Content Marketing for Law Firms: More, More, More

Blogging has moved from top billing in social media marketing to an ensemble role. A blog is still an important player in the markting ecosystem, but it now shares the stage with other major and minor players in a much bigger, more robust production called content marketing.

The following BlueGlass Interactive infographic illustrates the variety and range of content types and distribution models. BlueGlass executive Chris Winfield notes, “Instead of just investing in their blog and blogging strategies, [companies are] investing in content people will actually want to share. Even if it’s not directly related to selling something, it’s still branding.”

The top 20 content marketing tactics according to a recent Content Marketing Institute survey:

  1. Articles
  2. Social media
  3. Blogs
  4. eNewsletters
  5. Case studies
  6. In-person events
  7. Videos
  8. White papers
  9. Webinars/webcasts
  10. Microsites
  11. Print magazines
  12. Traditional media
  13. Research reports
  14. Branded content tools
  15. Print newsletter
  16. eBooks
  17. Podcasts
  18. Mobile content
  19. Digital magazines
  20. Virtual conferences
WARNING: This does not mean use ALL of these tactics. Rather, it suggests that your marketing program can benefit from thinking beyond the usual suspects: blog, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Greater depth, breadth, variety, ubiquity and frequency of content will generate more opportunities to be discovered.

 

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Content Marketing for Lawyers: 5 Non-Blog Content Types That Can Get You Noticed

It’s almost an old chestnut in “innovation” circles, but some of the most important breakthroughs are not new inventions. Rather, they’re new applications of proven technologies and methods. In a post entitled “Don’t Think Different, Think About Different Things” on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, Art Markman of the University of Texas at Austin cites the example of vacuum cleaner mogul James Dyson.

“Dyson set out to invent a more effective vacuum cleaner. He noticed that vacuums lose suction as the bag fills, because the pores in the bag get clogged. Most people who tried to fix this issue in the past attempted to solve the “bag problem” by crafting a more effective vacuum cleaner bag.

“Instead, Dyson realized a vacuum takes in a combination of dust and air and needs to separate the dust from the air. Once he thought about the problem in this way, he was able to recall his own knowledge about the industrial cyclones used in sawmills. Industrial cyclones use centrifugal force to separate particles from air rather than a filter. He then designed a small industrial cyclone into a vacuum and created a highly successful business.”

The same can be said of content marketing for lawyers. You can wait two or three years for your reputation and new business leads to gestate on your blog, or you can mobilize the full depth and breadth of your content resources through third-party distribution channels like JD Supra. In a recent e-mail exchange, co-founder Adrian Lurssen provided a very helpful summary of JD Supra content types beyond repurposed blog posts:

  1. Favorable court filings – Lurssen notes that intellectual property attorney Ron Coleman’s repository of documents is comprised almost entirely of his own filings —  decisions, pleadings,  motions, memoranda and related work.
  2. Legal analysis – Multi-specialty law firm Lane Powell uses JD Supra to aggregate newsletters, articles, and alerts covering developments in sectors as wide-ranging as transportation, securities, environment and energy, immigration, labor and employment.
  3. Legal forms – Instead of ceding the “forms” business to LegalZoom, templates and samples of complex instruments like a family trust can surface your content in search engines, and help build reputation.
  4. Legal documents of interest (content curation) – In addition to posting his own writing on social networking and Web 2.0 in the legal space, attorney Doug Cornelius  uses his JD Supra portfolio to collect legal documents not written by him but either related to his practice field or of interest to readers of his blog.
  5. Q&A site responses — Versions of responses written for sites like Quora and LegalOnramp also find their way into JD Supra portfolios.

“We are a bridge between two worlds: lawyers, and the people lawyers serve,” Lurssen concluded. “Any content that makes sense, somehow, of the legal implications (business, consumer, other) of our lives —  that’s good content on JD Supra.”

 

Law Blog Ghostwriting: “Invasion of the Credit Snatchers” Is Way Overblown

Nothing like a pious, tub-thumping jeremiad to gin up a fake scare.

In this latest hair-raising episode, the otherwise trusting worldview of  blog readers and the ethical foundations of the entire legal profession hang in the balance as legal blogs are infiltrated by an insidious, creeping menace: ghostwriting.

Transparent authorship of contributed content makes Big Brother less threatening

Transparent authorship of contributed content makes Big Brother less threatening

Spoiler Alert: Just like exposure to earth’s atmosphere defeated the alien invaders in The War of the Worlds, the organic rise of content curation, guest posts and multi-author law blogs will choke off ghostwriting. Simple attributions will convert anonymous authors into authoritative bylined contributors, and transparency and meritocracy will be restored.

Why Using Ghost Bloggers Is More Sad and Counterproductive Than Insidious

  1. No one believes one person can produce that much content on his/her own AND be an effective lawyer. Which activity would you rather be known for?
  2. Mindful curation makes you look smart, and smart trumps prolific.
  3. You have to pay ghostwriters. However, there are plenty of  highly qualified and well-known contributors who would be satisfied with a byline and inbound links from your blog. As a result, you won’t have to buy as many posts, and the prevailing rate will drop as high-quality free content floods the market.

Can we get back to genuine and important marketing issues now?

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Thought Leadership for Law Students: An Interview with Online Law Journal Editor Sarah Eli Mattern

The scarcity of strong law student voices in legal social media is conspicuous, so when I encountered the online law journal The Student Appeal on Twitter, I was immediately interested to learn more. Comprised of articles, op-ed pieces and a blog, The Student Appeal serves as a beacon and “town square” for thoughtful content and discussion that might not otherwise be available or relevant to law students.

