Powered Up PR Marketing with Terry M. Isner

Powered Up PR Marketing with Terry M. Isner


In this episode, Alay Yajnik and Terry M. Isner, CEO of Jaffe, discuss how public relations marketing helps small law firms grow rapidly.

Tweetable Moments:

  • “PR brings a new light to these these firms who have woken up to the fact that they need to support social issues, cultural issues, be a part of change.” – Terry M. Isner
  • “It was their story. We recognized what they were doing, got on board with them, and then shared that with the world.” – Terry M. Isner
  • “Without PR, business development is like running uphill. With PR that works, business development is like running downhill.” – Alay Yajnik
  • “You can’t be a superstar in every niche. The competition is too much. The law is too much. You have to pick your lane.” – Alay Yajnik


Alay Yajnik: Welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage. This podcast is dedicated to helping attorneys earn more money, get better clients and spend more time with family. I’m your host, Alay Yajnik, founder of Law Firm Success Group. Smart Business Guidance for small law firms begins in 3…2…1….

Alay Yajnik: And I’m pleased to welcome to the show. Terry M. Isner, CEO and owner of Jaffe. Terry, thank you so much for joining Lawyer Business Advantage.

Terry M. Isner: Thank you. Thanks for having me. This is really exciting. I really appreciate being featured today.

Alay Yajnik: Jaffe does public relations and marketing for professional services firms. And so, Terry, instead of me talking about the great work that you do, can you share with us a recent example of a small law firm that’s really benefited from your public relations expertize?

Terry M. Isner: And it’s funny you say small law firm, because I might as well just start off directly with the idea that there’s a big trend and a big trend right now is a lot of law firms are starting to be created coming out of big law. And this is nothing new. But what we saw over this last year and the pandemic, I think a lot of people really stepped back and started to question, am I at the right place? Am I making a real change in the world? Am I affecting change? And do I have the ability to make those changes? Am I getting lost? Diversity, women’s issues. So all of these things have created this new this kind of new small law firm that you’ve asked about, which is really exciting. And so when you think about the opportunities that they have to take advantage of promoting the fact that there may be a diverse business owner now or leader, simply just a woman-owned and and led law firm, all of those are are just very simple acts of being who you are. But they fall so perfectly into I don’t want to use the word trend, but where we are, as I think a society and where we are especially with in legal.

Terry M. Isner: And Jaffe’s been working with lawyers and law firms for forty two years, and lawyers and law firms only been allowed to market themselves for forty two years. So we like to think we’ve seen a lot of this, these changes. So a couple of good examples just to kind of close up what I was saying about this move from big law and the opportunities. So we’re seeing a lot of these small boutiques open up and they’re coming in from a totally different perspective than how law firms were created in the past. They’re coming in with a conscious, they’re coming in with an eye towards the environment, with an eye towards diversity, with an eye towards inclusion, to equalizing the workforce. All these things that we’re trying very hard to get the bigger ships to kind of right themselves. These firms come in already having that as part of their foundation. It’s part of their culture and culture right now is kind of risen to the top of an important deciding factor of how businesses align themselves. And we can come back to that and how you hire and retain. So these small firms are coming in already with this big plus sign on them. They don’t have to change it. They get to be who they are and people want to gravitate and be with companies and businesses like them. So now come back to how we help them. So we’re now being able to promote this kind of feel good law firm. We’re promoting people first and and creating these dynamics where powerful women say to us, “I want to create a law firm that I can reach down and pull everybody up with me.”

Terry M. Isner: And I just get goose bumps when I hear that because I don’t speak to law firm owners and managing partners that talk this way. So imagine the power of telling that story and how that story today will resonate and PR tells that story. It allows us to talk about how important diversity is to you, how it was important for you to recognize how complex and big law was and that you were not making the effect that you wanted to. And so we can tell these stories. So PR brings a new light to these these firms who have kind of woken up to the fact that, hey, I need to support these social issues, these cultural issues, and I need to be a part of change and. We have the ability to kind of tell that story and that story then resonates so well that the growth opportunities for them are staggering compared to what we fight every day in business development for full services in terms of a larger size. And I realized that was a big answer. But I wanted you to understand why the landscape had changed and how from our perspective and sharing their story with the world, it’s easier to do because it resonates so much easier, because we’re wanting that now.

