11 Writing Tips to Engage & Keep An Audience (From Thought Leaders Who've Done It)

by JD Supra Perspectives

[Law firm consulant Lance Godard originally published the following post on his blog after asking recipients of JD Supra's 2018 Readers' Choice Awards for insights on maximizing visibility of their writing:]

JD Supra just published its 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards, recognizing the 240 most-read authors of legal analysis and business commentary out of the 50,000(!) who publish on the site, and once again it’s full of valuable competitive information on what’s important to clients across a broad range of disciplines.

I wanted to find out from the most-read authors of 2017 why they think readers keep coming back to their work. My question:

As a top author in your category, what is one piece of advice you’d give other attorneys or writers trying to gain the same sort of visibility?

Responses form the top authors are insightful:

1. Stay on top of emerging topics and issues

From Kathryn Rattigan (Robinson & Cole), #1 in Airlines/Aviation: “Determine one area that you are looking to position yourself as a thought leader in and make it a priority to stay on top of emerging topics and issues in that area. The more you read about your industry and your areas of interests, the more knowledge and insight you will have to share with others. I find that it’s best to think of blogging as a competitive hobby you enjoy so that the writing comes more naturally, which will engage your readers.”

2. Be first to market

From Robert Bell (Bryan Cave), #1 in Antitrust & Trade Regulation: “In a crowded marketplace your writing has to stand out from the crowd. I would highlight three key differentiators. It has to be relevant to your audience. Secondly, it has to be timely. Ensuring your analysis is first to market is crucial. Lastly your piece has to be written in a way which is readily accessible for your readers topped with bold eye catching headlines. One of my favourites over the last year or so was my article on the Brexit and the UK Great Repeal Bill entitled “Largest Train Crash in Modern History.”

3. Provide value

From Alan Kaplinsky (Ballard Spahr), #1 in Class Action: “Every post needs to provide value. That means being in front of developing issues so you can tell people things they don’t already know and aren’t reading anyplace else. You have to have the knowledge, that’s a given. But you also need to provide analysis and perspective to your reader. We’ve scooped major American dailies. You need to be first and best. And you need to do it consistently. It’s not easy, but that’s what it takes.”

4. Be practical

From Tom Fox (Compliance Evangelist), #1 in Compliance: “I try to provide practical advice to those in the compliance profession. If you write from an academic or strictly legal perspective, in-house practitioner may not be able to use your advice or translate your thoughts into tangible actions in the corporate world. Be practical and help in-house practitioners use the your legal insights in a tangible manner.”

5. Write about that which you’re passionate

From Linn Freedman (Robinson & Cole), #1 in Cybersecurity: “My advice is to write about subject matters that you are passionate about – that passion comes through and keeps the subject matter interesting for your readers. Keep the message succinct and get away from legalese. I like to write pieces that are practical for clients and readers and my purpose is to keep them up to date on the most recent attacks, risks and intrusions so they can take action in their own organizations. Finally, I have found that if you want to grow your readership, you have to post pieces frequently and the pieces have to be current and relevant. Posting news that is in the mainstream media is of little interest to those searching blogs for current information in a particular area (like cybersecurity).”

6. Write every day

From Michael Reif (Robins Kaplan), #1 in Finance & Banking: “Make writing a part of your everyday routine. I try to write about finance and banking nearly every day, and I find that doing so keeps me on top of the latest developments in the field and keeps me from making excuses about being too busy to fit it in my day.”

7. Be concise, relevant, and quick

From Debra McCurdy (Reed Smith), #1 author in Healthcare: “Our readers are busy executives, general counsel, and other professionals who have access to a tremendous amount of data. They want to get the most relevant information as quickly as possible.  I try to capture in a concise and understandable way what they really need to know about new health policy developments — provisions that could impact industry overall and their business in particular but aren’t featured in a [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] press release, for example.”

8. Be relevant and original

From Barney Reynolds (Shearman & Sterling), #1 in International Law: “Saying something well thought out, relevant and original but not perversely so.”

9. Give readers something to act on

From Raymond Lahoud (Norris McLaughlin & Marcus), #1 in Immigration: “Timely, current information, and choosing topics that will impact and resonate with your audience is key. It needs to be information your readers will act upon, otherwise it is just noise.”

