Firesign Wins Back-to-Back Reader Ranking Awards in Three Categories

Missouri Lawyers Media recently announced that Firesign was voted a top winner in three categories for its 2020 Reader Ranking Awards. For the second year in a row the agency was honored for Best Public Relations Agency, Best Website Design, and Best Law Firms Business Development/Coaching Services.

Voted on by Missouri Lawyer Media readers, the Reader Ranking Awards celebrate the businesses and organizations that support and enhance the work of attorneys.

Three Branding Lessons from the Super Bowl Champs

After a 50-year drought from even a Super Bowl showing, the Kansas City Chiefs marched forward in their heart-stopping way until — finally — the dry ground gave way to the cool silver of the Vince Lombardi trophy.

Following the victory, online sales of Super Bowl championship merchandise leaped more than 70 percent over last year, according to SportBusiness. But even before that, articles repeatedly dubbed Chiefs fans as some of the most loyal in the league.

That begs the question: How did the Chiefs make their brand so special, despite a rut of losing seasons?

Here are three branding lessons from the 2020 Super Bowl champs:

  1. You don’t have to scrap your entire marketing playbook to cultivate a championship brand.

Presentation and platforms may adapt with the changing times, but the fundamentals remain constant.

“The Chiefs have a very traditional brand,” the team design director, Jordan Giesler, told Dribbble. “We stay true to our roots; we haven’t changed our logo since we moved to Kansas City in 1953, and to me, that’s a fantastic thing.”

The unmistakable red, gold and white, the iconic arrowhead — that’s been part of the Chiefs’ identity for decades, through waning trends and a lengthy dry spell. There’s no question about who they are or the traditions that make up their history — and their future.

  1. Your brand isn’t just about you.

It’s true that a brand communicates about you, but it also communicates about your clients (or fans, in this case). That makes understanding them a vital part of developing your brand.

“It was very important early on for us to identify who we are and what makes our fans tick,” Giesler told Dribbble. “It’s much more than logos or Pantone colors; it’s a mutual understanding, it’s being a fan yourself and delivering a brand that respects the past but also represents the future.”

The Chiefs value their strong community roots and traditions, Giesler said. Even with the hype connected with a Super Bowl appearance, the team prioritized staying true to its identity.

Fans (or clients) must be able to relate with the brand identity, which is a key motivator when it comes to how many tickets or jerseys (or lawsuits?) they’re willing to buy.

  1. Know the fundamentals, then be creative.

While tradition and identity are important, what’s truly impressive is to define a unique style within those parameters.

Although Giesler offered this advice specifically to rookie designers hoping for a foothold in the sports industry, it rings true on a broader scale. He recommended practicing the basics — in that instance, motion, typography, the fundamentals of design — and using that knowledge to diversify a style that goes beyond a photoshopped graphic. Extrapolated to the business world, that can mean understanding the most effective building blocks for your client communications, then being creative within those bounds.

Kind of like how Patrick Mahomes takes the field, knows the plays, then improvises — with a 27-yard, tackle-breaking rush for a touchdown. Or a no-look pass. Or some other yet-to-be-seen phenomenon.

A post-game huddle

Whether you’re a firm or a football team, to build a premium brand, you must hone in on what makes you special, what you excel at, the experience of the people you really love to help, and put that out there. Then, you just keep doing you at your highest level.

And it never hurts to shore up a dynamite brand with a world-class victory.

Firesign Sponsors Film Screening Event for Midwest Innocence Project

Firesign joined several stalwarts of the Kansas City legal community to sponsor a Feb. 21 screening of “Just Mercy,” a special event to raise awareness and funds for the Midwest Innocence Project.

Just Mercy” tells the story of Walter McMillian, who was exonerated for a murder charge by a young defense attorney, Bryan Stevenson. As the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson ultimately made a career of advocating for the poor and people of color in the criminal justice system. He has obtained landmark Supreme Court decisions and saved dozens of prisoners from the death penalty.

The film, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2019, has earned considerable critical acclaim, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor at the NAACP Image Awards.

The Feb. 21 event comprised a private screening of “Just Mercy” at the Alamo Drafthouse, followed by a special panel discussion moderated by former Kansas City Mayor Sly James. The panelists, who discussed issues of race and justice, included:

  • Tricia Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project;
  • Lamonte McIntyre, an exoneree;
  • Ruth Petsch, district defender at the Jackson County Public Defender’s Office;
  • Shaun Stallworth, president of the Jackson County Bar Association; and
  • Kevin Willmott, an Oscar-winning screenwriter and professor of film and media studies at the University of Kansas.

