CAMPAIGNS: Florida attorneys bring case public to improve image

PR Team: RBB Public Relations (Coral Gables, FL) and the Florida Bar (Tallahassee, FL) Campaign: Dignity in Law Time Frame: June 2002 - May 2003 Budget: $750,000

PR Team: RBB Public Relations (Coral Gables, FL) and the Florida Bar (Tallahassee, FL) Campaign: Dignity in Law Time Frame: June 2002 - May 2003 Budget: $750,000

Tod Aronovitz, President-elect of the Florida Bar, had heard one lawyer joke too many. So he and the 70,000 Florida Bar members decided to wage a campaign to inform the public of the good work Florida lawyers do every day. Strategy RBB Public Relations was hired to help, and started by looking at what the public thought of lawyers. The firm learned that court cases received the most media coverage, while pro bono and community relations efforts went largely ignored. RBB and the Bar then formulated the Dignity in Law (DIL) campaign. The message? Most lawyers are good, hardworking people who give back to the community and make the law work for everyone. No joke. Tactics RBB and the Bar focused on the media as the best way to reach consumers. The team increased regular interaction with reporters, aggressively pitching positive news stories and trying to deflect attention from negative ones. They also searched out large venues where they could interact with the largest numbers of people to deliver a message that resonated. Lastly, they sought out strategic alliances to enhance budget value and reach shared audiences. The effort officially kicked off with the inauguration of President Aronovitz, which included a compelling video showing the real harm that misperceptions about the legal profession cause in Florida. Members were also shown video testimonials from consumers talking about the good work lawyers do every day. The Bar then launched an unprecedented member-awareness and fundraising drive. It inserted DIL messages and visuals into everything from newsletters to the member directory. Plus, a tear-out tip sheet was printed in Bar News and made available online so that members could have their good-news stories relayed to the media. In July, the Bar launched an enhanced online media center. New features included bilingual information, an opt-in e-mail offering news ahead of release dates, presidential updates, a section called Consumer Perspectives (featuring video testimonials and interview options), and an expert commentary list. Editorial meetings with media outlets were held throughout the state as well, many resulting in positive op-eds. On September 7, 85,000 football fans watched as a dozen representatives of the legal profession marched onto the University of Florida field to be recognized for the positions they once held on the Gators' football team. The announcer then introduced the president of the law school and the president of the Bar, and described the $65 million in pro bono services Florida lawyers gave last year to those in need. Next, the crowd saw a 30-second Jumbotron spot highlighting those pro bono efforts, and focusing on the law school's community program. It cost the Bar nothing, and the program was repeated at the Miami-Florida State game for another 85,000 fans. Results The team exceeded its objective of increasing the amount of positive media coverage by 50% to 100%: Positive publicity went up 300% in just nine months. Feature stories about the DIL campaign appeared in The Miami Herald, St. Petersburg Times, Tallahassee Democrat, Florida Times Union, the Sun Sentinel, and others. The team also met its objective of increasing coverage of pro bono and community relations efforts by 40% to 50%, and judiciary mentions by 15% to 25%. The DIL campaign generated the highest member contribution to a voluntary cause in the Bar's history, $100,000. Traffic to the Bar's enhanced website experienced an increase of 62%. The team also built personal relationships with nearly 100 reporters who are registered to receive regular updates. Most gratifying, however, were the remarks of a seven-year-old boy who approached the Bar president at a social event and said, "I saw you on the field at the football game last week. That thing you did with the lawyers was really cool." Future Thanks to the success of the DIL campaign, the Florida Bar has signed another one-year contract with RBB to continue its efforts.

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