CINDY SPEAKER, CEO OF SPEAKER MEDIA AND MARKETING, IS THE SECRET WEAPON OF PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS AND TRIAL ATTORNEYS THROUGHOUT THE U.S.—AND PRODUCER AND CO-DIRECTOR OF THE POWERFUL NEW DOCUMENTARY FILM “WELL OF DREAMS”
By Jonathan Widran
In 1999, after five years as Marketing Director for a multi-state personal injury law firm based in her adopted hometown of Philadelphia, Cindy Speaker launched her own business as a marketing director, coach and consultant to some of the most successful personal injury firms in the U.S.
Driven by the creation and resounding success of her 3 hour audio CD series “Power Marketing for Attorneys,” the West Chester, Pennsylvania native has been a highly sought after speaker for numerous legal conferences, including PILMMA, ATLA and AAJ, AVVO, M&L Legal Marketing Conference, Market Masters and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Conference.
Over the past ten years, Speaker Media and Marketing has built a nationwide network of referral attorneys and developed a reputation as the secret weapon of some of the top plaintiffs’ law firms and trial lawyers in the U.S. Working with firms on a market exclusive basis Speaker’s vision for her clients is for them to be on the cutting edge of marketing and technology and to have a dominant position in their respective markets.
The tag line on her company’s letterhead says it all about the synthesis of elements she cultivates for her dedicated clients—she’s about “growing relationships, leveraging technology and building unique systems.” She is currently focusing her work primarily on social media, online video, mobile marketing and staying on top of emerging trends and tools designed to keep her firms on the leading edge in their areas.
“I have always oriented myself to relationship and technology driven strategies,” Speaker says. “I believe in traditional advertising but that is not where I’m focused. In my earlier years, I saw that attorneys were spending huge amounts of money on mass media advertising without knowing what their exact return rate was. Even for attorneys that said they were doing okay they appreciated the custom program my team developed, ‘PI Stats,” which will track and analyze their cost per call, cost per case and conversion ratios. I found my niche in the industry by becoming known for pushing the envelope. I’m proud to say that many of my clients volunteer to let me try out new strategies with them for free!
“My company’s standard service consists of a social media program, which is anchored in content creation,” she says, “which is typically video that can also be adapted to a written transcript, podcast and DVD formats, as well as blog posts. We also do strategic content distribution, as well as managing the Facebook and YouTube channels of the firms we create videos for—many of which have thousands of subscribers.”
Hundreds of attorneys across the country have benefitted from Speaker’s marketing creativity and know that powerful videos are one of her secret weapons. She even won several “Telly” Awards for various PSAs she shot, including one for “social responsibility” for a clip that educated people on the dangers of distracted driving. Many of her clients, however, might not be fully aware of her educational background and experience as a documentary filmmaker. She received a master’s in communication with an emphasis on TV and film production at Regent University in Virginia Beach, and worked for the International Family Channel.
Showing hints of the great ambition which would later characterize her career in legal circles, Speaker directed her first documentary as a student project in the prisons of Guatemala. She fully intended to pursue a career in the film and TV industries but a friend who worked for the largest personal injury attorney helped her get a high paying position and she couldn’t turn it down.
She was in her early 30s and her other options were entry level positions at production companies. “I have no regrets,” Speaker says. “I was there five years and fell in love with it, but at heart I remained an entrepreneur so it was only a matter of time before I went to work for myself.”
Speaker blends the best of both worlds and comes full circle as a filmmaker with her new documentary “Well of Dreams,” an inspiring story about an African woman who studied in America and used her skills and education to bring water to a village in Kenya. Speaker, the project’s co-director, and her young crew recently went to the African country to shoot principal photography. Thus far, she has several of her attorney clients on board with the project. She believes that businesses need to find ways to tie in stories/causes/campaigns that people are stirred by. The real win, she says, is to tap into people’s passions.
“This is a great story and great cause,” she says. “I plan to leverage the film to attract corporate sponsorships which will help the cause and fund the project itself. It’s clear to me that people love to get behind causes they feel an affinity for. Our goal is to take this film into target markets where we think prospective clientele will connect with it. We will give copies of the DVD to attorneys we work with to give to their clients for the purpose of inspiration, with the name of their firm on the front of course. The film will go out to festivals as well, giving our top sponsors more visibility and branding opportunities. We also plan to do a red carpet premiere in each market where my sponsors companies are located, with the film specially licensed for these areas. They will be hosting the event along with local high school students.”
Some background on “Well of Dreams,” as explained by Speaker, who is also President of Speaker Films: Anne Okelo graduated from West Chester University in May of 2010 with a masters degree in non profit administration. Behind her kind eyes there is a story of a young girl who received “two strokes” virtually every day for being late to school in her small village of Angiro, Kenya and suffered many other injustices. For Anne life was “very, very hard.” For one thing she had the job of walking 8 miles most mornings to retrieve a bucket of river water for the family to use for the day. Because of the scarcity of water she often had to stand in line once she got there and that would make her late to school which earned her an almost daily beating.