In addition to Firesign, event supporters included Husch Blackwell, Lathrop GPM, Stinson, Wickham James and the Jackson County Bar Association.

Why Lawyers Should Not Start a Podcast – And What To Do Instead

A third of the U.S. population listen to podcasts at least once a month and of those approximately 90 million people, 93 percent listen to most of or the entire episode*.

With such a large, engaged audience that is projected to continue growing, podcasting is currently hotly recommended to lawyers – to the point you can’t swing the scales of justice without hitting a legal marketer telling you reasons to launch one.

Lawyers in fact should not add launching a podcast to their marketing plan. Why? The most compelling potential benefits of podcasting can all be achieved through tactics that are more mindful of your time and resources.

Here are six common reasons lawyers are given in favor of starting a podcast and the marketing tactics you can, and should, execute instead:

  1. It will show your personality and differentiate you from competitors: An individual lawyer’s specific experience and reputation is the 1 hiring factor for corporate clients, proving clients hire lawyers – not law firms.
    • Instead invest time maximizing the effectiveness of your professional biography and LinkedIn profile, which are the most valuable marketing tools to convey experience, qualifications, personality and connect with prospective clients.
  2. You’ll practice improving conversational skills: Forging meaningful connections requires delivering the right messages through the right channels; and podcasting’s one-to-many approach may result in communications that don’t resonate across your target audiences.
    • Instead research conferences and speaking opportunities that are important to your target audiences. Crafting creative, targeted communications will develop deeper connections with potential or current clients.
  3. It will save you time: If you feel lured to podcasting because writing in-depth blogs is burdening your schedule, take heed that all content marketing plans require similar time commitments to planning, creating and distributing.
    • Instead test out filling your content calendar with fewer longform articles and more snackable content – content that is brief, easy-to-scan, and quick to consume. Afterall, software company Hubspot found 43 percent of people only skim blog posts.
  4. It’s less expensive alternative to video: A podcast can seem like a cost-efficient alternative to video, however, it lacks many benefits that video offers.
    • Instead consider that people work with those they know, like and trust. Video can better show approachability and build trust with audiences as they’ll see your facial expressions, mannerisms, etc. Additionally, take into account video’s content repurposing potential – it’s likely that you’ll be able to use one video asset three to five times, driving down its cost-per-use.
  5. It’s convenient for your audience to consume: Podcasts can be listened to while exercising or driving without devoting full attention like text and video content. However, this also means you aren’t getting someone’s full attention.
    • Instead engage your audience, without asking for a large a time commitment, through well produced text and video content. Structure content so important information stands out by using keywords, headings, lists, icons and images; and review your content on desktop and mobile to ensure its visually appealing on either device.
  6. You’ll expand your network by reaching new people: Tracking ROI of your podcast will be difficult and unless you contribute additional money and/or time to promote your podcast (…which is counterintuitive above reasons 3 and 4) you will most likely reach an audience that is already listening to you.
    • Instead reach new people more efficiently while simultaneously providing value to your current network through a relevant, informative and well-curated e-newsletter. As a bonus by sending from an email marketing platform you’ll be able to track ROI through provided analytics like opens, clicks, forwards, and more.

If you’re already executing these alternative tactics, and doing them well, podcasting may be a fun arena to check out this year. But most likely you’ll see better return on marketing activities by passing on podcasts and dedicating time and resources elsewhere.


*Source: Edison Research and Triton Digital “2019 Podcast Consumer Report”

How Law Firms Can Use Pantone’s 2020 Color of the Year

A row of columns at the entrance to the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC.

In December the Pantone Color Institute announced its much anticipated 2020 Color of the Year, Classic Blue. A versatile and timeless choice, Classic Blue can be used in law firms’ 2020 marketing efforts to capture the trend and signify a changing industry.

To start a new decade the institute selected a calming hue, describing Classic Blue in its announcement as enduring, dependable and instilling confidence. The legal industry is also embarking on a new era. The technological revolution, increased competition and new competitors continue to influence change; and uncertain economic forecasts necessitate firms develop marketing plans to safeguard client relationships and bolster marketplace awareness.

The best-laid plans will position your firm as enduring, dependable and will instill confidence… sound familiar?

