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I’ve got good news and … er, weird news. First the weird: Whether you like it or not, you have become a media outlet. If you don’t believe me, think for a minute about all the stuff — pictures, posts, emails, videos, opinions, reviews — that you post to the Internet each day. Even if all you do is Facebook vacation photos, you are as much a source of “content” for your public as HBO, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Daily Beast.
And just like those media outlets, your audience will draw conclusions about you based on what they read, hear and view — via you. Just as you know The Oatmeal is a source of wacky (occasionally offensive) humor and Fox News tends to have a politically conservative take on the world, the people who are privy to your content know things and have opinions about you, too.
The good news? That’s not a bad thing. See, you have a choice. You can choose to randomly slap things up on the Internet that make you laugh, please your sense of justice and express your frustration. Or, with just a bit more focus, you can manage the content you share in a way that tells the world what you want it to know about you. And, as it turns out, you would be engaging in the newest and hottest form of marketing, known as “content marketing.”
The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) defines it as “a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
An entire industry has sprung up around content marketing, and it’s easy to see why. Consumers are increasingly shutting out traditional marketing. You know this, you do it yourself when you DVR your favorite TV show so you can skip the commercials, and block cookies and pop-up ads so you can absorb Internet content without distracting banners and buttons. Am I right?
Again, from CMI: “Smart marketers understand that traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective by the minute, and that there has to be a better way.”
Here are five ways you can get smarter about how you use content to make a marketing impact, and drive potential clients in your direction.
1. Only create content about things worth talking about. A person can go crazy saying yes to every invitation to write or speak. So don’t. The secret to controlling both your time and your message is to put content out there that relates to the specific subject matter you want to focus your practice on. So you want to focus on fathers’ rights? Politely decline invitations to speak to your church group about revocable trusts (yes, we know you’d do a bang up job!). Instead, have lunch with a divorce lawyer colleague and discuss collaborating on a family law blog for men only.
P.S. If you don’t know what you want your practice to focus on, now would be a good time to figure that out. You can waste a boatload of marketing time and money otherwise.
2. Write to your audience. Having pinpointed the focus of your practice, it should be an easy matter now to identify the precise demographic you want to draw to your content. Municipal water law? City managers. Trade secrets and covenants not to compete? In-house counsel and human resources executives of emerging technology companies. Once you’ve identified them, develop and provide content that is important, useful and powerful to just those people. (Oh, yes, take into consideration style, as well as subject matter. You’ll write very differently for couples considering collaborative divorce than you will for CEOs of multinational corporations.)
3. Create once, use many times. If you do the hard work to give a speech and then just drag your notes into a folder when it’s over, you’ve missed the boat. Leverage the time you spent developing expertise in the topic by repurposing the information you collected for the speech:
4. Set the hook. It’s an old journalism term. When writing a story, it’s important to “set the hook” in your first few sentences — hooking readers in so they will want to know more. It requires you to get into your readers’ heads, figure out what’s really itching, then write about the thing that will scratch that itch for them. If you’re building content, don’t waste your time on fluff. Instead, deliver material that is topical and close to emerging issues. Content marketing experts are fond of saying that every morsel of content is like dropping a hook in the sea for new clients. Make sure you bait it with something delectable.
5. Change it up. Start with the assumption that everything (Every. Thing.) you do in online marketing must be interactive. Meaning don’t limit your content to text. A good mix of different kinds of content — images, infographics, audio, video and text — draws your audience in. They’ll also be more likely to share with others. And don’t forget you have to constantly feed the voracious appetite of your followers with new content. Because they always want more, but also because a flow of good helpful material keeps you on their minds and undistracted by others.
Bonus tip: You just can’t proofread too much. Typos and poor production values send the subliminal message that you are a sloppy lawyer. And you’re not, right?
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