Sometimes we're our own worst enemies when it comes to producing successful marketing content for our law firms.
On the one hand we tell our people (or our marketing professionals) that we want to stand out, be noticed, and produce different kinds of stuff from everyone else.
And then we cling on to habits and impose rules and roadblocks along the way so the chances of anyone being able to achieve that aspirational goal are NIL.
What kinds of things am I talking about?
Overly Formal Writing
Unless your goal for your firm is to be perceived as really formal and quite stodgy, you need to loose your grip on the formal writing style you generally use.
What do I mean?
I mean it's OK to use contractions in your articles.
I mean it's OK not to wear a suit and tie in all of your marketing videos.
I mean it's OK to make a statement without a footnote and a citation, and it's also OK to comment on a decision without going into detail about what the “Court below” said.
Here's my hot tip: aim to write marketing content the way you would speak to someone in a normal conversation.
You're going to find that's my hot tip for most of these…
Mountains out of Mole-Hills
With salutations to all the moles reading this, sometimes lawyers are amazingly good at overcomplicating simple things.
In marketing this comes through as a type of perfectionism which results in nothing actually getting published, ever.
Now there's a balance here of course. We want to choose good and relevant topics, and we want to publish awesome work.
Many times though the edits we spend hours deliberating over are actually not moving the needle when it comes to article quality.
What they're really doing is demonstrating our own hangups and nervousness about publishing anything. And as a result the more we polish our work, the more uninteresting it tends to get.
Given that many law firm blogs are sitting fairly empty, just pick some topics you know well and write something about them.
Then hit publish.
I understand why committees exist in larger firms. They can offer a degree of quality control to ensure that work which goes out under the firm's brand is consistent with its desired image and is legally sound.
Unfortunately when you put a bunch of fairly conservative (in terms of marketing flair, not necessarily politically) professionals into a room what you tend to get is an overall marketing strategy best described as “paranoid bland”.
Anything that could possibly offend anyone is automatically removed, and everything has to pass the “is it professional” test.
The result when most things come out of committee is that we find it:
- has been delayed by a week;
- is boring;
- contains no humour; and
- resembles every law school paper ever written.
Now imagine if your committee's job was to do the opposite – to review articles and find ways to make them more interesting, adding pops of colour and piquant flavour to your case notes? That would be cool.
But that's not what most committees do.
Getting Law Clerks/Grads to Write Everything With No Training
We all know that many law clerks or graduates tend to bear the brunt when it comes to producing the first cut of most articles.
And I'm fine with that, provided we follow a few rules.
What usually happens is that we ask them to write a case note, which they do. And since they are at (or recently separated from) law school, they write that note precisely the way they have learned to write: academic prose.
And while we might prefer it to look different, we're just too busy to re-write everything and so generally after a quick check we simply add our name to the “author” box and get it published.
If you're going to get clerks to write articles for you then:
- give them some training in how to write effective marketing articles (if you aren't sure yourself, then find someone who is);
- take the time to review it properly and spice it up so that it doesn't send your readers to sleep;
- get them to write things other than case notes; and
- offer them meaningful feedback not just on the content but on the style and tone.
Making Marketing the Lowest Priority
For busy lawyers (and if you find a lawyer who's not busy then let me know) we tend to focus on what we actually signed up for: law stuff.
As a fairly medium/long-term play, executing a content marketing strategy often seems like it can wait.
And so it waits.
And then a year later and work has slowed down a bit, you've got nothing that's been feeding your pipeline for the last 12 months. That's usually when things start to take a bad turn, and you scramble around trying to turn long term strategies into very short term strategies – which usually doesn't work that well.
Don't back yourself into a future corner. Embrace the idea that the importance of marketing can't necessarily be constantly bowing to the apparent urgency of client demand. It's not that easy, but it's necessary.
And, of course, you can always get your friendly neighbourhood marketing agency to help your firm out if you like.