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Law Firm Marketing: How to Navigate Online Reviews

Law Firm Marketing How to Navigate Online Reviews

If attorneys and law firms open up to online reviews – even the negative ones – what is the impact on their online reputation?  The topic was a theme of a hot session during Mass LOMAP’s 4th Annual Super Marketing Conference.

The reality is online reviews are here to stay and marketing experts believe they are becoming a way of life. Consumers, including those seeking legal services, are increasingly turning to online reviews for information about purchases.  Consider the following stats offered during the session:

  • Trip Advisor says 93% of reviews on their site impact customer decisions.
  • Avvo says 84% of clients say reviews have a significant impact on decision making.

The Trip Advisor Effect

According to Trip Advisor Assistant General Counsel David Morris, who led the session panel titled, Make the Most of Online Reviews, the online travel planning website sees upwards of 260 million visitors per month. This level of traffic shows people put a great deal of value in online reviews.

So what does this mean for the legal profession?  The concept of user reviews has spilled over into other purchase areas including legal services and has uniformly raised expectations.  Even for the most risk adverse firms, embracing the shift is becoming a prerequisite.

Mr. Morris explained that as online legal review sites such as Avvo and Yelp continue to gain popularity in the mainstream, lawyers need to start embracing these sites. This means managing their own profiles and even engaging with reviews, including the negative ones.

8 Tips for Managing Online Responses

Open and transparent engagement can be a frightening proposition that runs counter to instincts.  However, Mr. Morris offered a few practical steps attorneys can take to begin managing their online profiles:

1. Sign up for review notification emails. Singing up for email notifications will enable attorneys to read reviews as they happen.  Situational awareness is the first step to being responsive.

2.  Read the guidelines. Most review sites will have specific guidelines to follow on how to respond to reviews in the most appropriate way. Note responses that are deemed inappropriate or biased can be removed so be sure to get familiar with the guidelines.

3. Respond promptly. If you receive a review, it’s always a good idea to send a response as soon as possible to let the reviewer know you value their feedback. Keep in mind that often responses are visible, so how a negative review is handled is often as compelling and important as the review itself.

4. Say thank you. This sounds self-explanatory, but a little courtesy goes a long way.  Few words can deescalate a situation like the phrase “thank you for the feedback.”  Of course, if a review is positive, it’s also important to recognize customers that took the time to say as much.

5. Avoid canned answers.  Feedback should be as specific as possible and “human” in tone.  Canned responses come off as automated and inauthentic.

6. Highlight positives. Great comments in a positive review are worth highlighting.  This is a sound technique for reminding prospective clients of what sets one firm apart from a rival.

7. Address specific complaints. Addressing a poor review isn’t pleasant however, ignoring a complaint won’t make it go away.  Feedback, even negative feedback, can be a gift and as noted previously, the way these complaints are managed is as important as the complaint itself. If client privilege is a factor, it’s often better to state something along these lines explicitly, than it is to leave a complaint unanswered.

8. Ever professional. Reviews aren’t always nice, but the best way to handle them is to remain calm, cool and collected. Stick to the high-road and avoid coming off as angry or defensive in responses. Better to state and facts and a use a collegial and professional tone.

* * *

It’s hard to believe just a decade ago many people turned to those yellow-colored pages of a phone book as their primary resource for finding an attorney. In some ways, online reviews are similar, yet the entries are complemented with supplementary information.  That supplementary information is meaningful to customers and prospects, because it’s added by customers. How law firms address reviews can be as important to a reputation as the reviews alone.

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About Frank Strong

Frank Strong
Frank Strong is the communications director for the LexisNexis software division located on NC State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh. In this capacity, he leads communications efforts in support of software products for law practice and law department management and also litigation tools – across large law, small law and corporate counsel segments. With more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector, Strong previously served as director of public relations for Vocus, which developed marketing, PR and media monitoring software. He has held multiple roles both in-house with corporations, ranging from startups to global organizations, and has also endured the rigors of billable hours, having completed gigs at PR firms including the top 10 global firm Hill & Knowlton. A veteran of two year-long deployments, Strong has concurrently served in uniform in reserve components of the military for more than 20 years, initially as an enlisted Marine and later as an infantry officer in the Army National Guard. Strong holds a BA in Film and TV production from Worcester State University, an M.A. in Public Communication from American University, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University. He is a PADI-certified Master Scuba Diver and holds a USPA "B" skydiving license.