Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith is an incredibly straight forward guide for anyone communicating regularly with a large group of people on the internet who give what we say enough credence to follow, friend or quote what we have to say with some regularity.
The book is chock full of useful information and mirrored so many of the experiences I had been going through as a public relations legal marketer over the last two years, that I ended up taking some very copious notes as I read. By the time I finished, my copy was surrounded by a rainbow of sticky notes, and I was compelled to send my top ten questions to Chris.
1. You reference Douglas Rushkoff's idea that kids have 3 methods they use when they relate to games: playing , chating and programming. In the spirit of Arianna Hufifngton, can you provide a scenario of this ideology that directly relates to attorneys, and other legal marketing professionals?
C: Attorneys learn how they get new business. They play within these confines (maybe this is paper ads, etc). Then, they realize that if they do X to the ads, they get more response. They're still in system, but they are doing something to get better response. Finally, they realize that they can use completely unique channels to reach people (like a blog, for instance) and switch the funnel from outbound push marketing to inbound marketing. That's one way.
2. Hacking isn't cheating. It is changing the rules of how the game is played, using a system in a different way than it was designed. Can you elaborate on what that scenario might look like for on the legal marketing playing field?
C: It might mean that instead of using typical legal marketing channels, like ads in local papers or radio spots, that legal marketers use ads to drive attention to a special "advice planner" application, or to a series of blog posts on what the potential client might need. It might be as simple as using Twitter to search for people expressing legal concerns that you could solve and then offering them a consultation.
3. You mentioned that as trust agents become more well-known, those around them become more protective, and it becomes extremely difficult to reach the best people. You also cautioned that as someone becomes this person, they should make sure to find ways to facilitate important meetings with new unknowns and maintain the development of new contacts. Can you lend some advice to legal marketers in this regard?
C: It's important to grow your network. Having only one trust agent at an organization opens you up to the risk that the one person with access to your prospects and clients in the social web might just up and leave. Deepen the bench.
4. What are some of the things you've put into place to manage the multiple demands for your time, and keep your etiquette standards in place?
C: I've done my best to manage my contacts with help from my assistants. I limit my synchronous time (things like phone calls) because I can do more at odd hours than I can trying to line up my time to others. I sometimes falter at this, but for the most part, I try to stay responsive. It's required a lot of effort, the priority management part of things.
5. You stressed the importance of blog comments and how invaluable they are for two-way participation. Lawyers are extremely cautious about putting too much personal information out into the web world, as well as the danger of providing legal advice publicly. With this in mind, do you have some guidelines to provide for them?
C: I think you can always offer the common sense parts of advice, and that you can properly disclose the "this isn't meant to be construed as legal advice, nor do any interactions between us in this format count as lawyer-client privilege," etc. There are many legal blogs out there already who make for an easy template for managing disclosure. Beyond that, comments mean someone's taken the first step in your prospecting funnel. It becomes up to you to qualify and/or determine how you want to answer next.
To read more of the interview, visit the Karasma Media Blog.