Alay Yajnik: And Big Law will always have its place in the world and some clients will always prefer big law. What I love about the small law firm space and where it’s headed is it is now easier than ever for small law firms to get started. With the technology we have in place today, they can create a paperless law firm just like that with the software and the now with the trend towards remote workforce. They don’t even need a big office or, you know, they can make do with a very small office. And so what are some of the things that they can do to differentiate themselves from this, this this tide that we’re seeing of all these small law firms coming to the fore, all trying to clamor for their share of their spot in the limelight? I think public relations and a good public relations campaign can be a real differentiator. So share with us a little bit about maybe a quick example of how you’ve taken the story of one of these small law firms and really showcase them and they’ve grown as a result.

Terry M. Isner: So this this is my favorite story of all, and it’s a law firm, it’s an IP firm and they’re located in Northern Virginia and they’re a small firm, but they are a virtual based law firm. So already, props to you. You’re smart, you can reach out, have greater talent opportunities because you’ve broken down those walls. So already you’re an IP firm. You should think this way. And they do. So beauty is you’re doing tha right. But then the unique part of this law firm is the relationship of the owners: two brothers (twins) and a few of their friends.

Terry M. Isner: And they have a really tight relationship, extremely tight relationship. You go to a meeting there, and I’m in a suit and they’re in sweatshirts. So it’s just a very different dynamic of what they created. Along with that, they realized that they needed to give back much more than any other law firm. They were drinking the Kool-Aid of diversity, inclusion and corporate social responsibility. And they recognize that their firm needed a purpose. So they were doing everything right, including even coming up with creating a an IP tool which recognizes the amount of the top leaders of IP patent applications. So the Microsoft of the world and the Apple of the world, they can see and understand what their competition is within that marketplace and how many applications that are creating nothing more than a resource for the people that they work with. And then in addition to that, they decided, well, we’re going to step up to the need and call for diversity. So we’re going to create an incubator. And this incubator is going to be to create minority firm owners. And we’re going to create this three, four year program in which we will train them in three years. And the fourth year we will train them to be a law firm leader. And our clients are supporting this with the idea that they’ll be work for them in the end. And every four years we’ll launch to new minority owned IP firms.

Terry M. Isner: They’re doing all of this, no PR, no marketing, nothing. They hired us and said, we’re doing all these great things and nobody knows who we are. So what we recognize was our goal was very simple: all eyes on this firm. That was that was our mantra. All eyes.

Terry M. Isner: And that’s what we began to do and we started to tell the story, tell the story from the managing partners perspective in their relationship, from the firm’s ability to be so diverse because of its recognizing or creating its virtual format. To recognize that you can’t talk about diversity, you have to do something about diversity.

Terry M. Isner: And I love it. So we went into full campaign mode. You’re talking about an incubator and the first thing that comes to mind is chickens. So we had to avoid that. Right. And we had to think about how are we going to create an interest that says “trust in us to give your career to us?” I mean, that’s a big trust and to trust in the fact that this is real. You know, this are you really doing this? So we create an entire PR campaign. The concept was more of a think, more like astronauts think more of a space age incubator mentality. And so we used astronauts. We hired astronauts to go to their events. We brought astronauts.

Alay Yajnik: No way! You actually hired astronauts to go to their events?

Terry M. Isner: We did. Well, astronauts, suits, everything. We did videos with the astronauts. We created really cool kind of Space Age Odyssey 2000 videos that we sent out in the package, really cool graphics. And and so we really changed the whole dynamic. And trust me, the amount of PR that this firm was getting by us simply telling the story of what they were doing, we didn’t create anything out of the ordinary. We tied it up into a creative campaign. But they were doing it. It was their story. What we did is we came in and we recognized what they were doing, got on board with them, and then shared that with the world.

