Content, much like fashion or a brand, lies in the eye of the beholder. What rocks for one client (and adds value in abundance), may be of no interest to another, and may, in fact, turn the client off to your firm – “Not another wretched newsletter from XYZ LLP”.
At the moment your content strategy (if you have one) is focused on getting it out the door (‘Ship It‘ as Seth Godin says).
Unless you are blessed with a team of professional support lawyers, who are focused on delivering (great) content, the oft quoted expression “It’s like pushing water uphill” comes to mind.
The reality is that very few solicitors see the connection between what they write and their day job. Most will only be willing to write something, if, in giving up the time to do so, they see (or can be persuaded) that the ends justify the means. Or in short, that in writing an article they are likely to receive new instructions. This is misconceived if only because in a crowded legal market it is unlikely, off the bat, that any lawyer is going to be (immediately) instructed. That would be like shouting out in a crowded market: “I am a solicitor. Please instruct me”.
Job number 1 for any law firm is not to go through the turgid process of trying to persuade as many people as possible to produce anodyne and wasteful content but rather to show how content, properly packaged, disseminated and shared can lead to the firm, certain departments or individual solicitors connecting with their target audience so that over time they start to position themselves as acknowledged leaders. It colloquial terms to be the Big Cheese on campus. In doing so, much like any writer, they will begin to develop a following so that when an issue is thought of the firm’s name or an individual is immediately thought of.
But it is all well and good creating content, but if it is placed in the wrong medium then no matter how thoughtful and brilliant it won’t matter a jot as no one will pick it up. Previously, firms would have sought to align their offering with a publication that usually gave the largest audience for the minimal spend; but this is now a very costly process and the readership is likely to be on the wane. In addition, they may look for specialist publications, normally produced on a monthly basis, where they might be lucky enough to get a spot for free. In addition, spending countless hours creating a plethora of newsletters which are sent both by post and email. These are usually sent monthly but very often firms give up and either send them quarterly or not at all.
Notwithstanding these issues, if firms are going to invest in the process then, as part of any content strategy, they should spend far more time on:
- Understanding their audience. Exactly who are they hoping to reach, what message are they trying to communicate and how do they compare to other firms or non-legal sites?
- Making sure that the content is being delivered in a format that their audience finds most appealing. If you are not sure create a survey with a tool like Survey Monkey (http://www.surveymonkey.com) to help you.
- More than anything else make sure the content is readable, interesting and valuable. Firms have to accept that with the welter of information that exists at one click of a Google search button there will be a slew of topical and relevant material which is accessible to everyone. Firms need to make sure that the content is delivered in such a way that it is not snuffed out in the blink of a delete button or with the flick of a wrist to the waste paper basket.
- There needs to be a call to action. More attention needs to be placed on what exactly a firm is trying to achieve. Rather than asking to be contacted “Please contact [name] of [XYZ LLP]”, it is far better to announce something like a seminar or better still a free down-loadable document that gives even more information on the chosen subject area.
- If you are featuring in a place where the article is on-line or you are relying on your email system, then make sure that you facilitate sharing. The whole point of the net is to make sure that your content is widely syndicated and doesn’t just sit moribund on a website or in someone’s inbox. If you are not familiar with the share button or RSS feed then speak to someone in your IT or marketing department.
- Give feedback to your contributors. Even if your audience is not responding (yet) that doesn’t mean you should go on receiving the same content month after month with no adjustment.
- If at first you don’t succeed try, try again should be your firm’s motto. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you need to persevere. You may be surprised how some clients even though they may not have instructed you off of the back of an article or newsletter have only done so because something you wrote has stuck at the back of their mind and reminded them that you are the experts in a certain field.
If none of this resonates (or not enough) you may want to outsource the process. You may be surprised with the number of people who are able to write great copy at a fraction of the price of your solicitors’ time. In the digital age Content truly is King and if you aren’t alive to the opportunities then you really will be losing out on one area of business development that can over time make a massive difference to your firm.
~ JS ~