Yes, Storytelling Is Everything, But How Can Lawyers Actually Incorporate 'Story' Into Legal Analysis?

by JD Supra Perspectives
Contact

"It's all about storytelling! Connect with your target audience by telling stories..."

I get it. We all get it. Storytelling is everything in content marketing

But.

When I hear a mainstream marketing mantra make its way into the legal marketplace, I often find myself wondering: how, exactly, will that happen? What will it look like, on the ground?

In this case, how will lawyers, their practice groups, and law firms incorporate storytelling into a very particular marketing discipline characterized by risk aversion, a written code of conduct, and other limits that make the business of selling legal service very different from selling tents, or toothpaste, or shoes, or yogurt, or airline tickets?

As one who has spent a lifetime believing in the enormous power of storytelling to connect humans to each other, my question is even more specific: How will lawyers and their firms incorporate storytelling into content marketing efforts where making sense of the law on behalf of a very specific target audience (C-suite executives, in-house attorneys, business leaders, and others with particular, need-to-know corporate concerns) has shown itself to be a powerful way to gain visibility for expertise, build relationships, and support activities that drive business growth?

In other words:

How can law firm thought leaders incorporate storytelling into their legal analysis and commentary?

I have some ideas.

The great American novelist Henry James in his Art of Fiction said that a successful story is one in which the reader either identifies with or recognizes the characters therein. This fundamental point is key to all storytelling: You either see yourself in the story, or you recognize the person in the story - not you, but plausibly human. Translated:

1. Know Your Audience

I was reminded of James' point recently while reading Jay Harrington's excellent post about storytelling as the great equalizer in law firm marketing. In his piece, Jay says:

No story, nor piece of law firm content, is universally appealing. This means that you must start with an understanding of who your audience is, what members of the audience want, and what pain points they're struggling with.

How? Research. In this age of mass technology it has never been easier to confirm what you know about a target audience through research.

Elsewhere I've written about the folly of marketing/broadcasting what you hope interests people, versus the process of determining what it is, exactly, people want and then giving them that. As Jay says, "Start with empathy and understanding, then demonstrate expertise and authority." 

Research should be a key first part of any law firm content strategy. The goal: to use all evidence at your disposal (attorney insights, client feedback and questions, industry news, and robust data) to build a profile of your target audience's most pressing needs.

Your reader should be saying: "That's me. This is my problem."

This is an essential first step to "telling a story" in which the readers you care to engage the most can find themselves. Your reader should be saying: "That's me. This is my problem."

2. Make People Your Subject, Not the Law

I've said this elsewhere, many times in many ways: Don't write about the law; write about how the law impacts people you serve.

The most compelling stories are about people (again: That process of identification or recognition is what draws us in).

...don't write about the law; write about how the law impacts people you serve.

Alas, in a large amount of law firm thought leadership, the main focus of the story appears to be the law, not the people impacted by the law. I suggest changing that. In fact, I'd argue that this is one of the easiest and most effective changes you can make in law firm thought leadership.

Obviously, you should continue to make sense of complex legal and regulatory developments in your writing, but frame it entirely within the context of who it impacts and how - and what they can or should do next as a consequence. Some of the best (and most successful) legal alerts and blog posts I have seen over the last decade follow a fairly simple formula. Addressing a specific audience, they state:

  1. Here's what happened
  2. Here's why it matters.
  3. Here's what you should do next.

The third part is essential, and frequently not included or so deeply buried it might as well not be included.

Members of the media (reporters and editors) know this truth. When next your team makes sense of the legal implications of industry or national news, compare how the firm wrote about the story versus how media covered it. The latter's focus is most often: people. The former: again, just the law.

One is being more widely read than the other.

3. Incorporate People Into Your Titles

This is a continuation of the shift in focus mentioned above (make it about people) and is, again, quite simple to enact.

Last month, the fifth most popular article on JD Supra had this for a title: Insurers of Directors and Officers of Delaware Corporations Must Take Heed of The Superior Court’s Recent Murdock Decision.

Many factors determine the popularity of content at any given moment in time. One you can control, and easily, to increase your chances at greater exposure: your titles. The "characters" in the above popular update? Insurers of directors and officers of Delaware corporations...

I suspect that if I went looking, I might find posts on this legal matter with titles like Superior Court Releases Murdock Decision (if not this issue, certainly others) - in which the title of the post vaguely hinted at what, but not who and why it matters.

Identify your characters - your readers - in your title. Make the connection real by making it human. (It's no accident that in studies of viral content, posts with "you" in the headline frequently do best. Often, one can do better than "you" - identify your readers directly whenever you can.)

*

Further:

- consider this case study in which an attorney grew her practice through writing. One key finding in the story: Posts in which she identified specific industries directly were always her most popular.

-  watch this short video presentation in which I discuss how to craft compelling titles based on findings from our ongoing study of what makes some content more popular than others. 

Both of the above underscore this notion of shifting your framing focus (not the substance of your analysis). Make it about people; make it clear who those people are and why they should pay attention to you. Informed by empathy that comes from research and insight that comes from your particular expertise, tell their story.

*

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

Written by:

JD Supra Perspectives
Contact
more
less

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:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. 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. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the 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 shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this 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 the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

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

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.