Originally published on Lawyerist.com.
“Just be yourself.” That’s advice we have all heard at some point in our lives, but it’s advice that can be painfully difficult to follow in our professional lives.
Being authentic as a person is to be true, genuine, and not constructed to create an image that is a false representation of who you are. We all see unauthentic examples of attorney marketing where colleagues attempt to portray an image that we know is not real. What if you set aside personal discomfort and adopted the idea of authenticity as your marketing strategy?
Social Media and Authenticity
Social media’s significant takeover of the world of getting to know people makes it harder than ever to put out a constructed image of yourself. True, a Facebook news feed can aptly be described as a person’s “highlight reel,” conveying an impression of a perfect life despite reality. But, unless that highlight reel is carefully cultivated to present a false image, it is nearly impossible to hide behind an online persona.
It is even harder to separate your professional existence from your personal one online; when potential clients Google your name, they will find both your professional website and personal pages. They will likely even find your home address. Gone are the days when you could truly separate your lawyer life from your real life.
It is a bit uncomfortable to accept the idea that colleagues and clients can easily learn about your personal life, but it is also undeniable. Given that we cannot ignore the intersection of social media and professional images, perhaps the time is here to embrace it.
Embracing your authenticity as a marketing strategy means letting the world see you for the human that you are. Julie Tolek of Think Pink Law explains the concept as being a “human” lawyer.
In marketing and branding, let the real you shine through. Take your biggest hobby and include it in your website bio; include a family picture or favorite vacation destination image in your ads; utilize your favorite color as a branding technique (like Think Pink). Take something that connects your human side to your clients.
Does It Work?
Stepping outside of your comfort zone only makes sense if it works, so naturally it needs to create connections to potential clients to make it worth unleashing your true self in your marketing efforts. Examples that have anecdotal success stories include:
- Raymond Chandler of St. Louis reports that a client hired him after reading in his website bio that he takes his family camping on weekends and volunteers with a boys’ club. Real world volunteering dad hired because of who he is, not because of where he went to law school.
- Adam Fullman of the Fullman Firm in Southern California has a picture with his children at Disneyland on his website. This picture has impacted his first impression on his colleagues and clients.
- Billie Tarascio of Modern Law presents her website bio as a personal story that connects her to clients needing her family law services.
Yes, it works.
Once Convinced, Then What?
Accepting the benefits of presenting your real self is the first step; figuring out what image you are currently portraying and where you need to revise it to be in line with the authentic you are steps two and three.
Deconstructing Your Image
If you are marketing your practice and your picture or bio are anywhere in your marketing materials, then you have already created a public image. Consider what your image conveys today. Ask yourself what elements of that image may be less than authentic.
You may be conveying a false picture of your professional life. For example, does your marketing persona give the impression that you wear a suit to work every day in a traditional office? Is that what you actually do?
Or you may be leaving out critical aspects of your real life that, if included, would present opportunities to connect with potential clients. For instance, does your image hide the fact that you are a parent? A skilled woodworker? Dedicated to some particular hobby or cause?
Bringing in Authentic Elements
There is no need to inundate potential clients with every detail of your personal life. There is no need to overshare (like some Facebook friends we all have). But there have to be elements of your authentic self that you can bring to your marketing which would provide avenues for connection with potential clients. Just as Raymond Chandler was hired because his client felt a connection to his extracurricular activities, there will be things you do in your real life which will help bring clients to your doorstep.
After identifying what those elements are that you could include, consider what you are comfortable sharing and start small. It is unnerving to present your real self, but here are some examples of lawyers doing it right:
- Jess Birken of Birken Law says in her website bio that she’s outgoing, an outside-the-box thinker, has two daughters, love to run, and watch movies.
- Patrick Palace of Palace Law highlights his yoga studio and mindfulness in his website bio.
These authentic lawyers are guideposts to follow when you push beyond your comfort zone and let the world see you as you are. Though it may be uncomfortable, the connections you can make to potential clients and colleagues make it worth the effort.