At one point in her youth, Anne was an outcast because she refused to get married at age 14 as was expected of her. She said she observed girls her age getting married and having many children. The husbands had many wives and AIDS was prevalent which often lead to an early death. She did not want that and she believed that her only way out was to focus on her education. Anne did that and she went on to graduate from the University of Nairobi and more recently earned a masters degree from West Chester University.
After graduating from West Chester Anne began to share her desire to return to her village and have a fresh water well installed. Over a period of six months and with the help and support of many wonderful people and new friends, Anne was able to raise the $35,000 needed and on Christmas Eve of 2010 a solar powered well was installed in the village of Angiro, Kenya. The village generally loses 13-15 people a year to cholera but with the new well, health conditions have improved substantially. Anne has also reported that with the water, people are now growing crops which means they don’t have to buy very much. Anne’s mother lives in the village and we hear that she is growing all of her own vegetables and is healthier than she has been in years. “I met Anne when she was working on raising money for the well and we became fast friends,” Speaker says. “Earlier this year, her journey took another major turn and it was at that time that I asked Anne if I and my team could do a documentary of her story. I wanted to give her more of a public platform. It’s an inspiring story that ties into women’s issues and educational issues, and while it will appeal to numerous demographic groups, there are obvious ties to the African American community.”
Just as many personal injury attorneys choose their specialty based on early life experiences that taught them the value of justice and the inequities of the law, Speaker comes by her love of helping them in a similarly poignant way. When she was 20 and her youngest sister was seven, her father was killed by a drunk driver. The tragedy was fully the driver’s fault but her mother took what she thought was the “high road” and didn’t sue when his insurance company failed to step up to the plate—ultimately depriving the grieving and financially strapped family of potentially millions of dollars.
“That part of my life really made a difference in discovering my passion for educating people who have been hurt literally or emotionally by such traumatic events,” says Speaker. “To be honest, when I was first offered the job working for the personal injury lawyer, I wasn’t sure I wanted to take it. But now I see people who are horrifically injured being urged by insurance companies to settle for as little as possible. It’s wrong. I want to help lawyers educate those people so that they understand and don’t fall prey to insurance companies. I came to love what I was doing, helping attorneys, and became a passionate advocate for injured clients. I had to rethink the lies I had been told my whole life about it being a bad and unforgiving thing to sue.”
Speaker says that she is always looking over the horizon for new technologies that can help her clients reach as many of their potential clients as possible. She takes great pride in introducing the power of emerging technologies and strategies to the law firms that hire her to chart a course.
“Once attorneys see the power and impact of a new strategy, they embrace it,” she says. “So it’s important for me to think ahead and choose which strategies will work for my clients in different places. It’s very gratifying when the ideas I introduce them to work well and make a difference in the practices of these attorneys and in turn, the lives of their clients. I love technology, am a strong video enthusiast, find social media fascinating and never saw an electronic device that I didn’t like!”
One of the things that I am often asked is to describe what I do for law firms and I have found over the years that describing my role is best articulated by my clients. In the video below, my long time client and friend Attorney David Daggett of Daggett Shuler Law talks about our work together over the years.
Here are some of the things that her clients and peers have said about her:
“Innovation and forward thinking are important aspects for successful ongoing businesses. Cindy Speaker has a natural curiosity combined with a mind for technological innovation and application that keeps looking over the horizon to future successes. She has assembled a talented creative team that shares her vision for innovation and leveraging technology. Moreover, she is a fine person with strong values and an extremely ethical approach to business relationships. Lastly, I am proud to call her a friend.” David Daggett, Daggett Shuler Law
“Cindy is a marketing guru for attorneys. She’s great to work with and is as honest as the day is long.” Tom Ashenden, Ashenden Law
“Cindy is an outstanding and enthusiastic marketing and business consultant. Cindy helped me increase the number of clients in my law firm substantially! Highly recommended!” Bruce Millar, Millar & Mixon
“Cindy is a genius at innovative attorney marketing. She single-handedly drove a reluctant Philadelphia law firm to the top of the country’s leading tort firms. She has my unqualified recommendation.” Hayden Bramleigh, President of Lawyer Marketing
“Cindy has spoken to my group of PI lawyers on several occasions. What impresses me the most about Cindy is that she has worked in the trenches as a marketing director at a major PI Firm. She has been there and done that! Unlike many so called marketing gurus, Cindy truly is a guru that gives practical sound advice based on prior in house experience. I give my highest recommendation for Cindy and her knowledge of Legal Marketing!!!” Ken Hardison, President of PILMMA
“Cindy Speaker is one of the smartest and most focused people I know. She has a keen eye and command of the needs of the Legal Services Marketing arena. Cindy has always come through with a right on approach to solutions. She is a person of trust and loyalty. I recommend Cindy Speaker without reservation.” Harlan Schillinger, Vice President of Network Affiliates
“Cindy and I met some years ago at a marketing conference where we both were featured speakers. As I listened to her provide marketing advice to the audience I discovered a great deal of information I could use. Cindy knows her stuff and has the ability to hold people’s feet to the fire to make sure they do their marketing activities in the appropriate manner. Working with Cindy is a pleasure since she focuses on making her clients more successful.” John Beane, President of Staff Development Services