Terry M. Isner: And it created such huge opportunities for them to connect with other firms that recognize that innovation and applauded them and wanted to hear more of the story and wanted to know more and really are showing by example. But I think that that shows that you can do all the right things and still not be recognized for it, not have it as a brand differentiator or brand awareness, not getting any mileage for it at all. And the return of investment, you know, is small and could be such a bigger one because of the ability to introduce this type of thinking to so many others.

Alay Yajnik: You know what’s really cool about that whole story that you guys set up there? It’s an IP firm and you used the space age kind of motif for that. And as someone who’s a bit of a sci-fi nerd and space fan myself, I can see how that would really attract other people that are into innovation and into technology. That’s really brilliant. And as you mentioned, you told their story. And so I’d like for you maybe to comment, just give your perspective: when I talk to firms about how they’re getting the word out. A lot of it is things like, “I’m going to blog, I’m going to promote myself on social media. I’m going to go ahead and do a lot of business development.” Tell me about the advantages that a public relations campaign can bring to a firm as far as building that awareness.

Terry M. Isner: Yes, sure, and think of it a lot like we used to talk about marketing and business development: marketing paves the road, business development went down that road and closed those deals. PR is a lot like that. So what’s happened is the tech revolution has created a dynamic in which we are in control of doing our own due diligence. So the sales process happens way before the sales process starts to hit you. So before the phone rings, before the relationship begins, due diligence is happening. And so when you think about the sales process and how do we improve it, think about the power of PR. It’s telling your story. It’s creating you as the superstar that they’re looking for, for whatever that is. Now, the important part of that is you’re a superstar within a sector and you have to recognize that and you have to want to be a superstar of that sector, because when you want to be a superstar at everything, well, that’s become so diluted and the waters are so muddy, you’re probably not going to be found. Somebody else is going to beat you pretty much to the punch as being the expert there.

Alay Yajnik: It doesn’t matter how great you are, you could be the smartest, most capable attorney on the planet. You cannot be a real superstar in every niche that’s out there. You just can’t. The competition is too much, the law is too much. You’ve got to pick your lane.

Terry M. Isner: Think about what that also says to the buyer. Really, I need somebody who’s really invested in this and in me enough to be able to step back from a ten thousand foot perspective and see where the issue lies and where the solution lies. And you can’t do that when you’re the jack of all trades, or the jackie of all trades.

Terry M. Isner: And so you have to think about that. Sharing your story with the world is so important. That is being so transparent. That is that is allowing people in to what makes you tick so they can trust in you to do what it is that they need because of what’s keeping them up at night or what their goals to achieve and where a service to them. We’re nothing more than a tool for them to reach the next goal, and they have to trust in that tool. So PR tells those stories. They’re stories that you relate to. “I’m looking for an attorney that, you know, it does a certain thing within a certain sector and has had the same issues that I’ve experienced and had a positive outcome.” You can only get that through a story. You’re not going to believe it through marketing jargon. You’re going to get that through a real, authentic story. And that’s what PR is designed to do, tell that story.

Alay Yajnik: And I know there’s a lot of people listening, Terry, who are thinking, man, man, this is great. I want Jaffe or a PR firm to tell my story. And you and I both know the truth of the matter is that public relations isn’t a great fit for everybody. And so let me tell me a little bit about who’s not a good fit for PR.

Terry M. Isner: Well, you know, that’s kind of putting PR almost in its old traditional format and thinking that you speak to journalists, you go on camera for broadcast or you’re quoted in a publication. Of course, that still exists. And that’s an important part of kind of building who you are. That’s that sharing your story with the world, that’s building the credibility in different channels. But, you know, if you think about PR today, it’s social media, it’s writing content that’s being read on social media. It’s podcasts, it’s videos. It’s all of these other forms and it’s speaking opportunities. All of this is PR, all of this is public relations. And media relations is kind of a different factor now.

