How Mishcon de Reya jazzed up its marketing

A paid-for radio show is part of a bold, sophisticated and diverse content marketing programme by the London-based law firm, writes Sophy Buckley

Elliot Moss is not your usual radio host. But then his radio programme, Jazz Shapers, is not your usual radio show. Hosted on Jazz FM, Jazz Shapers is a weekly radio show paid for by the international law firm where Moss works – Mishcon de Reya.

The show has been running since early 2012. Each week it features a business founder or entrepreneur whom Moss interviews about themselves, their business and their choice of music.

It is one part of a multi-pronged content strategy that also involves prolific online publishing. Articles are created both in-house and with partners such as FirstWord, which provides regular commentary from top columnists on key business and economic trends around the world.

“Jazz Shapers has been a cool way of repositioning the firm away from what we were well known for – representing the most famous woman on earth in her divorce – to business, which is where much more of our work comes from,” says Moss, who is a partner and director of business development.

Back in 1996, the firm represented Princess Diana in her split from Prince Charles. Since then, divorce and Mishcon de Reya have been intimately connected in the public imagination, even though divorce makes up a small proportion of the firm’s revenues. Today, some 90 per cent of its work is business related.

The Jazz FM tie-up came after the firm decided it wanted more control over the conversation it had with its audience – both clients and non-clients. This led to it launching three online TV channels in 2011 to talk about business. “We realised that creating our own content was important. It allowed us to be in control. Self-publishing removes the element of having to rely on a third party to put out what we’re thinking and allows us to have a direct relationship with our audience,” says Moss.

The shows were seen by around 7,000 people, one of whom worked at Jazz FM. When she got in touch to see whether Mishcon was interested in advertising on the station, Moss went to hear her pitch.

“The number 42 got me. That’s the percentage of Jazz FM’s listeners who also tune in to Radio 4. That’s the home of serious thought leadership,” as he puts it.

Developing the work they had done with their TV channels, members of the firm brainstormed how a paid-for radio show could work. What emerged was the link between a jazz musician’s need to break rules to create something new and how business founders often have to defy convention to get off the ground. “We saw a similarity between jazz shapers and business shapers,” he says.

After much internal discussion to make sure the idea stacked up, fitted with the firm’s values, could carry a useful message and was appropriate for a law firm to be associated with, Jazz Shapers went on air in January 2012, branded and carrying a few minutes of business legal advice.

Six-and-a-half years and more than 320 interviews later, the project is a success. Moss clearly loves doing it (he admits to being a journalist manqué), but more importantly the firm has reaped the benefits.

“About 30 per cent of the guests are existing clients. Being asked to take part really cements a relationship. Clients love it, potential clients, too, as well as people we want to partner with,” says Moss. “In terms of return on investment, we have pretty much covered every single penny of marketing spend from new instructions as a result of the programme. And that doesn’t include the benefits to our business in terms of building our brand reputation.”

Audience numbers are impressive. The show attracts a weekly average of about 100,000 listeners when it airs at 9am every Saturday. And regular surveys across Jazz FM’s 1m-strong audience highlight just how well it works as a piece of content marketing.

The first survey in April 2012 found that just 17 per cent had heard of Jazz Shapers. By October last year, that number had nearly doubled to 30 per cent. Similarly, the proportion of those who saw Mishcon as a law firm for business jumped from 23 per cent to 39 per cent.

Part of that success is down to high production values. “We assume the audience for the radio show and for all our content marketing has high values and we want to be as good as the best of what they consume elsewhere in terms of media,” he says. It’s also partly down to making the asset sweat.

Besides the original broadcast, the show is repeated on Mondays and is also available as a podcast via iTunes, Deezer and Mishcon’s own website. Partners including the Financial Times, CityAM and British Airways’ in-flight media service High Life all take the show without payment from Mishcon. The numbers using these services are not included in the 100,000 weekly audience. “We can’t measure them,” says Moss, “but anecdotal evidence shows they are well received. Every couple of weeks I get a random someone saying it’s a clever bit of placement.”

Mishcon also buys promotional slots on Jazz FM encouraging people to tune in to the show, runs 30-second ads on the station and has recently developed new spin-off sessions. These include 10-minute standalone slots where BBC’s Broadcasting House host Paddy O’Connell presents Business Shapers and talks to two Mishcon experts on relevant topics and what they mean to business. To date these have included the gig economy and GDPR. There’s also Jazz Shapers Encore, when a past interviewee is invited back, and Future Shapers, which gives young entrepreneurs a two-minute profile. Says Moss: “It’s about adding layers, texture and colour.”

