Developing Law Firm Content like a Hollywood Script

“Law is a talent business, like Hollywood,” said Brian Kiefer, Director of Communications at Seyfarth Shaw LLP, speaking at a webinar June 19 sponsored by the Legal Marketing Association’s Public Relations Shared Interest Group (SIG).

In the webinar, titled “Building Blockbuster Content into a Thought Leadership Franchise,” Kiefer focused on Seyfarth Shaw’s annual Workplace Class Action Report, now in its 15th year, that has become indispensable for class action defense lawyers.

Kiefer continued the analogy to the entertainment industry throughout the webinar.

“There are so many parallels between what we do as marketing and PR people to bring content into the marketplace and what Hollywood does,” he said. “Our first step is to align talent with content, like casting a film. It’s important to cast the right lead. The lawyer who is to be the face of the franchise can either be a highly experienced attorney or a relative unknown trying to break out.”

Like a film director, Kiefer says, he keeps a list of talent at all times – lawyers in his firm who might be just the right person for a future project.

The different types of possible projects, Kiefer pointed out, are just like Hollywood, where the Academy Awards go to both original and adapted screenplays. In the legal world, if there’s a void in case law and the firm wants to be a thought leader, that is akin to developing an original screenplay. When there is a long history of regulatory filings that need a new perspective, that’s more of an adapted screenplay.

“In addition, just as in Hollywood, creative collaboration is essential in developing the Workplace Class Action Report,” Kiefer said. “We actually have a ‘writers’ room’ in which we meet and storyboard the themes. Although it can be done remotely, it’s better to have everyone physically in the same room. Then we follow up with weekly production meetings in which we make sure that the project is on schedule and decide what adjustments might need to be made.”

There is also a “post-production meeting,” in which the lawyers meet with members of Seyfarth Shaw’s marketing and design teams. Together, they take an 800-page document and reduce it to a 60-page executive summary and then further to a single-page press release. This creates maximum storytelling impact, Kiefer said, and leads to three to five headlines that are actionable and engaging.

Also in post-production, Seyfarth Shaw has been creating a micro-site that serves as the “digital home” for the class action report. The digital assets are designed with social media in mind. For example, Twitter often contains lively discussions of labor and employment issues, and the report’s conclusions have become part of those discussions.

Another key aspect is press outreach, Kiefer said.

“The most important thing is how do you keep reporters interested year after year? One secret is to roll out the red carpet for reporters and to give them exclusives, advances and embargos. Embargos are a bit of a lost art, and they are widely used in the entertainment industry as a means of piquing reporters’ interest,” he said.

Finally, Kiefer noted that it’s a good idea to “tease the sequel” by making predictions to reporters about what’s likely to happen in the law. “It’s a no-lose situation. If you were right, you can talk about your correct prediction. If you were wrong, you have a surprise that you can talk about.”