Integrating Classic Blue into 2020 plans will connect your firm with the color’s calm and confident messaging. Consider these three uses:

  1. Promotional Products. Instead of featuring your logo on a black, grey or white background use Classic Blue. It adds a modern design element to firm promotional products including notebooks, pens, tee shirts, and coffee mugs while maintaining the conservative look of commonly used neutral colors.
  2. Brand Photography Photo Treatment. Using a Classic Blue color overlay is a simple, impactful way to have firm photos evoke the hue’s characteristics. Whether on your website or in marketing materials, an overlay will add meaning associated with Classic Blue.
  3. Event Color Palettes. Are you planning a firm retreat or inviting clients to a roundtable? Make the most of Classic Blue’s tranquil qualities by developing your event design color palette around it. Pantone describes the color as thought-providing, aiding concentration and bringing laser like clarity. A Classic Blue-centered aesthetic will set the tone for productive discussion.

Tips for the Best Results:

  • Use Classic Blue in moderation. It may support what your organization stands for, however, there is no need to fully convert your existing brand to Classic Blue. Small touches of the color will effectively communicate its qualities, while keeping your firm marketing materials fresh and modern. However, if your firm’s visuals are no longer compelling or have become dated this may be a good time to consider a rebrand.
  • Introduce Classic Blue slowly. Similar to our above tip, don’t attempt an overhaul to incorporate it in everything during the first quarter. Organically introduce Classic Blue into marketing materials and branding throughout the year by only using it when it best fits.
  • Most importantly don’t adopt Classic Blue for the sake of following a trend. What Pantone deems the Color of the Year may not suit your brand. If Classic Blue doesn’t complement your firm colors or represent your firm identity, don’t force it onto the brand. Maintaining consistency and authenticity will always be more beneficial for your firm.

Firesign Certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council

Firesign Enlightened Legal Marketing is proud to announce national certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise by the Women’s Business Development Center-Midwest, a regional certifying partner of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) – the nation’s largest third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women.

WBENC’s national standard of certification implemented by the Women’s Business Development Center-Midwest is a meticulous process including an in-depth review of the business and site inspection. The certification process is designed to confirm the business is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women.

By including women-owned businesses among their suppliers, corporations and government agencies demonstrate their commitment to fostering diversity and the continued development of their supplier diversity programs.

About Firesign:

As one of the nation’s only marketing agencies solely devoted to the legal industry, Firesign helps law firms build credibility and clientele. Launched in 2017 by law firm veteran Katherine Hollar Barnard, Firesign has grown from a one-woman agency to a team of specialized marketing professionals with a single goal: to help attorneys attract, win and retain business. Because it is solely focused on the legal industry, Firesign delivers efficiency and excellence; recently winning Missouri Lawyers Weekly’s “Reader Rankings” for best public relations agency, best website design firm and best business development coaching.

Firesign Founder in Forbes: Three Marketing Resolutions to be Recession-Proof

Forbes has published an article by Firesign’s CEO, Katherine Hollar Barnard, on how law firms can safeguard their businesses before a potential economic slump. The piece, “Is Your Law Firm Ready for 2020? Resolve to be Recession-Proof,” posted December 4, 2019.

In it, Barnard discusses three marketing resolutions that can improve law firms’ positions in 2020 – and why they should. She writes:

Depending on who you believe, a recession is likely next month, next year or later. Timing issues aside, as a lawyer, you are in the risk management business, so it’s critical to safeguard your business before a potential economic slump.

To be sure, law firms will have myriad concerns on the expense side, from overhead to compensation. However, focused attention on the other side of the ledger — stimulating firm revenue — can alleviate the need for drastic cuts and tough decisions.

The full Forbes article is available here.

Three Tips for Better Law Firm Holiday Gift Giving

As the holiday revelry begins, your firm is likely wrapping up seasonal gifting plans. The hectic pace of year-end can tempt phoning it in to quickly check off that box. However, with a little extra consideration you can send clients thoughtful gifts that cap off the year’s partnership with your firm.

Here are three tips to turn holiday-gifting into a smart business development strategy:

1. Segment Your Network

You’ve compiled your list of contacts and your firm’s network is vast. Instead of sending out a catchall to the entire group, take it one step further and distinguish the relationships by establishing groups that define the level of year-end recognition each merit. Consider:

  • Who will sending a card to be sufficient?
  • What relationships should be acknowledged with a gift?
  • Are there key relationships that call for a more lavish gift than others?
  • Do any companies have gift policies you need to be mindful of?

