If you ask clients whether they actually read legal firm's brochures, they often say 'no'. Yet if you respond to a call requesting your brochure by saying "Sorry, we don't have one," the caller will surely find it odd that you aren't making the effort to set your stall out. Catch 22?
My initial question to Erik Brown, managing director of Publishing Business, the company that produced our literature was: "Is it possible to produce something that won't be thrown away without at least a flick through and still set out our stall?"
Erik sold us the idea of a magazine. They are familiar, he said. They are believable. And they are accessible.
Unlike brochures, magazines have nothing to sell but themselves. Every device, whether it's how a picture is cropped or the headlines are written, is designed to grab reader's attention. A magazine has to succeed on its own account.
Some of our partners were worried that the magazine format might be seen as not quite professional. And we had to let the partnership be overrun by journalists looking for good stories. We gave them access to our clients and, rewardingly, they were all excited by the idea of telling their stories.
And so the clients were interviewed, journalists wrote their pieces, and approvals were given. I followed my instincts and gave Publishing Business the go-ahead to produce bold and somewhat 'racy' design ideas and they put it all together. It proved a fairly painless experience which I know isn't the case for all marketing directors. There were changes to the text of course - no outsider could be entirely aware of the commercial, social and political sensitivity of what we do - but we kept the changes to a minimum.
By using only two colours, dramatic black and white photography, a larger than A4 format and heavy paper, the result felt more expensive than it really was - we were working to a relatively tight budget. More importantly, and I doubt that many firms cost this, we didn't spend hours of fee-earning time in meetings and conferences.
Magazines deal in basic human emotions - perhaps the deepest of these being the desire to share experiences. In a sense, all we did was gossip with purpose. And it seems to have worked.