The firm’s commitment to content marketing goes far beyond the Jazz Shapers material. From its main website, users can click through to original and curated content on more than 12 microsites, from Jazz Shapers to Lawfully Chic and the Leap Hub, as well as region-specific sites. It also runs paid-for content in media including the Financial Times and The Economist. Moss estimates that every year the firm sends out about 440,000 emails to its contacts with links to its content.

Nor does Mishcon do content marketing in isolation, ensuring it is supported by strong PR and advertising. “It’s all going on at once, part of the machine,” says Moss. The eclectic range of topics covered reflects the diverse nature of the Mishcon business. “At any one time there’s always lots of legislative change, something that we can comment on. Take Brexit – after the vote we wanted to show that we still cared about the different overseas markets. That spawned stuff. It is diverse, but then our practice is diverse. And like any good publisher, we want to cover what is relevant to our audience and write about it in an intelligent and interesting way.”

This means sometimes working with partners. “We are essentially a publisher. Where we can use our own work we will, but we like to work with partners, too, when they’re the best,” he says.

It all adds up to an impressive marketing reach, helping to promote the firm around the world. As one partner recently said to Moss, “It’s the closest people can get to meeting me without coming to the office”. And while he might not be able to get an exact number for his ROI, he is not losing sleep about it. “Yes, sometimes it is hard to make a direct ROI calculation. But in the round, I know in general what we do is right. So we’ll keep doing it.”

Tap into what’s fundamental rather than fashionable for better results

By Donald Cameron, strategist

Why do some unexpectedly bold campaigns work while others bomb?

It’s generally down to whether the solution is addressing a real fundamental business or brand issue, or just thinks it is.

Taking time to identify what the real problem frames what the solution is likely to be.

Here are five fresh and surprising brand solutions that had far reaching effects:

Volvo Trucks ‘Epic Split’ (from the ‘Live Test’ series), featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme

It’s the oldest form of persuasion – pure product demo, made extra watchable with exquisite celebrity casting. Client and agency on top form in the daddy of epic content.

This video of Hollywood actor Van Damme doing the splits between two moving Volvo trucks built crazy amounts of fame beyond the target audience of drivers or buyers.

If the aim was to make the world think driving a Volvo truck is cool, then it succeeded.

MailChimp: ‘Did you mean MailChimp?’

Or MailShrimp?


SnailPrimp? FailChips? MaleCrimp?

It takes confidence to poke fun at your own name, but this ‘Did you mean..?’ campaign from the email marketing platform brilliantly highlights the importance to small businesses of making the right first impression.

The company achieved huge awareness of its brand and its uncompromising belief in the importance of doing things your own way.

A great means to get known by a wider set of decision-makers beyond the IT guy and become the reference point in your category.

Lockheed Martin: A field trip to Mars

Until we can take school kids to Mars, we should bring Mars to them on a bus. The first immersive VR group ‘field trip’ inspires young American minds from the first generation likely to travel to the Red Planet in the format they love most.

It takes on the challenge of making science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers attractive and competes with dream career companies such as Google, Facebook, Snapchat and Spotify for student interest.

A great example of getting upstream of the problem. For Lockheed Martin, this meant getting brand affinity well before the kids are in the market for a career.

PCCW Global Cyber Security video

Portraying the IT department as ‘the unsung heroes of the 21st century’ is a light-hearted way of demonstrating that PCCW Global knows it’s not a question of if but when cyber-security breaches will happen.

It connected to its target audience on attitude. Being switched-on and can-do aligns the company with IT leaders who have a similarly proactive mindset.

Engaging a niche also avoids the expense of trying to talk to the whole market.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers: ‘We fight for fair’

Little stirs up an Aussie like suggesting they’re missing out on a fair go. These stories of social injustices – and the idea of fairness being a universal right – hit this nerve.

Showing the firm is driven by social conscience differentiates it from rivals, while a purpose beyond profit can be a great way to cut through and translate into hard business metrics.

So when you next see something that makes you wonder ‘WOW, how did they come up with that?!’, it’s most probably the result of a brand or business addressing an issue without worrying how it may appear to outsiders.

It’s always more effective to be creating brilliant content addressing issues you’ve defined rather than chasing what’s safe or fashionable.