Connecting with different contacts in a variety of ways allows you to effectively show your appreciation.

2. Personalize Your Gifts

Think about personalizing gifts from two different perspectives – gifts that represent your clients or gifts that represent your firm – and decide which works best for you.

Gifts that represent your client show how well you know them personally and your understanding of their business. Done right, they demonstrate that your relationship has moved beyond simply providing a service. Consider a gift representative of their industry, the company’s interests and personal interests of your client. For example, if your client was in the pet industry and supported causes related to pet-adoption you could make a charitable donation in their name.

Sending something representative of yourself makes the sender easily identifiable. Think about aspects of your firm that standout to your client – are you based in a different city or state, do provide them any unique services, did you have a notable case or memorable meeting during the calendar year that you could commemorate with a gift?

For extra credit, send a gift that combines both. Continuing with the above example you could donate to a local charity related to your client’s industry, or one they are personally passionate about, in both their city and yours.

3. Know Your Audience

Before you decide to send a gift directly to your main point of contact ask yourself: How is their organization set up? How many other people are on their team? Who else at the company makes your job easier? Are there other decision-makers at the company?

Also recognizing the associate general counsel, an administrative assistant who regularly schedules your meetings, or finance department shows you appreciate the partnership of the entire business.

Katie Barnard Featured Alumna at Upcoming Journalism School Event

The University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communication has announced Firesign’s Katie Barnard will be among the 2019 featured alumni at J-School Generations. The event will be held October 24 and 25, 2019. A full list of alumni guests is available here.

The School of Journalism invites all J-School alumni to return to campus each fall during Homecoming Week to re-connect with faculty, students and alumni. During the two-day event alumni speakers visit journalism classes, network with students, and mentor students in an Adobe XD Creative Jam design challenge.

Get to Know Firesign: Amy Nouri, Vice President

At Firesign we believe the practice of law is as much about people as precedent, and the best legal marketing is built on trust, empathy and respect. Meet the proud purveyors of Enlightened Legal Marketing you are working with in our Get to Know Firesign series.

This month we visited with Amy Nouri, Firesign’s vice president of public relations and programming. Skillfully using the modern marketing mix – paid, earned, social and owned media – Amy helps lawyers build visibility, credibility and business. She also manages Firesign educational programming, including our women’s business development program, Ellesquire.

What did you do before Firesign? How do you apply that experience to your work today?

Most relevant to current role is my experience on the in-house marketing team at Am Law 200 firm Lathrop & Gage (now Lathrop Gage). I managed public relations and advertising tactics in its 11 local markets and nationwide and coordinated production of numerous firm marketing materials. I also spearheaded firm and attorney nominations and submissions for legal awards and rankings; and executed marketing strategies for two new practice groups.

I spent several years at Garmin Ltd., creating global public relations campaigns for the company’s fitness segment, followed by a stint on Hallmark’s public relations and social media team where I led influencer relations, managed public relations for the company’s licensing and home and gifts businesses, and worked on content, calendaring and paid strategy for brand-level social media platforms.

I use my experience developing and executing successful campaigns for a wide range of projects to creatively approach Firesign marketing projects – applying learnings from within and outside traditional legal marketing to build strategic plans that deliver for clients.

Managing PR for an engineering company was also a valuable crash-course in being able to turn complex, jargon-heavy documents into attention-grabbing narratives for media.

What is your favorite recent project?

I truly enjoy them all because every project – like every lawyer, firm and case – is unique.

That said, I get especially excited to work on marketing audits for firms, taking an in-depth look at marketing efforts of the past, present and providing an actionable roadmap for ways to improve; am passionate about anything related to our women’s business development program, Ellesquire; and my competitive nature has also given me a particular fondness for any sort of nomination.

What do you do when you’re not on the clock?

I spend time with my two very active boys (ages 3 and 1), refereeing wrestling matches, performing as a sidekick/villain/miscellaneous supporting character in numerous superhero stories, and once they finally wear themselves out my husband and I sit on the couch with (many) cocktails to decompress from the chaos.

What do you enjoy about legal marketing?

I like being on the cusp of innovation. The industry is entering a new era where even long-standing firms are being pushed outside of their marketing and business development comfort zones. The heightened competition for market share has everyone trying new things and leaders are open to new ideas. Being in a position to provide real value, helping firms attract, win and retain business, gets me excited to work every day.

Who is your favorite fictional lawyer?

Reggie Love (The Client) and Harvey Specter (Suits)