You want to create insightful content, establish yourself as a thought leader, be the lawyer whose name pops up when someone Googles “patent law” or “startup law.”
But what should you write about? How can you ensure your content reaches the audience that really matters and drives business?
How Do You Develop Great Content?
Creating effective, business-focused content requires both an analytical mindset and emotional intelligence, according to communications and marketing professionals at a recent panel hosted by the Bay Area Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association.
“Analytics can help us, but our human insights can blend with that,” said panelist Adrian Lürssen, co-founder and vice president of JD Supra. He encouraged lawyers and firms to evaluate data about their content’s performance through the lens of what they know about their business, also listening to their sense of what will resonate with people.
“At the heart of emotional intelligence is empathy,” Lürssen said, summing up a core theme heard from the panel. To reach the right audience, write quality content and ultimately win new business, you must understand your audience deeply, seeing them as the human beings they are and working to identify and meet their needs and desires.
With this in mind, following are a few article ideas that emerged during the panel from Lürssen and fellow presenters Carol James and Susan Kostal. Whether this is your first guest article for a top legal publication or your umpteenth blog post, the tips below can jumpstart your next writing project.
What to Write? Five Tips for Your Next Article
1. Feature Key Referral Sources
Write a piece featuring other organizations and service providers that also work with your target clients (and influence their legal hiring decisions), suggested Lürssen. For startup lawyers, this might be venture capitalists. For litigators, it might be insurance providers. Lürssen discussed one lawyer who wrote an article highlighting a key referral source. These stakeholders subsequently invited him to speak at national conferences where the audiences included potential clients. “He grew a national practice by making his referral sources look amazing,” Lürssen said.
2. Address True Pain Points
Take time to understand your clients’ biggest challenges and write articles that provide practical advice to help clients effectively approach daily tasks. While a potential client could certainly benefit from a summary of the latest breaking patent law decision, they might be equally or more excited about reading practical tips for efficiently managing their patent portfolio workflow, said content and media consultant Susan Kostal.
3. Connect to Current Events
Pay attention to what people are talking about, both in industry and the broader world — even pop culture. Write a piece connecting your area of focus to those topics. Lürssen highlighted a particularly fun example: a blog series that covered all the employment laws broken by the main character on “The Office,” the popular TV sitcom. Also, watch for opportunities to reprise an earlier article when it becomes relevant to current events, Kostal said. “Your evergreen content can surface up into that news stream quite well.”
4. Target a Niche Audience
Don’t be afraid to write a piece aimed at a very narrow audience. At her firm, Carol James, director of marketing and BD at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP, launched a campaign directed at a targeted group of about 100 lawmakers. Analyzing your readership data can also reveal new audiences you should be writing for, James noted. For example, she discovered that chief financial officers were often interested in her firm’s content — an unexpected finding that helped hone their efforts.
James also encourages calling out your audience in your headline. While it may be tempting to write “IRS Issues New Rules …,” something like “What Real Estate Developers Need to Know About the New IRS Rules” may garner more engagement, she said.
5. Put the Client in the Story
“Literally put your client in the story,” Kostal said. She suggests writing a Q&A with a client or a piece featuring how your client solved a problem.
Bonus Tip: Supply the Demand
If you identify early demand for content on a topic relevant to your practice, seize that chance to gain visibility as a thought leader. For example, JD Supra data showed high reader interest around the topic of “opportunity zones,” but found little existing content on the subject. This created a sweet spot “where a lot of people are reading about it and not a lot of people are writing about it,” Lürssen said.
What if you want to write on a topic that many people are reading about, but many people are already writing about it as well? At that point, differentiation becomes key, Lürssen said. Consider what unique perspective you can add.
Don’t Be Afraid to Let Your Voice and Passion Shine Through
Ultimately, law is a relationship-based business. People want to hire people they know, like and connect with personally — and writing can help. James cited an example where a prospective client reached out to a lawyer because they felt like they already knew the lawyer as they’d been following his writing.
Perhaps one of the above ideas inspires you. If so, get writing! And when time is tight, partner with a colleague, your marketing team or even a ghostwriter.
Above all, keep the following reminder from Lürssen in mind: “You can have extremely popular content and if it doesn’t match your business strategy, it doesn’t matter.”
Leverage both your own emotional intelligence and available analytics to identify and reach the right audience for your business.
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