This week, my colleague and Jaffe PR’s Digital Strategist Mel Trudeau brought to my attention an article she saw on Google+ about whether content marketing is a sustainable strategy. The author embodied the naysayers, saying that the deluge of content we all face diminishes the ROI of content marketing, a phenomenon the author called content shock. (I initially wrote something to this effect in a post but called it content pollution.)
In a response to the content shock piece, marketer Nick Kosar wrote an intriguing piece about the need to focus on niches in order to reap an equitable ROI on your content marketing efforts. It’s a good read.
So what are we to make of this: Law firm content marketing is the next big thing, it is the big thing or it was the big thing? Of course, your perspective is shaped by whether your firm is an early adopter of innovative marketing tactics or a late adopter. (And if you’re scratching your head and asking, “Wait, what’s content marketing?” please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org because we need to talk.)
But to the larger point, while everyone was placing “content marketing” in their year-end lists of legal marketing trends, a much more important conversation was emerging. This discourse doesn’t debate whether content marketing is a necessary part of a law firm’s marketing plan. For those who get the concept, that is a given.
What’s important now is weeding through the endless barrage of content on content marketing and deciphering just what’s realistic, what’s a fantasy and what the heck you really should be doing. In other words, how can law firms actually get value out of content marketing?
The following are some law firm content marketing ideas to help you get the most out of your content.
- Have a plan: You want to start a blog? Great! How about an e-newsletter? Fantastic! But before you run off and open a WordPress or MailChimp account, how about you take a breather and come up with a clearly defined content plan that lists goals and establishes key performance indicators so that you know why you are doing what you’re doing and so that you have a system of assessment in place. Otherwise, you’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.
- Quality over quantity: You’ve been told that your law firm can be a publisher of information – just like The New York Times! I’m sorry to inform you that you are not The New York Times. Newspapers have huge staffs of highly skilled individuals who know the ins and outs of researching, writing and reporting. Your marketing department probably does not. So instead of trying to compete with the likes of Law.com by publishing alerts, news and blogs on a daily basis, consider scaling back. Focus instead on quality by creating periodic pieces of remarkable content that will put your firm, and its reputation, on the map.
- Consider community management: One aspect of law firm content marketing that often gets overlooked is community management. “Oh great! Another buzzword,” I can hear you saying. And while I, too, am tired of relearning my marketing vocabulary every few months, community management really is a critical component of content marketing. In short, a community manager is someone whose job it is to interact with your key audiences and foster engagement. A lot of a community manager’s job is relegated to interacting with stakeholders (e.g., prospects, clients, media, etc.) via social media through the law firm’s handle. Without this role filled, you will fail to tap into the full potential of your content marketing efforts.
- Understand the medium: While a rose is a rose is a rose (to quote Gertrude Stein), a website is not a newsletter is not a blog. Journalism scholar (and frequent J-school exam multiple choice option) Marshall McLuhan rightly recognized that “the medium is the message.” The vehicle for which you distribute content actually affects the content (or at least the perception of the content). Thus, what you post on your website should not be blindly copied and pasted into a blog. Besides, different audience segments use different media differently. The octogenarian oil tycoon might best be reached by a hardcopy newsletter or an ad in a magazine. Meanwhile, the T-shirt-wearing tech entrepreneur might best be reached by a mobile-optimized blog. Different strokes for different folks.
- Develop niche audiences: Wouldn’t it be great if you could develop one piece of content that spoke equally to everyone? Unfortunately, unless you are an achingly cute button-nosed Pomeranian named Boo, that’s unlikely to happen. As Nick Kosar pointed out, finding your niches is key. That’s why I recommend identifying the industry segments you wish to target most and create content that directly speaks to those decision-makers within those industries. This means rethinking the operations of your firm, electing to group attorneys not just by practice areas but also by industry teams in order to more effectively and efficiently promote your legal services to these niche segments.
I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on just what makes law firm content marketing work. While the strategy is essential to the future success of your firm, it is far from turnkey, and your ROI will parallel the amount of front-end time and attention you invest.
Have some thoughts on the topic? Leave a comment or contact Terry M. Isner at email@example.com.