44. Megan Hargroder, Conversations Digital — Vulnerability, Authority, and Grit: How to Craft A Compelling Narrative

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Megan Hargroder, owner of Conversations Digital is a master at extracting compelling narratives. The former journalist has helped multiple law firms and attorneys get clear on their brand. As we all know, confused customers don’t buy. Clear narratives help win the trust and, ultimately, the contacts of more clients. She shares why the most important story is our own, why vulnerability wins more clients, and how women can construct a clear and authentic digital persona.

Megan appeared on our companion podcast Personal Injury Mastermind. Follow the link below to find out how humanizing a law firm through empathetic communication, authority building, and a little vulnerability can connect attorneys to the communities they aim to serve.

110. Megan Hargroder, Conversations Digital – Organic Social Media Marketing: Crafting a Brand Story that Converts

What’s In This Episode?

  • Who is Megan Hargroder?
  • Why does Megan insist that personal narratives are the cornerstone of branding?
  • Why should law firms draw all attention to their website?
  • When thinking about copy for a firm – start with the partner bios and let everything flow from there.
  • Is social media just one more space women need to perform?
  • How can women show up a little less polished and still be taken seriously?
  • How should attorneys think about constructing digital personas?

Transcript

Megan Hargroder:

We all want to leave out the elements of our story that are the most vulnerable, but those are the pieces of your story that are going to form connections with people.

Sonya Palmer:

Vulnerability, authority, and grit in equal measure are the recipe for success for women in law.

Megan Hargroder:

There has to be a passion behind doing this for you to even be doing it because in most cases, women are not set up for this. They weren’t handed a law firm from their dad. This was something that they felt called to do for a reason.

Sonya Palmer:

In 2021, women made up over half of all summer associates for the fourth year in a row. Yet equity partners and multi-tier law firms continue to be disproportionately white men. Only 22% of equity partners are women, we would like to see that change. Hello and welcome to LawHer, the show where we celebrate the trailblazing attorneys and entrepreneurs who are changing the game for women in the legal field. Be inspired by their stories, learn from their mistakes, build community, and look forward to the future they’re helping build for the next generation of women in law. I am Sonya Palmer, your host and VP of operations at Rankings, the SEO agency of choice for personal injury lawyers. This is LawHer.
Megan Hargroder, owner of Conversations Digital is a master at extracting compelling narratives. The former journalist has helped multiple law firms and attorneys get clear on their brand. As we all know, confused customers don’t buy. Clear narratives, help win the trust, and ultimately the contacts of more clients. She shares why the most important story is our own, why vulnerability wins more clients and how women can construct a clear and authentic digital persona. When Megan was on our Companion podcast, Personal Injury Mastermind, she revealed that her first career in local news was not sustainable. Today she explains how her journalism training prepared her for her current position. Let’s dive in.

Megan Hargroder:

I learned a lot as a news reporter, most of which is how to put a story together and how to create a story that really hits with people that they pay attention to. But yeah, it’s being a reporter or especially a TV reporter where you’re doing your own camera work, you’re going out to chase your own stories, you’re literally chasing people down the street. It’s not super sustainable because news is very much, it happens and then it’s gone, everyone forgets about it. And so every day is a whole new hustle and every day there’s a lot of anxiety about if you’re going to get the story. So I took the part that I liked about news, which was creating the story from start to finish and said, how can I apply this to a career where I’m creating something that I know for a fact will stand the test of time? And that’s when I started getting really interested in writing biographies and story-based marketing copy.

Sonya Palmer:

And then took that leap into starting your own agency, which is terrifying. Were you afraid?

Megan Hargroder:

Oh God, yes. I was afraid, but I was also really young, and the risk was lower because I was working in a job that I hated working a lot of hours and making no money. So I knew that if I failed, I could always do something else. I always waited tables through college and I worked at a grocery store, I’ve worked in retail, I’ve done all the things. So at the very end of the day while I jumped to starting my own business from having an actual full-time job, that job didn’t pay better than the night shift at McDonald’s. Right? You could always get another job. So yeah, so when I started my business, there was a runway for sure. There was a lot to learn.

Sonya Palmer:

So would you say then a way to get over that fear is start low risk?

Megan Hargroder:

Yeah, so I’m very risk averted, so I was very careful in the planning of how I exited my job. The first thing that I did was I ended up getting this contract gig, which was really interesting to write a, not code, but write the content for a New Orleans tour app, a set of two of them. So one was a French Quarter walking tour, one was a garden district walking tour, and the guy creating this app sent me on a ton of guided tours of both places. So I got to go spend a lot of time in the archives of the library fact checking because surprise, half of what they tell you on the tours is not accurate.

Sonya Palmer:

What? Amazing.

Megan Hargroder:

And that gig paid $2,000, which was more than what I took home in a month. So I felt comfortable doing that. And then I applied for a part-time job as a community manager of a coworking space. And we had this deal where I did that, I got to run my business from there and I got to meet people while I was there, which is actually how I met Ernie the Attorney, which is how I started working with lawyers.

Sonya Palmer:

When you were starting out back then, what did your growth goals look like, and then how have they changed?

