Here's a quick exercise with great results for any attorney-writer hard-pressed for new content ideas. I've described this short, painless process (should take you five minutes, max) in a handful of recent presentations and, typically, this is the moment when I see audience members put their heads down and start taking notes.

Usually I'm talking to a roomful of busy marketing professionals looking for ways to support attorneys who are writing for business development. I start by saying: "Stand at the threshold of your attorney's office and say..." If you are a lawyer reading this - someone who understands the value of writing for business reasons, but whose blog is languishing, or whose blog is yet to launch (because: content!) - well, then imagine I am standing at your door as I say this:

I am often asked...

Take out a single sheet of paper. Write at the top of it: "I am often asked..." Draw six lines underneath that, each under the other, so that you're using the entire piece of paper.

Now, without lingering  on any one answer too much, complete that opening line six times - in six different ways. What are you often asked. Write it out. Quickly. Write what comes to mind first.

Don't: overthink it. These are not titles for blog posts. This is simply you completing the sentence "I am often asked..." six times. As though you're talking to someone standing at the door to your office who just happens to have asked. The more you consider this exercise as writing, the more you'll start fussing over the way you say it - and that's not the point when generating ideas. 

Keep it basic and quick.

Do: think back (again without lingering too much on one idea) to client telephone conversations, meetings with prospective clients, hallway discussions at conferences, polite small talk at cocktail receptions, lunches with colleagues, webinar Q&A sessions, moments when the stranger you just met learns you are an attorney and poses that question they've always wanted to ask but didn't know anyone to answer it. Until now. 

Evergreen versus timely...

Whether you use these terms or not, you're undoubtedly aware of the difference between evergreen and timely content. In short, timely is a piece of writing that matters most today and, as such, in the context of legal writing, often is analysis of a breaking news story, mainstream or industry-specific. "Here's what just happened; here's why it matters to you; here's how you should respond..."

Evergreen topics tend not to lose their significance over time. Generally speaking, looking at recent headlines, "Uber agrees to pay $100M to drivers in settlement. What this means for all employers" is a timely approach. "What's the difference between an independent contractor and full time employee?" is evergreen. (Both have tremendous value as you seek to engage readers with your work.)

You now have the start of an editorial calendar...

I make the evergreen-timely distinction because - with your responses to "I am often asked..." - you now have the solid start to an editorial calendar with six topic ideas that are, more likely than not, evergreen in nature. People will always be interested in your answer. That's why they keep asking.

The schedule is yours to set, but for this exercise let's assume you are building a three month calendar, starting next Monday and moving forward through, roughly, twelve weeks. Grab a new sheet of paper now and draw lines representing each week, starting on Monday, through three months from now.

Now, schedule yourself a new writing assignment, due every other week. That is a reasonable burden. Keep it short; make each post a written answer/exploration of a topic identified in your "Often asked..." list. ("I am often asked XYZ, and here's what I say...")

Six topics, treated to a post every other week, has you writing regularly for the next three months. And, most importantly, writing about something you actually know people care about. You're often asked.

(Google has a version of this: it's the drop-down menu that appears as you write your search query - a compilation of the most frequent searches that complete the words you've started to write. The lesson - Google's and yours: the best way to connect with an audience is to give them what you know they want.)

What to do on your off weeks...

If you're busy, as we all are, running an exercise that gives you an interesting writing topic due every other week is a terrific place to start. Worth doing, no question. However, if you'd prefer to be writing weekly, here's how to fill in the blanks on those off weeks, when you have no writing assigned.

Although I suspect you already do this daily, give yourself one morning early in the week to scan news headlines. Peruse the mainstream press, read the niche periodicals that cover your clients' industries. Customize a JD Supra daily email digest covering the industries and topics you practice in (where you'll find the hot topics of the moment).

Look for news that requires explaining to your clients - the type of analysis you are best at. Don't be at all concerned if you think it's already been done. Maybe it has, but you have your own good take - and, anyway, it may have been written, but it can always be more read.

In short, in the weeks when you are not addressing an evergreen topic as ID'd by this original exercise, address timely topics. Find a news item whose impact should be explained. By you.

With this one-two punch, you're setting yourself up for one article a week for the next three months. And as we know from the successful writers profiled in JD Supra's Write Stuff Q&A series, that's how you make it. 

Show up and write.


How do you come up with writing ideas? Share below...



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