10. Do your homework

From James Beck (Reed Smith), #1 in Life Sciences: “First, write about something you like and are enthusiastic about. Second, set up some kind of system (I use Lexis alerts and Westlaw case citation searches) to ensure that you learn about new developments quickly. Third, don’t be afraid to do research. Readers appreciate news that is not only interesting, but that they can use. Fourth, publish early and often.”

11. Write with emotional investment

From Steve Baird (Winthrop & Weinstine), #1 in Trademarks: “My advice is simply to write with emotional investment in your particular field of professional passion. This approach is what I believe caused best-selling author Seth Godin to draw generous attention to my brainchild DuetsBlog, after our first four years of writing about trademarks and branding topics, without us knowing until then we even had his expert branding attention. He later publicly applauded DuetsBlog as an example of how lawyers might ‘step out’ of their ‘invisibility,’ calling the blog ‘brilliant,’ ‘endlessly interesting,’ ‘filled with opinions,’ and having ‘generous, free teaching.’ After this praise, he even asked his freelancer audience, ‘who are you going to call, some drone in a big office ready to charge $800/hour, or your friend Steve, who has just as much at stake as you do?’

So, to me, with the benefit of Seth’s generous insights, writing with emotional investment implies more than great content, it requires passion, personal opinion (not boring recitation of facts and legal holdings), a generous willingness to share something of value to and with your audience, consistency, and a strong commitment to the written work.”

*             *             *

I put a similar question to Adrian Lurssen, co-founder of JD Supra: What’s the one piece of advice you would give to attorneys and writers on how they get broad visibility for their work?

Perhaps not surprisingly (but noteworthy all the same), he said the same thing, essentially using the exact same words as did the authors:

“All of the authors recognized in these awards have in common the fact that they write. Other than that, there are significant differences. They’ve all been writing for very different audiences, addressing very different matters for their own particular readers. So it is hard to generalize what ties it all together. One size does not always fit all. With that caveat, I will say this: it helps to produce a regular cadence of content. While you can get lucky and achieve enormous popularity with three or four articles in the year, ‘get lucky’ is not particularly good writing advice. So: write regularly.

I think in most cases in these awards, authors published at least once a month. Many of them wrote much more. I would fall on the side of frequency. Keep at it. In fact, it shouldn’t even be a question of “How often should I write?” Attorneys are, frankly, perfectly positioned to be thought leaders because they have a well-trained, thoughtful, important role in making sense of critical matters about the way we conduct our professional and personal lives. What they say matters. Someone who wants to be a thought leader should not ask: how often should I write?

Someone who wants to succeed at this should be driven by an inner desire to engage a community and a body of thought, and they should get busy doing just that. I suspect that many of the writers in these awards can’t help but to write often about the subject. They’re geeks, in the best sense of the word, for these topics.

Tied to that, they also have a pulse on what matters to their readers. Part of their writing includes knowing what to write about. There are many ways to do this – from deep dives into data analysis to simple exercises capturing frequently asked questions – but it is essential. Address what your readers actually care about; not what you hope they care about.

Finally, I would argue that niche is good. Don’t try to be the most well-read Labor & Employment author. Pick a niche topic or two within that space and own them…”

Study the Awards, update your content strategy, then get writing. You’ll be glad you did.


[Lance Godard has spent three decades within the legal profession, in-house and as a consultant, helping lawyers and practice groups grow their book of business. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow his new work on JD Supra.]

Written by:

JD Supra Perspectives

JD Supra Perspectives on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
- hide

JD Supra Privacy Policy

Updated: May 25, 2018:

JD Supra is a legal publishing service that connects experts and their content with broader audiences of professionals, journalists and associations.

This Privacy Policy describes how JD Supra, LLC ("JD Supra" or "we," "us," or "our") collects, uses and shares personal data collected from visitors to our website (located at www.jdsupra.com) (our "Website") who view only publicly-available content as well as subscribers to our services (such as our email digests or author tools)(our "Services"). By using our Website and registering for one of our Services, you are agreeing to the terms of this Privacy Policy.

Please note that if you subscribe to one of our Services, you can make choices about how we collect, use and share your information through our Privacy Center under the "My Account" dashboard (available if you are logged into your JD Supra account).

