As I mentioned last week, it may not seem like the most important time to be digging into discussing content. But since many of us are publishing SO much of it right now, we want to make sure we’re doing it in a way that’s adding value and not detracting from it. Recently, I came across the “one content marketing question” that we should all be asking ourselves, and it really brought me up short. A reminder, when we talk about “content marketing,” we’re using that to encompass the universe of articles, blog posts, conference presentations, webinars, podcasts, informational videos, etc. – essentially all substantive content that is and can be shared with others.
These days, I think it’s safe to say that we’re pretty much all producing content. So what’s the one question we should all be asking ourselves?
Would anyone miss your content if you did not publish it?
The question itself is less unsettling of course than the potential answer. But let’s consider that for a moment. If you stopped writing articles, blogging, presenting, or whatever you’re doing to provide others with your knowledge, would anyone notice?
Hopefully the answer is a resounding yes!
But what if it isn’t?
Whether anyone would miss your content or not, we all want to always be striving to make sure that it’s fabulous and phenomenal – the Beyonce of content, if you will, right?
A few years ago, you may remember that, Beyonce made headlines for disappointing her fans – not a good thing, but the story illustrates the power of her brand. She hinted that she’d be making an announcement, so people waited in eager anticipation of this news (thinking it was a new album dropping). Some people actually took the day off from work! It turned out that she was discussing a new vegan diet, but Beyonce’s content is SO strong that her fans will drop everything for her. I’m going to guess that the followers of your content aren’t driven by quite the same level of fanaticism.
I’m reminded of the Zappos presentation I attended a few years ago, when an audience member pointed out that it’s all well and good to talk about shoes, because people are excited to see a box from Zappos show up on their door. They’re not as excited to see their lawyer show up at their door. So I can hear some of you saying the same thing about Beyonce – there’s no comparison, right?
While you’re unlikely to get the same level of excitement and hand wringing (I hope) that a new Beyonce album would produce, there are a few things that we should all be doing to ensure that our content is as fierce as it can be, so that when it comes across someone’s desk or our name pops up in a conference program, the content consumers want to drop what they’re doing and pay attention. And that IS a goal we can aspire to, even in the legal industry.
Let’s look at three tips from this blog post about content production, and how they apply in the legal industry.
Tip One: “Find and Publish Killer Content”
This tip is especially apropos for the legal industry, and we’ll look at why in a moment. First, let’s see what the Content Marketing Institute has to say in their piece (note that these statistics are from 2015):
The Huffington Post: 110 million estimated unique monthly visitors
Question: How does HuffPost manage to publish some of the most viral articles on the Internet?
Answer: Because HuffPost is a news aggregator.
The Huffington Post publishes articles found elsewhere on the web by aggregating or collecting these articles and publishing them on its domain.
The Huffington Post employs people not just to write great content, but to look for great content that other people write. When they find it, The Huffington Post publishes it.
The result? Maniacal sharing and instant popularity.”
Although the term “thought leader” has become horribly cliche, it’s still the best way to describe one of the goals I see for content marketing – thought leaders, per Google, are “informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in their field of expertise. They are trusted sources who move and inspire people with innovative ideas; turn ideas into reality, and know and show how to replicate their success.”
Part of the reason that we produce content is to become the “go-to-people” in our field of expertise, right? We want to be thought leaders, and now, more than ever. But thought leaders are more than people who can speak effectively on a subject – that’s part of it, of course. But in addition, a thought leader should also…
- Be on the cutting edge of the latest news and information in that field/niche.
- Know the other thought leaders and influencers in the field, and be in regular contact with them.
- Understand all sides of any arguments in the field, and be able to articulate their position effectively.
How can you easily communicate all of the above, without first establishing individual relationships with the clients and potential clients that you’d like to make aware of it? Actually, through content marketing, and doing exactly what the Content Marketing Institute is talking about above.
Become a news aggregator – If you want to be the go-to-expert in a certain area, you have to show people that’s what you are. So act as a news aggregator for all information in that area, regardless of the source. (When I say “regardless of the source,” I mean don’t discount your competitors. You should still only use legitimate, referenced sources). It will also make the content marketing process MUCH more streamlined for you:
- Set up an RSS reader and subscribe to bloggers who write in the same area/niche. Also set up searches for keywords, phrases, companies, etc. that would be relevant to your area of expertise.
- Set up Google alerts in the same way.
- Share these – when something comes in that you want to comment on, use it in a blog post, with credit, and add your own commentary and personality. Consider doing a weekly roundup of the hot topics in the industry for that week, or the top posts for the week. Anything you don’t comment on in your blog, share through Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook with a few words. Make yourself the go-to-guy or gal for all the latest information on that subject. Don’t limit yourself to blogging either – if you have a podcast, you can devote an episode to a roundup, or use this as your research for finding capable podcast guests. Create a roundtable of experts to discuss hot topic issues and record the videocast to share out to your audiences. Get creative in the ways you create and deliver content.
