Interview with Jay Vaughn

By Tad Thomas | May 18, 2020 | Interviews

Jay Vaughn

Lawyers who understand marketing understand that branding is a vital part of any law firm marketing plan. Whether it is a change in firms, a change in names, or just the fact that a firm has a dated brand, it takes time and effort to rebrand the look and feel of a firm’s identity. In 2018, Jay Vaughn joined Ron Johnson, Penny Hendy, and Sarah Emery in creating a new firm which required building a new brand that reflected their Kentucky personal injury practice. Jay sat down with us to discuss how the firm went about creating its new brand.

Tad Thomas:  Why don’t we start out by you telling us a little bit about your firm, the makeup of your firm, and what kind of law you practice.

Jay Vaughn: First of all, Tad, I appreciate you interviewing me. I think what you are doing right now, putting out attorney resources, is fantastic. Our firm Hendy Johnson Vaughn Emery is divided into two offices: We are in Fort Wright, Kentucky, which is right near Cincinnati, Ohio and in Louisville, Kentucky. We are a plaintiff injury firm with four lawyers/partners: Penny Hendy, Ron Johnson, myself, and Sarah Emery. Penny Hendy does medical negligence cases and other personal injury cases. Sarah Emery and Ron Johnson do primarily mass court, class action, and defective drug cases as well as other personal injury cases. I primarily do commercial motor vehicle cases, trucks, buses, and things of that nature. Car wreck cases are mainly what I handle.

Tad Thomas: A couple of years ago, along with your transition to the new firm, you all decided to undertake a branding project. I think now in the time of COVID, there are a lot of firms that are sitting around looking at marketing and taking on some new projects. Can you talk to us about what your considerations were in rebranding and talk about your process?

Jay Vaughn: I knew when I left my former firm, which was a large personal injury firm with hundreds of lawyers and a marketing department, and went to the firm I am at now, that we had to do something to help us stand out from the crowd, not just for potential clients, but also potential lawyers that might want to co-counsel referred cases. I think some of the larger personal injury firms have done a good job in the business and marketing side, advertising with a brand.

“I knew right away when I was forming my new firm that branding was crucial. We wanted to do that, but we wanted to do it the right way. We knew as lawyers we probably aren’t the best at doing that, so we researched and found a marketing and branding company that has that specialty.”

We wanted someone who could create a brand that’s short, but catchy. So, a consideration was finding the right company who knew how to wordsmith a brand name and also come up with a logo. Then my partners and I had to decide what memorable message we were going to use to attract potential clients. That was the overall global consideration that we had before we got into the specifics.

Tad Thomas: So, once you decided you were going to do this, you searched for a marketing firm to do the branding and you picked something you liked. What was your process like for the rollout?

Jay Vaughn: Once we found something we liked, the rollout involved starting with first getting a logo design that incorporated the letters of the partners along with the firm name, which was catchy… and not just the firm name written across in one long line. We wanted some type of logo that could be put on letterhead, on envelopes, on post cards, on social media, and then have a tagline. Once we wordsmithed the tagline we did online focus groups. We came up with words and phrases we liked and did focus groups with hundreds of people clicking on what they liked in order of preference. Once we determined what resonated the best with those focus groups, the first step was a rollout process of the logo, as a teaser. So, we put a little teaser email out to current and past clients, to referral sources, to people we co-counsel with, and then rolled it out on social media that we are getting ready for a name change.

Maybe 30 days later we rolled out a promotional video with the logo and then all of a sudden, our tagline would pop up. A couple of weeks later we did a full launch with the website and all of the remaining social media. So we did it in stages, so we could help people see the presence and hopefully build anticipation for the rest. People liked the Facebook page and followed the Facebook page and the corresponding blog. We gradually introduced the brand so that when we launched the webpage it would make more of a splash. That was part of the rollout. The other part of the process involved holding a couple of big social events in each city where our offices are.  We had our firm video playing in the background along some B roll that we had and just kind of did a “thank you happy hour” with a bunch of people. Again, this was just part of furthering our brand and our presence.

Tad Thomas: If law firms are reading this and are looking at undertaking this project, what advice would you give them?

Jay Vaughn: Number one: Research what you want and who you should hire to do it. All firms need someone to help with marketing and branding, but keep it separate from advertising efforts, whether it’s TV, billboard, or SEO. Second, keep that separate because legal marketing for business is different than marketing just your brand.

“Third, stay committed. You and your partners have to commit. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of emails, and it’s a lot of phone calls, meetings, and drafts.”

Lawyers are good at initially having an idea. But you just can’t send your ideas to a marketing company and expect all the work to be done. When they send you the concepts back, they can’t sit in your inbox for two to three weeks without response. You have to stay on top of it. I would always commit to blocking off time on my calendar where we would have bi-monthly calls with the marketing company. We had a set time every other Tuesday at 11 a.m. to cover all the outstanding tasks and items. I wanted to make sure things got done right away…I didn’t want things to sit.

Pick one person at your firm to be the point person, but they have to be able get access and get feedback from the other partners who have decision making authority. Really commit to it. Do it. Everyone has got to invest in it. Once you invest in it, the end product is going to be something you’re happy with. You don’t want to rush through it though, and then six months later be unhappy. Because once you pick that domain name and email extension, both tied to your brand, then you are stuck with it and you can’t change it.

Tad Thomas: Jay, thank you very much. I think this is going to be very helpful.

Jay Vaughn: I appreciate it. If anyone has any questions, you can reach out to me directly. Our domain is: https://justicestartshere.com/, so you can see what our brand is. And, my direct email is jvaughn@justicestartshere.com.