As Director of Berners Marketing, Sue Bramall wears many different hats. From keeping her finger on the pulse of new laws to engaging in charity work to help others, we spent the day with Sue to find out more about a typical day at the marketing firm.
Hi Sue, first and foremost, what does Berners Marketing do?
Most people look at me a bit quizzically when I say that we provide marketing content services to law firms. It surprises them that lawyers need marketing, as people tend to associate marketing with consumer goods and big advertising budgets. But there are many different types of lawyers – you don’t want a divorce lawyer if you are moving house, or a litigator if you are starting up in business.
Each type of lawyer needs to promote their expertise in a different way, and they need expert content to raise their profile via their website, newsletter and social media. Often, they don’t have time to write material – and this is where we come in. We have a team of solicitors who write the technical content, as it is vitally important that each piece is legally accurate, and then it is edited for plain English and some search optimisation before proofing.
I actually started out as an accountant and moved into marketing for an accounting firm, before a management consultancy and then a law firm. Professional services businesses have a similar marketing model, as you are dealing with in a regulated sector, there is lots of case law and thought leadership. Plus, it is really interesting, as you often get to work on cutting-edge issues. I’m currently working on a project related to clean energy, which is fascinating.
A leisurely start with Sue
I would love to say that my day starts with a yoga session or something equally impressive, but in truth, I love nothing more than getting in a few chapters of a good book with a couple of cups of tea. We have an old farmhouse with a sheepsfoot bath which takes about 20 minutes to get full enough – so it’s a leisurely start. If there is daylight and I have time, I’ll walk the dogs (3 standard wire-haired dachshunds) around the field. I definitely do not look at my phone or check the headlines until I get to the office, although my husband will tip me off if there is big news.
Getting into the office and starting the day
Four days a week, I am in the office – and I like the change of scene and the fact that I can leave work behind when I close the door. Obviously, the first thing is checking the emails to see if we have had any new subscribers to our content service. During the pandemic, we automated this, and we introduced an online subscription portal which is supported by SalesforceCRM and payments are taken by GoCardless. This has saved us lots of time and seeing a new subscriber is a great way to start the day.
Next, I’ll check workflow management system IDAHO to see what deadlines are coming up for our clients – this could be content that is needed for an event, a court judgment is expected, or a change in the law coming into force. Then the rest of the day will be liaising with clients and authors and the team to ensure the right content gets to the right client on time.
Tackling the day’s challenges
Lawyers take a long time to build their own professional reputation, and when they engage us they are putting a great deal of trust in our hands. We take this responsibility very seriously, and consequently have umpteen quality-control procedures and checklists to ensure that everything, including the smallest social media post, is properly checked and approved before it goes into the public domain.
We also have to handle some very sensitive information about legal cases which are highly confidential, and this requires a delicate balancing act when it comes to producing content. This is particularly sensitive when we are writing for lawyers who act on behalf of vulnerable people, such as children or people with mental health needs, or for ultra-high-net-worth clients who value their privacy.
Reflecting on the day’s highlights and lending a helping hand
I love getting my head around something new, and I really enjoy the challenge of taking a technical concept and conveying it in plain English. For example, just this week, I have worked on things as diverse as cryptocurrency and NFTs in a divorce, green hydrogen energy and battery storage, some apps for MedTech, and issues relating to self-build/custom-build homes. There is never a dull day!
All this means that I am a mine of random information, but it often comes in useful outside work too. One day each week, I volunteer at a charity which helps asylum seekers and refugees, and I was able to put a father in touch with one of the family lawyers when he was having trouble getting access to his child. Another lady is living in appallingly damp conditions, and I was able to introduce her to a reliable housing lawyer – so it's satisfying when these cross-referrals yield results.
“Would Deborah Meaden have to do this?”
We developed IDAHO as a bespoke workflow software system in 2017, after the spreadsheets we were using became too wide to be practical and I was losing sleep about how we could manage growth.
We had tried various collaboration tools like Slack and Trello – but the lawyers would rarely login, so we decided that we needed something that was more like ‘air traffic control’ where we have oversight, and we can chase people as deadlines approach. It really does enable us to shut the door at the end of the day, knowing that everything is under control!
I wasn’t always so good at leaving work behind, and in the early days (I started the business in 2004), I often worked evenings and weekends as I simply didn’t have anyone to delegate things to. Then when I could afford to employ someone, it was quite hard to let go as I was out of the habit. But then my accountant and I used to joke that we were sure Deborah Meaden wasn’t doing her own book-keeping/data entry/filing etc – and if that was the case then the task could be delegated. “Would Deborah Meaden have to do this?” became my mantra.
Finally, time to relax
The dogs need another walk and will beg us mercilessly until they get one. We live in a very rural area, so there isn’t too much nightlife midweek – although there might be a meeting of the local flood action group (which is about as riveting as it sounds, unless you have been flooded which happened to us in 2021). My biggest vice is books, and I’ll get through one or two a week.