Reflections on a successful PR partnership
I was fortunate enough to attend the First4Lawyers 15th anniversary celebration in Leeds earlier this month.
As I sat listening to the presentations from the First4Lawyers’ board about their journey over the past 15 years, it got me thinking about the role that PR has played in their story, and what makes a successful PR partnership.
I am proud that Black Letter Communications has been the retained B2B PR partner to First4Lawyers for almost 10 years.
When I set up our legal PR consultancy with Neil Rose back in 2011, I don’t think we had an ideal client in mind, other than we wanted to work with nice people and to be able to do a standout job. With First4Lawyers, I am pleased to say we’ve achieved both.
Today, First4Lawyers is one of the UK’s top three most recognised legal brands. As part of the marketing mix, PR has played an important role in that but it’s not all down to the PR. It is, in part, down to the client.
Any legal PR client of mine will be used to hearing me say one of two things, the first is that the PR process isn’t all one way traffic and the second is that PR consultants are not magicians. Like any relationship it takes commitment on both sides for it to work and as good as I know we are, we can’t create something if the substance isn’t there.
There’s certainly been no shortage of commitment from First4Lawyers. Not only have they fully engaged with the PR process, but they have also listened to advice and have always been prepared to comment on industry issues.
Yet perhaps the most important aspect of the PR is that First4Lawyers stand for something. There is real substance behind the brand. From the very moment we started working with them, they had strong consumer-focused values and were rightly proud of the ethical standards on which the business was built, something pretty much unheard of amongst claims management companies at the time. In fact, founder and CEO, Qamar Anwar, spent the months before launch developing an operations manual, which so impressed First4Lawyers’ regulator at the time, The Claims Management Regulator, that it said it had never seen such a level of documentation before and that it would be using it to show others what good practice looked like.
This approach has contributed to the business being named Claims Management Firm of the Year seven times in the last 10 years.
Another reason our PR partnership has worked so well is our planned approach. Many in the industry will be aware of the highly anticipated and hugely successful white papers we create every year for First4Lawyers. We recently launched the ninth From First Impressions to Follow-up Calls: Creating a Customer Journey. What they won’t be aware of is the significant amount of thought and planning that goes into creating these, which from inception to launch takes ten months between our two teams.
Over the years we have had several approaches from law firms and legal businesses asking us to create a similar white paper…’next month.’ We have declined. Quality takes time.
Then there’s the innovation. One of my proudest moments was launching sister business First4InjuryClaims, a law firm set up to support injured people who were faced with being unrepresented in claims arising from road traffic accidents (RTAs) because of the whiplash reforms introduced in 2021.
In doing so, First4Lawyers stayed true to its values by continuing to offer consumers a place to access justice. To date, First4InjuryClaims has retrieved more than £3m in compensation for innocent RTA victims and is settling cases more than three months faster than the market average.
Data has also played a part in the PR process. Head of marketing, Andy Cullwick, is known for his love of a spreadsheet and that has been infectious. We constantly monitor what is working and what isn’t and adjust our approach accordingly.
Finally, there’s the people. I am grateful to Qamar Anwar, Andy Cullwick, Andy Kay, Nick Delaney, and Shelley Schubert for challenging us to keep things fresh. It’s been a genuine pleasure and here’s to the next 15 years.