Fenwick & West
Building Thought Leadership
Fenwick & West is a Silicon Valley tech law firm with a roster that reads like a roll-call of tech luminaries: Cisco, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, along with many name-droppable notables from the startup community.
Yet in 2006 the firm felt that its profile with decision makers and in the press did not reflect the work it was doing – particularly in the business media. Because while those same client names give the firm credibility, they also keep it out of many tech stories – the firm can’t comment on stories involving clients. They needed a creative approach. When we began working with Fenwick, the firm ranked below most of its major competitors in press mentions. The goal was to lift Fenwick’s image above the competition.
Merredith Branscombe has worked with Fenwick & West as point on the account since 2006 and still retains the business through LEAP! Public Relations today.
After sourcing with key attorneys and practice areas, the team built a stable of subject-matter experts and began seeding those names to the media. We reached out to reporters and editors – many of whom we already knew well — with notes tailored to their specific beats and interests, reinforcing Fenwick attorneys’ credibility, experience, and ability to break down complex issues while speaking colorfully and without legalese.
Beginning in 2007, the team took a two-pronged approach:
- Campaign-based, for ongoing issues like patent reform, electronic information procedures, or privacy; the reporters know they can reach out to a Fenwick attorney at any time; and
- Opportunistic or news-based, where the team scans the news every day for immediate response or comment by a Fenwick attorney.
The results are too varied and extensive to explore in detail, but a snapshot from each year we have worked with Fenwick conveys our approach:
In 2007, the team was able to rapidly respond to a breaking story regarding the “missing” White House e-mail scandal, offering Fenwick attorney Bob Brownstone as an expert surrounding e-mail and digital file recovery, an area where the firm has considerable experience.
Less than 24 hours after the initial story broke, the Agency had arranged an interview for Brownstone with an Associated Press reporter, and had landed him thought leadership coverage in a story that was syndicated by more than 149 news outlets around the world, reaching more than 500 million individuals.
In 2008, we find a solid example of how we leverage social media tools to garner further exposure for Fenwick as a thought leader. Team members follow and are followed by key journalists; when a reporter mentions working on a piece with a topic relevant to one of Fenwick’s experts, the team reaches out to offer an attorney as a third-party resource.
In one instance, a team member was able to connect Jon Fortt of Fortune magazine with a Fenwick attorney for an interview after reading on Fortt’s Facebook feed that he was working on a piece regarding the Yahoo!/Microsoft anti-trust hearing. The interview resulted in Fenwick’s inclusion in a Fortune article. While we were able to include that attorney in conversations on MarketWatch and Forbes as well, we might have missed out on the Fortune piece were it not for our connections in social media.
While Fenwick had long published a scrupulously objective Quarterly Venture Capital survey, the end of 2008 and all of 2009 marked the first time they asked Hoffman’s help in raising the Survey’s exposure. The team obliged, getting the author quoted and the survey featured first in BusinessWeek, then in the Wall Street Journal, then the New York Times, and finally BusinessWeek and the Wall Street Journal to end the year.
Beyond the coverage, the team used the survey as a way to build relationships and credibility with these influential publications. Now, they are contacting the team directly, eagerly awaiting results from the next survey. Coverage related to the survey has also helped Fenwick build the distribution of its VC newsletter. The piece that ran in The New York Times alone brought in an additional 100 subscribers.
The results of the thought leadership campaign for Fenwick have been remarkable. The Hoffman team has landed Fenwick attorneys in over 50 original stories in its target outlets.
While it is only an index, Hoffman is particularly proud of moving the needle with the business press. Aside from the tremendous business press coverage that Hoffman was able to secure, the Fenwick attorneys’ popularity as industry experts has soared, with speaking engagement requests pouring in; traffic to the Fenwick Web site has grown tremendously, as have the number of subscribers to its RSS feed, particularly surrounding the VC survey result announcements.
Most importantly, these media hits helped Fenwick achieve its goal of attracting new clients. The firm has met its aggressive growth metrics each year.
The media tap now flows freely. Reporters from outlets including BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, and Reuters have proactively contacted Fenwick & West through LEAP! for expert interviews. They’ve recently shared thoughts on key cases such as Righthaven and SOPA/PIPA are are regularly sought as thought leaders in technology and Life Sciences litigation-related press.
And BusinessWeek even named Fenwick as the law firm “techies like to friend.” But that’s a different case study.