Megan Hargroder:

So I had no plan except make enough money to live. And originally it was just, can I be a freelancer that supports myself? And then it became my partner, who’s now my husband, but my partner at the time was helping me in the evenings do some of the work, and then it got to be so much, and then his job wouldn’t let him take off time to go on vacation. So I was like, well, let me see if I can make a job for him. I have to pay someone, right? Because things were growing. So I did that and then I had a friend who needed some work, she was staying home taking care of a kid and just started doing admin stuff.
And then that turned into her wanting it to be a full-time job. And I was like, cool, I think we can do this. So every piece of growth was specifically, I know as a business owner, the growth is supposed to make yourself in the business more money, but for me, it was really cool because it was like, how can I make jobs for the people I love? And that was really fun.

Sonya Palmer:

That is very, very cool. So you mentioned Ernie the Attorney?

Megan Hargroder:

Ernie the Attorney.

Sonya Palmer:

So first started with solo practitioners, solo attorneys. What were the major pain points you were seeing for digital marketing with lawyers, particularly solo?

Megan Hargroder:

Initially when I started, yeah, this is about 10 or so years ago, lawyers didn’t know what social media was and they were very afraid of it, but they were under the impression that they needed to use it and they didn’t know how and they didn’t want to. And there was just a lot of aggravation in general. So that’s when I met Ernie, who was a practicing lawyer at the time, but was also creating these educational events for other lawyers. So he brought me in and I got to teach first. So I got to really learn what people’s questions were, what they actually wanted before I started figuring out like, oh, what services can I actually provide here?

Sonya Palmer:

So you said it was 10 years ago. Do you feel like that pinpoint has stayed the same or has it changed?

Megan Hargroder:

It’s changed a lot because we all have a solid understanding of social media now. Even if it’s just Facebook, everyone understands Facebook, everyone uses Facebook personally whether you like it or not, you use it. And so people have an idea of how social media works. It’s not so intimidating, but now it’s kind of like, it’s that extra thing. So before it was like, oh wait, I have to have a website, that’s so annoying and I either have to maintain that myself or pay someone to do it, right? And then it became, well now you have social media, you have to maintain it yourself or you have to pay someone to do it. So it’s like another checkbox that’s not really optional anymore, 10 years ago it was optional. If you jumped on social media, a lot of our clients jumped on social media early and we were able to gain so much success and traction just because they were the only lawyers using social media in town.

Sonya Palmer:

Even 10 years ago, you had websites that were nice to have and then became had to have. And it was sort of the same with social. It was nice to have. And then it became had to have. And I do think they’re learning because they, I feel like people have been very quick to adopt TikTok, which I feel like five, seven years ago they would’ve been like, nah. So I feel like they’re learning.

Megan Hargroder:

TikTok is already saturated with lawyers and people ask me about it all the time and it’s like, if you don’t have a shtick at this point, there’s no point in starting. And if you don’t want to be nationally known, there’s not really a point in TikTok either.

Sonya Palmer:

So how does conversations digital address these problems?

Megan Hargroder:

So our focus is starting with the hub, which is the website. So anything you’re doing as you know, SEO, social media, anything that you’re doing to drive traffic to the website is great. But then when someone gets to the website, they have to want to call you, they have to be interested in hiring you. And if this is not a referral, if this is someone who just came in as a cold lead, it’s your website’s job to build trust with that person. So that is our main focus is creating websites that are beautiful and functional, but also really build trust. So we’re really copy first. A lot of designers build out this really pretty structure and they’re like, hey, we need some words to put in this box, or let’s put a blurb here. We start with copy, we start with a story, a message, the main points that we want to hit for that particular person.
And then we work with the designer to create the actual visual framework around it. So that is really where we shine and where we start. So a lot of the people that we’ve worked with, we’ve built websites for them and sent them on their way and they’re still doing really, really, really great because oftentimes for a niche solo lawyer, if you have a great website, you don’t have to do a ton of stuff. If you’re just one person, you’re getting to get enough leads. And then we started offering more marketing and social media services to those lawyers who were like, oh great, this is great, but now I want to hire another lawyer, now I want to expand, now I want to grow into this area. Or those who are in highly competitive areas and need a little bit more. So we do the marketing part, we do the website part. We love partnering with you guys over at Rankings with clients so that you can do the SEO part of things. And yeah, dream team.

Sonya Palmer:

Dream team. I think you’re right, because a lot of times solo attorneys, they want to do it all. They’re practicing law, they’re trying to do their marketing, they’re trying to do accounting, they’re hiring, they’re leading, they’re trying to do it all. And if they can get a solid website, that’s something that can come off of their plate.

Megan Hargroder:

Just start there.

Sonya Palmer:

And I do think you have an alternative approach to do copy first. I can’t think of another firm that I know of that starts with copy, but it makes a ton of sense.

Megan Hargroder:

And not even just homepage copy, we actually start with the attorney biography because that helps us develop the story and really, really get to know the actual person that we’re working with.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah, for sure. We have had women like Sarah Williams and Reb Maisel who are adamant that social media is a great equalizer and elevator for women in the legal space. Do you see mastering social media is particularly important for female attorneys?

