Pardon me if legal communications and marketing are both on my mind. But last week was a great panel of corporate counsel courtesy of the Legal Marketing Association. And that was followed by the Publicity Summit, an annual event hosted by the Society of Professional Journalists where marketers (even from law firms) can meet one-on-one with reporters in various beats.

In both situations, it often boiled down to devising a way to tell your story in compelling and concise ways.

That used to have different names, but the newest version of it is called “content marketing,” in which companies offer their mission, strategies, and abilities in a narrative form—an article or a story.

Despite the broader adoption of such a communications strategy, I was surprised when I read an article by Julia Schur that claims law firms are “the surprising new adopter of content marketing.”

She writes,

“Law firms have money—lots of it. And as [one] experiment suggests, an increasing number of them are investing that money into content marketing instead of traditional advertising.”

I’ll concede that the experiment came from a communications firm, which may have an incentive to explain such trends in a particular way. But that doesn’t mean John Corey, president and co-founder of Greentarget, is wrong.

I too have noticed an increasing number of firms including blogs on their websites. Well done, these blogs accomplish a few goals:

  • They distinguish the attorney from others in the market on specific practice areas.
  • They illustrate a timely proclivity to keep up with the news and trends.
  • They personalize an attorney who might otherwise simply be represented by a drab bio; and
  • They provide powerful SEO ammunition, as the pages are updated on a regular basis.

law firm content strategy

Have you or others in your firm begun to blog, on Linkedin or elsewhere? Or are you finding other ways to reveal your strong abilities that distinguish you in the marketplace?

Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Letterpress BlogAttorneys looking for a strategic edge in a tough economy should take a few minutes to read how some New Hampshire lawyers are enhancing their practices and raising their profile.

Their solution? Blogging. And the lawyers interviewed by the talented Dan Wise of the New Hampshire Bar Association share the reasons that a law blog makes the difference. Here’s part of the story opening:

“‘I thought [blogging] was a great idea, but I figured other people must already be doing it,’” says [attorney Kysa] Crusco. ‘When I went home and did a web search, it turned out that there weren’t many, if any, family law blogs. The nhfamilylawblog.com URL was available, so I reserved it and contacted Lexblog. They got my blog up and running, and I started writing. I was able to see an immediate effect in articles that I posted and the potential clients that were calling for a consultation.’”

Kysa touches on what continues to be a surprise to me, 15 years after the first law blog was launched (though there’s debate on who was first): The surprise that, all these years later, relatively few lawyers write a blog. And that is a missed opportunity.

Let’s examine the necessary elements:

  1. There are 26 tools—if you count every letter of the alphabet.
  2. There is some modicum of writing ability.
  3. There is some practice knowledge.
  4. There is a small (and shrinking) technology aspect.

We already know that lawyers avoid math, not words, and every lawyer I know possesses a large amount of practice knowledge. So … what’s the boggle?

Typically, it comes down to a misunderstanding of strategy or—more particularly—differentiation. Here’s what I mean.

You probably think that potential clients can distinguish you from other lawyers in your practice area because, um, you went to a good law school. Or because you were in the Order of the Coif. Or served as Assistant Managing Editor on your law journal.

Of course, none of that distinguishes you (except to your mom, who always asks what was up with that “Assistant” in your title).

What does distinguish you is something that is wholly unique. No, not your fingerprint or hair whorl. I mean—writing.

The “creating content is hard” worry may be a significant one to you. But remember that more and more people will gauge your abilities not by your resume, but by a smidgen of content on your website. And they will devour that content; if it’s helpful stuff, they will come to you for more.

New Hampshire Bar Association logoThose who want to buy legal services are not seeking a terrific writer, so don’t let that put you off. But they do seek a person behind the website. They want to hear how you think.

A blog can do that. Sure, it takes a commitment of time. But at least it’s not math.

I was particularly intrigued by some of the findings of the New Hampshire Bar:

“To research this article, Bar News reached out to Bar members to submit information about their blogs and we have compiled a selective list. We also have conducted numerous searches on Google—just as many potential clients do—to find New Hampshire lawyers’ articles and blogs. The results were disappointing. There are only a few freestanding blogs offering timely advice that showcase the ability of lawyers to plainly explain current questions of law. Unfortunately, many blogs or articles on law firm websites are either out of date or populated by content designed not for readers, but for search-engine robots.”

blogging cartoon via AMP

Blogging: It’s just not that hard. (click to enlarge.)

I wonder what my results would be if I were to search for Arizona lawyer blogs. This past year, we did start a Blog Network on which any Arizona lawyer may add their link (and where we currently have more than 60). But there must be more out there.

And before you abandon blogging plans as a fad or idea that doesn’t gel with the profession, remember, as Dan Wise writes, “While SEO techniques are helpful in the 21st century world of digital marketing, certain old-fashioned values still apply: Success comes to those who prepare carefully and commit themselves to a strategy for the long haul.”

Sound like you? I thought so. Now, go back and finish that New Hampshire story.

Please contact me if you ever want to talk about blogging. I’m curious how it affects your practice.

content marketing word cloudDo you enjoy predictions about the coming year? I have shared a few views of what to expect in law and practice areas in 2014. Today, I’m thinking about content marketing.

Not sure what that is? Here’s one definition:

“Content marketing is about consistently creating valuable and relevant branded content for a specific audience that keeps them engaged through all stages of the buying cycle in order to build trust, foster deeper relationships, and generate more leads.”

That definition was penned by writer Brent Gleeson. And it is the opening graf to his Forbes article on how to take content marketing to the next level.

Adding to the value, Gleeson’s article includes infographics. (And we all know how great those can be!)

If you’re not sure whether you or fellow lawyers are content marketers, I’d simply ask: Have you ever pointed folks toward anything you had written or created—maybe a magazine article or book chapter, or maybe a blog post or other online offering?

Assuming you’ve done that at least once, you may have been marketing content.

In the February issue of Arizona Attorney, we include a timely and insightful article on the topic by Joe Dysart. He cites to recent research on the importance of content marketing, and then he quotes Arizona attorneys for good measure. Read his complete article here.

As an attorney, if you’re still on the fence about the whole “M” word, read this article titled “Super Marketing Tips for Lawyers.” In the great suggestions offered, you’ll note that the number-one tip is content marketing; farther down the list is the suggestion to “recycle your writing.”

Boom. You’re a content marketer.

If you’re interested in more resources, download this white paper on social media, which includes ideas about putting your content to work for you.

And as always, a great way to get started is to get an article published in Arizona Attorney. Contact me anytime at arizona.attorney@azbar.org to talk over some story ideas.