In this conversation, The Student Appeal co-founder and editor Sarah Eli Mattern discusses her vision and mission for the journal, and her insights on content curation, online community building and thought leadership marketing for law students.

Q: The mission statement on your website begins “We founded The Student Appeal to give law students a professional way to get their names and writing noticed.” What’s the background for that choice? Did you see a lack of opportunity for law student writers? A lack of professional focus by law students in their social media engagement?

 A: I did see a lack of publishing opportunities for law students. While the majority of law schools require students to write at least one legal article before they graduate, students have limited publishing opportunities for those papers. A student can try to publish with their school’s law journal, many of which will publish a handful of student notes annually. What caught my attention was that if almost every student has to write a paper and the majority of students can’t get published, then the effort and arguments those papers contain largely become nothing more than trash.

Keeping in mind that many students don’t wish to publish their papers and some student’s articles are not quality scholarship, I’ve still found that a large percentage of students didn’t feel like they had publication options.

Q: In addition to bringing legal discourse by law students into higher relief, your approach also seems to have an eye toward personal branding. Is that a fair statement? Do you believe law students can improve their career prospects through content marketing?

A: Absolutely. Personal branding is imperative in today’s job market. Any time students can distinguish themselves from the masses by presenting specialized knowledge or accomplishments, they stand a better chance at getting hired. By publishing articles on a topic of interest to lawyers within a specific area of law, students can demonstrate their hard-earned and well-researched knowledge, while also marketing themselves to those same people who may one day hold their resume.

Q:  How do you describe your target audience(s)?

A: We made The Student Appeal an online journal because we want to give anyone the opportunity to access this information. Almost everyone starts his or her research online when they want to know more about something. We want lawyers, law students, and all who care about law and policy issues to read, submit, and interact on our site.

Q: Generally speaking, blogs have relegated long-form content to the periphery of social media. While your site has a blog component, the emphasis is on articles and op-ed pieces. With so much competition for eyeballs and sustained attention, what’s your strategy for attracting and retaining readers?

We expect to attract and retain readers by publishing the most interesting and timely articles possible.

Traditional law journals publish papers with articles upwards of fifty pages. We decided at our inception to limit the length of even our traditional articles. We definitely try to be cognizant of our readers’ time, so we cut pieces to keep them as short as possible while maintaining their integrity. At the same time, we do appreciate the different nature of longer-form content, and we feel it has an important place in legal conversation. Though not everyone will be interested in all of our 10+ page articles, we hope that the breadth of subject matter, combined with the shorter-form opinion editorials, will present enjoyable reads to scholars of all walks of life. It’s this ability to delve into a subject and explore links to other websites and information that we feel brings the most value to our readers.

Q: While not affiliated with an academic institution, do you follow that editorial model? What’s your submission/review process, and what are your criteria for evaluating submissions?

A: Yes and no. When we receive a submission, three editors preliminarily review the article. Those editors send me a brief write up with their impressions, comments, and recommendation on whether the article is publication worthy or not. Then, if approved for publication, we email the author our publication agreement. After the author formally agrees to publish with us, we complete a full edit on the entire piece and send the article back to the author to review our notes. The publication process varies based on the length of the piece, but full articles usually take around two and a half months.

We accept articles and opinions from all political spectrums and ideologies, on any law-related subjects. In our publishing criteria, we do not care if our editors agree or disagree with what is written, only that what is stated is well-thought-out and clearly articulated. We desire to open our audience to many different viewpoints and allow them to come to their own conclusions. We do not promote any particular agenda and we do not answer to a school board, which really gives us a lot of flexibility in publishing more controversial or non-standard legal articles.

Q:  The site launched in April 2011. How have you approached recruiting potential contributors and building site traffic? Do you use the site’s blog and your Twitter participation as marketing tools?

A: Most of our contributors find out about us by word of mouth, but Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites have played a large part in helping us get the word out.

Q: You’re a freshly minted (2011) JD from Florida A&M. What was your inspiration to launch an online law journal? Is publishing your full-time venture, or are you also pursuing a legal career?

A: In the future, I would love nothing more than to work on The Student Appeal full time. Right now though, I want to practice. I know that what I learn from practicing will only help me to grow the site to its full potential.

 Q: Can you share any “Aha” moments you’ve had so far?

 A: On the web side, I have learned a lot about what does and does not work well in a publishing/blog sense. Originally, we wanted to focus more on strictly long-form legal articles. Through our analytics we began to realize that topics covering more current events, and the shorter-form editorials received the most interest. So though we are still committed to publishing full legal articles, we expanded our focus to include shorter-form pieces.

We also originally started the site with a community forum. But after a month or two working in the forum, we decided to replace our forum with a site-wide Facebook-based comment system. This allowed for easier discussion of our popular or more polarized articles, and has helped to create more dialogue between the article author’s and our readers. It’s always humbling to remember that as a publishing site, you are only so great as your authors and readers allow you to be.

Q: Do you have any plans to add other media to your mix (e.g. videos, webinars, conferences)?

A: Nothing definite, but my business partner, Dawson Henry (aka our Web Ninja), and I have discussed it. We would like to see The Student Appeal grow in many directions in the future.

Sarah Eli Mattern is a graduate of Florida A&M University College of Law and a member of the Florida Bar. She co-founded The Student Appeal Law Journal as a way of pursuing her passions, writing and legal research. She currently writes, edits, and manages the online law journal in hopes that it will grow to become a prominent source for legal discourse.

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