6 big digi-comms strategies for 2013 and beyond

This is an exciting time to be in legal industry digital communications. From Foley and Lardner’s embrace of forward-thinking UX on their website, to the explosive growth of content delivery platforms like JD Supra, it feels like we’re on the cusp of big things. Combined with advances in digital tools available to lawyers and marketers – such as blogs and social media – and the ever increasing reliance of our clients on the web for research and credential checking, digital communications is finally taking its rightful place at the center of the biglaw firm strategic marketing mix.

Your website should transform based on your visitors’ location, interests, browsing history and device.

In light of the potential and with the 2013 planning season upon us, I put together this list of the top-of-mind strategies that legal industry digi-comms types should be thinking about. Many of these strategies represent multi-year commitments of time and resources, but are must-haves for law firms as our clients become more digitally savvy themselves.

If you’re not sure where to start, look at your firm’s Content Management System – a state of the art upgrade will provide many of the features and capabilities listed below.

Top 6 big digi-comms strategies for 2013 and beyond

Personalization – Implicit and explicit personalization allow your site to surface relevant content for your visitors, based on their browsing history or expressed preferences. This is a must-have for large sites and firms with multiple locations and service offerings. Personalization requires a best-of-breed CMS and, for explicit personalization, some means of logging in to the site. (I know that you know this requires cookies and as such will require a disclaimer on your site if you do business in the EU, so I won’t go into that here.)

To develop a personalization strategy, you should start by developing a set of personas. What are your site visitors looking for and what do they hope to accomplish during their visit?  Next, ask yourself –  What else do I want them to see while they’re here?  Personalization allows you do do more targeted cross-selling.

Good piece on Forbes.com about personalization and privacy

COPE – Create Once, Publish Everywhere – More and more, we are asked to deliver our content into external environments and websites – everything from firm-branded microsites to internal applications, client extranets and client-hosted intranets. Key to COPE is the deployment of a state-of-the-art CMS that can support content governance, workflow, production and promotion –  and easily integrate with other properties via web service or API.

Good piece on “divorcing content from form” on Content Marketing Institute

Mobile – Does your firm need a mobile site or a mobile app? Do you know the difference? I gotta confess – I’m still trying to master the distinction. One way to cover yourself – at least when it comes to people browsing via mobile devices – is to use responsive design on your main site. This will allow your site to look great across a variety of devices by dynamically reconfiguring the site layout based on the site visitor’s screen resolution. The downside is extensive up front design exploration and development of at least three versions of each major template on the site. The decision to build an application requires answering some questions: is internet required? What about device features such as camera and location? Got a lot of money? Willing to deal with having your app approved by the App Store?

For more information on making the mobile site versus app decision, see this recent infographic on Mashable.

Lead Generation – The number one question I get is whether or not the website and social channels have led to new business. Other than anecdotal evidence, I don’t have much to offer.  One easy way to get more concrete data would be to map site visitors against the new business development funnel by asking for email addresses at various points in the browsing and content consumption process. Easy peasy, right? Examples: request proposal button, click to chat, simple registration forms. For some reason, not many law firms are doing this, perhaps because of the investment that  processing and acting on this information requires. To get consensus, mine your traffic reports and social sharing stats for insights into how they affect new business development.

Check out this fun e-book 101 Examples of Effective Calls to Action for ideas on generating leads

Social media integration and management – I going to assume that you have share buttons on your content and that you’ve got your social media accounts prominently linked. I’m also going to assume you’ve got a social media calendar and you know how to run campaigns across your channels. What’s next? Enterprise wide social media management that will allow your lawyers and staff to tap into a library of content for their own accounts –  which can even be firm branded and centrally managed. For examples enterprise social media management, look at Socialware, Hearsay Social, Hootesuite Enterprise, Buddy Media (now part of SalesForce) and PeopleLinx.

A convenient list of social media policies and guidelines by Charlene Li of Altimeter Group, in case you’re still at that stage

Big beautiful brand – Dear law firms – it’s time to be more visually engaging! Again, look at what Foley and Larnder is doing with their site – unique long scrolling homepage with CSS3 features, responsive filtering in interior pages, big beautiful fonts for easy reading. For out of industry examples, I love GE.com, GoldmanSachs.com, Bain.com, and GM.com (although I loathe auto-play videos).

