That’s advice we have all heard at some point in our lives, but it’s advice that can be painfully difficult to follow in our professional lives.
Being authentic as a person is to be true and genuine. But we often see legal marketing where lawyers attempt to portray themselves unrealistically. What if you set aside your personal discomfort and adopted authenticity as your marketing strategy?
Social Media and Your Personal Life
Social media makes it both easier and harder to put out an artificially constructed image of yourself. True, a Facebook news feed can resemble a “highlight reel.” But it would have to be pretty carefully cultivated to present a truly false image. It is nearly impossible to hide behind an online persona.
It is even harder to separate your professional existence online from your personal one; when potential clients Google your name, they will find both your professional website and personal pages. They may even find your home address. Gone are the days when you could actually separate your lawyer life from your “real” life.
It is a bit uncomfortable to accept the idea that colleagues and clients can easily learn about your personal life, but it is also unavoidable. Given that we cannot ignore the intersection of social media and professional networking, perhaps it is time to embrace it.
Embracing your authenticity as a marketing strategy means letting the world see you for the human that you are.
In marketing and branding, let the real you shine through. Take your biggest hobby and include it in your website bio; include a family picture or favorite vacation destination image in your ads; use your favorite color as the foundation of your branding (like Julie Tolek’s Think Pink Law). Take something that connects your human side to your clients.
Does Authenticity Work?
Stepping outside of your comfort zone only makes sense if it works to create connections to potential clients. Some TBD Law attendees already have success stories:
- Raymond Chandler of St. Louis reports that a client hired him after reading in his website bio that he takes his family camping on weekends and volunteers with a boys club. He was hired (at least partly) because of who he is, not where he went to law school.
- Billie Tarascio of Modern Law presents her website bio as a personal story that connects her to clients needing her family law services.
Deconstructing Your Image
Accepting the benefits of showing your real self is the first step. Next, figure out what image you are currently portraying and remove the artificial bits.
If your picture or bio are anywhere in your marketing materials, then you have already created a public image. Consider what your image conveys today. Ask yourself what elements of that image may be less than authentic.
You may be conveying a false picture of your professional life. For example, does your marketing presence give the impression that you wear a suit to work every day in a traditional office? Is that what you do? Is that the impression you want to convey?
Alternatively, you may be leaving out critical aspects of your real life that could help you connect with potential clients. For instance, does your marketing hide the fact that you are a parent? A skilled woodworker? Dedicated to some particular hobby or cause?
Bring in Authentic Elements
There is no need to inundate potential clients with every detail of your personal life. There is no need to overshare (like some Facebook friends everyone has). But there have to be elements of your authentic self that you can bring to your marketing to provide avenues for connection with potential clients. Just as Raymond Chandler was hired because his client felt a connection to his extracurricular activities, there will be things you do in your personal life which will help bring clients to your doorstep.
After identifying what those elements are, consider what you are comfortable sharing and start small. It is unnerving to present your real self, but here are some examples of lawyers doing it right:
- Jess Birken says in her website bio that she’s outgoing, an outside-the-box thinker, has two daughters, and loves to run and watch movies.
- Jamie Richards comes right out and tells website readers that she loves horses, zombie movies, and her kids, and that working on the Texas Court Rules Committee is “technical and dorky” and that she loves it.
- Patrick Palace highlights his yoga studio and mindfulness in his website bio.
These authentic lawyers are guideposts to follow when you push beyond your comfort zone and let the world see you as you are. Though it may be uncomfortable, the connections you can make to potential clients and colleagues make it worth the effort.