Megan Hargroder:

It really, really depends. Mastering social media, yes, if you enjoy doing it and if you feel passionate about that and if it energizes rather than drains you, yes, I think it’s really important to get good at it, learn all the tools and take lead on that yourself. Because people are connecting with people on social media. If it’s actually coming from you as a person, it’s going to be so much more powerful than if your marketing team is generating content for you. However, for a lot of lawyers, especially growing firms, this is not their top priority. They are business owners, they are focused on the actual business component and it’s no longer hyper personal because they’re marketing an entire firm rather than just the individual.
So for those people, especially the ones who don’t like social media, it’s more advantageous to just outsource that. Know what’s happening, you want to know what’s happening and what’s going on, and you definitely want to see what your marketing team is doing. But yeah, and that’s kind of a rule for life. Does it energize you or does it drain you? And then from there, decide which path you’re going to take.

Sonya Palmer:

It’s very good advice. I think sometimes the social media, it’s like how much do you pay attention to branding and brand awareness and then lead generation within a single marketing budget?

Megan Hargroder:

Yeah, because it’s different for everyone. I don’t know how do you guys do it? Is there a formula where you’re like, okay, this is the goal and then this is what we’re going to put into these buckets?

Sonya Palmer:

I was thinking out loud about it. Is there a formula? If there isn’t, we should probably make one because it can be very overwhelming very quickly as like you mentioned a shtick. If you don’t have one, you can spin your wheels and a lot of time and money on non-lead generating marketing.

Megan Hargroder:

I think if there was a formula, it would have to be an if this, then that sort of algorithm just because there’s so many factors that go in and we’ve tried to build formulas and frameworks for social media strategies that could apply to anyone new coming in. And ultimately we modify it so much every time that we just recently decided, let’s just start fresh with the conversation and then build around that.

Sonya Palmer:

To spark a conversation around the brand, around you and your firm, there needs to be the framework of a cohesive and intriguing story. Women are generally expected to be polished in every aspect of their lives. Is social media just one more place where women have to perform? Here Megan discusses how we can show up a little less polished and still be taken seriously.

Megan Hargroder:

I think women are expected to show up in general in a more polished way, but I think we’re pulling back from that. So I noticed 10, even five years ago working with women attorneys when we would discuss branding, there was a strong, strong emphasis on, I don’t want pink anywhere on my website, I don’t want it to be feminine because I have to balance out the fact that I am a woman, and now we’re seeing a movement towards rocket. I just got to do a site for someone whose inspiration for becoming a lawyer was actually the movie Legally Blonde and she loves pink. And so we got to do this beautiful brand that was still really professional and polished because you can do that with any color.
There’s so many colors. And while there was a softness, right? There was an empathetic component to it, but there’s also the authority there too. So I think with anyone, it’s going to be a balancing game. And I think women are actually at an advantage at this point in the game as attorneys because we are known for having a level of empathy. And a lot of times clients are looking for that. They’re looking to be heard, they’re looking to be understood. And the assumption is that a man versus a woman, the assumption is that a woman’s going to listen more and actually care more. So if I’m looking for a lawyer, that’s the direction that I’m going in.

Sonya Palmer:

A 100%. I think also with the pink, don’t default to pink, own the pink. That’s the difference When you’re using it, don’t default, own it.

Megan Hargroder:

Yes, yes, yes, yes,

Sonya Palmer:

Yes. Part of having a successful digital presence is clearly curating the narrative of who we are. We constantly hear that confused customers don’t buy and that people buy from people. So potential clients better know what you are about.

Megan Hargroder:

They better.

Sonya Palmer:

So how can women think about constructing a digital persona for themselves and their firms that are authentic but clear?

Megan Hargroder:

I like to start with both who you are as a person and why you do what you do, and then look at what are people coming to you for? Are they going through a divorce? Do they need an estate plan? Do they get in an accident? Look at both of those things and see how you can talk to them about their specific issue while telling your story. So if you’re a criminal defense lawyer and you or someone in your family has a background with Brennan’s with the law, that is part of your story. There’s a lot of things that people will initially on their interview, they’ll tell us and then they’ll say, but don’t share that, right? Because we all want to leave out the elements of our story that are the most vulnerable, but those are the pieces of your story that are going to form connections with people.
And that applies across genders across the board. But in particular, I’ve noticed with women specifically, if you can share and identify with what this other person’s going through, they can feel like they know you before they’ve even hired you. And the biography page is the second visited page on a website after the homepage. If someone’s thinking of hiring you, the next thing that they’re going to do when they’re out on your site is go to your page. So you could of course have what I call an obituary style biography where you’re just listing your accolades and where you went to law school. But no one cares about that, literally no one cares, no one’s going to read it. Lawyers do not like to hear that potential clients don’t care where they went to law school, but they don’t, they care about the story. So I always bump the education accolades, all of that kind of stuff to the bottom of the page. Because that’s almost just a checkbox right after you’ve read the story and you’re like, oh, did they go? Yep, they look really accredited, let’s go with it.

Sonya Palmer:

They did that?

Megan Hargroder:

They did those things.

Sonya Palmer:

Can you be authentic without being vulnerable?

Megan Hargroder:

It’s hard and it’s not as interesting. And the whole thing is that you want people to read the story.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah, I think you have to be vulnerable to be authentic. And I do think the authenticity is what is leading to conversations, which is then leading to conversions. So I think that’s extremely important. And then, yeah, so getting to the meat of our personal stories can bring up a lot of fear not being enough. Who really wants to hear my story anyway? Or maybe even genuinely not knowing how to frame a personal narrative. How do you go about extracting that story or genuine narrative from your clients that help establish their brand?

