While the choirs of legal marketers have been singing the praises of content for longer than I can remember, too many lawyers still have one basic problem: Like the jargon junkies they are, lawyers can’t help themselves from publishing content that not even their mothers would want to read.
Because it’s dry. Sahara Desert dry. Cure-for-insomnia boring.
Here’s how to start over with your content:
News Has Broken: Unless you’re trying to compete with CNN, skip the “breaking news” leads and headlines and pretty much everything else that just tells what has just happened. While lawyers can occasionally share items that could be “news” to their clients, the value of such a role is fleeting and often unappreciated.
Think about this for a minute: How did you find out this news? The chances are very good that your clients or prospects got it the same way. As lawyers, you don’t win points or get (and keep) clients simply by relaying basic information.
Empathy Wins: You might care about what you’re writing (let’s hope), but do your clients or prospects? Put yourself in their heads and try to figure out what they want to hear about. Hopefully you know your clients and their needs well enough to make fairly educated guesses about what might interest them.
If you’re worried about guessing wrong, then simply ask them, with a survey or in a conversation. If you’re feeling a bit shy about that approach, you could read any of the dozens of articles and summaries of general counsel panels that discuss the types of information that in-house lawyers find useful.
Content That Matters: This is when the age-old “so what?” question comes into play. Always answer that right off the bat, and people will flock to your content again and again.
Your clients want to know what they need to be worrying about, the issues that should be keeping them from their nightly slumber. They want to know what others in their company should be worrying about, too. And, yes, sometimes they even want to know how you can help them handle these issues.
Be Creative: Too many lawyers thump their chests about the creative solutions they offer their clients. But creativity in their content? Not so much. I’ve never seen a decent “anecdotal” lead to a client alert or newsletter article. Slavish and awkward adherence to the third person always dulls down copy. Filling it thick with dates and citations and footnotes are huge distractions (and almost always unnecessary).
Don’t get stuck in the chronological rut, either, always starting from the dawn of time. And writing paragraphs so long, you need a lunch break to get through them. Heck, what about writing something in iambic pentameter? Or haiku? There are judges who are have been extremely creative with their published opinions. Take a lesson from some of them.
Be Interesting, Make Your Points and Skip the Legalese: You’re not writing court briefs here. Think about the articles you read for information, the kind of content you seek out to learn something new or other enrichment. That’s what other people are looking for, too.
Time is precious for everyone. Don’t bury your leads or write like you’re getting paid by the word. Get to your points quickly and try your hardest to keep things moving. Oh, and try as hard as humanly possible to leave out the legal jargon, esoteric legal principles and the Latin. Carpe cut it out!
Borrow from Buzzfeed: Think clickbait headlines are unseemly? Me, too. But then I hope you won’t mind when your content is never read. Like it or not, itch-inducing headlines or article titles make readers want to “scratch it” by opening that link and perusing your great copy.
Make it seem that the readers’ lives just won’t be complete unless they read your content. Follow the old advertising adage to “sell the sizzle, not the steak.” And it can’t hurt if you can reuse it as a Twitter posting, too. It works. Just hold your nose, if you have to, and do it. You’ll be glad you did.
“Non-Lawyers” Can Write, Too. In fact, some of them might connect better with your clients and prospects than you can. You’re not giving legal advice with your content, so why does it have to be written by a lawyer? Again, your content isn’t intended for the courtroom, and perfection isn’t the goal. Getting readers is.
You’re a busy lawyer, looking for ways to do more with the limited time you can devote to marketing and business development tasks. There are truckloads of talented writers out there who can do a bang-up job on a first draft of an alert or article or blog post. Or they can take your outline or notes and retool them to make the content engage your intended audience.
So, that’s enough advice to get you on your new path to better content. There’s still a lot more to discuss about creating better content – writing for SEO, making it easy for people to share, better engagement of readers – but those and other topics can wait for another post, coming soon.
Now get out there and write something worth reading!