...lawyers are building new and innovative thought leadership platforms using video and audio.
Cultivating a reputation as a thought leader is the best form of legal marketing because it allows a lawyer to create a credible, authentic relationship with prospects and meet them where they are, which is online, in control, and searching for solutions to the challenges they face. As a consequence of putting thought leadership out into the marketplace of ideas, lawyers generate business development opportunities because they remain top-of-mind with their prospective clients.
One of the prerequisites to becoming a thought leader is having a platform from which to share one’s ideas. Traditionally, lawyers have expressed thought leadership from behind the podium at speaking events and on their firm’s website or blog. Today, lawyers are building new and innovative thought leadership platforms using video and audio. Podcasting, in particular, has been gaining steam in 2018 and 2019. That said, we’re still in the very early stages of the audio revolution in legal marketing.
This summer, my business partner and I finally got around to launching a podcast. It’s called “The Thought Leadership Project.” Having consulted with several law firms over the years to help them start their own podcasts, I deeply understood the value of having a podcast as a thought leadership platform, but never got around to creating my own.
Why? I fell victim to the “Cobbler’s Kids” syndrome. I procrastinated and put off this important initiative. Perhaps you have, too, despite your best intentions. The purpose of this post, therefore, is to give you some insights and motivation that will help you get your law firm’s podcast up and running. The good news: A podcast can be extremely beneficial and it’s less complicated and time-consuming than you might think to get started.
Every lawyer who produces thought leadership content—or wants to—should consider starting a podcast.
Here are four reasons why
1. It’s Personal
I’m a big advocate of written thought leadership, especially if it involves guest posting on platforms (like JD Supra) that are read and trusted by your target audience. However, the written word is simply not as resonant on an interpersonal level as audio. When someone hears your voice, your inflections, your sense of humor, and your passion on a podcast, they form a deeper connection with you than they would by merely reading something you wrote. Business development is still an intensely personal endeavor, so the more directly you can connect with your audience through your thought leadership the better.
2. It Will Expand Your Network
By nature of having a podcast, you’ll reach new people who prefer audio content over written content. Podcasting gives lawyers the opportunity to draw prospective clients and industry influencers within their network.
When consulting with law firms on how to create a successful podcast, I consistently implore my clients to consider developing a podcast format that involves interviewing guests. Sure, it takes more work to book and prepare for guest podcast interviews but the payoff is worth it. Not only is the content often more engaging, but by giving an influential general counsel, investment banker, or other prospective client or referral source a platform to share their ideas, you have the chance to develop a connection that may otherwise have been out of reach.
Most invitations to lunch are declined these days. The opportunity to appear and shine on a podcast, on the other hand, is an offer than many can’t refuse.
3. You’ll Improve Your Communication Skills
Every seasoned podcaster will tell you that their first few episodes are terrible.
Any podcaster’s first 10 episodes are akin to the first draft of a book manuscript—not nearly as polished as the finished product. I can tell you from my own experience that my early episodes contain way more “ums,” “ahs,” and other verbal tics than I hoped for. There are questions I wish I would have phrased differently when interviewing guests. The reason that episodes get better over time is that through the practice of podcasting your communication skills will get better. You’ll notice your verbal tics as you listen to past episodes and consciously commit to eliminate them.
Your enhanced communication skills will not only improve your podcasting—they’ll spill over and make you better on the phone with clients, in the courtroom, boardroom, and behind the microphone at public speaking events. Yes, you’ll hate hearing your own voice. But the feedback you’ll derive will be invaluable.
4. You’ll Save Time
I’ve written two books and hundreds of articles on legal marketing and business development topics over the last decade. In my nascent days of podcasting, I can tell you that the volume of my writing will go down as the level of my audio content goes up.
One reason for the shift is that, as attention spans dwindle and tastes change, I believe that audio consumption will continue to rise. People can consume podcast content on-the-go, during margin time in the car, on the subway, or on the treadmill. Another big reason is that it takes less time to create a podcast episode than it does an in-depth written article.
If you’re a busy lawyer who wants to create more thought leadership content, you can easily create one 30-minute podcast episode per week in one hour of time (assuming you outsource some aspects of production). Conversely, a typical fully-developed blog post often takes three to fours hours to write and edit.
The best podcasts deal with specific issues and are targeted to specific audiences.
Have you bought into the idea of starting a podcast yet? If so, here are a few more tips that will help you to create an effective podcast, not merely another run-of-the-mill one.
Pick a Niche
The best podcasts deal with specific issues and are targeted to specific audiences. Having a niche focus (the narrower the better) to the thought leadership you share on a podcast allows your audience to know what to expect. It enables you to take a deeper dive on topics of importance to those you hope to target for business development.
As a result, your audience will be more engaged with your content and come back for more. You’ll be top of mind with the very people—even if it’s a relatively small number of people—who can influence buying decisions. You’ll become a trusted insider in a niche area, rather than an outsider who’s held at arm’s-length. If you’re interested in learning more about the importance of a niche for thought leadership marketing, check out episode 1 of my podcast.
Keep it Simple with Technology
One of the main sticking points that prevents lawyers and law firms from starting a podcast is uncertainty about technology. Don’t let this stop you. Yes, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but if you’re moderately competent with technology you can figure it out. Plus, you can outsource the more technical tasks, such as some of the initial setup and audio mixing, to consultants and/or in-house IT and marketing professionals within your firm.
To get off the ground, you’ll need a good microphone (I use a Blue Yeti), software to record the podcast audio (I use Zoom), and a podcast host (such as a website or Libsyn) to store your audio files and distribute the RSS feed to iTunes and other podcast platforms.
Most successful podcasts produce fresh content on a consistent frequency in order to create and meet listener expectations. You don’t have to produce a podcast episode every week to be successful, but it is important to maintain a consistent cadence with your podcast output.
That said, statistics show that podcasts that produce new episodes weekly grow at a faster rate than those that publish on a less frequent basis. So if you’re serious about podcasting, do your best to “sell” yourself an hour each week to make it happen.
Create a Process
The more you can systematize your podcasting process the easier it will be. From recording at a specific time each week, to establishing an editorial calendar so you’ll be clear on what topics you’re addressing in advance, to having the right resources in place to produce and promote your episodes, there are a number of strategic issues you’ll want to address in advance to make the process run smoothly.
“Podfading” is a term that describes the typical new podcast that starts off with a bang then fizzles out over time. You can avoid the fade by establishing clear processes to keep yourself on track.
Want to become a thought leader? It’s not only about having great ideas. You need to build a powerful platform to share your ideas with your target audience. Consider starting a podcast. It’s not as hard as you may think.
[Jay Harrington is the owner of Harrington Communications, a leading digital marketing agency for law, consulting, and accounting firms. He specializes in helping law firms build engaging websites and digital marketing strategies through creative design and storytelling. Jay is author of the recently released book The Essential Associate: Step Up, Stand Out, and Rise to the Top as a Young Lawyer. In 2016, his first book, One of a Kind: A Proven Path to a Profitable Law Practice, was published. Jay is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, and previously he was a commercial litigator and corporate bankruptcy attorney at Skadden Arps and Foley & Lardner.]