[It’s fitting that Lance Godard writes the inaugural post in our new Content Strategy series. Today, after more than two years helping us with our editorial initiatives, Lance returns in-house - to a client firm, no less! - in a business development role, something he did for two decades before joining JD Supra. We wish him the very best - thanks, Lance, for your time, friendship, and this piece:]
For the past two-and-a-half years I have served as a writer, editor, and content manager for JD Supra, helping the company achieve its promise of generating good visibility for lawyers and other professionals via their expertise, their written work. I’ve been living and breathing Content Marketing in the company of Adrian Lurssen and the rest of the Supra team.
So when Adrian asked me if I wanted to write a final post for their audience as I move on to my next gig, this was the first thing that came to mind: five lessons I’ve learned about Content Marketing while shepherding the thoughts and insights of incredibly smart legal professionals (you) around the web. To wit:
1. It’s hard to beat CNN. Don’t try.
Law firms are not news outlets. And that’s just fine: reporters break the news, but lawyers interpret it, explain how and why it matters, advise their clients on what to do about it. Of course it’s important to be timely, but not at the sake of doing what you do best: providing a legal perspective on the business and political issues that affect your clients’ success. Because while they can find out on CNN that the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, you’re the one who can tell them how it’s going to change the way they do business.
2. Write for people, not lawyers.
Identify the person you are writing for – the Associate GC wondering how she’s going to tell her boss that the company’s been sued, the head of China operations who’s struggling to implement an effective compliance program, the HR manager who has to lead an internal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment – and speak directly to that person in your written work. Imagine you’re sitting across the table and explaining key issues and how to approach them. And, if it’s at all possible, try not to use terms like “Rule 5(w)(iii)” or “Exchange Act Sections 10(b), 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A), 13(b)(2)(B) and 13(b)(5).”
3. Tell stories.
People like stories, they read them and share them with friends. Not coincidentally, you want people to read your work and share it with their contacts. One way to do that? Give them legal insight disguised as a story. It doesn’t have to be Romeo and Juliet, but it should contain the basic elements of a story: setting, characters, conflict, resolution. Set the scene, describe who’s involved, explain what will happen, and how to respond so that everybody lives happily ever after. Let them identify with the characters, understand the dangers, be relieved when the problems are solved. When you can, tell a story.
4. Titles are everything.
The title is the most important part of your article. That may sound simple and self-evident, but it’s extremely hard to pull off a title that compels people to click and share what you’ve written. Let me be clear on this: even if the issue is business-critical for your clients, they won’t care unless the title convinces them to care. Write titles that explain WHY a reader should click the link – not WHAT they will find if they do – and you’ll find your work being read and shared.
5. Good content always wins.
You’re never going to have an exclusive on the legal and regulatory developments that affect your clients. That’s a given: whatever the issue, scores of competitors will write on the same topic, explain the same rules and regulations, identify similar concerns. To rise above the crowd, you need to be more on point, to demonstrate a keen understanding of the problems and how to resolve them, to articulate real risks and propose real solutions, even if it means “giving away” good advice.
[You can reach Lance Godard on Twitter, LinkedIn, and JD Supra. Drop us a line if you'd like to write for this Content Strategy series. Yes, we mean you.]