MEDIA BUYING GUIDE SERIES - PART 4: EXPERT GUIDES/ HANDBOOKS
International Law Firm Solutions (ILFS) specialises in helping independent law firms develop the international part of their business. It has a client base of independent law firms in more than 100 jurisdictions. Nearly all of our clients want to raise their international profile and recognise that one way to do this is in the international legal media. However, there are an overwhelming number of opportunities to consider - legal directories, handbooks, comparative guides, monthly and weekly publications and more.
PART 4: EXPERT GUIDES AND COMPARATIVE GUIDES / CROSS-BORDER HANDBOOKS
These are similar to the directories, but with the main product being individual lawyer profiles rather than firm profiles. Nearly all the main publishers do some sort of Expert Guide. Some are pure Expert Guides. Others have a more hybrid approach including expert recommendations as part of their directories.
Most of the Expert Guides also produce rankings and you can usually only buy a lawyer profile if your lawyers are recommended. As with the rankings in the firm directories, getting the best recommendations you can is highly beneficial as these are frequently used as a means of identifying lawyers to refer work to or of checking out those that have been suggested to them.
The benefit of Expert Guides is that they build a firm’s profile and brand by “star billing” (i.e. building the profile and awareness) of individual lawyers. The main drawback is that although individually they are not that expensive, accumulatively they can be and we have known firms spend very large sums indeed on this sort of product. The problem is compounded by the fact that the publishers often approach the individual lawyers who will “sign up” direct and there is no central control on the cost. In recognition of this some publishers will consider a bulk discount – if you have a number of ranked lawyers and buy a number of profiles.
- Get your lawyers ranked if you can
- These can be an important part of a firm’s media plan so we would suggest that firms that are concerned about budget take a controlled approach to them. Some firms stipulate that lawyers that order these profiles themselves pay for them themselves
- Consider buying profiles on a wide basis as part of a brand recognition strategy, or on a limited basis in specific practice areas as part of a targeted strategy
- If you are buying several profiles from the same publisher see if there is any scope for a bulk discount particularly if you are increasing your overall spend.
Comparative guides / Cross-border handbooks
Variously described as “Comparative Legal Guides” and “Cross-border Handbooks” each of the main publications of this type has a series of titles covering different practice areas or industry sectors. Each title compares the law across a number of jurisdictions with a separate chapter for each jurisdiction and each separate chapter broadly follows a standard Question & Answer framework.
The publications are produced under a “co-publishing” arrangement i.e. the firms writing the chapters effectively pay/contribute to the publishers for editing the content, publishing and distributing the guide and raising the profile of the firm in question. This payment often takes the form of an agreement to buy a fixed number of the books upon publication. Most of these publications are produced annually and the co-publishing fee is an annual rather than a one-off fee.
For most firms comparative guides probably represent an, at least partial, alternative to a
firm producing its own publications. The main benefits are:
- The distribution process. A firm may spend many hours producing its own publication and then only distribute it to a small number of clients and contacts. These publications are distributed/accessed online by a relevant audience of several thousand including lawyers at international firms and in-house lawyers at international companies.
- As the publishers edit the content, other advantages include a) less lawyer-time to produce b) higher quality content.
- Very often the chapters in the largest jurisdictions are written by some of the world’s leading firms, and although it is intangible there can be a benefit by association of being a co-author with these firms.
The main disadvantage is the co-publishing fee. Cost varies significantly depending on the jurisdiction and practice area concerned and is effectively determined by supply and demand. Some firms fundamentally object to the idea of paying for their work to be published.
There is no guarantee that you can write a chapter of a guide if you wish to. There is only one author for each jurisdictional chapter for each guide. The publishers also have certain criteria about which firms can write the guides. These vary between publications/jurisdictions so it is hard to provide general guidelines.
Also, do not underestimate the amount of time it will take for you to produce a chapter. We get very different estimates on the time involved ranging from several hours to much longer. Related to this make sure you know the deadline for your copy before you buy and that you have time to meet it
This type of publication is not right for every firm. In particular some firms do not produce many, if any, publications with legal content and do not see the value in doing so whilst other firms fundamentally object to the co-publishing model. However, if you do not fall into either of these categories we believe that used effectively these can be some of the best value products on the market and can represent an, at least partial, alternative to a firm producing its own publications.
If you are either a firm that produces publications, or would like to, there are two broad strategies:
- Seek to be the author of as many of the chapters in these guides in your jurisdiction as possible – see brand recognition in strategy section, Part 2 of this Guide. Note: this may be costly, but some of the publishers will give firms a better deal if you write a number of their guides
- Target specific practice areas that you want to promote – see also strategy section, Part 2 of this Guide.
If you do write one or more guides make the most of them. Although the distribution services the publishers rely on are good do not just depend on them. Post the guide(s) on your website, distribute to your own clients and contacts - at least those that are likely to be interested - and post on other distribution databases.
Contact us to see how we can help you get the most from your media strategy: