Marketing Trend-Spotting

Client-Driven Content Is the Year’s Breakout Hit

By | Jan.02.18 | Content Marketing, Content Under Pressure, Daily Dispatch, Legal Marketing, Trends

Too often, “client-focused” content translates as “let me tell you what you need,” followed by “please don’t interrupt, I’m still talking.” One of the most exciting trends in law firm marketing is client-driven content — that is, stories about client companies. This content is not about what the law firm did for the company (think representative engagements), but about the mission and promise of the company itself.

Time and again we hear from general counsel that attorneys’ expertise is a given; but in-house counsel want to learn what it’s like to work with a given attorney or firm. How does a firm convey that? By sharing and showing — not telling — a bit about their client base and what it’s like to work with them. That’s where client-driven content comes in.

Client-driven content is material that is not just relevant to clients (let that be a given), but that focuses on the client’s experience and corporate narrative, and relates those stories and lessons applicable to others. This entails more than the client’s experience in dealing with the firm. It’s the client experience overall, be it an individual, a startup or an established company.

If you represent trusts and estates clients, this means it’s a story about what brought the client to seek legal services. Note that it’s not about how the firm solved the particular issue. The fact that the firm supplied the solution is implied. What’s important is conveying a similarity of experience so that readers can see themselves in the content narrated by the firm’s client. Subtly, they begin to see themselves as a client of the firm.

A Tactic Any Size Law Practice Can Deploy

This works across practice areas, and for firms large and small. It’s new, it’s important, and it’s a welcome respite from what can be a somewhat narcissistic “we provide” and “our expertise includes” approach to content.

Sequoia Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, has mastered this approach. And some law firms, particularly those doing business with tech companies, are beginning to follow suit.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is one example. Pillsbury recently launched a video series, “Startup Stories,” that shares the stories of some of the firm’s clients. The first video features a corporate partner from the San Diego office interviewing a client on how they came up with the idea for their unique drone product and built the company, which serves the agricultural sector.

Senior Public Relations Manager Erik Cummins said that when the series is completed, it will receive marquis billing on the website’s home page and relevant practice group pages. “Once we have the first part of the series completed,” he says, “we will launch a formal campaign, and might even do some advertising around that, including Google ads.”

Cummins says the focus for Pillsbury is on video, but firms could accomplish this with podcast or print content. “We want to engage with the business community and potential clients in a different way. The content should be more informative, of interest to a more general audience, and less about us.”

Hear that? It’s what we’ve been talking about a lot recently. Less about me, more about you. That’s the key to engaging client-driven content.

Such content accomplishes the following:

  1. It shows a firm’s deep knowledge of its client’s business. In-house counsel say repeatedly that the attorneys they hire don’t understand their businesses and their particular niche in the marketplace. A video, Q&A or profile shows that the firm understands the client inside and out.
  2. It shows the firm has a strong relationship with clients. If you take the time to make a video or produce content together, the attorney and client must have a good rapport with each other.
  3. It shows the firm appreciates a client’s experience. Lawyers are trained, unfortunately, to portray to clients that they know all the answers. While some may still believe this is possible, client-centered content shows that lawyers recognize they have a lot to learn from clients, and that they view clients as equal partners in the problem-solving experience.

Dog lovers know the “wag more, bark less” motto. In this instance, it translates as “listen more, talk less.” Then share intelligently, and be delighted in the conversation that develops. That’s what client-driven content is all about.

Susan Kostal is a legal affairs PR, marketing and business development consultant based in San Francisco. She is a contributing editor for Attorney at Work and writes the "Content Under Pressure" column. Susan has covered legal affairs as a journalist for nearly three decades. You can follow her on Twitter @skostal and view more of her content at www.susankostal.com.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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