Collection of Information

Registration Information. When you register with JD Supra for our Website and Services, either as an author or as a subscriber, you will be asked to provide identifying information to create your JD Supra account ("Registration Data"), such as your:

  • Email
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Company Name
  • Company Industry
  • Title
  • Country

Other Information: We also collect other information you may voluntarily provide. This may include content you provide for publication. We may also receive your communications with others through our Website and Services (such as contacting an author through our Website) or communications directly with us (such as through email, feedback or other forms or social media). If you are a subscribed user, we will also collect your user preferences, such as the types of articles you would like to read.

Information from third parties (such as, from your employer or LinkedIn): We may also receive information about you from third party sources. For example, your employer may provide your information to us, such as in connection with an article submitted by your employer for publication. If you choose to use LinkedIn to subscribe to our Website and Services, we also collect information related to your LinkedIn account and profile.

Your interactions with our Website and Services: As is true of most websites, we gather certain information automatically. This information includes IP addresses, browser type, Internet service provider (ISP), referring/exit pages, operating system, date/time stamp and clickstream data. We use this information to analyze trends, to administer the Website and our Services, to improve the content and performance of our Website and Services, and to track users' movements around the site. We may also link this automatically-collected data to personal information, for example, to inform authors about who has read their articles. Some of this data is collected through information sent by your web browser. We also use cookies and other tracking technologies to collect this information. To learn more about cookies and other tracking technologies that JD Supra may use on our Website and Services please see our "Cookies Guide" page.

How do we use this information?

We use the information and data we collect principally in order to provide our Website and Services. More specifically, we may use your personal information to:

  • Operate our Website and Services and publish content;
  • Distribute content to you in accordance with your preferences as well as to provide other notifications to you (for example, updates about our policies and terms);
  • Measure readership and usage of the Website and Services;
  • Communicate with you regarding your questions and requests;
  • Authenticate users and to provide for the safety and security of our Website and Services;
  • Conduct research and similar activities to improve our Website and Services; and
  • Comply with our legal and regulatory responsibilities and to enforce our rights.

How is your information shared?

  • Content and other public information (such as an author profile) is shared on our Website and Services, including via email digests and social media feeds, and is accessible to the general public.
  • If you choose to use our Website and Services to communicate directly with a company or individual, such communication may be shared accordingly.
  • Readership information is provided to publishing law firms and authors of content to give them insight into their readership and to help them to improve their content.
  • Our Website may offer you the opportunity to share information through our Website, such as through Facebook's "Like" or Twitter's "Tweet" button. We offer this functionality to help generate interest in our Website and content and to permit you to recommend content to your contacts. You should be aware that sharing through such functionality may result in information being collected by the applicable social media network and possibly being made publicly available (for example, through a search engine). Any such information collection would be subject to such third party social media network's privacy policy.
  • Your information may also be shared to parties who support our business, such as professional advisors as well as web-hosting providers, analytics providers and other information technology providers.
  • Any court, governmental authority, law enforcement agency or other third party where we believe disclosure is necessary to comply with a legal or regulatory obligation, or otherwise to protect our rights, the rights of any third party or individuals' personal safety, or to detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or safety issues.
  • To our affiliated entities and in connection with the sale, assignment or other transfer of our company or our business.

How We Protect Your Information

JD Supra takes reasonable and appropriate precautions to insure that user information is protected from loss, misuse and unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration and destruction. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. You should keep in mind that no Internet transmission is ever 100% secure or error-free. Where you use log-in credentials (usernames, passwords) on our Website, please remember that it is your responsibility to safeguard them. If you believe that your log-in credentials have been compromised, please contact us at privacy@jdsupra.com.

Children's Information

Our Website and Services are not directed at children under the age of 16 and we do not knowingly collect personal information from children under the age of 16 through our Website and/or Services. If you have reason to believe that a child under the age of 16 has provided personal information to us, please contact us, and we will endeavor to delete that information from our databases.

Links to Other Websites

Our Website and Services may contain links to other websites. The operators of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using our Website or Services and click a link to another site, you will leave our Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We are not responsible for the data collection and use practices of such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of our Website and Services and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Information for EU and Swiss Residents

JD Supra's principal place of business is in the United States. By subscribing to our website, you expressly consent to your information being processed in the United States.