Megan Hargroder:

Well, most people don’t know how to frame a personal narrative in an impactful way because you’re you. You know all about you, you know all of your stories, and it’s really hard for you to sit down and say, which parts of these are important and which things do I extract into a biography? If you’re able to do a really good job of that, nine out of 10 chances, you’re a total narcissist. And maybe making some of it up. I was not able to write my own biography and I do this all day every day for other people. I had someone else write my story and I have two versions of my story. I have my professional story that’s also very personal on my business website and I get very vulnerable in that because whenever I’m asking other people to get vulnerable, I want to show them that, look, I put this shit out on the internet for the world to see too.
So I know that it works. And then I have the other version of my story on my personal blog, which some of our clients do have multiple things that they’re doing, so we’ll create different versions of that story for them. But you need someone else to write it or at least frame it up for you. And it needs to address some major key points. One, it has to say right off the bat what it is that you do, it has to say why you do it. It needs to establish some sort of empathy for your client. If you’re an immigration lawyer and your parents were immigrants and they’re your heroes, that is part of your story that immediately shows empathy for your clients because you’ve seen your actual parents go through that process.
And authority too. So you don’t want to rattle off this million in settlements and this million in settlements, but if you can tell a story within a story of a client and their success, not highlighting your, because the best way to highlight your success is to highlight someone else’s success and show off how they received justice without focusing on what you did. That can be very, very powerful.

Sonya Palmer:

Very powerful. I love what you said too. I don’t know that we can tell our own stories.

Megan Hargroder:

It’s hard.

Sonya Palmer:

I think you need someone else, because we’re pulling from a whole database, a whole catalog of information, and I do think you need someone else to sort of piece it together so that it’s a story and not just info.

Megan Hargroder:

Yeah, not just a list of bullet points of, yeah, my first round was, there were so many side stories, dude, I didn’t know what was important, so I just threw all of it in there and it took some turns, it took some serious turns. So someone else had to come in and be like, okay, why this? Refine this, no one cares about this. And turn it into something that people will actually read and that will resonate with them. And I had to drop my feeling of being worried about how my story would be perceived by others, especially your peers, which is a really common thing with lawyers. What are they going to think of me?
And for me, I talked about wanting to get out of my small town and not have a bunch of babies. And my worry was that I have friends and family who did stay in the small town and have a bunch of babies and marry the farmer and all that stuff. And that’s not shitting on their lives. That’s their path, and I respect their path, but I’m saying it’s not mine. But there was that initial worry of, I almost pulled that out of my story because I was like, I don’t want anyone to think that I think this is wrong, it’s just that it was wrong for me. So I left it in there and someone might have a problem with it, but they didn’t tell me anything about it if they did.

Sonya Palmer:

Jen Gore, I think on an episode of LawHer, she talks about this as far as branding, but I think it works here too, where people think they know your story or you can tell it to them. They think something of you regardless, but you can guide the direction by actually saying your story. You have one to other people, whether it’s true or not, it’s up to you. So I think that is a motivation to spit it out, be truthful, be honest, say it as it is, because people are thinking what they want to already anyways. You can’t control that.

Megan Hargroder:

And if your story’s boring, then it means it doesn’t really say anything at all, which means it’s not memorable, which means you’re less likely to get a call, you’re less likely to get referrals, you’re less likely to make an impact on that person in any which way. Even if part of your story is like, whoa, that was a lot. Someone is still thinking about you a little bit later. They’re still going, oh, damn that was interesting.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes, for sure. Is it different between men and women when you do these?

Megan Hargroder:

I want to say it’s the same process, but what we get out of women tends to be more vulnerable. And I know Molly, my copywriter and I usually collaborate on stories together. And I know she especially gets excited when we have a new female attorney client because somehow it’s just the process is always more fun. And that’s where we’re going. Even as a company, it’s very niche to say we do web and marketing for solo, small firm lawyers. It takes it to the next level. If you say specifically women owned firms, which is the direction that we’re going in because we’re noticing a trend of where we’re able to be the most effective and do the most good.
And part of that is trust. So with women, and as a woman owned firm, we are able to build trust with our clients. So we’re able to get them to be more honest and vulnerable with us, and we take the time to do it. And the result of that is that they’re connecting more with their audience. And the result of that is building more clients. And so everything builds on top of that.

Sonya Palmer:

So you mentioned earlier that your risk averse and you’re asking these female attorneys, this is their business, come to you, be vulnerable, share what’s authentic. How do you then flip that to courage, pride? How do you then flip that narrative that’s scary into something that’s strong?

Megan Hargroder:

Yeah. So you have to pair that with something else. What is it that you survived, but also what did you come out as on the other side? You know, got to take it a step further than who you are and ask what are you made of? So there’s a lot of grit involved. If you’re a woman-owned law firm, especially a solo, there’s grit. There’s grit there. You’re not just like passing the day along, skipping, there is grit, there is hard work, there is determination. And as a woman who started my own business without really knowing what I was doing, I know how hard that is and the upward climb and the rollercoaster.
And there has to be a passion behind doing this for you to even be doing it. Because in most cases, women are not set up for this. They weren’t handed a law firm from their dad, they weren’t pushed into this or encouraged to do this. This was something that they felt called to do for a reason. So there’s the pairing of the vulnerability and the authority and the grit there. And those two things, it’s like a recipe. You have to put the right amount of each thing.

