Writing to Stand Out? Know Your Competition

by JD Supra Perspectives
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...it doesn’t make sense to produce the same piece content when six other firms have already done so.

When I swam competitively in high school and college, the mantra was to swim the race your way, and never break form to look at the competition. If you were disciplined and had trained well, knowing someone was closing the gap was unnecessary. You knew how to race hard, and how hard you needed to race. But if you feared a fellow swimmer on your non-dominant side, there was a huge temptation to sneak a peak. It was rarely if ever a good idea. Whenever I succumbed, it tended to instill panic rather than enhance determination. 

From what I can tell, the rule holds true in track. My daughter ran Division I in college, and I never saw her break form to check what was going on behind her. 

When it comes to fashioning content that gets you noticed online, this rule is deadly. 

Content takes time and money to produce. And we’re drowning in it. So it doesn’t make sense to produce the same piece content when six other firms have already done so. You need to study your competition.

1. Know exactly what your competitors are publishing.

Check out their blogs and client alerts. With platforms like JD Supra, it takes just minutes to size up the competition. Sign up for the alerts of the firms you expect to face in the RFP process. Are there a half-dozen firms already writing up-to-the-minute, breaking news pieces on banking regulatory law? Compose a simple spreadsheet or matrix outlining the content landscape. Spend some planning a fresh approach to the subject.

Sign up for the alerts of the firms you expect to face in the RFP process.

2. Uncover what content isn’t being delivered.

For example, is anyone writing a monthly or quarterly regulatory roundup? Perhaps that’s an easier way for readers to keep abreast of changes, rather than read every breaking post. Analyze the content offerings you find. What could make this information more accessible and therefore more valuable?

3. Examine the formats; identify which are little-used.

Is there room in your content corner of the world for a targeted Q&A on a topic? What about a short interview with an industry leader or regulator? Is anyone taking a “best practices” approach, publishing in a “do’s and don’ts” format, or a “top 5 things to keep top of mind” style? Anyone producing videos or podcasts? 

4. Determine which of these approaches fit your style and your practice...

...and which are doable. Be ruthlessly honest. It takes effort to produce original content that stands out. Strong brands become so by sticking to message. Building an audience is the long game.

Bottom line: if you want to stake out some territory, do so intelligently. Content is work. Make sure you are getting the ROI for your efforts. The days of content for content’s sake are over. Most readers have had enough of the “brand building” and SEO-driven content. Deliver content that’s valuable, is unique, and helps you craft your own voice in the marketplace. You are in a crowded field, so spend time thinking about your readers and their needs. Widget writers need not apply.

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[Susan Kostal is an editor, writer, business development strategist and media coach with over 25 years experience on the beat and in the C-suite. Susan's expertise includes legal industry trends, marketing, communications, and public relations.]

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