  • Our Legal Basis for Processing: Generally, we rely on our legitimate interests in order to process your personal information. For example, we rely on this legal ground if we use your personal information to manage your Registration Data and administer our relationship with you; to deliver our Website and Services; understand and improve our Website and Services; report reader analytics to our authors; to personalize your experience on our Website and Services; and where necessary to protect or defend our or another's rights or property, or to detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security, safety or privacy issues. Please see Article 6(1)(f) of the E.U. General Data Protection Regulation ("GDPR") In addition, there may be other situations where other grounds for processing may exist, such as where processing is a result of legal requirements (GDPR Article 6(1)(c)) or for reasons of public interest (GDPR Article 6(1)(e)). Please see the "Your Rights" section of this Privacy Policy immediately below for more information about how you may request that we limit or refrain from processing your personal information.
  • Your Rights
    • Right of Access/Portability: You can ask to review details about the information we hold about you and how that information has been used and disclosed. Note that we may request to verify your identification before fulfilling your request. You can also request that your personal information is provided to you in a commonly used electronic format so that you can share it with other organizations.
    • Right to Correct Information: You may ask that we make corrections to any information we hold, if you believe such correction to be necessary.
    • Right to Restrict Our Processing or Erasure of Information: You also have the right in certain circumstances to ask us to restrict processing of your personal information or to erase your personal information. Where you have consented to our use of your personal information, you can withdraw your consent at any time.

You can make a request to exercise any of these rights by emailing us at privacy@jdsupra.com or by writing to us at:

Privacy Officer
JD Supra, LLC
10 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 300
Sausalito, California 94965

You can also manage your profile and subscriptions through our Privacy Center under the "My Account" dashboard.

We will make all practical efforts to respect your wishes. There may be times, however, where we are not able to fulfill your request, for example, if applicable law prohibits our compliance. Please note that JD Supra does not use "automatic decision making" or "profiling" as those terms are defined in the GDPR.

  • Timeframe for retaining your personal information: We will retain your personal information in a form that identifies you only for as long as it serves the purpose(s) for which it was initially collected as stated in this Privacy Policy, or subsequently authorized. We may continue processing your personal information for longer periods, but only for the time and to the extent such processing reasonably serves the purposes of archiving in the public interest, journalism, literature and art, scientific or historical research and statistical analysis, and subject to the protection of this Privacy Policy. For example, if you are an author, your personal information may continue to be published in connection with your article indefinitely. When we have no ongoing legitimate business need to process your personal information, we will either delete or anonymize it, or, if this is not possible (for example, because your personal information has been stored in backup archives), then we will securely store your personal information and isolate it from any further processing until deletion is possible.
  • Onward Transfer to Third Parties: As noted in the "How We Share Your Data" Section above, JD Supra may share your information with third parties. When JD Supra discloses your personal information to third parties, we have ensured that such third parties have either certified under the EU-U.S. or Swiss Privacy Shield Framework and will process all personal data received from EU member states/Switzerland in reliance on the applicable Privacy Shield Framework or that they have been subjected to strict contractual provisions in their contract with us to guarantee an adequate level of data protection for your data.

California Privacy Rights

Pursuant to Section 1798.83 of the California Civil Code, our customers who are California residents have the right to request certain information regarding our disclosure of personal information to third parties for their direct marketing purposes.

You can make a request for this information by emailing us at privacy@jdsupra.com or by writing to us at:

Privacy Officer
JD Supra, LLC
10 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 300
Sausalito, California 94965

Some browsers have incorporated a Do Not Track (DNT) feature. These features, when turned on, send a signal that you prefer that the website you are visiting not collect and use data regarding your online searching and browsing activities. As there is not yet a common understanding on how to interpret the DNT signal, we currently do not respond to DNT signals on our site.

Access/Correct/Update/Delete Personal Information

For non-EU/Swiss residents, if you would like to know what personal information we have about you, you can send an e-mail to privacy@jdsupra.com. We will be in contact with you (by mail or otherwise) to verify your identity and provide you the information you request. We will respond within 30 days to your request for access to your personal information. In some cases, we may not be able to remove your personal information, in which case we will let you know if we are unable to do so and why. If you would like to correct or update your personal information, you can manage your profile and subscriptions through our Privacy Center under the "My Account" dashboard. If you would like to delete your account or remove your information from our Website and Services, send an e-mail to privacy@jdsupra.com.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Privacy Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our Privacy Policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use our Website and Services following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, the practices of this site, your dealings with our Website or Services, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: privacy@jdsupra.com.

