I had three motivations for scooting over to the uber-cool BL-NK pop-up venue in Hoxton yesterday just around the corner from Silicon Roundabout at the very heart of digital London. The first was to see the marketing efforts of Withers Worldwide in action as a legal and law firm marketing case study. The second was to hear how not to be #socially_awkward and the latest on avoiding the legal pitfalls of social media. And third was because my good friend Charles Christian at Legal Technology Insider http://www.legaltechnology.com/ asked me to go along.

Street fashion

Having made the sartorial error of daring to wear a suit at nearby Shoreditch House earlier in the week, I had dressed down. Just as well. Withers helpers were easy to spot in black trousers and black tee shirts with the firm’s orange logo and #WithSocial splashed across their fronts. I tried to look nonchalant at my colour clash calamity with the orange lanyard for my name badge (can you read them at waist level?).

Sipping coffee in this bright, techy brick-walled warehouse of a venue I was delighted to bump into a Withers partner who I had worked with previously – at an accountancy practice. So engrossed with the conversation I hardly noticed the time slip by and soon I was seated (between the owner of a digital marketing company in the entertainment industry and a practice manager from a barristers chambers) and ready to go.

Technology displays

While I tried to focus on the front, my peripheral vision was attracted by numerous side screens showing a variety of treats – a funky Withers video, a decision tree of whether or not to use Twitter and a tweet wall of #withsocial comments and questions. Nice.

On stage there were some scarily young folk. I spotted the creative straightaway (obligatory smart jacket, casually loose tie and jeans combo). One of the (female) Withers lawyers was wearing a bang- on-trend cropped motor-cycle jacket. Low slung brightly coloured sofas. Oops – had my fashion reporting hat on there for a moment.

Phil Lewis of The London Strategy Unit @philjlewis @LSUsocial

Phil acknowledged that many businesses were still struggling with the basics of social media (the delegate poll revealed we  were 25% social media pariahs, 50% social media amateurs and 25% pro bloggers). He urged us all to go back to basics.

He was eloquent and convincing in his demonstration that social media had opened up businesses and changed the nature of brands (I liked the quote about “brand is the exhaust fumes of how you do business”). He offered three rules for social media success:

  • Build on what’s unique about your business
  • What gets measured, gets done
  • Plan to fail

He shared some good examples of how major brands managed to get consumers engaged in meaningful conversations (e.g. McDonalds and chicken, Unilever and sustainability, Marriott and crowdsourcing ideas, Oreos and the LGBT community and storytelling for cereals). He offered lists of dos and don’ts (I especially liked his advice not to try and cover all platforms) and argued against outsourcing your brand voice. Whilst he provided a raft of social media measures I think he missed the point a little about integrating social media into a proper campaign and measuring the business impacts. And if you weren’t wary enough of the dangers of social media in inexperienced hands he showed good and awful examples of big businesses handling social media crises.

Kenneth Mullen of Withers on brands and social media

Softly spoken Scottish Kenny (was he making a subliminal statement about independence with his back drop of an enormous union flag?) highlighted that there now almost 9,000 social media sites in the UK. We laughed as he related the findings an Ohio University research project into swearing on social media.

On trademarks and brand protection he told the brand jacking story of the intern at @shippamspaste. There were interesting examples from the world of football on brand promotion and advertising, a sojourn into the world of fashion super-bloggers and an analysis of recent ASA decisions. And on big data he gave some pragmatic advice on cookies and advising consumers how their data might be analysed. I liked his strategic and commercial approach on deciding what action to take.

Amber Melville-Brown on reputation management

Depicting the media as bloodhounds (or cyberdogs), Amber warned that “we are all publishers now” and “information anywhere is information everywhere”.  She gave a very matter-of-fact low down on the latest laws.

Inevitably, the Lord McAlpine Twitter case got a mention before we received a raft of extremely practical operational tips relating to passwords, reviewing, monitoring mentions and take down procedures. A case study at the end was truly inspirational in showing how one dodgy tweet can cause a storm – and what to do about it. I really liked all the flow charts in the pack on defamation, misuse of private information, breach of confidence and harassment – this really is making the law accessible.

Daniel Isaac on social media policies @tribunalmonkey

Daniel talked through recent cases that demonstrated the need for employers to have a social media policy and that reputational damage for products or customers was more likely to up hold unfair dismissal cases. There were some helpful alternatives to non-solicitation clauses.

Speaker surgeries

Early on we were invited to book a short slot at the end of the evening if we wanted to talk in private about our social media challenges. But the conference hand out contained pithy and practical legal advice on the majority of matters if we preferred to mull the issues over in the comfort of our offices.

I have to hand it to Withers. They made excellent use of fabulous presentation software (Prezi? PresentiaFX?) complete with zooming, video clips and impactful images. Not a bulleted list in sight. Either the speakers were rigorously rehearsed to within an inch of their lives or Withers has “presentation superstar” in its list of partner core competencies. And Amber’s worked example of how a small social media comment can spiral out of control was outstanding. My only peeve? A 40 minute over run on a 90 minute seminar really isn’t on guys. But this was otherwise exemplary legal marketing.

PS And to show that Withers really are on the ball I received a friendly email today thanking me for attending, inviting me to provide on-line feedback and indicating how I might get in contact with the various speakers