"The client wants." That used to be the most uttered and heard three-words around the Manhattan communications business. Those who filled that order usually went on to receive other orders from that particular client. Yeah, success in communications entailed being an order-taker and order-filler. That's changing.
And it's proving brutal to communications firms which haven't thought digital.
The new reality is that clients can now reach their goals faster and cheaper by adding or integrating digital communications into the traditional package of press conference, executive-bylined articles in the trade press, interviews with the usual print reporters, speech at the Detroit Economic Club and one at the Manhattan Club, and the non-stop barrage of media releases. Or, if firms do the right digital things, they can eliminate many of those traditional and high-cost ones.
For example, plaintiff law firm Marler Clark operates about 40 blogs. Its specialization is food-borne diseases so each of the blogs is focused on one particular disease. Of course, the firm's head honcho Bill Marler also has his communications pro carry out some of the more conventional tactics such as issuing press releases, responding to media calls and paying careful attention to what is being written about the firm. But the lion's share of the branding and selling comes through proactive digital communications.
That approach is unusual for the legal profession, at least currently. Therefore, it's received an enormous amount of coverage in the general, business and legal media. In itself, that intense coverage generates amazing free publicity for Marler Clark.
Overall, the digital payoff for this law firm probably adds up to funny money. Just one example: In the google categories concerning food-borne diseases such a E-Coli, Marler Clark usually ranks as the number-one.
Other law firms, less digitally savvy, pay $30 a click to be on that same google page in the form of an advertisement. That $30 doesn't guarantee that the browser clicking on the firm's advertisement will turn into an actual buyer. And the opportunity for fraud is there. The firm's competitors can keep clicking on the ad, bankrupting the advertiser as the meter keeps running at $30 a pop.
There are also the indirect payoffs. Because Marler Clark is playing in a digital sandbox it will come in contact with all the new digital developments - and not be overwhelmed. The value of that competitive advantage will keep increasing as the other firms continue to fall behind in knowing about and embracing the right digital innovations.
In 2007, the shrewd client says not "This is what I want" but "Explain what you think I should want." The best explanation would outline ways to cook up a combo platter of old and new media, with the emphasis on the latter.