Alay Yajnik: Public relations and media relations, what’s the difference between the two?

Terry M. Isner: I think what I’m seeing the shift in are we’re seeing a shift in is that public relations, which is, again, public relations, you are dealing with the public in all of these different channels. And I think that might be the difference of the evolution. So media relations, the media is controlling so much more. So they determine whether it’s newsworthy or not. That’s what the editor and journalist get to do. And so it’s a bit subjective and what they think is news and what they are and how they want to portray that news. Public relations and your website, you are in control of that. You’re in control of social media. You’re in control of your email. You’re in control of your blogs. You’re in control of everything. Nobody can edit you. You know, nobody can decide what is newsworthy or not. You can share your news from your voice and from your perspective and all of these public venues. So I think that there’s this shift where media used to be, where credibility was, where you wanted to be and needed to be. And, of course, that still exist. I’m not at all putting down the importance of media relations, but the difference now is we’re more in a public relations environment in which it’s connections and creating relationships and being part of initiatives and causes and actions and all these things. And they’re more public and you have more opportunity to relate within those public areas with less control. And that’s why I think there’s a greater emphasis now in public relations and less in media.

Alay Yajnik: It’s a really good point. And Jaffe’s been around for over 40 years. You guys have the media relations across the country and in all metro areas, in rural areas. When you’ve been around for that long, you’ve just developed those kinds of relationships, but you do much more than that. And so tell me a little bit about your integrated approach, where you integrate media relations, public relations and marketing and how that’s different from maybe a traditional PR firm.

Terry M. Isner: Yeah, so part of the question that you had asked before, which kind of leads to this, is the fact not everybody is set up to be a good a good person for a public relations or media relations campaign. There are certain people that do really well in those venues. And it’s extremely important, I think, for your agency itself to recognize those players and help, you know, bring them into the fold and help them become, you know, thought leaders through these different vehicles and telling their story and they might not have known that. So then you look at all the other integrated processes and you go, “OK, you’re really not right for PR and this is why and you know it. But what you’re going to be perfect for is creating resources for this industry.” You are such a thought leader and you are so in tune to the science behind this and understanding the need to protect this at this innovation and this intellectual property that you should write on that from a personal perspective and why this matters so much to you to create an opportunity that protects others to come up with wonderful ideas that solve the world. And that’s what you want to do every day. So be this amazing storyteller and let’s create a vehicle that people read and want to respond to what it is that you are writing and telling them and and appreciate this and appreciate you as an expert within that or video. I’m comfortable to creating this thought leadership in my own office. I’m just not comfortable of doing that in public through responding to social media. I want to control my message. The other is, hey, I’m very comfortable with responding to what other people think and telling my point of view. Therefore, within you should be more engaged in social media because you’re very confident in yourself and you can respond with really great contribution to the conversation. A lot of us don’t like that, that’s no, I don’t want to have that instant response. I want to have the more controlled response. So if you look at all those different channels already, you’re still you know, you’re still using the idea of PR.

Terry M. Isner: You’re still creating a way in which you are communicating with another human being or collaborating with or creating some type of user experience with that. So it still follows in my mind within that public relations. Right. You’re still connecting with people just within different channels. And the way that you’re providing that content of that information is now done again through different forms and through different channels. But all along, we’re still sharing your story with the world. We’re just doing it in a different way, in different ways. Yeah, that’s where I think the difference is very cool.

Alay Yajnik: And so that’s we’ve talked a little bit about what maybe someone who’s not great for PR or media relations is. What is a great engagement look like for you and for your clients?