Sonya Palmer:

And then how do you translate that into a web presence or social media?

Megan Hargroder:

So we always start with the bio, the bio is the foundational story, and it does talk about how you help your clients, but it’s really your story. And then we go to the homepage and we focus more on the client journey and how you’re uniquely suited to help them. And so all of our social media and everything is really rooted out of there. And we only work with niche lawyers if you’re doing five different practice areas, I can’t help you, that’s not a story. But whatever that niche is, all of the content flows off. Specifically we have a criminal defense lawyer who’s very drug focused and very passionate about helping her clients not just get their charges dropped, but getting the rehabilitation that they need. And so a lot of the content is focused in that direction. Her story’s focused in that direction, the social media branches off of that. So it all has to make sense together.

Sonya Palmer:

To make all of these pieces work, it’s not just about sitting in a locked room. Talk to me about your team and your org chart. How many people are at conversations now? You know I love a good org chart.

Megan Hargroder:

A good org chart. We’re doing a screen share so I could bring up the org chart.

Sonya Palmer:

We’ll pull it up.

Megan Hargroder:

So yeah, it’s seven now, seven people.

Sonya Palmer:

Nice.

Megan Hargroder:

We’ve separated ourselves into a web team. We have a designer, a developer, and a SEO structural data, everything else person. We have editorial, which is myself and Molly copywriting. And then we have marketing, which is Colleen and Karina. And we all participate. So it’s a small team with a small client roster. We have the opportunity to all have a conversation about one client and come up with ideas and brainstorm and it’s a lot of fun. So in terms of, I know everyone’s supposed to want to scale their company, the biggest that I would want to get is a team of 10, because beyond that, it’s too many people to keep up with. It’s too many clients to know everyone personally. So typically your account manager will know the client really well, but in this case, we all do. So we know when our clients are having a new baby or just got a big life event just happened to them.
We had a client whose dad passed away recently, so Colleen sent him flowers. And there’s just something really special about being able to have a personal relationship with your clients. For me, myself, I notice that I care more about the work that I’m doing. I have more buy-in to make them successful. And so I’ve instilled that in the team as we’ve grown and I’ve noticed that that carries through. They are very, very invested in these people, which goes both ways, right? It’s like, oh my gosh, okay, I’m going to come with this great idea, blah, blah, blah. But it’s also sometimes clients sabotage themselves. You’ve seen that happen where you’re like, hey, if we just do this one thing, it’s going to make a huge impact. And they’re like, no, I don’t want to do that. And so it’s very, very frustrating with your typical marketing agency.
It’s like, oh, okay, cool. We gave them an option, they didn’t want to do it for us. It’s like, but why don’t you want to sit? Come on. So we’re a lot more invested. So emotions run all over the place. Mostly excitement for the most part. So yeah, that’s the team, and we’re all over the place. So we’ve got two people in Florida. We have someone in Memphis right outside of Boston. Lo and I are currently in Southern California, but we’re soon to be digital nomad. So we’re going to be working from Europe for all of next year, which is going to be really cool. And our designers based in Croatia.

Sonya Palmer:

You are all over.

Megan Hargroder:

Yeah.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah, I agree with you. I think that’s sometimes what can separate successful agencies to produce results for their clients is do you know them? Is it just a client or do you know who that client is? Do you know what their goals are? Do you know why they’re doing this? I think that is super important. So super small team. How do you then approach hiring?

Megan Hargroder:

So clearly I haven’t hired that many times so far. We don’t really have turnover for obvious reasons. I’m building a company that people are really happy to work at because happy people do great work. So my approach to hiring is, not does someone have this specific skillset because to a certain extent, we’re not doing miracles, we’re just doing work. And a lot of this you can train people. So the first thing I look at is someone passionate? Do they care and are they willing to work? So I take the most interested in candidates, the most interesting candidates with service industry backgrounds, people who have done actual hard work. Because I know from firsthand how if you go from that to having this sweet remote desk job that you can do from anywhere and you work with really great people, you are so happy you haven’t made and you appreciate it.
Versus if you’ve never had a job before, you just graduated and maybe you got your master’s in marketing. So you think you’re a genius and you apply for this job because you think that this company would be so lucky to have you. But it’s just the wrong attitude. So I’ve interviewed a lot of people who are very flippant and entitled, and you would be lucky to have me. And I think that in some areas there’s some companies who want that, that has its place. But the culture of Conversations Digital is very much chill. Let’s have a good time, let’s care. We’re different because we give a shit about what we’re doing. And that is our primary differentiating factor is trying really hard. We never act like we know everything because no one knows everything. And this shit changes all the time. SEO is changing all the time.
What works on social media changes all the time and what works for each individual person in a different city is going to change also. So when you first start working with a new client, you’re like, hey, here’s three different bowls of spaghetti that we are going to throw against the wall. We’re going to watch what happens, we’re going to measure the results and whatever sticks the best, we’re going to take that and repeat and iterate on it so that we can be successful. But we never make those promises of this is going to work. And I always tell my team, if you have made a mistake, the best thing you can do is say, I messed up and I’m fixing it as quickly as possible and I’m sorry because that’s another big thing is, and I notice that even in the hiring process, I pay attention to people taking responsibility for themselves and their mistakes.
And I really disagree with a lot of this girl boss culture going around. And one of them is say thank you instead of I’m sorry. No, dude, if you are late, if you want a job for me and you are 15 minutes late to a 30-minute Zoom interview that you can do from anywhere, do not say thank you for waiting. I ended that call immediately, girl. I was like, this is over, this is super over. You better apologize.

