Welcome to Byfield’s new website, launched in the same week as we celebrate our seventh birthday. I can’t quite believe that seven years have passed since Richard Elsen and I came-up with the idea to offer the legal profession a service which catered not only for its needs but also for the needs of its clients. I guess time flies when you’re having fun. Our idea was to offer law firms who cared about their reputations public relations support. At the same time we wanted to offer reputation management to law firm clients who found themselves facing high profile litigation or other reputational risks, often working as an extension of their legal teams.
Richard and I both came from backgrounds that played to these dual strengths. When we first worked together, Richard was fresh from having helped the Labour Party win the 1997 general election. Tony Blair’s Government – whether you liked them or loathed them – really demonstrated the power of communications in political campaigns and Richard was a key part of that ’97 campaign. Richard took this experience of the highly polarised world of politics into the private sector by exporting litigation PR (big in US at the time) to the UK market.
Public affairs was where I began in PR and I quickly realised how much of a role it played in shaping legislation. This is where my interest in the legal market really began and I got to work with my first law firm client – Russell Jones & Walker – early in the development of legal PR. Looking back now – 16 years later – it says a lot about how far ahead of the curve Russell Jones & Walker was for the legal sector in appreciating the power of communications in building and protecting a reputation. I ended up working in-house for Russell Jones & Walker for five years, where I managed the firm’s national profile and got to work on some of the highest profile legal issues of the day. Readers will know that Russell Jones & Walker went on the become Slater & Gordon, the UK’s first publicly listed law firm and is well on its way to becoming the household name for consumer legal services.
Anyway, I’ve almost already exceeded the 500 word count for blogs that I always recommend clients to never go over but, hey, it’s our birthday so I’ll babble on if I want to – and a bit of background is important. Richard and I continued to build-on our experience in legal and litigation PR and we got back together in 2007 when Byfield was born – yes, an interesting date to launch a business as the mother of all recessions hit! It’s been a hard slog during the downturn but we’ve managed to grow year-on-year, and, as the economy recovers, we’ve emerged in good shape. And we’ve learnt a lot of valuable lessons along the way.
We’ve learnt that just like an individual, it takes time for a business to develop a personality and a voice. It takes time to develop your service offering and a culture which is underpinned by values that define who you are and how you act. A recession also helps to focus the mind on what’s important and enables you to take a step back and work on really strengthening your foundations – your roots. We’ve also learnt that it’s important to practice what we preach: that powerful communications is the key to building a strong reputation. And a strong reputation is key to running a successful business. This has been the catalyst for launching the new Byfield website, along with our new image and branding.
When people ask me what we do, I try to keep it as simple as possible: we help law firms and their clients tell their stories in the most compelling ways. And we do this across our three core areas of legal PR, litigation PR and reputation management. For Byfield, telling your story in the most compelling way means thinking hard about what it is that makes you stand-out; what makes you different; and how and when to communicate during the good times and bad.
For law firms operating in a competitive legal environment, where differentiation is so challenging, what makes you different is the personality behind your offering – your service and approach, your culture, your values and how you value clients and your people, your voice – and how you tell your story to those who matter. For individuals facing reputational risk it’s important that both sides of the story are told; that the story has fair and accurate context from which those who matter can draw fair and accurate conclusions. This is what builds and protects reputations and this is what Byfield does.
The trees you see in the new website signify our roots; our foundation which is the excellent team we have built and the nourishing environment we work in and which we are proud of. And they signify that, like a tree, your reputation can grow and flourish but can then quite easily be rocked or blown-down by a storm. You’ll also see our new strapline: Thinking – Communicating – Leading which describes our approach to every assignment we take on.
Welcome to our new website. It’s who we are; it’s what we do; it’s our personality; it’s what makes us different. It’s our story – and we hope you enjoy reading it.