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Interview

Enabling Experts to Showcase Authority: James Barclay on the Impact of Online Content

Passle aims to make it easier for busy experts to create timely niche content.

By Ari Kaplan

For a recent Reinventing Professionals podcast, I spoke with James Barclay, the head of client success at Passle, a sales and content marketing platform focused on professional services. Passle’s tools help lawyers and law firms create articles and posts for blogs, newsletters and social media. Here are highlights from our conversation.

Ari Kaplan: Tell us about your background and your role at Passle.

James Barclay: I lead Passle’s client success team and am moving to the U.S. to lead our operations there. I have been working with the founders of Passle since the 1990s. We used to run conferences and learned that the best way to sell a conference on a website was not to talk about the conference but to talk about the industry. So we hired journalists and produced content. Of course, we didn’t call it “content,” we called it e-news and e-newsletters back in the ’90s. We built event companies around that content marketing strategy.

In 2000, just before the dot-com crash, we sold one of those businesses, called StreamingMedia.com, and learned that content marketing worked. We realized that those in professional services trying to showcase their expertise online struggled with producing timely expert-led, niche, digestible content. The founders developed Passle to solve that problem.

How does Passle work?

JB: The best way to talk about it is the outcome it creates. We are enabling very busy experts who have ridiculous niche expertise to showcase it in an authentic fashion online. When a user sees an article, they can actually highlight a piece of the text from that article, hit the Passle button on their browser, and quickly and easily write a few thoughts inspired by that original story. On average, users of Passle are spending 10 to 15 minutes to create 300 to 400 words of timely and digestible content. Our process enables the writer to secure approval through a very efficient approval process within the firm and publish quickly. Ultimately, we are empowering busy experts and helping them distribute their expertise online. We help people who have never created content, never used social media, and never really interacted with their clients online to do so.

The way I see the world is that you can influence people in lots of different ways, and in the last few months, it has become especially important to do so online.

Here are a few samples of law firms using the platform, including the “all posts page” as well as a post example for each firm.

Baker McKenzie

Ropes & Gray

Linklaters

DLA Piper

Reed Smith

How should professionals approach content creation in the current environment?

JB: Fundamentally, nothing has changed. Good thought leadership is the same as it was a few months ago, and so is bad thought leadership. If anything, it has cemented the difference between the good and the bad. Good content needs to add new perspective and value, as well as to be timely and relevant. It has to be useful to the person who is reading it. We cannot expect marketing teams to deliver this expert advice, which needs to be short and digestible. The content must also reflect empathy and listening as if the writer is standing in the shoes of their clients.

How does Passle enhance how its users broadcast their content?

JB: The networks of the attorneys we work with are typically not huge. These lawyers might have 15, 20, even 40 people who are responsible for 80% of their billable hours. When we talk to them about creating content, we suggest that they produce it for the people they know. If they can create content for them, then these people are the most likely to refer and recommend the lawyer online by liking and sharing on LinkedIn, for example. We have actually seen LinkedIn usage rising about three times from the attorneys with which we work, and they are driving traffic from LinkedIn to their firm websites. Show what you know and drive people to see what you do.

We are also finding that it is a powerful follow-up tool, as it is a great nudge. In addition to one-to-one networking, this content also gives the central marketing team quality, timely, digestible content to insert into newsletters and add to their social channels. We have also developed Client Connect, a tool that allows a visitor to a law firm’s website to subscribe to its newsletter and choose the specific subjects in which the person is interested. It creates an automated email alert with exactly the content the subscriber wants.

How do you see content creation changing in a work-from-home world?

JB: We have seen a huge increase in the use of our network since March, which may be a function of people having time, as they are no longer attending events and having meetings to which they need to travel, but wanting to stay in touch with their clients and prospects. There has been a new appreciation for online influence. And, the best way to increase that is not through noise, but through very targeted, useful and timely content.

Ari Kaplan regularly interviews leaders in the legal industry and the broader professional services community to share perspective, highlight transformative change, and introduce new technology on his Reinventing Professionals podcast. Listen to his conversation with Passle’s James Barclay here, and follow Barclay @jbarclay101.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Ari Kaplan

Ari Kaplan is the author of “The Opportunity Maker: Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development,” 2nd Edition (West Academic) and “Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace” (Wiley). He provides training on dynamic networking, including “Advanced LinkedIn Strategies to Empower Your Networking and Transform Your Outreach.” Follow him @AriKaplan on Twitter and learn about Lawcountability here.

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