Sonya Palmer:

Oh, yes, there’s so much because you’re so right, I feel the exact same way. Hard skills in this industry, they’re different every day. There’s different coding languages, there’s different social media platforms, SEO changes. There are algorithm updates all the time. And what you were doing last month doesn’t work next month. So I do, I think that attitude be a hard worker. I liked what you said, try hard. Yeah, just try hard.

Megan Hargroder:

Just try real hard.

Sonya Palmer:

Have a good attitude, care about it. I would so much rather cultivate that on a team than someone who’s an expert at something that won’t matter in two years. I think that we look for athletes. A lot of hard workers know how to be a part of a team.

Megan Hargroder:

Oh yeah.

Sonya Palmer:

So if you have coaching experience or you were a part of college athletics, but then yeah, we also look at service industry. If you’ve worked retail, if you’ve worked in a restaurant, hotels, you get it. And there is happiness, but there is appreciation. A lot of times when I’m stressed and I’m busy, I’m like, but I’m not working in staples. I think that’s super important.

Megan Hargroder:

Exactly. I like that about athletes and people who are part of teams. That hasn’t been on my radar, but it’s going to be going forward. That’s a really cool idea.

Sonya Palmer:

And I agree with you on the girl boss stuff too, I do think strong boundaries saying thank you instead of I’m sorry could be necessary, but I think you have to establish there’s a problem before you come out ready to fight.

Megan Hargroder:

If you just wasted someone’s time that they were investing in you for no good reason, you should say you’re sorry. On the flip side, I’m not hating on all the girl boss stuff, there’s some really good stuff out there. You’ve probably seen there’s some kind of stat or meme that I’m paraphrasing and will probably get a little bit wrong, that if a woman’s going to apply for a job, she reads it carefully and makes sure that she has 100% of the criteria checked off before she applies. If a man is looking at that same job, 50, 60%, he’s just going to go for it. And I’ve always going to go for it kind of person. I’ve lied to get jobs, I have faked skills that I didn’t have. My first job as a news reporter I got, because we were going to be editing all of our own video, of course people didn’t know how to do that.
One-man band reporters were just starting to be a thing as they cut cost. And the manager interviewing me said, do you know how to use Final Cut Pro? And I said, yes sir, I’ve been using it for a couple years now. I’m really efficient at non-linear editing. I knew it was a non-linear editing system because I’d heard that said before. So just threw that out there and that was good enough. And I got the job and I asked what’s our access to the newsroom after hours? And they were like, you can come in anytime because sometimes you have to work late on things. So the second I got keys, I went upstairs, I took out the Final Cut Pro because I don’t know if it still does, but back then it came with a guidebook. The software had a guidebook with it.

Sonya Palmer:

The physical book, yeah.

Megan Hargroder:

Physical book. I uploaded some video that I had taken just with some friends and I started playing with it, going through the book and taught myself how to edit using Final Cut Pro in time to start the job and actually do it correctly.

Sonya Palmer:

That’s amazing.

Megan Hargroder:

It goes back to you only lie if you’re willing to hustle and learn the thing?

Sonya Palmer:

Yes.

Megan Hargroder:

But anything can be learned. You just have to going back, try hard. Life’s easier if you try hard.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes, I completely agree. And like I said, especially those technical skills, you can learn to code, you can learn whatever the new tools’ software are, but the soft skills and being resourceful, things like time management and how to prioritize, that stuff’s really hard to figure out sometimes.

Megan Hargroder:

And it’s hard to teach. It’s really hard to teach. So that’s something that you want to look for when you’re hiring. I don’t know, do you guys do this? For my last hire, I did a little exercise where I created a five part thing of what a typical day of work would look like and had my five top candidates complete that I did pay them for their time because I knew I wasn’t going to be hiring all of them. And after I’ve gone through some long interviews were 20 hours of work later, Google’s like, no, thank you. Yeah. So having them do a homework assignment and track their hours because you see not just the quality of work, but you see how efficient they were at doing it. Do you guys do a little test thing when you’re hiring?

Sonya Palmer:

We have tests and we will do exercises and things like that, but I think ours are geared more around hard skills. Analyze this page, tell us what content links, things like that. Really detailed stuff or testing their knowledge on Google. What do you know about the Penguin update?

Megan Hargroder:

Yeah.

Sonya Palmer:

But I do think you’re right. And we overlook those things, especially I think for digital marketing agencies, those softer skills. Because I want hard workers. I’m a hard worker, I love working, right? But I also want to leave plenty of room for people to have their lives and to be able to just deal with their. I don’t want you to sacrifice things to have to be at your desk if you’re not going to be a hundred percent. So I like stuff like that. If they happen to pencil in, I’m going to take my dog for a walk at four. Like, okay, all right. That checks out. I like that. I appreciate that.

