November 17, 2011

Client Magnet: A Blog Planning Template for Lawyers

Mike Mintz

Whether you call it "blogging" or "blawging," writing for social media is scary, even for lawyers.

Most members of the bar are used to spending many billable hours polishing anything they will present or publish. The misplacement of an apostrophe or an innocent typo can mean death and ruin even to the fiercest litigator. In a medium where formalities are eschewed almost as a badge of honor, lawyers may find it difficult to make the transition from brief writing to blog posting, but don't worry: we've got you covered. After all, we're teaching you how to hack Connected.

Why Should Lawyers Blog?

There are many reasons why you may be considering blogging, despite your busy day. I spoke to popular blogger and lawyer Mark Herrmann about this subject on a podcast last month called Sex, Drugs, and In-House Counsel: Mark Herrmann Goes Above The Law. You can listen to it here.

For those of you who don't know Mark, he built a successful niche blog on The Drug and Device Law Blog which attained 40,000 readers per month. He then began writing for the number one legal blog in the world, Above the Law, on a column called "Inside Straight" about his experiences now that he went in-house. The difference? Above the Law gets about 40,000 readers per hour!

Some of the benefits we discussed on the podcast regarding lawyers blogging were:

  1. Subject Matter Expertise - writing a daily or weekly blog requires that you stay current on updates in that area. If you are a looking for an excuse to spend time surfing the Internet for the latest or even pretending to be an investigative reporter (which in some sense you are) then doing a blog may be for you.
  2. Exposure and Building Your Profile - there is a discussion going on right now in the Thought Leadership for Lawyers group on Connected about whether it is in a law firm's best interest to encourage lawyers to build their profile at the firm, when it is likely they will leave soon after. Developing people costs money in training and other expenses. Want to develop your people at a huge discount? Start a blog and let them become a main contributor responsible for content and readership. They will build their profile while your firm builds a marketing asset.
  3. Marketing Asset - okay, nice segway into this third point, but that's exactly what a blog is (among other things), a marketing asset. It is a place you can point current and potential clients to that is going to be more interesting (hopefully) than your boring law firm website. The blog is also a place you can interact with them and create dialogue. In short, it has the ability to support the building of the firm's profile, which is why we invest in marketing assets in the first place, right?
  4. Clients - let's face it: if your are in the business of law it's all about getting more clients. Most clients either ask a friend about which lawyer to use or ask Google (which is also their friend). When you blog daily, that raises your profile in the eyes of Google. When attached to a law firm website, the blog provides much needed "Google Juice" so you will rank higher in results for search terms relating to your posts (there are plenty of tricks to packing posts with search terms which I'll discuss in a later post as well).

"It sounds great Mike," you say, "but how do I get started?" I'm glad you asked.

The best place to get started with any project, (and yes, blogging is a project), is with some planning. The follow template provides 7-questions that should help you define what your blog is about and what direction to take it in. Try to answer this as completely and simply as possible.

Blog Planning Template for Lawyers

  1. What are your goals in blogging (establish expertise among peers, attract clients, SEO, etc.)? What does success look like?
  2. Who is your ideal reader? What problems are they facing and can you give any guidance via the blog? How can you take this a step further and connect emotionally with what they are going through?
  3. What digital assets does the firm currently have (articles, white papers, recordings or video, etc.)? Are there opportunities here to repurpose (republish sections) and promote those via the blog?
  4. What is your schtick going to be, i.e. what makes your posts special besides the subject matter that will create a raving fan base?
  5. Do you have any promotion channels for the blog posts (of course you do, but I want to know what you have thought of!)? Some suggestions include: Twitter, attaching post titles with links to email signatures, email newsletters, etc.
  6. Are you familiar with copywriting basics (blogs are not briefs ... they should not be boring)?
    • Attention getting headlines
    • Problem solving and issue raising
    • Linking and tagging
    • Using images
    • Break up long posts with lists and subheads
  7. Finding your voice - who will be the personality of the blog? Will you have multiple authors? I always think blogging works better when you tie a post to an individual rather than a firm.

Notice I don't list anything about tools or the Connected blogging platform. That is because tools are the easy part. Knowing what you are going to build is much more difficult. Think about it: if you are going to build a house, do you really care if I hand you a Bosch or a Black and Decker drill? No. As long as the tools work and can build what you are working towards they are fine. The same thing applies here.

Is your firm currently planning to launch a blog, and if so, what is it about? If not, what is stopping you? If you already have a blog, what tips can you share that have worked for you?

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