respective industries.