Megan Hargroder:

Yeah.

Sonya Palmer:

So it’s good. It’s good stuff.

Megan Hargroder:

Yeah. I always tell my team, I really don’t care if you’re sitting at your desk or what you’re doing, I really care that the job’s getting done well and that you’re being kind to people and that our clients are happy. That’s the criteria. Other than that, if you worked ahead earlier this week and got a whole bunch of stuff done, if you did a Pomodoro session, you were just super efficient and knocking out a bunch of small stuff and then you don’t have anything to do on Friday. I don’t care if you go surfing, if someone needs you, keep that notification on, but I don’t care what you’re doing. Yeah.

Sonya Palmer:

You’re going to punish people for being efficient? No.

Megan Hargroder:

No. And that’s the whole thing. When I was working full-time jobs, I always felt punished for being efficient because in a full-time office job, what happens is you do all of this work really efficiently and well, then they give you more stuff to do. And you’re getting paid the same to do more stuff just because you were quick and good.

Sonya Palmer:

And it’s often less important, less urgent it, there’s just creating work for the sake of work. And I hate that I love that. So do what makes an impact. Take care of your team. And I agree, I’m happy to be accessible to my team. It does not take anything to reply to Slack even to say, hey, I’m not at my desk. I’ll be back in 20 minutes. Or I’ll take care of this first thing tomorrow. I have no problem doing that, it’s easy.

Megan Hargroder:

Slack is such a great tool for team management. I feel like it’s changed the game for remote work in so many ways. And my team started using little emojis. If they’re going to be away from their desk for a certain amount of time, they’ll pick an emoji. So some of them are obvious going on a run or there’s a cheeseburger one, but some of them are really fun because you don’t know what they’re doing. You don’t know what that is. And I don’t typically ask, ’cause it’s none my business. Again, none of my business what you’re doing, as long as your work’s getting done.

Sonya Palmer:

We have also started that and people get creative, I appreciate that.

Megan Hargroder:

Yeah. It’s another way for people to express themselves, and you have to keep it fun no matter what industry you’re in. And the legal industry can get redundant sometimes it can get a little lackluster. So you have to find ways to make it fun. And we have to find ways to make it fun for our clients too. And so that’s what we’re always trying to evolve. I made this suggestion to the marketing team, they didn’t take it, so that’s fine, but I still think it’s a good idea. Ready for this. All right. So when we get on a client call for a monthly marketing meeting or whatever, there’s usually a few of us on, and we’re on 10, 15 minutes before doing prep stuff and chit chatting about how the meeting is going to go.
So my idea is that as the client’s joining the room, we play an intro song for them as if they’re walking into an arena, Eye of the Tiger, or something really badass, A Lizzo song and have it slowly fade out as we start talking. What a cute idea. They’re not doing it. They didn’t seem to think it was a great idea.

Sonya Palmer:

It’s an adorable idea. I support you. I support you. If you had the right song.

Megan Hargroder:

It has to be the right song for the right person.

Sonya Palmer:

You mentioned earlier that your agency is chill, but you’re also very hardworking, very obviously, this is your agency, you’re about to start traveling. I know that you pay very close attention to taking care of yourself. What do you do when you need to decompress? What are some of your best routines, best rituals?

Megan Hargroder:

Oh, I love this. I actually did a workshop for my team on this, ideas. Yeah. So one of the things is I have a standing desk. I bought everyone who wanted one on the team, a standing desk as well, because I think that sitting makes us tired. When you’re sitting all day and you don’t standing up actually forces you to do little stretches and move around and walk away. It’s easier to walk away from your desk if you’re already standing. So one of the big things is if things are not going my way, if something’s not happening, I hit a tech support issue, whatever. It’s not going the way that I want it to. I walk away from my desk. That’s the number one thing that I do. I’ll get a snack or make a drink that’s like the base level, depending on how much.
If I have time, I’ll put on a meditation, a guided meditation. I use this app called Insight Timer, and it’s got tons of free, cool guided meditations on it. If I have a little bit more time, I’ll take a shower, which sounds weird, but I highly recommend taking a shower in the middle of your workday, especially if you work from home. Because there’s something about it where it calms down and whatever you’re thinking about changes a little bit. And I feel like I’m often able to problem-solve better somehow. A shower gives me the answers oftentimes. So that’s a big thing.

Sonya Palmer:

Restart the day, that makes sense. Yeah.

Megan Hargroder:

And a walk.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah. Good walk. I like to brush my teeth.

Megan Hargroder:

Oh, I love that.

Sonya Palmer:

I don’t know what it is, but a lot of times if I get towards, like this part of the day, it’s 2:50 PM, if I start feeling sluggish, a little tired, for whatever reason I brush my teeth and then I got another couple hours.

Megan Hargroder:

I like that.

Sonya Palmer:

So I think probably the same thing. It’s like you’re starting the day over again. It’s 7:00 AM.

