Nicky Richmond is the joint managing partner and one of four equity partners at West End property law practice Brecher. There are over 30 lawyers and a number of new lateral hires – from City firms and specialist boutiques – are due to join soon. She kindly shared her experiences as a case study for use in a future “Digital PR” course.
“The firm has always had a strong commercial property related client base – and we go beyond the usual legal remit with a reputation for actually putting the deals together and introducing clients to the right people at the right time – both in the UK and overseas. But the 2008-2009 crash affected us like most other firms. However, we simply shifted our emphasis to Central London residential development market and high net worth residential acquisitions, which had always been a significant part of our business. As a result, we wanted to target intermediaries and agents and to drive our diversification we needed to add skills in property litigation, insolvency and planning. However, our profile wasn’t nearly high enough to attract the heavy hitters that we needed”.
Motivated to tweet and blog about food
“I attended a three day MBA training course and my eyes were opened to the possibilities of social media. I already had a Twitter account (@saysitstraight) but hadn’t really “got” how to use it but after the course I was really motivated to give it a proper try as I found LinkedIn rather dry and impersonal”.
“Personally, I have a huge interest in all things food and thought that I would be happier tweeting about that topic – remembering that early on I had always thought that being a food critic would be my ideal career. I increased my personal blog entries http://nicolarichmond.wordpress.com/author/nickyrichmond/ which were mostly reviews of restaurants that I had visited with clients in the course of my day-to-day networking, client entertaining and relationship development. I liked writing and found it was relatively quick and easy to write up my thoughts on those. The links I always posted onto LinkedIn and Twitter and was surprised at how many online dialogues they prompted”.
The beginnings of a PR strategy
“After some initial tweeting I reconnected with a former contact who had provided some help previously with PR. We met up IRL (in real life) and started developing an outline PR strategy to help us raise our profile. To help get the other partners on side early on we started by getting one of them into the Financial Times with a piece on property investment comparing New York and London”.
“I was then told that The Lawyer magazine was looking for a lawyer to review restaurants and sent in some of my blogs and was asked to provide regular reviews as a result. This was great as clients enjoyed being part of the review experience and often asked to be mentioned by name. I was then asked to join a panel of bloggers at The Lawyer to provide comments and opinions on developments in the market. I started to get some of the assistants involved in the firm as well which spread the load a bit”.
Liveblogging at MIPIM
“Then in February 2011 I was invited to liveblog for The Lawyer from the annual property conference MIPIM in Cannes. Perhaps it was my somewhat irreverent style but this prompted lots of positive feedback. Later that year, I was asked to live blog Mapic, similar to MIPIM, for Estates Gazette and earlier this year I was asked to repeat the MIPIM live blog exercise for The Lawyer and to provide liveblogs with a different emphasis for Estates Gazette magazine. It was challenge generating so much content – and it was a good job that I liked writing – but both were well received”.
Integrating traditional and digital PR
“The online publicity was a brilliant supplement to our traditional PR coverage (including coverage of partner Steven Ross in The Guardian and myself in the Daily Telegraph) – and we ensured that all articles and blogs appeared on our web site. Everyone who comes to meet us or for interviews had Googled us and seen the blogs and articles. And clients are always keen to come along to review restaurants. We were also profiled in The Lawyer for our recruitment and development of our assistants and generated more publicity when we won “Best Boutique Firm” in the annual Lawyer awards”.
“It is difficult to measure the results from publicity generally – and more so from social media. However, I have recruited two people through Twitter. I met up with a Twitter contact and learned that his sister-in-law, who was legal head of planning at Islington Borough Council, was seeking a position similar to the one we had available. I also tweeted that we were looking for an assistant and managed to recruit a junior assistant as a result of that tweet. Furthermore, I remember picking up on a tweet where an organisation was seeking premises – so I put them in touch with some people who might help. That got me involved in some charity work and connected me to several other folk and and real fees, after I helped introduce someone to an agent contact of mine, resulting in a much better deal than originally expected. My passion for food connected me with other would-be gourmets and I have been giving some landlord advice there in an unofficial capacity”.
“We are trying to get more of the assistants involved in writing blogs and using social media. But we are leading from the front and helping them brainstorm ideas and identifying suitable legal and commercial topics. We encourage them to adopt their own style and personality as it makes things more interesting – after all, people want to know that they are reading material from and connecting with authentic individuals who have something of value to say in an interesting way”.
“Meanwhile, we are looking to broaden the range of print and online media where we have exposure. So the PR programme continues to develop”.