What would a conference in DC be like without a political speaker or two? Now, imagine if those speakers did not share on politics, but on what we love … communications.

James Carville and Mary Matalin hit a home run with the Legal Marketing Association’s audience last Thursday with their keynote address: “Changing How You Brand.”

It appears that whether you are a Democrat or Republican, a “mega law” lawyer or solo practitioner, no matter what industry you are in, today is a unique time to communicate a message, and we have fewer resources to do it.

Ms. Matalin hit home with her observation that the old adage that perceptions are reality is no longer true … reality is reality.

We are faced with a tough economic reality in both politics and the legal/business community that we need to operate within. We no longer have the luxury of creating a perception … we live in the reality of a recession and tough economic times.

She emphasizes that we, the communicators, need to be brought into the strategy sessions at the beginning, not after the crisis hits. We need to be part of the team, crafting the messages.

Mr. Carville pointed out, to the pleasure of the crowd, that as communicators “we’re not paid by the word, but by the thought.”

Speak to Human Nature

As communicators, we need to speak to human nature, the human mind. We need to have a story to tell. We need to keep it simple. And repeat it often.

The message, no matter what it is, must lend itself to a narrative. A point driven home by Mr. Carville who pointed out that the principles of effective communication are universal.

Simplicity, relevance and repetition. Exclusivity.

  • Relevance of the message to the people you’re communicating to.
  • The less you say, the more you hear.
  • What can you say that the other guy can’t?

The simplicity of the message is the key to communicating it. The problem with the current administration and the economic crisis is that few people understand “derivatives” or “toxic assets.” However, it was easy to communicate and understand Bush’s “War on Terror” or Reagan’s “The Bomb.”

How would Carville brand today’s law firm??

An audience member asked how Mr. Carville would brand today’s law firm. Without skipping a beat he came up with the following:

Tomorrow is not going to look like yesterday. Everything is going to taste different when this is all over. We’re never going back. Law firm message should be that we’re innovators. We’re taking you to the world that is going to exist. We’re ready, we’re prepared. Our competition is suited to a 2006 world; we’re suited to a 2016 world.