Megan Hargroder:

What about floss? I feel like flossing is a good one because it’s like who likes to floss? And you don’t like to do it right before bed because you’re trying to finish your nighttime routine to get in bed. But I feel like, yeah, flossing would be a really good one that would have tons of benefits.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes, tons.

Megan Hargroder:

A floss reset.

Sonya Palmer:

But I think it’s along those same lines, showering, dry your hair and change your outfit, but brushing your teeth, that’s five minutes and you’re good.

Megan Hargroder:

Yeah, I love that one.

Sonya Palmer:

That’s good stuff. What else? Do you do anything else?

Megan Hargroder:

Walks. I encourage everyone to take a walk and leave their home at least once a day. So if that’s the mailbox, the gym, the coffee shop, go to lunch with a friend. So once a month I schedule these team sessions like huddles where I set my little Pomodoro timer. I’m really obsessed about Pomodoro and timing and I’ll set a timer for each thing. It’s like, okay, 10 minutes, schedule lunch with a friend sometime this month. Schedule time to go work outside of your home one time this month. Because if you don’t, you get in a rut working from home, there’s a lot of challenges working from home. So I really have to encourage people to get up, get out of your house for a little while. Again, if you’re sitting at your desk for six to eight hours a day and you’re not moving, you are not getting much done. You might think you are, but you are not getting much done at all. I work in one and a half to two hour bursts at the most and then I’ll take a long break and then come back to it.

Sonya Palmer:

Well, and you have to generate ideas. Sure, could I sit here and optimize content or look at spreadsheets? I mean, I wouldn’t enjoy it, but yeah, you’re never going to be able to create ideas or solve problems or find solutions for your clients or your team in that type of setting. I think the sunlight thing? Just did you see the sun today? Because when you get Michigan, I’ll get to Thursday and I’ll be like have I been outside this week? And those little things.

Megan Hargroder:

It’s easier not to.

Sonya Palmer:

It is.

Megan Hargroder:

It’s easier not to go outside.

Sonya Palmer:

Which that just seems very counterintuitive, but you’re right, we have to force ourselves right now.

Megan Hargroder:

It’s something I feel like we’re not admitting to a lot. And this whole, oh, working from home is so great culture. It is great. People think it’s more disciplined to just sit at your desk and it’s easier to just sit at your desk and you’re not doing anything meaningful. It is way more productive and way better to move around, get out of your house, go get a snack, start some laundry.

Sonya Palmer:

You just said it, productive. I think that people might feel like they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing. I think our parents’ generation Monday through Friday, nine to five, you get a half an hour for lunch and two 15-minute breaks. But you’re not getting the best out of your best employees if you’re sort of anchoring them to a chair and having them stare to screen for eight hours a day.

Megan Hargroder:

Exactly.

Sonya Palmer:

We don’t do that. I don’t want any part of that. But I think there are a lot of other people that feel like that’s their expectation.

Megan Hargroder:

And I’ve noticed the more chill I’ve been with my team, because I had a friend at another legal marketing agency when the pandemic started, we were doing Zoom calls and he was like, hey, how do you make sure that people are working when they’re supposed to be working if they’re remote? And my reply was like, that’s the wrong question. So if you’re asking that, you are the problem because you’re micromanaging people. And I’ve noticed the more chill I am and the more I just instill upon, get your stuff done, these are your responsibilities. I’m not giving you tasks, I’m giving you responsibilities, you’re responsible for your tasks. Get your stuff done, make it on time. Be nice, make sure the clients are happy. Beyond that, I don’t care. So what I notice is the more chill I am in that way, the more they are working harder.
No one wants to miss anything. But also people know they can go to the doctor in the middle of the day whenever they want. Just put on your calendar so we know that you’re not available at this time, but if someone has something to do, and we have unlimited personal days, so if you’re like, hey, some stuff just happened and I’m in a really bad place. Cool, why don’t you assign your task to someone else for the day, reschedule your meetings or have someone else take them for you and go take a break? And I’ve even bought spa gift cards for people because I saw that they were just working too hard, too much and needed a personal day and have forced personal days on people. That’s fun.

Sonya Palmer:

No, and it is. I do think it’s taking care of your team, but it is taking care of the business as well. That is a better return on investment. This is not sliding the company.

Megan Hargroder:

It’s huge. Yeah.

Sonya Palmer:

You get the best out of these amazing people you’ve hired.

Megan Hargroder:

Well, and they have no doubt that they’re valued. And that’s the biggest thing is that a lot of companies make their employees feel like they’re still proving something. And for me, I make sure that my team knows that they are enough, they are valued, they’re appreciated, and they are loved in a professional way. Right? We’re not best friends, but they are cared about.

Sonya Palmer:

Your story matters, it matters so much that everything else should flow from it. Leave in the vulnerable parts, connect with people in a human way. The vulnerable aspects of who we are can be the hardest to share, but can win more clients in the long run. A huge thank you to Megan for sharing her story and unbelievable insights with us today. You have been listening to LawHer with me, Sonya Palmer. If you found this content insightful, inspiring, or it just made you smile, please share this episode with the trailblazers in your life. For more about Megan, check out our show notes, and while you’re there, please leave us a review or a five-star rating. It really goes a long way for others to discover the show. And I will see you next week on LawHer, where we’ll shed light on how another of the brightest and boldest women in the legal industry climbed to the top of her field.

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