This week The Jerusalem Post had a story with the title: The real problem behind Israel’s dismal PR. I found the first paragraph amusing:
Israel’s public image today is dismal. As Elie Wiesel once joked, “Jews excel in just about every profession except public relations, but this should not surprise us: When God wanted to free the Jews from Egypt, he sent Moses, who stuttered.”
This struck my fancy because our agency handled the public relations for the Chosen People Ministries’ Inside the Middle East Crisis. Chosen People Ministires did a great job of promoting the event and attracted more than 1,500 people from around the country to attend a conference. They helped the audience consider currents events in the Middle East with a newspaper in one hand and a Bible in the other. While Elie Wiesel is one of my hero’s, he should know that there are some very talented Jewish public relations professionals, as evident by the success of Chosen People Ministries event.
And to serve and Moses’ advocate, here are a few things this sea-parting Jew did very well as a public relations pro:
- He knew his role as representing his client and giving Him the credit: OK, Moses had a big client, God. And God needed the job done. Moses followed God’s orders, got millions of people out of bondage, showed them where God provided food and water in the desert, and even when God wanted to wipe out His people, Moses was willing to take the hit for them.
- Moses Stayed the Course: While it took the Jews 40 years to get from Egypt to the promised land of Israel, biblical scholars believe it could have been done in less than a year. There was a lot of wandering at the direction of God. However, even when his client took him on a difficult path, Moses stayed with God’s direction. Now, God has never give me this type of assignment. However, there is value in having a relationship with a trustworthy client and sticking with him, even when you don’t always understand the logic. Unless the client asks you to do something unethical.
- Moses worked to get clear directions from his client: When Moses went up the mountain to get the 10 commendments from God, he managed to get what every public relations person wants from their clients: a clear understanding of the rules of engagement. While many people may not know what all is in the Bible, most have heard of the 10 commandments. Good PR job, Moses.
Now back to the present. The Jerusalem Post article goes on to trash Netanyahu’s leadership in Israel and his poor PR skills when it said:
The combination of the public’s disillusionment that peace efforts will ever improve its global image and the disunity within the government further exacerbates historic public relations woes across the globe. But Israel is also inept at PR at home.
While I am not a Middle East expert, I see a country that is surrounded by enemies, surviving and thriving even after coming back to life in 1948, when the world thought that Moses’ Israel would never be restored to the Jews. At the end of the day, Israel still stands despite attacks from outside and inside the country.
Sometimes the best blog posts are inspired by other bloggers. In this case, Robert J. Ambrogi’s blog LawSites provided me with and idea that I have never looked into: what am I worth to a law firm? Here’s something from his blog that I’d like to respond to:
The gist of my post is to ask whether law firm PR professionals are overpaid or underpaid or whether law firms even need PR pros on staff. My opinion is that a skilled and knowledgeable communications professional can be highly valuable to a law firm. That’s not to say there aren’t incompetent PR folks out there. As a former newspaper editor, I’ve encountered my fair share of clueless PR folks. But as I say in my forum post, in an age of social media, law firms do themselves a disservice not to use a communications or media professional.
If you read his entire post and related links, you’ll see that law firm media professionals have salaries that range from $50,000 to $375,000. In comparison, larger law firms in Chicago, on average, publish that they start out their associate attorneys at around $160,000/year. So if you are motivated by money and deciding between legal PR verses becoming a lawyer, I’ve solved your career decision.
When our public relations agency works with law firms, I find that how they value public relations can be as different as practicing IP verse PI law. While the PR professional can point to values such as ad rate equivalency, number of LinkedIn connections or followers on Twitter, the real value meter lies in the hearts of the attorneys.
I find that more lawyers need to ask themselves these types of questions when it comes to deciding how much to invest in public relations:
- Where does it fit into my business development chain?: While public relations results can range from being quoted in the New York Times to speaking to a national trade organization, the main issue is knowing how it fits into a marketing strategy. So if speaking four times a year at national industry conferences can eventually yield one million dollars of new business a year, then the work your PR person did might justify a six figure salary.
- What will the lawyer invest? I’ve seen public relations and marketing people inside law firms loose their jobs because their efforts did not get the phone to ring. Yet, when attorneys were given leads to follow up with or were asked to mingle at a trade show, the lawyers dropped the ball. For the PR person in these instances, they were worth paying minimum wage because they never got buy in from the attorneys to follow through on initiatives.
- Do you want tactical or strategic PR people?: Some lawyers see their internal marketing and public relations staff as additional administrative staff. Just having them order business cards, update the copy on their websites or write press releases and post online. It would be better to get an English major who knows basic HTML to handle that work. However, the law firm who sees their internal marketing people as part of a business development strategy, will include them in managing partner meetings to decide how to best bring in the business. For these marketers, somewhere in the six figures seems right.
So to respond to Mr. Ambrogi’s question, it all depends on the attorneys who run the firm and whether they are willing to invest time to understand the value they want from a public relations professional. It’s not a matter of getting what you paid for, it’s more a matter of knowing what you want and finding the people who are worth hiring to get you the value you desire.