3 Requirements of a Successful Law Firm Content Marketing Plan

by JD Supra Perspectives

"When you look down at the twinkling lights of the houses and cars below you, know that you are looking at your audience. Those are the people for whom you write. You owe them your best work..."

I remember as a kid reading an essay my father wrote in the late 1970s for the University of Cape Town’s journalism students on what it meant to be a newspaper reporter in that time and place. My dad was a career journalist in South Africa and he described how, as the paper’s news editor, he would tell his new hires to drive up the slopes of Table Mountain at twilight for a sweeping view of the city below. His reporters would see pretty much exactly what you see now, in the above image of Cape Town, one of the world’s most beautiful cities. 

And that quote at the top of this post is what my dad would say to his new reporters, asking them to contemplate their work as they looked out at the teeming city before them.

It used to be easy to understand audience.

I’ve never forgotten that essay. It is of course an interesting snippet into the life of a journalist in South Africa during the height of apartheid. But it is also an interesting example of how, not so long ago, when ink and paper were among the chief technological means of publication, we actually had the ability to see what our audience looked like.

I mean, literally: we could picture our readers. Doing that today? Not so easy.

What does audience look like today? What is the picture in this global age of digital, hyper-social media? We now live in a world of such fractured and dispersed information that the answer will never be as easy as saying: drive to the top of the hill and look down on your city. Those are your readers.

I can tell you what audience is not.

To whit: many of us confuse having the means to publish (an investment in technology) with having an audience (an investment in actual readers). They’re not the same thing; not by a long shot.

...many of us confuse having the means to publish with having an audience. 

Today, the rallying cry of marketers everywhere is: we are all publishers, we are the media. This is true to some degree, but most definitely not a given - especially if your plan does not include an investment in audience.

If you build it, they won't necessarily come.

For some people and businesses the Web 1.0 rallying cry ("If you build it, they will come!") was true to a degree, but it never really was true enough. For the rest, it wasn’t true at all.

Building a website (or a blog) is not the same thing as building an audience. One is mostly a question of technology, the other: a question of people.

I say all of this because time and again we hear law firm marketers say: I built a blog, but nobody reads it. What gives?

Well, yes. You built a blog. You've mistaken having the means to publish with having an audience. They're not the same; your strategy is incomplete.

Three requirements of a successful content strategy: technology, content, audience.

When it comes to strategic planning for content marketers and media-empire-builders-in-the-making, there really are three things that deserve your attention and effort.

Each presents its own challenges and, as such, should be planned for separately. Online publishing works best at the intersection of all three. They are:

  1. Developing the means to publish (technology);
  2. Having something to say (content); and
  3. Engaging an audience of readers (visibility).

Ironically, while lawyers and law firms are reputed for being behind the curve when it comes to technology, you actually stand to benefit greatly from this landscape because you have something to say. Lawyers have a hard-earned, well-studied expertise that guides and informs how we conduct business and live our lives in an essential, need-to-know way. In this age of ubiquitous information, your content matters (if you get it in front of the right people).

What about audience?

We see people address this in many different ways, including: SEO, relationship building, distribution, and so on. (Obviously, audience is what we do at JD Supra - our clients provide content; we provide the readers.)

Whatever your tactic, and there are many, if you're not proactively planning on audience - how to reach, engage, and develop target readers - your strategy remains incomplete.

I had an Aha moment in this regard several years ago while presenting at a conference on digital media and professional services. My co-panelist, a marketer in a large, East Coast-based law firm, took the stage and showed a slide of her firm's total readership for the previous year.

The firm had achieved over a million views for all publications over a twelve month period (and I was very pleased to see that JD Supra had facilitated more than 70% of that). She introduced the slide with: "This is a look at our total audience across all platforms for the year."

Yes! It's such a simple statement but at the heart of it is an approach that does not rely on chance. A firm that can produce a slide showing their view counts on all platforms, with a subsequent grand total at the bottom, is a firm that does not build its content plan upon the wishful thinking: if you build it they will come.

Rather, it's a firm that uses all means at its disposal to take their content to an audience where it gathers.

As you set up your law firm as a publisher know that your strategy requires time spent understanding, perfecting, and connecting all three of these elements. Your means to publish, your audience, and your content all work together.

Your plan should reflect that and not be based on the wishful misunderstanding that if you build it, they will come.


[Adrian Lurssen is co-founder and VP of strategic development of JD Supra. Connect with him on LinkedIn. Follow his latest writings on JD Supra.]

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