- When you reference someone in your content, reach out to them to let them know. Use that as a networking tool to build relationships with other influencers in the industry and ask them to be a guest. The more popular the influencer, the more traction you may get with your own content, but make sure that your invitation is for the right reasons, and not just to get eyes on your content.
When you start with this, soon, content in your area of expertise will start rolling into you on its own and others will seek you out. Your content will immediately become more interesting because it’s not just about what you’re saying – you’re providing a comprehensive picture of what you see as the most important issues in your field.
Tip Two: “Feed and Fuel Curiosity”
This may seem like another one of those tips that won’t have relevance for the legal industry, but it definitely does! First, let’s see what the Content Marketing Institute says:
TMZ: 30 million unique monthly visitors
TMZ is a website about celebrities. OK, it’s an unabashed gossip site. And it’s insanely popular.
[C]elebrity gossip sites are popular because we like to watch celebrities. But why do people like to watch celebrities?
We are insatiably curious beings. Curiosity is ingrained in the body’s neurology, empowering our learning, our discovery, and even motivating our actions. Add celebrities into the mix and we are curious about how the elite live with fame and fortune – sometimes a life to which we aspire.
TMZ feeds this desire for such information while feeding and sustaining the desire for more content on the subject.
The headlines – specific, salacious, and appealing – pique curiosity.
Curiosity is backed by the desire for knowledge. Most blog readers want more knowledge.”
Now I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. “Most blog readers want more knowledge” – and this is true whether they’re reading about celebrities or intellectual property law (it’s just the “what” that’s different).
CMI even tells us quite directly how to address this need:
Write powerful and intriguing headlines.
Offer secrets, tips, tricks, hacks, or inside information.
Provide exclusive information to people who sign up or provide their email addresses.”
You see this with successful legal bloggers all the time – they’ll write great headlines that are short, and to the point. Their posts are informative and may offer something like “five things you need to know about endorsement agreements,” which make the reader feel like they’re getting some sort of “hack” for the “system.”
And although I sometimes feel that it’s a bit “icky” to do the “we’ll send you a white paper if you give us your email address,” tactic, that can be effective.
Tip Three: “Know Your Audience Absolutely”
I almost put this tip first, because it’s that important. If you’re a regular Zen reader, you know that I say it all the time – KNOW.YOUR.AUDIENCE.
Because if you’re not writing for them, you’re writing for no one.
In fact, CMI agrees with me on the importance of this point:
Everything about content marketing rests on this one point – who is your audience? If I’m writing for fitness aficionados, I’m going to write a certain way. If I’m writing for programmers, I’m going to write another way. What works for group A is not going to work for group B.”
They looked at Business Insider as their case study for this point.
Business Insider: 25.5 million estimated unique monthly visitors
Business Insider knows who it is trying to reach. Evidently, it does a darn good job of it.
How can I be so sure?
Take a look at the stats. Growing a fanatical reader base of nearly 30 million doesn’t happen through haphazard, unfocused article blasting. Business Insider is bigger than its rival CNBC and outperforms Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and other massive news sites.
Henry Blodget, Business Insider’s CEO explains, ‘Our site is half the size of The Wall Street Journal, and they have about 1,700 people on staff.’ Business Insider, by contrast, runs a lean, mean content-generation machine with far fewer people.
That’s impressive! They’re doing more, with less. How’s that possible? Because they know their audience exactly.
For lawyers, that’s just as important. Who is your audience? If you have an existing blog, for example, look at your statistics to get some of the information, and ask your readers to get the rest.
- What are their favorite posts/sections?
- What keywords do they search to reach your site?
- How long do they spend on average looking at it?
- Are your readers male, female, younger, older?
- Are they very senior in their companies, or young venture capitalists?
- When do they consume their content?
- Do they prefer to get it on their mobile devices?
If you’re just getting started, look to your key clients in the industry/niche that you want to write or talk about, and talk to them about what they want to read to get at the above information. Importantly, do not assume that you know the answers to these questions, no matter how well you know your clients, or how long you’ve worked in the industry. Some of the answers may surprise you, so you need to ask them.
Why is this important? Without knowing your audience, you’ll never know what makes sense in your blogging/content marketing and how to take it to the next level, because you don’t know what they want.
We can’t all be Beyonce, but we can all strive to be the Beyonce of our own content marketing domains. What are you doing to make people “Crazy in Love” with your content? (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist!)