I’ve been writing for Answering Legal for almost two years now, and I never like to make these blog posts about me. But, for this post, I’m gonna make it a little about me. In what seems like another lifetime ago, but in reality was just a few years ago, I was a recent college graduate trying to make it as a sportswriter in New York. Unfortunately for me, full-time sports writing gigs are pretty hard to come by these days, and I eventually found myself shifting to a career in marketing.
What I quickly realized as I began my role as a content developer for the Answering Legal marketing squad, was that journalism and marketing involves a lot of similar skill sets. In fact, I’d say my time at Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism inadvertently prepared me for a career in marketing. Here are some legal marketing tips, based on lessons from the world of journalism.
Don’t Be Boring
When putting together a story, even the juiciest of reporting is likely to fall flat on its face if it’s not framed and presented in an appealing matter. Here are a few things to keep in mind when assembling a post for your legal blog.
Don’t Wait Till Later To Be Interesting
Journalists know that they have about 15 seconds to grab their audience’s attention before they lose interest in a story, so they’ll always begin their articles with an enticing lede. They’ll include an opening sentence or paragraph that not only gives readers an idea of what lies ahead for the rest of the story, but also shares an interesting factoid or short anecdote that will make readers feel like they can’t afford to stop reading. Your marketing content must do the same. Right away, hit your audience with something that will intrigue them, amaze them, or alarm them. If you wait till the middle of your story to get to all the good stuff, the good stuff is likely not to be seen.
Feature Real Life Stories To Make Your Larger Point
Stating fact after fact in your marketing content is more likely to bore your audience than captivate them. People tend to connect with other people, so use real life stories to make an emotional connection with your audience. Rather than just stating facts about drunk driving arrests, make your marketing content more powerful, by sharing a story of a real person that went through the nightmare of being arrested for drunk driving. After giving examples of real life incidents, offer some reflection. Offer takes on what the person in the situation did right and wrong, and why having a legal professional’s guidance in such a scenario is a must.
Use Additional Sources
It won’t always be possible for busy legal professionals to find and reach out to experts to quote in their blog posts. But, if you do have easy access to an expert source on a subject you’re blogging about, see if they’d be willing to share a few thoughts for your piece. Sure your expert opinion means a lot, but having other experts confirm that what you’re talking about is true can do a lot for the credibility of your piece.
Know Your Audience
While there are some stories that will be universally cared about by consumers, most will see consumers well divided in their level of interest. A good news editor knows their readers and/or viewers like the back of their hand. They know which stories their audience will eat up, and which stories they’ll yawn at. This knowledge is crucially important when laying out a newspaper (“What’s front page worthy?”) or putting together a news broadcast (“What’s our leading story?”).
When picking topics to blog about or deciding on which issues to center your marketing campaigns around, your target audience should also be on the top of your mind. Before you begin any kind of marketing, you should at least have an idea of what topics are important to your audience, and what struggles they are dealing with. If online research alone doesn’t tell you this, trying calling former clients, and asking them a few questions about law related topics. You’re likely to learn a lot. Once you have a better understanding of what your audience is eager to hear more about, use that information to inspire your marketing content. Don’t just write about things you think are important, write about things that will really hit home with the people you’re trying to turn into clients.
Timeliness Is Important
Another quality of a good news editor, is having a strong awareness of what’s going on in the world around them. This is important, because people will care more about certain subjects at certain times than others. Sometimes their level of caring will be based on what time of year it is. For example, a story on department store shopping tips will do better in late November than March. Other times it will be recent news events that inspire journalists to write certain stories. If a series of wildfires begins breaking out in California, you’re likely to see a lot of stories on what causes wildfires and what to do when one happens close to your home. On the other hand, releasing a story about fun campfire songs may not feel so appropriate, and can make a publication look insensitive.
Legal marketers should also use timeliness as a determining factor when choosing what marketing topics they want to address. Criminal defense attorneys may want to tackle the issue of drunk driving during the holiday season, a time that features a lot of parties and a lot of stress. If a new law is released in a certain community, lawyers may want to release a piece of content going over how people in the community will be impacted. Writing a piece of content that’s highly relevant at a certain time, is also likely to increase the amount it gets shared, and bring more attention to your firm. So make sure you’re finding at least a few minutes each day to follow the news.
As a journalist, there is no quicker way to lose credibility, than reporting wrong information. If your articles are filled with incorrect statements and lack proper sourcing, audiences will quickly tune out on whatever you have to say moving forward. This may seem a little harsh, but in an age where people are getting news thrown at them from an endless amount of questionable online sources, consumer-trust isn’t just given, it has to be earned.
While legal marketers don’t have to deal with the pressure of being a source of news, they still should be highly concerned with the accuracy and appearance of their advertisements, blogs, email newsletters and other online content. Send out something with questionable facts, and many consumers will immediately think less of you and your legal services. Rather than just making wild assumptions or going off things that they believe to be probably true, a good journalist will head to the internet and reach out to experts, to make sure they’re passing along the best possible information to their followers. A good legal marketer should take the time to do the same.
Yes, we know you’re an expert in most of the subjects you’ll be talking about, but the law is ever-evolving, and you’re probably too busy to keep up with every little change that occurs. So do a little extra work to make sure everything you’re sharing online is correct. You’ll be surprised what online consumers will be able to call you out on. Also the more information and additional value you can add to your marketing content, the more likely you are to impress a potential client.
Consult With Peers
In the world of journalism, editors can play just as big a role as the writers. They will catch spelling and grammar mistakes that would embarrass the company if published. They will fact-check important details. And perhaps most importantly, they will be able to add a fresh perspective to a story, and present thoughts and ideas to the writer that they may have never considered before.
Journalism is truly a collaborative effort, and your firm’s marketing process should be as well. Multiple people should be looking at every piece of content your firm releases. Ask an intern or associate to examine your work for careless errors. Let other lawyers check out your work, and ask if there is anything missing from it. Have a non-lawyer friend see what you’ve made, and see if they are able to connect with and follow what you’re saying. If another person does end up being critical of something you’ve created, don’t take it personally. Use it as an opportunity to start a constructive dialogue, that will in the end make your marketing content better.
For lawyers with limited staff to bounce ideas off of, take a few minutes to read your blog posts aloud. You may feel silly while doing it, but hearing your words come to life will give you a better idea of what is working and what is not.