The LMA Bay Area’s most recent program featured a thought-provoking discussion of the interplay between using data versus your own intuition in making content decisions.
The upshot – both strategies play a role in successful content creation. You can use data-driven strategies to grab the attention of your audience and deploy emotional intelligence to keep them engaged.
The panelists – Adrian Lurssen, co-founder of legal content publisher JD Supra; content maven Susan Kostal of Stet Consulting; and Carol James, marketing and business development manager at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell – walked through some best-practices using real-world examples to illustrate. Here are five tips they shared:
1. Connect Your Content Plan to Your Growth Strategy
Every content plan worth its salt is based on what kind of business the firm wants to capture.
“You can have extremely popular content, but if it doesn’t match your business strategy it doesn’t matter,” said panelist Adrian Lurssen, co-founder of legal content publisher JDSupra. As an example, Lurssen cited a widely read startup blog. After complimenting the business development manager on its great readership metrics, he was surprised to learn that the blog didn’t actually bring in any new business.
Here’s where a little research up front can go a long way.
2. Use Data to Research Potential Topics, Audiences
Mine your website analytics and other data to gauge interest in topics that might interest your target clients.
Lurrsen shared a story about a marketing director who was asked to write about opportunity zones. When she looked at the data, she confirmed this was a hot issue. She also discovered to her surprise that the firm’s telecom clients were looking for information about the subject. Now she had a business growth strategy and a target market.
Another example Lurrsen gave was an ERISA/employee benefits attorney who left a large firm to create a solo practice on Long Island. He developed a niche writing about how great plan sponsors are and soon the sponsors invited him to speak at his conferences.
“He grew a national practice by making his referral services look amazing,” Lurrsen said.
3. Show Empathy for the Reader
When it comes to writing the content, you’ll want to bring into play all the things you intuitively know about connecting with readers and making them want to engage with your content.
Kostal advised to think about your audience and write directly to them: “To the point where they think, “Oh my god. They’re in my head they know what’s in my soul.”
After all, the legal industry is a relationship-based business. Clients are going to hire the person they like and trust, not just the person who can handle their legal problem.
For topic ideas, attorneys can draw on the pain points that are keeping their clients awake at night, the latest legal developments in their field, or the client questions they’re frequently fielding. It’s also good to do some research on what kind of content your competitors are delivering so you can make your content stand out, Kostal said.
4. Give Attorneys a Roadmap to Succeed
James said the most successful blogs and articles at her firm are those that have a strong attorney-advocate behind them.
“You really need to have a champion, a lawyer who is going to care about the blog and write for the blog,” she said. She’s also had success matching lawyers with professional writers to help draw out ideas and draft articles.
One prolific attorney-writer posts two to three times a week summarizing patent cases. He has built a good audience and it does bring in business, despite being fairly technical, she said.
James said when an attorney comes to her with a blog idea, she asks for 10 articles up front to make sure the commitment is there.
“Successful legal writers and bloggers are geeky and love their subject,” Lurrsen said. “You don’t ask yourself, ‘How do I get on the first page of Google.’ You ask, ‘How do I join the conversation.’”
5. Get More Mileage out of Your Content
JDSupra’s metrics found that it’s better to use a headline that’s timeless and yet catchy. An article titled “Think that email is not a contract? Think again” got four times more viewership than any other post on the same topic and continued to perform well months later. Other articles on the same topic with more straightforward headlines such as “Court rules that email can be a contract” dropped off in readership.
Kostal pointed out that good content can be repurposed in any number of ways, from sending it to an in-house team that needs information on a topic or on social media when the topic is trending. For example, when reporters were writing about Joe Biden’s touchy-feely reputation, her client took the opportunity to share an older post about hugging in the workplace, Tweeting it as “This one’s for you, Joe.”
Kostal advises clients to think of their body of content “like money your wallet.”
“Make sure you are using that asset,” she said. “Your content works while you sleep. It’s one of the most efficient things that you produce cost wise that has a really long lifespan if you do it right.”
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Coming Up on August 8th - Advancing Your Career in Legal Marketing
Join us on August 8th for the our next monthly educational program about Advancing Your Career in Legal Marketing, where a panel of experts will share details about how legal professionals in marketing and business development roles can advance their careers in the legal industry. Register today!
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Laura Ernde is a San Francisco-based communications consultant. A former legal affairs journalist and State Bar of California communications director, she helps law firms and legal marketing agencies with content strategy and content creation. Connect with her via LinkedIn and Twitter. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.