Does your law firm marketing team have a digital housekeeping plan?

First published in the Law Society Leadership and Management Section as 'In Safe Hands'.

Your law firm probably has an inventory of all the technology hardware you have purchased, and a calendar of key dates, such for your insurance renewal – but are you quite so diligent with the housekeeping of digital assets, especially those which form part of your brand value?

By ‘digital assets,’ I mean all the brand intellectual property (such as trade marks, domains, company names, image rights etc) and your online logins for the firm’s website and any social media accounts.

Usually when we start working with a law firm for the first time, it can take quite a bit of effort for the marketing partner, committee, or practice manager to locate all the items on our shopping list of digital assets.

Often, this is because bits of online marketing have been done by different people over time, and never collected together in a central register.  Sometimes problems arise as the person who set up an account used their personal details, and they have since left the firm. On other occasions, the set up might have been delegated to the web or IT agency, and some are speedier and more helpful than others at handing over this valuable intellectual property.

If firms have merged or rebranded, then you might have a collection of assets which are no longer ‘on brand’ and may not even be needed any more.

Problems sometimes come to light when you receive a bad review or someone sets up a spoof account using a domain that you ought to have acquired long ago.

To put everything in order, I recommend a simple 3-step process:

STEP 1 - Create a register of your firm’s digital assets

To create an at-a-glance register and annual plan, you can put together a spreadsheet with columns as follows:

  • Column A: Type of asset e.g. domains or social media
  • Column B: Asset (i.e. each domain name or social media account or group)
  • Column C: Manager/ password owner
  • Column D: Date password last updated
  • Column E: Cost
  • Columns F-Q: January to December, or April to March (according to your financial year
  • Column R: Notes

Columns F-Q are where you should timetable any action, e.g., change password; pay renewal fee; cancel.

As you do this for each asset, you will need to track down whoever has the login details, ensure that they can access the account, and encourage them to store the password securely and set a diary date to update regularly.

STEP 2 – Add details of costs and diarise renewals and future actions

A lot of digital assets are paid for via a direct debit and, like Spotify or Netflix, it can be easy to forget about these regular outgoings and end up paying for things you don’t use or don’t really need.  For example, when looking at all the domains a firm had registered, we saw that someone had got a little over-enthusiastic at registering “creative” domain names that incurred annual costs, but remained unused.

Other digital assts can cause you a bit of a headache if you let them lapse – especially your website hosting and your security certificate – and you find your website has gone down as a result.

One law firm never got around to agreeing the maintenance contract for their WordPress website, and consequently the content management system did not receive periodic updates and security patches. By the time this was identified it was ‘beyond repair’ and a whole new website had to be built.

These dates and deadlines will usually reflect the date that you set up the account or registered the domain. But once you have drawn up your calendar, you might find it useful to add in other dates that come around each year, for example:

  • price increases – if you need to comply with the transparency rules, then there will be web pages which need to be reviewed and updated;
  • Lexcel accreditation or diversity statistics may also need to be updated;
  • legal directories or legal awards all tend to follow a steady calendar, so planning ahead for the web updates is useful;
  • you might also want to set a schedule for each department to review their web pages and profiles each year; and
  • it is also a good idea to diarise any reminders in regard to destruction of data – for example, online enquiries via the website may need to be deleted from the system after a few months if this does not happen automatically.

STEP 3 – Review quarterly and be proactive

This one page planner will be easy to review quickly at a marketing meeting, where you can add any new digital assets and look at what else needs to be planned. For example, are there some domain names you should acquire to protect your brand? Are there some accounts you should wind up or cancel?

If a member of staff leaves, or you change a digital provider, you have a ready checklist to help you to secure the passwords and update them promptly.

If you find you have a mysterious member of staff on LinkedIn called ‘Santa Clause’ you’ll be able to act promptly to remove them, rather than spending ages just trying to find the correct login first.

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