Since its creation 40 years ago, Hodge Jones & Allen (HJA) has been at the centre of some of the UK’s most renowned “David v Goliath” legal battles against government, public authorities and big business.
Historically much of this had been achieved via legal aid. Following the ‘perfect storm’ created by the Jackson reforms, slashing of legal aid, and introduction of fixed costs this meant HJA had to evolve and build on its reputation in other areas and from new sources. At the same time, the firm’s founding aim of ‘Using the law to improve people’s lives’ needed to be central.
Seeing an opportunity to better promote the work which the firm was doing the management team approached Black Letter Communications (BLC) to create a corporate PR campaign that would encompass all of its nine departments, maximise the firm’s existing reputation and highlight the impact HJA’s work had on ordinary people’s lives.
BLC devised a campaign strategy that put the spotlight on the full array of HJA cases. In doing so, it was mindful of the national media’s preference for putting the client at the centre of the story whilst supporting the good work being done by the HJA team. As such, HJA decided to offer BLC’s expertise as a value-add service direct to clients, free of charge, to enable those who wanted to tell their story in a secure and professional environment whist having the support of media professionals as well as their legal team. This created a pipeline of powerful stories expertly entwining personal and legal views.
Second, BLC needed to ensure positive recognition for the changes taking place at the top of the firm; with a new managing partner being appointed in Vidisha Joshi and Patrick Allen taking a senior partner role.
Third, to ensure firm-wide engagement, monthly PR meetings were diarised with attendance by each of the firm’s teams. Additionally, a PR calendar was set up for each department detailing forthcoming cases and topical issues, so that a planned, proactive approach could be taken.
For those departments unable to talk about their cases due to their nature, particularly private client and family, a monthly issue-based press release was devised for relevant consumer media highlighting their expertise in a news story. This resulted in exposure across national media, including in: The Sunday Times, Financial Times, Times, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph, BBC Online and Yours. The result was also that the firm started to receive regular requests from national consumer journalists for the firm to answer reader questions and provide comment.
Fourth, an awards programme was created to provide recognition of HJA’s strengths and celebrate excellence within the firm.
Finally, to enhance understanding of the role of PR, a quarterly ‘Lunch and Learn’ workshop was put in place. This saw BLC partner with leading journalists to talk about how the media works and the role of PR, helping the partnership build confidence when looking for ‘news’ in their own caseload.
What we achieved:
Activity has been underpinned by a close working relationship with HJA’s marketing team. All content created by BLC is used across social media and the firm’s website. In the past year, web traffic has increased by 35% and social media followers by 86%.
So far four journalists have taken part in the ‘Lunch and Learn’ initiative, which has resulted in each obtaining and running exclusive news stories: Ross Lydall, chief news correspondent, Evening Standard; Clive Coleman, legal affairs correspondent, BBC News; Alex Bushill, senior news reporter and producer, BBC London; and Lizzie Dearden, home affairs correspondent, The Independent.
The firm has been recognised in seven different award ceremonies
Each department has increased press coverage and new business leads as a result.
37% more client stories have been told in the past 12 months than the previous year, including that of Dr Georgina Mortimer, who went public about her rape on all women’s sailing holiday; Sue Smith on her ten-year legal battle with the Ministry of Defence after her son died in a Snatch Land Rover, and a number of the firm’s clients who were victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy have sought counsel from BLC on maintaining their privacy.
Managing partner Vidisha Joshi says: “As with most businesses we have had to adapt and can’t rest on our laurels when it comes to building the firm and its reputation. I am proud of our reputation and the work which are lawyers are doing every day. There was a need to better profile this which is where building our brand, highlighting our lawyer’s achievements and giving our clients a voice was so important. The marketing and PR is now an integral part of our day to day practice. It has enabled our lawyers to speak on current issues and their cases through radio, online and print press as well as TV.”