Top trend of 2012 – the “Visual Web”

So there are the 6 strategies to have on your radar. Some of you may have already implemented some or all of these. Let me hear about it in the comments!

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Molly Porter on Twitter

Molly Porter on LinkedIn

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 Forbes.com or HBR.com) 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.

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Molly Porter on Twitter

Molly Porter on LinkedIn

“The Big Seed:” How law firms can aim big on the web

The first time I heard the phrase “big seed marketing” it set my gears turning.  I thought – how can law firms use the big seed to reach a larger audience, and increase success that our message reaches the right “ground?” It wasn’t until I spent some time with the humble samara that it all came together.

Every year about this time, the maple tree in our yard starts dropping thousands of “helicopters” – those spinning, double-sided seeds (fruits, actually, called “samaras”) that go everywhere.

This cleverly formed samara finds it way into the most interesting places – like the trunk of my car!

The success of the maple tree depends on these seeds –  and their success depends on how well they spread. A combination of aerodynamic form, a sticky surface, and sheer volume give the “helicopters”  a much better chance finding fertile ground on which they can root.

I can’t help but think of these seeds as a metaphor for digital communications and content marketing. I’m not the first to think this way. The term “big seed marketing” was first coined in 2007 by Duncan Watts and Jonah Peretti, and reintroduced to a new audience by Dan Zarella – Hubspot’s genius social media scientist – in his book “The Heirarchy of Contagiousness.”

In both pieces, the authors build out their ideas with a virus metaphor, rather than sticking with The Big Seed. Watts and Peretti focus on reach – the size of the initial wave of “infection” – to the exclusion of the qualities that help the idea spread. Zarella takes a deep dive into the specific qualities that make an idea “transmissible” and provides a lot of actionable tips (tweet at 4:30 pm, y’all!).

Personally, I’m not sure the virus metaphor can ever work for legal.  But the first time I heard the phrase “big seed marketing” (at the world’s most tweeted webinar) it set my gears turning. This is the power of a great metaphor. I thought – how can law firms use the big seed to reach a larger audience, and increase success that our message reaches the right “ground?” It wasn’t until I spent some time with the humble samara that it all came together in a simple formula:

(Good design + stickiness + quantity) x big reach  = best chance for new growth

Let’s unpack it!

Good design:

The samara’s special shape helps it take advantage of the wind and gravity, allowing it to travel far away from the parent tree – which casts too much shade to allow the seed to grow.

Similarly, you should do what you can to help your content soar. Create an editorial function that ensures your people are  producing high quality content that can be carried on the winds of  interests of your key targets and issues in the marketplace.

Many law firms make the mistake of leaving the editorial function almost entirely to the lawyers. If your “big seed” depends on their interest and availability, you will always be in a reactionary position, not strategic.

A strategic editorial function requires prioritization by the top levels of firm management and oversight by skilled and empowered editorial professionals. Their tools will include: editorial calendar, web-writing guidelines, clear approval and conflict-checking processes, and blueprints for various content types. This is a true communicator role, and should be integrated throughout the marketing function.

The objective should be the regular and frequent creation of relevant content that is cleanly formatted and well-written so it can  flow through various channels unimpeded.

For more on designing an excellent content program, see “Rebalancing for Content – The New Marketing Equation” by Rebecca Lieb.


Samaras have a sticky surface that helps them hitch a ride on animals and feet and noses especially. Again, this ensures they will move further from the parent tree and have greater chances of germinating.

What makes content sticky? According to the book “Made to Stick” – sticky ideas have 6 attributes which give them “SUCCES;”  Simplicity,  Unexpectedness,  Concreteness,  Credibility, Emotions and Stories.

Legal writing, on the other hand, can be very analytical, fact-based and yes, bland, to the detriment of simplicity, surprise and emotion. This might be okay for our lawyer constituency, but we also need to appeal to c-level executives and senior management who may not have a legal background, but play a critical role in legal services procurement. And let’s not forget, lawyers are humans too, and a certain kind of entertainment will always be appreciated.

