Ideas From The Front

Less Razzle, More Dazzle

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Every morning, a select group of insiders from the bankruptcy industry receive an e-mail blast from New York City lawyer Bill Rochelle.

And to hear Rochelle tell it, the recipients are quite pleased with the daily e mail. Some are so hap py to be on the distribution list that they’ve even canceled subscriptions to a pricey name brand competitor.

So what’s inside the Fulbright & Jaworski Daily Bankruptcy News? At first glance, nothing more than pages and pages full of dense text that might make anyone but the most intrepid number crunchers hit the delete key.

But Rochelle has never felt the need to change the look of his daily newsletter that goes out to some 900 turnaround industry insiders because, he says, it’s exactly what they want. It contains specific information about corporate bankruptcies. No more, no less. There is no fluff, no fuss, no muss, no color, no gloss, no pictures, no graphs. Just black and white words. Lots of them.

“We are trying to provide content. It does not matter how it is formatted. We are not trying to dazzle our readers with four color pictures,” says Rochelle, a partner at Fulbright & Jaworski. At press time, Rochelle planned to leave his firm for the Bloomberg financial news service. He’ll be bringing the newsletter with him and covering the bankruptcy field.

In this day and age of blogs, video blogs and podcasting, Rochelle’s newsletter stands out as much for what it is as for what it is not–slick. Many a law firm marketer would have a field day redesigning Rochelle’s daily newsletter. But Rochelle has remained steadfast in his decision to keep the 10 year old newsletter in its decidedly unslick format because he believes it is what clients and other industry VIPs want. “Most of the slick, polished law firm material gets dropped in the trash can or deleted without being read,” he says.

Detroit area lawyer Howard Lax agrees that when it comes to giving busy people the legal information they need, it’s content, not gloss, that’s king.

Like Rochelle’s publication, Lax’s bimonthly mortgage banking newsletter, The Mortgage News, could probably withstand a tweak or two in the looks department (quite a few of his readers have told him they get writer’s cramp just looking at it). But Lax, who practices with Lipson, Neilson, Cole, Seltzer & Garin in Bloom field Hills, Mich., won’t hear of it.

The newsletter, distributed via e mail (and archived on his firm’s Web site at, highlights court decisions, regulatory issues and “other stuff” affecting the mortgage banking industry, including news, statistics and excerpts from speeches, seminars and meet ings. Lax, no shrinking violet, also does not hesitate to add his opinion to anything he covers.

“Even though it’s so heavy looking, it is designed for my target audience,” he says. “Most of my readers browse through it. There is something there for everybody. Everyone will take one pass through it.”

Even if these lawyers think their marketing efforts are working just fine, marketing expert Ross Fish man of High land Park, Ill., says they could be even better if they just looked, well, better. “I still think dropping it into an easier to read package makes it easier on the reader, and that is what effective communication is all about.”

It’s all about your Audience

Others have taken a middle ground approach when it comes to the slickness of their marketing efforts, including Dallas lawyer Michael Maslanka. While he creates podcasts for Texas Lawyer and webcasts for the state bar, he’s also just as likely to send a client a copy of an article or an e mail containing only a link.

When deciding between an avant garde marketing approach or a method more tried and true, Maslanka says he thinks about whether his efforts will be meaningful to the recipient. “However you do it, that is the question you ask,” he says.

Rochelle, for his part, couldn’t agree more with Mas lanka. Although he remains true to his densely packed black and white newsletter, even he admits to appreciating one somewhat high tech element of its distribution: e mail. “Some 900 people have the Ful bright name flashed on their e mail screens every day,” he says. Once again proving that less can be more.

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