Before I get underway with this week’s Two for Tuesdays, I have to say how saddened I am over the loss of Robin Williams. My thoughts are with his friends and family at this impossibly difficult time. He brought us such joy, showed us how to be kind and giving, and will be so deeply missed by so many.
On a much lighter note, last night, I had the good fortune to be able to attend the New York premiere of The Giver, the movie adaptation of the book by the same name from author Lois Lowry. I’ve never been to a movie premiere before (I was able to get tickets by fundraising for arts charities through the Weinstein Group), so I was keen to see how it all would go.
It was a lovely event, and I was tickled to see the stars up close – Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift, Brenton Thwaites, Odeya Rush, and Cameron Monaghan were all there (missing, unfortunately, was my main reason for being there, the handsome and charismatic Alexander Skarsgard, who is currently filming in England. So if you know him, please feel free to give him my number. I am not joking.).
At first, I couldn’t identify what lessons we might be able to take from the premiere to apply to our work in the industry, but two tips struck me this morning.
Tip One: Be Accessible
Taylor Swift is in The Giver for only a few short moments. But her fans made up the majority of the audience at the premiere, as well as those waiting in the crowd outside for a glimpse of her. And while there are those who dislike her (not me, I like her, I enjoy her music, and think she’s sweet), she really impressed me last night. That girl knows her audience and her business.
Taylor manages to make her target audience feel like a friend, and that creates loyalty. The kind of loyalty that has people standing outside of a movie theater from 10am on a summer day just to maybe catch a glimpse of her. Is it magic? No, she’s just good at being herself and making that self available to her fans.
How does she do it?
- She’s accessible through social media. Taylor herself leverages Twitter and Instagram brilliantly, using both to offer glimpses into her life and sharing teasers for upcoming albums and projects that make her connections feel like they’re in on the "secret," and thus part of her circle.
- She knows what the fans want and delivers. These screaming teens were desperate to connect with Taylor, and she patiently signed autographs and took selfies with many of them, always being genuinely friendly and kind. She even spent a couple of extra moments with a girl who was crying because she was so overwhelmed.
- She writes about things we’ve all been through – heartbreak, the hormonal teenage years, etc. Taylor is living a life that most of us can’t even imagine, with famous friends, amazing experiences, and first class living, but she connects to people on common ground. She acted just as excited as any of us would if we were acting in a movie with Jeff Bridges, although she herself holds an impressive amount of fame. She makes you think, "I’ll bet Taylor Swift and I would be great friends if we knew each other."
I know what you’re thinking (and if anyone can name the television show that line was used in regularly, I will be mighty impressed).
You’re thinking, what does Taylor Swift have to do with the legal profession?
It’s about what your clients want – accessibility.
- Make yourself accessible to your clients in the places that THEY are. Taylor’s fans are mostly teens and twenty-somethings who use social media. So she’s on social media. Where are your clients? Are they on LinkedIn? Do they read trade magazines? Do they go to your local golf club religiously? Do they ride the train with you? Find out where they are, and be in that place. Make them feel as if they have access to you.
- Know what your clients want, and deliver. Do they want you to return their phone calls, even if you have nothing to update them on? Same for emails? Do they want to see you in person for periodic meetings, just to reassure them? Do they want you to ask them to co-author articles, or share their successes for them? Do they want you to invite them to speak at conferences? Do they want you to mostly leave them alone, and just do good work? Each client is different, and will want different things. But are you delivering what your clients want, or just what YOU think they want?
- Work to share common ground. When you write an article or a blog post, are you writing it from your perspective, or are you sharing the pains that your clients have? When you meet with them, or talk on the phone, are you connecting with their pain, or just giving your advice?
Why does this matter? We see with Taylor Swift that these things create loyalty among her fans. They create buzz around her brand – people want to know what she’s up to, and since she shares more than just the things that they can purchase from her, they’re already sold on those things when she does share them. Right now, Taylor has been sharing hints on Instagram for something upcoming (likely her next album). Her fans are SUPER excited, reporters are asking her about it, and everyone is talking about it. When that album hits, people will already be convinced that they should buy it. She won’t have to try to sell it to them at that point.
That’s because she’s creating loyalty, and making her brand about her fans…who are her customers (clients). How are you doing the same with your own clients?
Tip Two: Be Yourself
I really wanted to write "be authentic" here, but I know how everyone feels about that buzzword. But it’s an apt descriptor.
Last night, just before he arrived on the red carpet, Jeff Bridges received word about his friend, Robin Williams. He could have pushed that to the back of his mind when he reached the interviewer, and talked only about the movie, this project that has been his goal for 18 years.
