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2903455491_2afaef2ea7A PR experiment, carried out by Danish PR consultancy Rossen & Company, found that fake advertising created for non-existent US law firms was favoured and more recognised than the real life firms.

Nicolai Rossen, managing partner of Rossen & Company, created three fake US law firms and, with help from UPF Barcelona and Stirling University in Scotland, designed their branding and advertising. These firms’ brands were then viewed alongside three real law firms by 50 global business managers. After comparing the six companies’ branding and publicity, the business managers had to choose which law firm they would prefer to do business with. The results found that most of the business managers were more likely to opt for the non-existent law firms.

The results suggest there is a lack of presence and awareness in big law firm branding and this is making way for new, PR streetwise firms to come in and steal the competition.

Nicolai Rossen says of his results, “If you’re an unknown corporate law firm, you can position or even fake yourself as the best brand in business in the perception of the market, through publicity and the press.”

So what are the big corporate US law firms getting wrong? What made the business managers choose the fake firms over the real ones?

Mr Rossen suggests, “The competition from big US law conglomerates suffers from a case of terribly bad branding. Few can articulate the McKinsey, Bain or BCG of corporate law, and this lack of prior knowledge plays to the advantage of the ambitious law firm seeking to expand using PR.”

Make yourself stand out.
A big issue appears to be that many of the large, established law firms do not embrace the importance of differentiation. Marketers analysing a study carried out by Acritas in 2012 suggested that a lot of lawyers assume their audience already understands what makes them important and different. This is not often the case. Even the household name conglomerates need to show off their strengths to clients old and new.

Join the legal conversation.
With so many ways to join the legal conversation online and offline, law firms have no excuse not to get involved. Contributing to discussions about new legalisations and topics on the national agenda, all help promote a firm that is current and proactive in the industry. Publicising the firm name through topical conversation helps catch the eye of prospective clients and remind old clients that they are still leaders in their field.

Stay PR savvy

Large law firms that assume that their reputation will precede them are starting to fall behind in the race of modern day PR. While more traditional methods, such as word of mouth or personal recommendations, will never be completely outdated, they can no longer be used alone. There will always be PR savvy new, unknown companies ready to take the lead through social media and online advertising.

While this report might have been about US firms, if we’re honest, is anything here we couldn’t say about the UK? It might seem that firms are suffering a terrible case of bad branding, it is nothing that a bit of modern day PR medicine can’t cure. So, what are we going to do differently in 2016?