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Branching Out Into Video Production for Online Marketing

Though many law firms were previously reluctant to venture into the use of video as an Internet marketing tool, there have been two fairly significant market changes which have convinced them to take the plunge. YouTube, the ubiquitous video channel, was acquired by Google, which means video is now a huge component of search engine optimization, and Facebook has added a video component to the social media game. To increase your SEO efforts and enhance your social media networking, video is a must.

In fact, video has become such an important component for so many firms that the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Section now gives awards for the best law videos. The Golden Gavel is presented in recognition of the best videos from law schools, law firms, and different size of law firms. Even if your firm's goal does not include snagging a coveted Golden Gavel, you do want to present yourself to potential and current clients in the best possible light, and be as searchable as your competition. Just take a quick look on YouTube to see how many firms, large and small, are using the medium to develop a brand image, support firm messaging, cultivate media contacts, enhance client retention, and build on staff and career growth.

Video Killed the Radio Star, And Launched Internet Sensations
The online metrics analyst ComScore reports that182 million U.S. web users watched close to 41 billion online videos this part May – and not all of those were cat-playing-piano videos. Firms are reporting that web traffic shows a significant boost once they added a video component. Placing video on your site will help drive conversion, from potential clients to active clients. A video conveys your personality and knowledge like nothing else. Video also greatly boosts your site's search engine performance.

What types of video work best?
There is no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to how you approach your videos, but there are some things to avoid. Parody tends to fall flat, as does mimicry (we assume you do not need to be warned to eschew lip synching to or otherwise attempting to perform "Gangnam Style" or its ilk). However, humor can work well, if done with a light hand. The internet has more than enough footage of a stuffy talking head solemnly standing in front of a wall of law books, intoning about case law. Think about what you would want to watch, what a potential client is looking for, and what would represent your firm. A simple series of questions and answers, applicable anecdotes explaining how you solved someone else's issue or a relevant story all might fit your needs -- and all bring in the emotional element that resonates with viewers.

If a prospective client is searching online for an attorney or visiting firm websites, odds are they are looking for assistance with a legal issue and need an attorney, or are wondering about whether they need one. Your video can provide content which explains to them how you can help them with their legal problem. While some attorneys use video as a way to make their bio more engaging, others use video as a way to map out legal issues, answer questions and show how they work with clients. So, do not just think of video as a way to broaden your marketing channels, think of the different ways to use video. The material in an introductory, "Here's our firm" video can and perhaps should be presented differently than video which introduces partners or otherwise features biographical information – and those can be tonally different than a question-and-answer video which explains the process of depositions or case law.

Prospective clients are interested in seeing an attorney’s overall demeanor and getting a sense of their level of expertise and confidence. That does not mean they need to see an attorney recite their curriculum vitae. Those needs can be met by watching the attorney discuss the details of a recent case which went well, or why they work in the field they do.

Your firm does not have to offer viewers a full library of videos, but do consider your minimum goals: branding, emotional engagement, and putting a face to the firm's name. Whatever else you include will literally help boost your visibility.

What about production values?
While you do not have to hire an outside, professional team to produce your videos, you should consider it –or be sure your own team has been trained to produce the best possible videos. Nothing can leave viewers with the impression that you are an unprofessional or unwilling to invest in excellence quite the way a wooden delivery, grainy or badly-lit image or echoing dialog can. A professional team can produce video which gives you high-quality website content, providing potential clients with a far better end user experience. Good - but never overly-slick - video can be what differentiates you in a crowded marketplace.

If you do decide to produce your videos in-house, you will need a good lighting setup, a high-quality digital video camera, high-quality sound (the mic that comes with your camera likely won’t be able to filter out ambient noise and give you the full tones you need), a setting for your shoot, an editing program and someone who knows how to use it, and the ability to optimize the content for search engines. If you go with an outside team, spend some time looking online at what other firms have done. What do you like? What makes you cringe? It can be tempting to throw up your hands and tell your production crew to pitch you idea, but your time and theirs will be much better served if you can point them to footage you like and footage you really want to avoid emulating. Do you want outside or inside footage? Do you want to be walking, sitting, presenting in front of a whiteboard, with others or alone? Do you want a marketing overview video, which introduces your firm to the viewer – so you will want footage of other staff members, footage of your psychical office spaces, and footage of people working or at an event? Is the person who will be in front of the camera able to speak extemporaneously in a relaxed and engaging fashion, or will you need something tightly scripted? Do you visualize stock footage and a "voice over?"

Is producing video really going to make a difference?
The business landscape for law firms has changed. Clients are using the internet to find firms – reading bios, looking at head shots, and reading reviews. They are increasingly willing to hire attorneys before they have ever met them in person, and are even leaning toward hiring them (or not) based on the impression they have of the firm from those online sources. Legal firms and legal marketers are using online technology to make an emotional connection, and video can do that like no other medium. And while they will look at your biographical video, if you provide one, remember that they are most interested in seeing if you have handled cases like theirs and how you approach issues, not what your grade point average was. The general rule for these videos, and for all engagement media, is to be useful.

The use of video can dramatically enhance or completely derail the marketing efforts of your firm - the extent to which cannot be overstated. Approach your video production with the end-user experience firmly at the forefront of all your efforts, and remember that video cannot replace all of your website content. You still need content-rich features and multiple categories easily available to the reader.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, high-quality video speaks volumes about your firm and your competence. What better way to show viewers how much and how well you can help them than with your own voice?

Some questions to ask when exploring video production, either in-house or with an outside production team:

The Overview:
What can we do to set this firm's content apart from the other videos out there?
What do we like and what do we want to avoid, based on what we have seen?
How will we approach production and script development?

The Basics:
What equipment do we need?
How do we get the best lighting possible?
How will we frame the shots?
How do we get the best audio possible?
Who will oversee the editing and the postproduction effects?
How will we upload the content and publish it online?
How will we best optimize the video(s) for search engine results?

About Author

Barbara Atkinson is a former Bigger Law Magazine staff contributor and editorial board member.

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