Seven Content Marketing Tips for Lawyers

by Sayre Happich

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“Content marketing” is no doubt the legal marketing buzz-phrase of the year. The Content Marketing Institute defines it as a “technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience.” So what does this have to do with you? The Bar Association of San Francisco’s Sayre Happich has insights from the 2013 Legal Marketing Technology Conference/West.

All lawyers can benefit from content marketing. By creating targeted content — blog posts, articles, tweets — and pushing it out through the right channels, you can position yourself as a thought leader in a specific area of law. And, whether you are a solo practitioner or part of a megafirm, that can lead to more clients.

During the recent “Content Marketing and Social Media” panel at the 2013 Legal Marketing Technology Conference/West, JD Supra’s Adrian Lurssen and law firm marketers Julie Gurney, Stefanie Marrone, Heather Morse and Joeanne Thomson described their firms’ content marketing campaigns. Here are a few take-aways.

1. The key to content marketing is focusing on your niche.

No lawyer or law firm can be everything to everyone. You need to determine your niche to be an effective marketer of your content. Where is your sweet spot? That’s your niche. Julie Gurney, Senior Communications Manager at Benesch LLP, described how content marketing helped position the firm as thought leader on legal issues related to the shale oil and gas boom. Shift Central conducted market intelligence and collaborated on a marketing plan for the firm that included social media posts, client alerts and a microsite dedicated to shale updates. The plan has helped Benesch gain media attention and stand out to those affected by the shale boom.

2. Understand the publishing platforms.

Firms that are getting content marketing right understand the needs of each of their publishing avenues and where they intersect. This includes firm websites, microsites, blogs and newsletters, social media sites and public relations channels.

3. Building a blog is not the same thing as building an audience.

A successful blog does not maintain itself. You must stay on top of emerging issues in your niche, particularly the areas in which you want to become known as a thought leader. Ever heard of newsjacking? It is a great way to stay in the conversation about emerging issues that clients and prospects may be facing. Interested in landlord-tenant law? Set up a Google Alert that will notify you of all the landlord-tenant issues that are appearing in the news. Take the articles you find and then inject your ideas and commentary about them into a blog post. Then push out your blog via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

4. Writer’s block? Keep yourself in the conversation.

You don’t have to write about your own cases. Heather Morse of Barger & Wolen LLP advised the audience to “write about the cases you want to handle.” If there are other cases in the news, she said, “why not newsjack the story and inject your commentary?” Barger & Wolen attorneys write and distribute content about cases they want based on current court decisions, she said. Even though they don’t have clients involved, writing about these cases keeps the firm in the conversation — and gives them media visibility. They are seen as experts even though they are not directly involved with a particular case. Google a certain case and their firm shows up in the results because they are blogging about it.

5. Understand the lifecycle of getting a client.

How important is content marketing in attracting clients? Morse described the lifecycle of getting a client as looking like this:

  • Attorney writes multiple blog posts on emerging issue.
  • Attorney is asked to speak at a conference after someone sees the attorney is an expert on an emerging issue.
  • Reporter quotes attorney in a major news outlet after hearing attorney speak at the conference.
  • Prospective client sees the newspaper article.
  • Client with legal problem caused by emerging issue calls firm seeking representation.

6. Include videos in your content marketing strategy.

Morrison & Foerster’s Stefanie Marrone described her firm’s success using video, and what the firm’s clients look for. She recommends that you keep videos short and focused on a single issue. Post them to all platforms, including both YouTube and Vimeo, and then link to them on your website and blog and via social media sites.

7. What does Pinterest have to do with the law?

Marrone said one way lawyers are using Pinterest is to “pin” practice area-related infographics. Searching the term “legal infographics” on Google yields more than 9 million results. You might try searching Pinterest to see what other firms are doing so you can get ideas for your own firm.

The slides from this presentation can be found on the Legal Marketing Association website.

About the author:

Sayre Happich is the Assistant Director of Communications and Social Media Manager at The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF), where she has been since 2004. Sayre manages the BASF’s website, monthly newspaper, bimonthly e-newsletters and public relations efforts. She also heads up the organization’s social media efforts, @SFbar.