The Deloitte “entanglement model” (talk about sticky!)  gives us some ideas on how to make our content stickier – by taking cues from B2C content marketing.

“We’re taking some pointers from B2C companies where the content is often short, sweet, and to the point, with the focus on benefits, and people are spoken to in a way they recognize. In the past, we often started with a white paper, with a big piece of thought leadership. We said, ‘What if we flip that around? What if we don’t start with the big thing but with the seed, the small idea?’ Not everyone is interested in a 20-page piece of content. Now we start with shorter pieces, such as our three-minute guides. We then look at the metrics see where the interest is; if there seems to be lot of interest in angle X, we’ll dive a little deeper there.”


Maple trees release literally thousands of seeds over a period of weeks.

Again, look at Deloitte’s entanglement model.

Instead of one big thing – a whitepaper or booklet – what if we acted like the maple tree and released a lot of little things? Or what if we divided our big things into a lot of little things – a chapter a day for 10 days?  Think conversation instead of thought leadership. Then take an inbound marketing approach – release and measure, release and measure – and  use feedback to produce more targeted and relevant stuff. Create a sense of momentum and expectation – then deliver on it. Again, talk about sticky!

Big Reach 

And finally,  start out big! In the words of Brad Smith, “Other people will spread your message, but only if you reach enough people first.”

Once you’ve produced your seeds – give them a big push through all available channels. Conversely, make the most of what you have by publishing it over and over and over in your various channels.

  • Email lists – Email is still king! A great email list is worth its weight in gold. Be sure to communicate with your lists frequently enough that they don’t forget who you are and unsubscribe.
  • Content Syndication – Services such as JD Supra, Lexology, Mondaq can help your content reach a much larger – and oftentimes more qualified – audience.
  • Social Media – This is probably the most important channel for big seed marketing, especially when you have hundreds or even thousands of amplifiers in your organization. For inspiration, look to Morgan Stanley’s social media program where – theoretically – 17,000 financial advisors can tweet a single piece of content. That’s a big seed!
  • SEO  – Give your content a home on a big, well-optimized site, where it can continue to garner views via keyword search over months and even years. Case in point, my firm has evergreen content that is over 10 years old that STILL gets thousands of views a year. Your archiving strategy should take this into account.

And finally – Patience

Did you know that it can take a single maple tree samara years to germinate and produce a tree? Again, this is a pretty good metaphor for the sales funnel in B2B and legal. It can take a very long time for a lead to produce business and typical ROI models don’t always work.

But with a lot of intentionality – and a little luck – your seeds will germinate, like this one.

written by 

Molly Porter on Twitter

Molly Porter on LinkedIn

PDFs – Pretty Darn Fabulous for content marketing

Legal marketing has a long and complicated relationship with the PDF. When I first arrived on the scene in 2003, PDFs were commonly used for email alerts and newsletters. Almost as an afterthought, they were slapped up onto the firm website, where they would quickly disappear under the flow of new content (the curse of reverse chron). We knew the experience was imperfect, but we had few tools at our disposal to improve it.

I shouldn’t use PDFs on my site? O rly?

Things have changed a lot since then – when you know better, you do better right? Most firms send HTML newsletters and alerts now. These alerts, when done well, contain calls to action that link back to a page on the firm site where the recipient can read the full content and browse further.

Unfortunately, a few myths about PDFs persist in legal marketing circles – that they’re not good for SEO (o rly?), that they end or interrupt the user experience, that they’re unmeasurable and unshareable.

How do we square this way of thinking with the increasing demand for more in-depth, client-focused content?  PDFs are one of the only suitable document formats (along with .mobi and .epub) for the long form content that demonstrates the most value to prospects throughout the sales funnel. And they print beautifully – much more beautifully than many web pages.

So, to those of you who say you shouldn’t use PDFs on your site? Not so fast, my friends.