Terry M. Isner: So let me can I show by example a couple of two stories on that? So, you know, we have this one situation where there was an attorney who we felt would be really great at commenting and talking about and creating thought leadership around a big national case. Now, this person had no outreach other than that. Really wasn’t doing any PR, no branding, no personal marketing. Really was not. No. But we recognized that they would be really a great person to comment on this. This attorney went from no interviews to up to 50 interviews a week on this topic, was quoted and re-quoted and his information was shared not only at the national level, at the regional level, and at the local level of anywhere and everywhere this national case.

Alay Yajnik: 50 interviews per week!

Terry M. Isner: -that was released in one week alone, yes.

Alay Yajnik: Wow. That is really something.

Terry M. Isner: Yes. From not having any. From not being related to as the expert and/or superstar. We recognized he would be the perfect person to relate on this. And it began and it just the process you kind of sometimes have to pull the expertise out. Right. You have to help them. And that’s our job. I’d like to remind our team that I look at every attorney like they’re the superstar on Entertainment Tonight. And our job is their manager, their publicist, their agent. We’re everything because that’s that’s what we have to do. Every single person deserves that level of attention, how to creatively talk about them, how to create and creatively mold them, how to find those differentiators, how to get them comfortable in telling their stories. And here’s another quick example of that. Also, we had another attorney and he was a member of the firm’s corporate practice group. And earlier last year, he began to write bylined articles specifically on the PPP loans. Again, we have to look for opportunities. That’s the other thing, is to be attuned to the opportunities that fit you and so does your publicists and team. So here’s all of a sudden, our world has problems with those before, but we have them. And this gentleman started to write bylined articles on it. And then we started to play several of those articles and many of the big top legal publications for him. And this established him as a thought leader on the PPP loans. And this led to interviews and top tier national publications and even including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Again, taking somebody that just does a good job, isn’t already a superstar and becomes a superstar and lands in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal or 50 interviews in a week. That’s the power of PR when everybody’s working together, including the talent, and is a part of that process, you know, not resistant to it, a part of that process. And that’s when you get success stories like this.

Alay Yajnik: Fantastic. So, Terry, what advice would you give to attorneys or to law firms who are really interested in using PR to grow their business?

Terry M. Isner: So I think I would say, 1. Rethink the use of PR, and if you are not using PR, you have a huge hole in your communications plan. The other thing about PR, it’s the easy win. It’s the fast win. So let’s think about the idea of you’re a law firm that is slow to to to start up with the whole idea of a communications program to brand to marketing, to PR. And you have to kind of look at how PR will one help jump start that very quickly. But you might have certain marketing initiatives and other initiatives going for you, but you don’t have that support of kind of paving the way that we talked about putting out there and validating that you are an expert and why they should hire you or even if it’s from a firm perspective, why you should go and work for them. So if you’re not using PR, you have to understand that the reach is greater than any marketing tool that we have. It’s return on investment is even greater, especially if you’re trying to get buy in to start a marketing program because you can show quick hit PR plays off the ego, which is terrific, especially for this industry. So if we have you feeling really good, you’re going to understand the value of that. If you could see the return quickly when people are responding to your article and it’s not just your wife or your mom or your husband, then you realize that you’re starting to move that. Right? And so the point I’m getting at is if you haven’t tried this, you’re missing out on an opportunity that has the greatest reach of all and has the greatest power to begin to tell your story. And your story in the end is what we connect with. Everything today is based on that emotional connection. That’s where all decisions lie. 90 percent of our decisions are all based on emotional decisions and or reactions. And so doing that, it’s telling the story enough that I can relate to the fact that this person has my back or understands my situation. So I would say to anybody who can hear this, if you have not looked into PR, do it. It is the most important way to get your brand out there. It’s the most important way to get people to understand what you care about, why you care about it. It’s the best way to attract people. It’s the best way to to create relationships which will lead to greater work, all because it’s a form that organically allows you to tell who you are. And nobody can control that other than you.

