An important court ruling comes down, and a lawyer calls and says, “We need to send out a client alert.” And so begins the race to write, edit and distribute content to clients’ inboxes before they are flooded with competitors’ articles on the same topic.
In a digital age riddled with information-overload and a 24-hour news cycle, how can we grab our clients’ attention? How can lawyers emerge from the crowd as thought leaders?
In her January presentation, “Are We Really Drowning in It, or Do We Just Need to Do It Better Than Everyone Else?” Nancy Myrland outlined specific steps to develop a focused content marketing plan, so precious time and resources are dedicated to producing content that clients care about.
And what do clients care about? “Their problems,” Myrland said.
It’s become common knowledge that lawyers are expected to understand their clients’ problems. But what sets lawyers apart from other knowledgeable, talented lawyers is showing that you care about clients’ problems, or as Myrland put it, showing you have empathy. Lawyers who care enough about their clients’ problems to offer solutions get hired.
A Case for Content
In order to position your lawyers as trusted resources who solve problems and add value, you need to build a bridge between your target audience (clients/prospects) and your firm. One way to accomplish this goal is to strategically produce and promote content.
Making a case for content, Myrland argued it’s not incumbent on clients to understand what your firm does. It’s your job to help them understand what you do, and you need to make it easy for them.
But what is content? Myrland suggested, “Content is the physical or virtual representation of the knowledge you have that others need or want.”
“When you differentiate yourself by regularly publishing your knowledge about the topics of most concern, you stand a much better chance of being remembered the next time a client needs someone with your services,” she added.
Content marketing, Myrland noted, is the “timely, organized, focused, methodical promotion and distribution of your knowledge.” The purpose is to inform clients how you can help next time they’re faced with a problem.
There are numerous reasons to employ content as one tactic for demonstrating your knowledge to clients. Live presentations, for example, are useful marketing tools, but often require travel and have limited reach. Whereas a presentation that is recorded and shared on social media, or repurposed into a series of articles, blog posts and podcasts is exponentially more accessible. Simply put, content never sleeps.
Develop a Content Marketing Plan
Writing articles alone isn’t enough to position an entire firm as a leader in key areas. A firm’s marketing and business development plan must drive its content plan, which in turn feeds its social media plan – and planning is critical to a firm’s success. To that end, Myrland recommended 10 specific steps as part of the planning process:
- Gather all plans that exist in your firm
- Draft a three-month content marketing plan
- Link to the plan(s) that justify inclusion of this content
- Focus on content promotion vs. one-off events
- Show your plan to whomever you report
- Meet with team leaders together
- Discuss the plan, and then modify as needed, outlining necessary resources
- Present revised version to your boss and enlist buy-in
- Present final plan to all parties
- Repeat process two months later
Myrland cautioned that the time invested in the process is necessary to getting early buy-in from all stakeholders as well as the resources needed to build an effective and robust content marketing machine.
Do It Better Than Everyone Else
There are three levels of content, according to Myrland: 1) content that creates awareness and demonstrates you understand key issues, 2) thought leadership that provides direction, perspective or clarity, and 3) content that offers readers a glimpse inside the lawyer’s life and establishes an emotional connection.
While not every lawyer will be comfortable taking a personable approach to content, the more direction or perspective a lawyer offers will set apart his or her writing from competitors with demonstrated knowledge of the same issues.
Myrland offered several best practices to “do content marketing better than everyone else.”
- Add current links to old blog posts
- Add visuals
- Tag pages and pictures for SEO
- Relentlessly repurpose content across channels (videos, livestreaming, webinars, articles, blogs, ebooks, infographics, photos, charts, GIFs, events, presentations, workshops, podcasts, audiobooks, magazines, books, brochures)
- Revise and republish best content for each social network
- Ask permission to connect further with readers
- Tell stories and use your personality
- Create an editorial schedule
- Stay on topic
- Watch for viral and trending content
- Syndicate content
- Enlist your entire firm as your marketing team for expanded reach
- Create different content for different clients’ needs
- Invite clients/influencers to co-create and amplify content
- Be persistent and consistent
- Use closed captioning for videos
Finally, Myrland cautioned that voice search is changing everything, and voice marketing is here and rising. Myrland’s own “Legal Marketing Minutes,” available as Alexa Flash Briefings and podcasts, are good examples of such voice marketing products.
“Heads are up. Earbuds are in. Search queries are longer. Your sites and content need to respond,” she added.
In closing, Myrland noted numerous sentiments of “smart marketers” including, “We don’t create content just to ‘get something out.’ We create a map that leads from our goals to our clients and influencers.”
By Leslie Valenza