Instead, he choked up, and almost wasn’t able to get the words out. He was shocked and heartbroken, and you could see it all over his face and hear it in his voice. It wasn’t an act; it was just Jeff Bridges. Those of us watching in the theater already hushed – some people hadn’t yet heard, and you could hear the shock ripple through, and those of us who had felt heartbroken right along with him.
Jeff Bridges may be a huge movie star, but in that moment, he was a person who had lost his friend. And now I like him more than any movie could have convinced me to. I’ll continue to have a soft spot for him, because I know he’s sensitive and real.
How does that apply in the legal industry? We have to be ourselves.
People connect with people, with shared experiences and ideas. We connect over humor and sadness; through laughter and tears. Simply because we are talking about legal issues doesn’t mean we have to throw away our personalities.
Now, I’m not suggesting you burst into tears at work, or share all of your inappropriate jokes with clients. But there is a balance between professionalism and personal connection that exists in business, and lawyers can (and do!) develop that too. Share yourself with your clients – tell them about your family, your pets, the funny thing your in-laws did when they were there for the holidays. Share a worry about something – it doesn’t have to be a deep, personal thing; it could be as simple as being worried that your favorite baseball player will be traded this week.
But give them a glimpse into who you really are. Allow them the opportunity to share themselves with you too, and see where you have common ground. Even in business, we develop a fondness for each other, a level of comfort that makes us more likely to return to that person again and again when we need them professionally.
Take my dry cleaner for example – I don’t dry clean clothes very often, but when I do, he always remembers my name. We chat about my travels (the clothes I bring in warrant those types of questions), his Korean roots, his business, and my business. He’s a nice guy, who takes a real interest in me, not just my business and how much money he will make. I wouldn’t go running to him with a personal crisis, but he will always have my business because I genuinely like him and want him to do well. I also recommend him frequently, for the same reason.
Do your clients have that same soft spot for you? Will they always give you their business because they genuinely like working with you? Will they refer you to others for the same reason? Or do they consider your services just a necessary part of their business?
Bonus Tip: Be Careful When Famejacking
I normally end with two tips (it is TWO for Tuesdays after all!), but the end of the interview with Jeff Bridges provides a lesson that I just can’t ignore: you need to know when to famejack a story, and when not to (also, how not to).
As he was speaking and trying to compose himself, Jeff apologized to the interviewer, who told him that there was no need (agreed), that he was showing us real emotions. Fine, no problem. But then, he said, "Just like in The Giver…" and you could hear the audience collectively groan.
This man is crying on the red carpet, over the loss of his friend, and the interviewer breaks in to tie it back to the movie in question. Icky.
Jeff ended the interview by actually patting this guy on the back of the head, with a bit of an incredulous look on his face, and the attendee next to me suggested that he thought the interviewer needed to write a letter of apology. Sounds about right.
I mention this, because someone on Twitter today shared an article they’d found on LinkedIn that offered five business development lessons we could learn from Robin Williams (the person sharing was disgusted). Attempting to capitalize on his death by using his name in the title, and relating it to a lighter subject that is so out of place at the moment puts a pit in my stomach.
I hesitated to even mention it in the post, for fear of doing the same thing, but I genuinely feel badly about his death, and I’m very purposely not using his name in the title of the post.
We’ve talked several times about famejacking here on Zen – tying in your area of expertise to something that is culturally popular to ride the wave of attention. And there are times (and ways) you just don’t do that. Peter Shankman (@petershankman) mentioned a few of these in his recent LMA webinar, like the tweets suggesting people bake New England related recipes in the wake of the Boston bombing. (I mean, honestly??)
That’s the same here. A person has died, and in our humanness, we should pause and take a moment to mourn, to support his family and friends in their mourning. I would have been horrified (and maybe a little confused) had someone offered five business development lessons that my grandmother had taught them in the wake of her passing. Now, if she’d been a business woman who mentored someone, and that someone was sharing a memory of her that was important to them, that would have been fine, even meaningful.
But when strangers try to take tragedy and use it to their gain, it’s just, well, icky. Are there ways that this story can be used? Yes, the discussions of depression, addiction and suicide in the wake of his death are important and necessary. I also foresee a slate of estate law posts to come in the weeks that follow, and perhaps others. But it’s a fine line to walk between rubbernecking a tragedy and honoring the loss, and learning lessons from it. So please, be careful when famejacking.
That’s all for this Two for Tuesdays. As always, please share your thoughts and comments below!