Future Proofing Your Legal Business During A Recession

Recession, rising inflation, a contracting economy, a sharp downturn, a bear market. These are the words in our news headlines. If you hold the purse strings to a budget, hold your nerve. It’s important not to be reactionary and panic. Keep focused on your company’s long-term objectives and use PR and comms to gain a competitive advantage.  

This downturn could be short and sharp or long and drawn out. The legal firms that will win will be the ones that keep relationships strong with all their key audiences, who are strategic in approach but who allow for a healthy dose of opportunism.    

During a recession or economic downturn, businesses immediately look for services that can be cut to save money. In the past, the PR, comms and marketing teams have been at the sharp end of this. However, businesses are learning that they need communicators.   

Your clients, employees and stakeholders all need to be kept close, up to speed and able to buy into company decisions and developments. It’s also important to keep the focus on the top end of the funnel to continue to build relationships with prospects so that you are there for them when they require it. 

When it comes to your legal business, it’s imperative to ensure your messages are considered, curated and communicated during tough times. Turning off communications in the short term will hurt your future goals. 

A 2010 Harvard Business Review study of 4,700 companies going through recessions found that “firms that cut costs faster and deeper than rivals don’t necessarily flourish. They have the lowest probability—21%—of pulling ahead of the competition when times get better.”  

 Here are some top tips to make sure that you don’t lose ground.

Prepare your communications plan

Review your issues and crisis preparedness: Have you foreseen all the issues related to your legal business during this recession? What’s the impact of continued inflation on your business and employees? Have you plotted out potential scenarios, do you know what your company stance will be and have you developed supporting statements? Are your spokespeople trained to support your messages?   

Stay ahead of competitors with clever content

If your competition reduces their PR and comms activity, this is the time to secure a competitive advantage. By holding your nerve and continuing to bring value to the sector you can secure a strong share of voice, build third-party endorsement and elevate your position. If you switch off now, you’ll have to spend a lot more time and effort switching back on and mobilising.   

Support your sector and grow positive relationships

If your competitors are drawing back on partnerships, sponsorships and media spend, then this is the time to pick up coveted opportunities and tie in multi-year opportunities at a good rate. You’ll also build a huge amount of goodwill this way and the rewards will be mutually beneficial. This type of activity also sends a sign to the market that you are in good shape and in control.   

A little help goes a long way

Think about what counsel, advice and support you can develop to help your clients or customers ‘free of charge’. If you have a ‘helpful’ plan this can be mobilised via your PR approach, personal brand and your thought leadership content strategy and any other comms touchpoints you have.   

Maintain the focus on securing talent

Even during a recession, you will still need to keep the best and hire the best. Communicating your strategy to manage the recession to potential employees will reassure internal and external stakeholders alike. Whatever decisions need to be made in your legal business, you need a communications team to explain these decisions to your employees and ensure your comms is top-notch.  

Increase your ranking

While competitors are dormant, what can you do to build digital ground and your rankings for keywords? Build your content strategy, secure those backlinks, keep focused on your domain authority and use the time to get to know the new GA4 analytics from Google.  

Check what’s on your search engine results page

What do you see on the first two pages of Bing or Google if you search for your company’s name? Use this time to develop a SERP strategy to curate and influence what different search terms reveal about your business. Make what people find interesting and reflective of you as a business – infographics, video, media coverage, reviews, and photography.   

Focus on growth marketing

There is nothing like a recession to focus the mind and dissipate turf wars. If you always wanted to get your sales/business development, marketing and PR teams working together then now is the time. Get this right now and reap the rewards later. Build the pipeline.   

Keep communicating your ESG plans

There is a risk that tighter budgets will mean less investment in ESG and corporate sustainability. But cutting investment in this area represents a significant risk in the long term, given upcoming legislative changes and the engaging nature of Gen-Z. Meanwhile continuing to communicate on ESG – including being transparent about the challenges – will pay dividends in the future for your legal business.   

About AMBITIOUS PR: AMBITIOUS is a Bristol-based PR and communications agency with a local, regional and national remit. AMBITIOUS works with fast-growth, blue chip and multinational businesses as well as a number of public sector organisations.  

About the author: Sarah Woodhouse, director at AMBITIOUS PR, is a seasoned public relations and communications professional with over 20 years of experience working in the UK and Asia. Agency-side, she has worked for Edelman, McCann Erickson and previously co-owned impactasia in China which was sold to Cohn & Wolfe (WPP) in 2011.  

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