South coast law firm Paris Smith has been shortlisted in the annual Law Society Excellence Awards for its COVID hub that puts community and clients at its heart. Helen Freeston, the firm’s marketing director, shares with The Professionals its accelerated digital journey.
Helen never envisaged a career in marketing a legal business. Instead, on graduating, she almost took a job with Saatchi’s. It was only after a decision to move back to her much loved Southampton that saw her take a role with The Daily Echo newspaper and then Paris Smith. That was 18 years ago. Since then, she has been an instrumental part of the firm’s management team which has seen Paris Smith grow into one of the region’s most successful law firms.
Like many law firm marketing heads, the beginning of a new year is a time for reflection, planning and new challenges.
“We started 2020 with the decision to step up our investment in digital, looking at PPC, LinkedIn campaigns and paid social,” explains Helen Freeston, Marketing Director at Paris Smith. “Digital has, of course, been a key part of our marketing strategy, but this was the year to expand and explore new digital avenues for the firm, with our nine-strong marketing team learning, experimenting and developing our online strategy further.
“Little did we know what was about to happen. It forced us to fast forward our knowledge at a phenomenal pace, which continues even now.”
And Paris Smith was quick off the mark with its digital COVID hub, with lawyers recognising its importance as a way of staying in touch with clients, keeping them and prospective clients both up to date and well-informed with commentary on key legal developments.
“Our lawyers really are content heroes,” says Helen. “They quickly grasped the sense of responsibility they have to clients and the area in which we live and work, ensuring information and advice online was updated, current and on-point. We are committed to being relevant, responsive and reliable in our information.
“Our blogs do not just provide updates on government announcements and support, but on the questions we are being asked. We work on the rule of thumb that if two or more clients are asking the same question, it would merit a short article. Listening to our clients is so important.
“And today, we remain at the forefront of providing advice across the region. We are driven by a strong desire for our clients and our communities to thrive.”
A key part of Paris Smith’s content programme has been the addition of a community hub, with a focus on health and well-being and a Friday afternoon video message from the firm’s Managing Partner Peter Taylor.
“Our community hub is for staff, clients, and the people in our community,” says Helen, “including content for both children and mums and dads. It shows empathy and a human face, which is very much part of the Paris Smith way. It is at the heart of our COVID content programme.”
The results from the Paris Smith COVID response speak for themselves, with over 200,000 new hits to the website since lockdown began. It has seen the digital maturity of the firm and its marketing team grow.
“We provide the training and support the marketing team has needed, but they are also self-starters who think on their feet,” says Helen. “The team has taught themselves much of what has been needed, and it’s this ‘can do’ attitude that makes this firm such a rewarding place to work.”
Paris Smith continues to invest in its marketing team, recently hiring a new head of business development and digital to work alongside Helen.
“COVID has, of course, presented a lot of challenges, but so too real opportunities. The firm is bold and has stood its ground, investing in marketing where many other firms are making cuts, and that’s now delivering results.
“And that journey, of course, doesn’t stop when we begin to return to the office. We will be embarking on a significant client listening programme building on the skills we have learnt over the lockdown period.
“I am enormously proud of what our marketing team has achieved over the past seven months and that is why we have been shortlisted for this Law Society Award.”
Peter Taylor added, “I am delighted that the commitment of the firm’s marketing team, and indeed all in the firm, has been recognised by The Law Society. It reflects the team’s determination to be the firm in the region to which businesses and individuals could readily turn for reliable and well-informed commentary and advice on the legal implications of the pandemic and the government’s response to it.”
The Law Society Excellence Awards will be held on 13 October.