JD Supra Cookie Guide

As with many websites, JD Supra's website (located at www.jdsupra.com) (our "Website") and our services (such as our email article digests)(our "Services") use a standard technology called a "cookie" and other similar technologies (such as, pixels and web beacons), which are small data files that are transferred to your computer when you use our Website and Services. These technologies automatically identify your browser whenever you interact with our Website and Services.

How We Use Cookies and Other Tracking Technologies

We use cookies and other tracking technologies to:

  1. Improve the user experience on our Website and Services;
  2. Store the authorization token that users receive when they login to the private areas of our Website. This token is specific to a user's login session and requires a valid username and password to obtain. It is required to access the user's profile information, subscriptions, and analytics;
  3. Track anonymous site usage; and
  4. Permit connectivity with social media networks to permit content sharing.

There are different types of cookies and other technologies used our Website, notably:

  • "Session cookies" - These cookies only last as long as your online session, and disappear from your computer or device when you close your browser (like Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Safari).
  • "Persistent cookies" - These cookies stay on your computer or device after your browser has been closed and last for a time specified in the cookie. We use persistent cookies when we need to know who you are for more than one browsing session. For example, we use them to remember your preferences for the next time you visit.
  • "Web Beacons/Pixels" - Some of our web pages and emails may also contain small electronic images known as web beacons, clear GIFs or single-pixel GIFs. These images are placed on a web page or email and typically work in conjunction with cookies to collect data. We use these images to identify our users and user behavior, such as counting the number of users who have visited a web page or acted upon one of our email digests.

JD Supra Cookies. We place our own cookies on your computer to track certain information about you while you are using our Website and Services. For example, we place a session cookie on your computer each time you visit our Website. We use these cookies to allow you to log-in to your subscriber account. In addition, through these cookies we are able to collect information about how you use the Website, including what browser you may be using, your IP address, and the URL address you came from upon visiting our Website and the URL you next visit (even if those URLs are not on our Website). We also utilize email web beacons to monitor whether our emails are being delivered and read. We also use these tools to help deliver reader analytics to our authors to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

Analytics/Performance Cookies. JD Supra also uses the following analytic tools to help us analyze the performance of our Website and Services as well as how visitors use our Website and Services:

  • HubSpot - For more information about HubSpot cookies, please visit legal.hubspot.com/privacy-policy.
  • New Relic - For more information on New Relic cookies, please visit www.newrelic.com/privacy.
  • Google Analytics - For more information on Google Analytics cookies, visit www.google.com/policies. To opt-out of being tracked by Google Analytics across all websites visit http://tools.google.com/dlpage/gaoptout. This will allow you to download and install a Google Analytics cookie-free web browser.

Facebook, Twitter and other Social Network Cookies. Our content pages allow you to share content appearing on our Website and Services to your social media accounts through the "Like," "Tweet," or similar buttons displayed on such pages. To accomplish this Service, we embed code that such third party social networks provide and that we do not control. These buttons know that you are logged in to your social network account and therefore such social networks could also know that you are viewing the JD Supra Website.

Controlling and Deleting Cookies

If you would like to change how a browser uses cookies, including blocking or deleting cookies from the JD Supra Website and Services you can do so by changing the settings in your web browser. To control cookies, most browsers allow you to either accept or reject all cookies, only accept certain types of cookies, or prompt you every time a site wishes to save a cookie. It's also easy to delete cookies that are already saved on your device by a browser.

The processes for controlling and deleting cookies vary depending on which browser you use. To find out how to do so with a particular browser, you can use your browser's "Help" function or alternatively, you can visit http://www.aboutcookies.org which explains, step-by-step, how to control and delete cookies in most browsers.

Updates to This Policy

We may update this cookie policy and our Privacy Policy from time-to-time, particularly as technology changes. You can always check this page for the latest version. We may also notify you of changes to our privacy policy by email.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about how we use cookies and other tracking technologies, please contact us at: privacy@jdsupra.com.

- hide

This website uses cookies to improve user experience, track anonymous site usage, store authorization tokens and permit sharing on social media networks. By continuing to browse this website you accept the use of cookies. Click here to read more about how we use cookies.