Latest Law Firm Marketing Plan: A News Broadcast

For more than 20 years, George Carroll Whipple III has been a society reporter for NY1, the 24-hour television news station in New York City. Now, Whipple’s on screen talent is paying off for his parallel career in Big Law.

This week, Epstein Becker & Green announced the launch of a weekly video news broadcast anchored by Whipple, who is a partner there, and will be supported by a production team that includes six other attorneys.

Called “Employment Law This Week,” the first episode runs four minutes and include links for viewers that want to read longer articles on the news items covered. The first episode looked at recent judicial decisions involving employee background checks, upcoming developments in the Affordable Care Act and other topics.

“We want our clients to have the headlines so that they can communicate with their colleagues,” Whipple explained. “You want to be smart, you want to be fed the stuff and this will make you smart.”

Before joining Epstein this past summer, he worked in-house at Credit Suisse, and said a short digest of the most important legal news developments would have been helpful. By making a video, Whipple said his firm is able to extract value from its attorneys and bring it to the clients in a new way.

But he also said the legal market has changed dramatically: Whipple, who graduated law school in 1980 and started his career at Cravath Swaine & Moore before going in house in the 1990s, said there is a much greater expectation that law firms will charge reasonable prices and deliver only the highest quality work product.

“You cannot gouge the client anymore, they’ve figured it out,” he said.

Whipple said he spends about 10 hours per week preparing the broadcast and plans to make future shows shorter than four minutes.

The firm’s launch of a weekly video show ties into a trend in the market for legal services that Hugh Logue, an analyst for Outsell discussed in September: As more low-end work is automated or sent to alternative service providers, Big Law partners are increasingly competing for high-end work. One result is that partners feel compelled to market their expertise to a greater extent, which thus far has been accomplished by writing blogs and articles, podcasts and now videos.

As one example, in the realm of data privacy, information security and cyberlaw, Hunton & Williams and Steptoe & Johnson, are among at least a half-dozen law firms with blogs on this topic that are updated on a regular basis.

The trend extends beyond the legal industry, however, and many businesses have launched blogs and websites to reach their customers, some of which have developed audiences that exceed those attracted by local news organizations.

In October 2014, the Columbia Journalism Review published an article on so called “content marketing,” defined as any form of content created by a brand with the hopes that it will attract an audience. The article reports that content marketing now accounts for billions of dollars of corporate marketing budgets and sometimes supplants a corporation’s spend on traditional advertising.

Coca-Cola now spends more money creating its own content than it does on television advertising, according to the article.

In one striking example, the article reported on pet food company, Nestlé Purina PetCare, and found:

Purina is, by some measures, St. Louis’ largest media company. Purina Pro Plan’s nutrition-minded Facebook account has some 700,000 likes; the account for Beggin’ Strips, a dog treat, has about 1.1 million. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Facebook page, meanwhile, has a mere 120,000 likes — though given the social Web’s taste for pet photos, perhaps it’s not a fair comparison.

Feel free to tell us what you think about content marketing and whether law firms, which can’t justify making videos about cats and dogs as easily as Purina, will succeed in reaching their clients. You can write to gfriedman@bna.com.