It takes a lot to impress me when it comes to law firm marketing initiatives after working in this industry for 20+ years, so when I see something that is truly innovative, unique and authentic, I have to write a blog post about it and find out more about how it came to be.

Real Estate Fast Forward is Stroock’s immersive microsite dedicated to firm news and industry updates. It takes visitors on a journey through the downtown NYC area of Stroock’s headquarters with interactive elements encourage viewers to learn more about the firm and its lawyers’ work.

Having closely worked with Stroock on a social media content project for several months, I know the firm well, and this tool really captures what is unique about the firm -it’s creative and whimsical, and markets the firm and its work in a clever way -without being overly self-promotional. It’s a great example of how to differentiate your law firm in a crowded market.

I asked Trish Lilley, Stroock’s Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer to tell us more about the genesis of Real Estate Forward and its launch.

Trish Lilley, Stroock’s CMBDO

Q. How did Real Estate Fast Forward come to be? 

A. Real Estate Fast Forward had its genesis from a few sources:

The initial kernel or flickering of this idea stemmed from my love for quirky history. I’ve always been fascinated by the 1918 flu pandemic (in which one of my great-grandmothers died, apparently) and changes that occurred as part of its legacy.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, both the City Museum of New York and the New York Times published some interesting pieces describing how the flu pandemic influenced architecture and HVAC and other aspects of life. Obviously, that kicked off my curiosity about this pandemic and in discussing it with our Real Estate co-chairs, they expressed interest in trying to look at that as well. The idea evolved from there but that was the first sort of spark.

First and foremost, Real Estate Fast Forward was definitely driven by our desire to connect with our clients and friends of the firm during these pandemic days when grabbing a coffee or catching up for lunch or popping to an office for a chat can’t be done anymore. We missed the interaction and wanted to find a unique way to communicate with our network.

We also wanted to let folks know what we’ve been up to, what deals we’re working on, what trends we’re seeing in the market and what we anticipate the future of commercial real estate will hold in various sectors and geographies as we emerge from the darkest days of the pandemic. How will a focus on internal air quality and enhanced HVAC systems that may result from the pandemic mesh with mandates under the Climate Mobilization Act and other green legislation aimed at energy efficiency and reducing footprints. Issues that like are ones we plan to explore over the course of the four “editions” of REFF.

What were we solving for? We wanted to connect, to communicate, to educate and advise and to do all of that in an engaging way. A webinar? Yet another video call? Carrier pigeons? This is where I started to think about a first-person journey or exploratory walk through a space where visitors could access information in an engaging way. Actually, at first I was thinking about those “pick your own ending” kids’ books in trying to visualize something. Thankfully, our real estate business development team Bianca Madrigal and Emily McGrath are far more practical than I, and they suggested a format that might be similar to Google maps where a visitor could navigate down city streets.

At that point, we talked to a few creative agencies to see how we might bring our – still relatively amorphous – vision to [virtual!] reality. Until we met with Robyn Addis at Lisi, we weren’t getting anywhere. But Robyn was able to take my creative spew and fashion it into a much more concrete idea with some recommendations on execution.

Q. What was it like to undertake a project like this during the pandemic? 

A. I think the pandemic made the creative process more challenging. This is a pretty cool and pretty innovative project, particularly within the legal industry which isn’t generally known for being adventurous, so there was a lot of back-and-forth with idea-sharing, design refinements, content presentation and methods of engagement.

In the midst of our project, Bob Greenbaum joined our team and took on a liaison role with Lisi so that Bianca and Emily could focus on content. I adopted a somewhat more distanced role as the project progressed, which I think was beneficial because I would bring fresh eyes (and resulting no-doubt-annoying feedback) to refine the various iterations.

This was a crowded kitchen with many emotionally invested, enthusiastic cooks plus the back-end designers, so the inability to hunker down for a few lengthy meetings in the same room definitely felt as if it made execution tougher and communication muddier on occasion.

Finalizing the first installment of the project – “New York,” as we’ll also be doing editions themed for LA, DC and Miami, our other office locations – was made all the sweeter and more satisfying, though, precisely because we all had to work a little harder to craft an innovative – dare we say first-of-its-kind promotional piece?! – market offering in these peculiar pandemic days.

Q. How are you marketing Real Estate Fast Forward?

While Real Estate Fast Forward may a digital-forward marketing campaign, our promotion of it is fairly old school.

Our marketing plan involves the usual suspects: a direct email campaign, multiplatform social media promotion, PR outreach, digital and print ads and an advertorial. We have some minor partnership promotion happening as well but that’s not significant.

Q. What do you hope clients will gain from Real Estate Fast Forward?

I’d return to our original intent – we hope that clients and contacts enjoy the immersive experience and whimsical nature of the microsites and find the information on industry trends and the firm’s recent work both engaging and useful.

By leveraging technology to create an innovative digital outreach vehicle, we also hope to communicate that we’re forward-focused, innovative, creative and like to season our substance with a smattering of entertainment as well.

Take a look at Stroock’s Real Estate Fast Forward and reach out to Trish Lilley with any questions about it.