Terry M. Isner: And so I would look at this also is it’s no longer a silent solution, right? PR used to be here and marketing would be here and websites would be here and all that’s blurred now. But the beauty is PR supports every one of those things. You create the content that goes to the website. It creates the stories and validation that supports your bio, that makes the sale to choose you as the attorney much easier. It tells the great stories about your social corporate responsibilities, your community efforts, your diversity, inclusion, all of these things that matter. PR is telling that story in some form or another. So if you are not including that, you don’t have the power to integrate that into your body program, which you might have, or your program is going to be a lot easier. As I said earlier, if you incorporate a publicist who’s telling the great things they’re doing and they’re finding that and doing their due diligence. So I would say PR is probably, from my perspective, one of the most powerful and best return on investment that you might have out of all of the marketing arsenal tactics that we have to go to.

Alay Yajnik: Yeah, I agree. As someone who’s heavily involved in business development, I liken PR to shifting the grade, if you will. Without PR, business development efforts, you’re running uphill. It takes a lot more. It takes a lot of effort. You’re really pushing hard. You have to exert a lot of effort with a lot of time. With PR that works well, you’re running downhill. It’s much easier. You can move much faster and you’ve got this momentum and that’s all the difference. So, Terry, what excites you as you think about Jaffey in the future?

Terry M. Isner: What I’m excited about is how integrated we’ve created our service offering because this year showed us how adaptable we have to be. All of us have to. We were already a virtual firm, but we still had to adapt because our people didn’t have their spouses and their children at home with them. So there was still adapting. So what I’m really excited about is the the digital side of what we do. We’ve done this for forty two years. We know the whole traditional side of this. We’ve seen the evolution of every photograph that you’ve overused, every color palette that logos have had, every way that they’ve talked about themselves. We’ve seen it all. What I’m really excited about are these new tools and I’m excited about them because these new tools create relationships. And I believe that’s where all of this exists. The individual might not buy your service, but the relationship you build with them, they are going to tell two or three other people to buy your service. So these new tools are relationship building tools, they’re storytelling tools. And I love that we are telling real human interest stories about law and changing the whole dynamic about it. And we’ve gotten away from the lawyer joke because we’re all the same now. Zoom created a dynamic and equalized legal, and it did from a fact there’s no corner office in Zoom. Everybody’s exactly the same. You’re cold at home. There’s kids running around, the dogs are running around. So this is what I’m excited about. I’m excited that things like Zoom rip the Band-Aid off so we can actually get to business now and get this industry taking advantage of exciting things like social media and digital advertising and all of these video and podcasts and all these other forms that these younger generations are connected to and comfortably using on a day to day basis.

Alay Yajnik: Well, it’s definitely a brave new world, and I’m very, very optimistic about where things are going. It’s great to see that you’re excited about it as well. And Terry, if someone wanted to reach out and connect with you, what is the best way for them to do that?

Terry M. Isner: The best way is just definitely go to jaffepr.com, but if you want to reach me directly, you can do that at TerryIsner@Jaffepr.com. So feel free to reach out. You can find me at SharingTMI on LinkedIn or SharingTMI on Instagram or SharingTMI on Facebook or SharingTMI on Twitter.

Alay Yajnik: And that is great branding because it’s TMI for Terry Isner. So love that you walk the walk and you talk the talk. That’s terrific. Well, Terry, thank you so much for joining us today on Lawyer Business Advantage. Really appreciate your insights and your enthusiasm, your passion for what you do.

Terry M. Isner: Thank you. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Alay Yajnik: And that’s a wrap for this episode of the Lawyer Business Advantage podcast. One thing that would really help both us and other new potential listeners is for you to rate this show and leave a comment in iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you tune in to listen. And I want to hear from you. So connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you think of this episode. And if you are a solo or an owner of a small law firm and you’re looking to earn more money, attract better clients or reduce your stress, we would love to talk with you to see how we can help. Request your free law firm assessment by visiting lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. Again, that URL is lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. We look forward to talking with you soon. Thank you for listening. My name is Alay Yajnik. Until next time, remember, you can see freedom. You can embrace happiness. You CAN build your Perfect Practice.

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