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Blogging for Law Firms – Excuses, Excuses!

I have heard them all:

“What’s blogging?”

“We haven’t got the time?”

“What’s the point?”

“We have a website. A blog!”

“Lawyers write infrequently and when they do, it’s so dull.”

“There is no demonstrable ROI.”

And I suppose the Granddaddy of them all:

“None of our clients would be remotely interested!”

Perhaps 10 years ago some of these might have held water, but no longer.

For me, if Tom Peters and Seth Godin both subscribe to the notion that it is the best marketing tool for their brand and businesses, then that is good enough for me. But I suppose given my audience you may need more convincing.

Will it make you money? Who knows.

But one thing it will do is give you an edge over your competitors in a way that no amount of marketing spend will.

If you are worried about your reputation or giving away your trade secrets, then that is precisely the reason why you should be blogging. I am not suggesting that you give everything away but the more you are prepared to loosen your grip, the more likely you will influence the debate about instructing you: “If you like that, just wait until you have us in your corner!”

“Value is determined by how much more you give in value than you receive in payment” (see the Go-Giver co-authored by Bob Burg and John David Mann). If all you ever produce is the same old news, but your competitors have begun to package their intelligence around a blog (in a way that potential clients perceive as valuable), then when it came to instructing someone, I know which firm I would prefer.

But to stretch things even further …

Blogging is FREE.

You don’t need to spend lots or money creating magnificent websites. Hopefully your current CMS enables a blog but even if it doesn’t you could work off of your site and use WordPress, Tumblr, Posterous or Typepad or indeed any other blogging platform.

The point is technology is not the problem.

Even Search Engine Optimisation (“SEO”) is not in issue – I think most firms understand this issue at least so far as their website is concerned.

The problem is your people.

If you want to embrace blogging then spend time educating your people on the necessity for a blog. Above all else, if they want to grow their fan base of clients – and genuinely earn attention – then spending time on Twitter or LinkedIn promoting your firm’s latest news or offerings is not going to work in the long term. You heard me. Continuing to bug people for attention – which is the raison d’être right now just isn’t going to cut it. Instead you need to earn attention by generating content that is so remarkable that not only do your existing, loyal fans keep coming back day after day (they will be using a Reader of some description I hope) but you are far more likely to grow by lateral engagement those people that you might have spent many months and not an insubstantial amount of money trying to attract.

If you need to work with your lawyers on developing your blogging habits, here is a 7-point action plan that will, if implemented, get results:

  1. Find out if anyone within the firm is already blogging or has some knowledge of the paradigm. They will be allies in the early days. If you have no one then make sure you understand enough about the subject area to do more than enthuse your audience. You need to understand how you can measure the ROI, and that means, most likely, moving beyond Google.
  2. Build a World Class writing team. Seriously. Think about the preparatory steps you would undertake in building your favourite magazine or periodical. What do you think you would have to do? In short, if someone was paying for your content how would you package the offering? It is not enough to merely set up a blog, ask for content and then publish said material or a watered down version of it.
  3. Understand how the blog will drive your business objectives and not the contra position. If you want to grow a practice area then how do you see the blog assisting you? Let’s say for example that you are fortunate to grow your readership in the first year to 5,000 people – and those people have also subscribed to your content rich newsletter at the same time – then how are you going to monetize those readers beyond bugging them for attention: “Look at us, we are the best law firm in this area”? You need to make sure that you understand how the production of content will translate into sales, brand awareness of more positive mentions for you across the social web. If it were me I would be looking at numerous tactics including a co-ordinated programme around my communications, PR, marketing, business development, packaged products (if you have them) and events. Try to think far enough ahead so that you do not announce too late in the day an issue or offering that you wish your clients to sign up for. That is no different to getting a last minute email asking you to attend an event the next day.
  4. Agree a programme for your content. Most magazines tell their readers what is coming in next month’s edition, and some may even go further and talk about the features that are coming up over the next 12 months. If there are certain perennial issues that your clients have grown accustomed to you dealing with, then tell them to expect the same but packaged in a different way.
  5. Think outside of the box when it comes to your content. This is not just an exercise in exercising editorial control but more a question of looking for ways of purposefully growing the readership. What sort of content will be truly valuable? Will it be evergreen in its make up? In other words, if you or your clients were to read it in the next 6 months would it still be as powerful as when you first produced it or even more so? The best exponent of this is Timothy Ferriss the acclaimed author of the 4 Hour Work Week and the 4 Hour Body. I accept that the law changes and you need to have the usual disclaimer but what common problems do you come up against all the time upon which you are asked to advise? I can think of lots from companies: Cash flow, directors liability, tax and risk avoidance. Could you or your team devise something which could be put into a series of blog posts? Better still what about an e-Book or Whitepaper that can be downloaded and shared around the internet. If you need a great example of this type of manifesto then go check out the ChangeThis site.
  6. Show up. Don’t let your early day’s enthusiasm drop off. Blogging is a commitment like any other aspect of business development. The more that you do it the better you and your team will become. Imagine a scenario where a target client not only comments on your blog – a thank you is always nice – but better still instructs you on the basis (not unknown) that they weren’t even aware that your firm specialised in that particular area of law.
  7. Finally, have fun. If you the whole exercise feels like your are pulling teeth then there is something seriously wrong. If all you get is the usual whinging about time recording or worse still the procrastinators then find other people who are inspired by the paradigm. This is no easy task – yes I know it is an understatement – but if you find in the first few months, much like the shenanigans that goes on with producing news for the website, that it is the same old folk that you come to rely on then spread your net wider. You shouldn’t have to go outside the firm, but given these straightened times for the journalistic profession, you will be amazed how many stellar writers exist that will be able to help you. You may find from a cost perspective it is far better to go outside.

The thing about blogging is that not enough firms are prepared to even give it a go, and just on the basis of differentiating your website from the plethora of me too offerings you should be embracing it with gusto. Of course, that sort of argument is not going to sustain your efforts for long but it is a start.

Combine your blogging with your other social media efforts and you can expect to join a select few firms that have moved beyond the “should we” debate to “WOW why didn’t we do this before”.

No excuses should be tolerated. Blogging should rise up the agenda. Link it with your firm’s objectives and the task will become much easier.

But whatever you do don’t think that by standing on the outside that you will maintain your position in the market. You won’t. Someone will come up and steal your market share.

Still not convinced?

As my kids say to me: “You have to be in *it* to Win it!” And that is the thing. If you don’t blog then how will you know if it is right for you or your firm?

~ JS ~