Content Strategy for Law Firms

Do you work at a law firm and experience the daily dilemma of trying to keep a digital presence fresh, lively, relevant and useful across dozens of channels?

Content strategy can seem like something entirely different depending on which part of it you touch.

You too? Then why don’t you join my LinkedIn group!

Content Strategy for Law Firms is a networking group for the in-house law firm worker bees who conceive, plan, create, produce, govern, manage and analyze content across a variety of media.

The goal of the group is to learn about the mindset, tools and processes of content strategy so that we get better at our jobs – and maybe, eventually begin to build  cultures of content within our firms.

Why Content Strategy for Law Firms? Why now?

I have long wanted to start a networking group for law firm website folks, and had identified “content strategy” as the missing link among the in-house groups I’m active in.  And frankly, the missing link in many law firms.

In the meantime, my peers Kristin Vasilj and Tina Johns had also been discussing the lack of focused networking opportunities for legal industry people in roles like ours that cross communications, strategy, technology, marketing and business development. So we came together to form this group.

Website creation and content maintenance – done properly – breaks down silos within an organization. From this process springs the idea of  content strategy which plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content – and requires people with a diverse skillset across an organization. Content strategy requires both technical and editorial skills, along with a healthy dose of courage, influence, endurance, ambition and vision.

Content strategy isn’t a new idea. Rachel Lovinger wrote her influential piece on content strategy in 2007 – The Philosphy of Data. And Christina Halvorson – the Martha Stewart of the discipline – has written an excellent book on the topic.

Heck, even I held a content strategy role back in 2000, so the idea has been around for awhile. But look how much the web has changed since then. Many of us have gone from minding a single website of a few hundred pages, to overseeing multiple websites comprising thousands of pages. Add to that multiple social media channels including blogs, client intranets and extranets, the firm intranet and syndication channels, plus the complicating factor of globally distributed teams – and it’s no wonder we need content strategy now!

So let’s get together and talk about content. In the words of Christina Halvorson, it’s time to…

Stop pretending content is somebody else’s problem. Take up the torch for content strategy. Learn it. Practice it. Promote it. It’s time to make content matter.

written by 

Molly Porter on Twitter

Molly Porter on LinkedIn

Molly Porter on Facebook

Will LinkedIn revolutionize law firm publishing?

Last April, I had the pleasure of sitting down with about 40 of my firm’s lawyers for one-on-one strategy sessions on using LinkedIn. The most commonly asked question was “what can I do with it?” – often from lawyers who had amassed 200, 300, even 1000 connections apiece.

Wake up! It’s time to make the content!

LinkedIn began answering this question last March with LinkedIn Today – a branded newspaper-like application that provides news tailored to your industry, interests and connections. Since then, LinkedIn has launched many additional significant enhancements, including:

  • iPad app – April 26
  • Targeted company updates – June 19
  • Homepage redesign – July 16
  • Profile page redesign – August 20
  • Notifications – September 5
  • Company page redesign – September 6
  • Endorsements –  September 25

These enhancements address user experience, engagement, sharing, content consumption – even gamification (try to make just one endorsement – I dare you!) None of these enhancements, however, addressed publishing and content creation – until last week which saw LinkedIn launch a blogging platform built directly into the profile page.

Right now this feature is limited to about 150 thought leaders and influencers like Richard Branson and President Obama, but I fully expect it to be rolled out to all users eventually.

This is a real game changer for LinkedIn –  for law firm web publishing.

First, I predict that this feature will make LinkedIn as engaging as any other social site – or news platform site (like or for that matter. While LinkedIn users currently spend an average of 18 minutes a month on the site (accepting connections requests and nothing more, like the lawyers in my firm), LinkedIn has no trouble generating revenue via its recruiting solutions. Imagine how much more they can sell (and charge) when people are even more engaged and spending time discovering content and following thought leaders.

Second, this new feature should cause a real shift in the way we marketers think about the lawyer-authors in our firms. Suddenly, all our blessed and branded publishing channels – blogs, microsites, the firm website and email alerts, especially – are competing with a site that has 175 million users, and on which every one of our lawyers probably already had a presence.

If a lawyer wants to publish content – and getting it done via marketing isn’t lightening fast and easy peasy – which do you think he or she is going to choose? What’s better – seamlessly delivering your thoughts to an audience of 500 qualified readers that you know personally, or following established firm protocol and procedure which can be byzantine and bureaucratic? One of these options looks like an easy button to me.

It seems likely that a blogging feature on LinkedIn could be yet another nail in the coffin of  blogging as predicted by Adrian Lurssen. But could it also contribute to the end of the law firm website? After all, biographies are the center of the law firm web universe and LinkedIn has pretty much duplicated and improved every feature of the lawyer bio at this point. Maybe? Maybe not. But it’s an interesting question.

Regardless, if  we are the smart digital marketers that I know we are, we will include LinkedIn among the channels that we must COPE with – Create Once, Publish Everywhere – so that our lawyers and our brands both can benefit from the efforts involved in creating great thought leadership content.

written by 

Molly Porter on Twitter

Molly Porter on LinkedIn

Ten ways your law firm website is foiling your content marketing efforts

Welcome to the third edition of Content Marketing Monday. In my last post on Mishcon De Reya, I explored how content marketing can help transform a firm’s brand. In this week’s post, I look at the current state of law firm websites as a vehicle for content marketing efforts.

