There are two fatal errors that keep great projects from coming to life:
- Not finishing
- Not starting
A DEEP BREATH OF LIFE
Early last year I took a yoga class at Florida Keys Community College. While I was far from a good student, having missed more than half the classes, the small investment I made paid off in a BIG way. At the end of each class the instructor read from a book, which I eventually bought and became an extremely positive force in my life, my relationships, and my work. The book, written by Alan Cohen, is titled “A Deep Breath of Life.” It is organized with daily stories that inspire “heart-centered living.” Over the past year there have been a number of entries I thought to share on the VMO blog but held back for one or another reason, mainly because I feared being too touchy-feely. Today’s entry was just too instructive to take a pass on not sharing, and so applicable to the law firm environment where great marketing projects too often fail to come to life because we don’t ACT NOW!
“While living in a farming community, our group planned to erect a new house. For many months we discussed the plans, and because we did not fully agree, nothing was done. Then one day, one man went out to the building site with a plumb line and began to hammer stakes into the ground. It wasn’t long before the house was built.
“You can think and talk about a project for a long time, but only action will manifest it. If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never get anything done. Don’t wait until all the conditions are perfect for you to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.”
—Alan Cohen, author, A Deep Breath of Life
When I was working as an executive marketer in-house at law firms, more times than not, great projects were delayed by analysis paralysis. I think back to how many of those projects, had we simply started, could have made a significant difference.
While I believe Cohen’s story is inspirational and instructional, in a law firm it is simply just not acceptable to “start” anything without going through the hoops and layers of approvals. So, what can we do? Here are a few things I’ve done in the past or have seen others do to “start” great projects and still honor the system. (Please add yours in the comments!)
1. Build your case. Law firms are noted for their reliance on precedent. First to be second is the mantra for many.
Managing Partner: “You want to do what? Show me other law firms that are doing it successfully then we might try it.”
Marketing Director: “There are no other law firms doing it, that’s why it’s a great project for our firm and we could be first!”
Managing Partner: “First? Too risky. We don’t want to be the first to fail.”
While not ideal, you might point to other non-law firm examples where similar projects have worked. You’ll need to connect the dots for the decision makers, so in advance of presenting your project idea I recommend a good brainstorm session with trusted advisors or your team to identify potential objections. You might also consider running a what-if scenario past your ethics committee or state bar association. At the end of the day, I believe and have seen it work, if you do your homework and come to the discussion prepared with some key evidence that the project has real legs, you stand a better chance of getting it off the paper. That’s a good start.
2. Test it. Part of building your case, especially if it’s really original, is to test your project. For example, I know a marketing team that created “draft” videos using what they had on hand at no additional cost, a flip camera. Before they pitched the project to management, they wrote the scripts, played the parts, recorded them, and edited them into something close enough to their vision so the partners could actually see how it would play out. While the quality was not on par with their ultimate goal for the project, seeing the draft clearly demonstrated the potential of the medium and the direction the team would be taking the project. They are now one of the most prolific law firms creating effective videos for internal communications as well as for clients and prospects today!
3. Prove it. A young associate attorney asked his firm for permission and a small stipend to start a blog. He was succinctly turned down—“We’re not ready for that social media stuff.” Not deterred, (and with the VMO’s encouragement :-)) he tried another approach: invest time on his own to creating a well-thought out plan for content and promotion before he pitched it to the law firm again. He took action and started. Short of actually launching a blog on his own, he prepared a statement for the blog’s “About Page,” his “Author Page,” a comment policy, disclaimer, and fleshed out a list of content Categories complete with descriptions. He made a list of 50 SEO terms he could use, having done a little research on the web, including an analysis of potential titles for the blog and tactics for cross promoting. Then HE WROTE A DOZEN blog posts! With this in hand, he went back to the practice chair and demonstrated that it was a plausible project and that he was committed to it.
How will you “get the party started” in 2012?
Exceptional ideas and projects need exceptional measures to get started. Are you up for it? Books I recommend for further inspiration include:
- Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki and his earlier book,
- Rules for Revolutionaries
- How to Act Like a CEO by executive coach, Debra Benton. (How to Think Like a CEO by Benton is also very excellent!)
What books are on your list for 2012? Drop us a note!
Go Forth! Happy New Year!