“In today’s information age of Marketing and Web 2.0, a company’s website is the key to their entire business.” – Marcus Sheridan via Hubspot

Yep, it’s true. Even with the current focus on social media and content syndication and blogging, your firm’s website will always play a central role in your firm’s business strategy. After all, it’s out there selling for you 24/7. In the words of Chris Brogan “the Web is like your Hollywood agent: It speaks for you whenever you’re not around to comment.” What is your website saying about you and your firm?

HONG KONG - AUG 14, The busiest street, the Sai Yeung Choi Street South

Can your site visitors find what they want? Make it easy for them, and show some fun stuff along the way.

As I noted in my first post in this series, EVERY law firm does content marketing in one form or another – and the firm website is the biggest and most visible channel for distributing all this stuff. Some law firms produce  so much content that their “Hollywood agent” becomes a bloated database of newsletters, alerts and PDFs.  Since the majority of your firm’s content marketing is done by lawyers who could be billing for their time, we  should always ask ourselves if the firm’s site is doing their unbillable effort justice.

For example, one site I looked at had over 2000 publications alone. The listing page for pubs was the typical legal industry reverse chronological list  – sure, there were fields to sort and filter the content by practice, industry, etc, but unless you KNOW what you’re looking for, these fields aren’t very useful. An alert authored yesterday quickly becomes buried under today’s alerts, even if the content is still relevant.

This situation isn’t uncommon. I  look at law firm websites all day long (my own included) and find the same issues over and over and over.  I’ve collected those issues into a list here, in hopes they will be helpful to you. The list of suggestions below runs the gamut from design to information architecture and taxonomy. Some require technical intervention and others simply require better, more concise writing.

So here goes: 10 ways your law firm website is foiling your content marketing:

1) You bury the good stuff under piles of newer good stuff – reverse chronological order is the enemy of good content marketing. Listing pages are about as readable as a phone book.  The reverse chron approach is boring and old-fashioned and keeps useful evergreen content from surfacing at relevant points in the user journey. Break your content out of the reverse chron jail by adding splashy highlights to your big thought pieces throughout your site. Be generous and eyecatching! It’s okay – people will love your stuff.

2) You put too much on a page – resist the urge to post 14 paragraphs of content and 20 outbound links to related pages. Keep your content short and let microcontent and imagery speak for you. Make your links count   –  give them space and let them stand out. Your microcontent should support your claims of experience and knowledge. Make your outbound links a natural next step in the user journey.

3) You put too little on a page – a wall of text is boring to look at, let alone read. Use a variety of fonts and formatting, and – yes –  a photograph or image on your pages. These elements encourage reading and sharing. And remember that a large percentage of your site visitors bypass your homepage all together, via search. Make sure those site visitors get the most important messages on every interior page of your site.

4) You use tiny font – is it just me or are site fonts getting smaller and smaller? Use a large readable font for your content pages. And good news – serif is making a comeback for online reading . YAY. Check out the big beautiful serif font on Milbank’s site. I don’t even need my granny glasses! Protip: for the most gravitas and readability, use Baskerville.

5) You assume your site visitors know legal terminology – 
not all of your clients and prospects are lawyers. Some are C-level executives who play a role in legal procurement. Some are media who are looking for experts for a story. Do you really want to confound them by leading with a long list of your practices? No, I didn’t think so. Why not try grouping your content by business function, like Baker and McKenzie’s “Supporting Your Business” section?

6) You assume your site visitors know legal industry website conventions – News Pubs Events. News Pubs Events.  This phrase has become shorthand in the legal industry for content marketing stuff. We all know what these terms mean, and where we might find an “alert” versus a “press release” – but do your site visitors?  And do they really care what you call your stuff? Maybe you should try some topical labels – this is another chance to express your knowledge simply through wayfinding. Check out this fantastic set of labels on the Bain site.  Whereas most law firms will have a single link for publications, Bain breaks theirs apart into 4 categories covering 28 topics.

Publications on the Bain site.

7) You assume your site visitors know what they’re looking for – There is only one thing worse than a wall of text and it’s a wall of empty search filters. At the very least, your filters should be engaging and work in real time, like this lovely Intelligence page on the Foley & Lardner site. And check out those topics!

8) You don’t ask for any information in return for a download – you worked too hard to produce that content to give it away. Surely it’s worth a name and email address? Set the hurdle low and give immediate gratification. A name and email are probably enough information for you to gather – and provide the download on refresh or email it immediately. Also, don’t forget helpful messages, such as a “thank you” and invitation for feedback.

9) You ask for too much information – Please don’t make your users set up a password for your site or fill out a long form. They’ve got too many passwords to deal with already. Also, don’t make them compose an email (via a mailto link) to someone they’ve never met to ask for a publication. They’re too busy and no one likes to think they might be rejected.

10) You don’t offer a printable PDF version of the best content – PDFs were once considered the bane of a good website experience. Not anymore. A beautiful PDF is a pleasure to read, both online and in print – and can also be emailed to your Kindle for mobile reading. Give your PDFs a fantastic landing page that includes some or all of the content for online reading (and SEO)– and a link to the PDF for printing. Look at this example on the Bain site – “The Chemistry of Enthusiasm.” The landing page is a pleasure to read and the PDF gives additional value.

And last but not least – a BONUS 11th way your website is foiling your content marketing efforts:

You don’t provide share buttons – there is really no excuse for this anymore. The addition of share buttons should be a top priority for anyone running a corporate website. ‘Nuff said.

written by

Molly Porter on Twitter

Molly Porter on LinkedIn

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