Granted, the thoughtful use of PDFs on your site requires care and attention – and governance. A decision tree  should be used to justify what gets made into a new page on your site, versus what can (and should) stand alone as a PDF. Then, a set of best practices must be set in place so that the PDF experience is both useful and usable for your site visitors.

Here are a few best practices for using PDFs on your site:

  •  Optimize for search. PDFs are fine for SEO as long as the source file was created in Word or another text editing program so that search engines can crawl them. Do not use Photoshop to create your PDFs, or worse, use a scanner. When creating your PDFs, make sure you fill out the meta data under File>Properties to increase the optimization of your documents. Additionally, the writing rules that govern well-optimized web pages apply to PDFs too. So let’s just stop pretending that PDFs don’t have SEO value – and start working to increase the value they add to our sites.
  • Create landing pages. If you’ve invested the time to create and format content for a PDF, make sure you let that content shine on your site. Give the PDF its own landing page with an abstract of the content, table of contents and cross links to related authors, practices and locations. Include a screen grab of the cover to make the page more visually appealing – and don’t forget the share buttons.
  • Match the content to the form. So what is the best kind of content for a PDF? Obviously, it needs to be long. But not just long – in depth. Good candidates for PDF content include surveys, handbooks, and reports that provide industry or legal insights across a variety of geographies. These tend to require a high level of effort to produce (and may even involve the writing talent of third parties) and a long lead time, but they have a long shelf life and are worth the investment. Make sure you appoint a business owner to all of your PDF longreads so that the content is kept up-to-date as the legal landscape changes.
  • Spread the word. Increase the reach of your longread PDFs by creating campaigns for them. Feature them on the homepage of your site and in banners throughout. Tweet each one numerous times at different times of day with various hashtags. Write separate blog posts for each chapter or section. Tie in a series of webinars around your findings.  You can also spread your PDF love by posting them on Slideshare, ScribD, Google Docs – they don’t call it the “portable” document format for nothing. And bonus – many of these sites have their own social tools and analytics to measure your reach.
  • Upgrade to 2.0 technology.  Finally, consider bringing your PDFs to life through the use of Zmag, NXTbook, 3D Issue, or similar. Many people think these formats are far superior to standard PDF, but I’m not sure I agree. While they look great, the controls may not be as familiar to mainstream law firm web audiences.
  • Publish an eBook. Did you know that PDFs are not optimized for mobile?  Why not publish an eBook alongside your standard PDF for desktop reading? Mobile is quickly becoming the standard for web browsing and your content should take those readers into account. Publishing an eBook requires the same effort in terms of writing, with a few additional steps at the end to publish to Amazon. Here’s a great article to tell you how: How Content Marketers Can Redefine the eBook

So there you have it –  a few thoughts on how strategically created and deployed PDFs can and should play an important part in your content marketing strategy.  Which side of the PDF debate are you on?

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Molly Porter on Twitter

Molly Porter on LinkedIn

17,000 Morgan Stanley Brand Amplifiers Can’t Be Wrong

The rollout of Morgan Stanley’s social media program to all 17,000 of its financial advisers made big social media news over the last two weeks. In case you hadn’t heard:

Bird in a cage

MSSB’s social media policy restricts and protects – but it also amplifies.

Morgan Stanley’s risk management committee has given the go-ahead for all of the retail brokerage’s financial advisers to use [Twitter and LinkedIn]. The approval follows a year-long trial in which 600 Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (MSSB) advisers were allowed to use the sites. (FT.com)

It’s hard to fathom that until a couple of weeks ago, LinkedIn and Twitter were completely off limits to all but 600 MSSB advisers – but that’s the restrictive regulatory environment they’re in.

So the conception and implementation of this program is a massive event in the financial services industry, even if it seems a few years behind everybody else.

How has this news of MSSB’s social media program been received? The blogosphere has been largely negative, calling MSSB’s program totally boring and saying it totally misses the point of social media – at the same time virtually ignoring the rigorous regulatory environment in which Morgan Stanley operates and the sheer magnitude of the program.

But maybe it’s a perfect model for Biglaw?

First, a few observations about the program.

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Going Public

This is not a blog post about the (apparently flubbed) Facebook IPO. It’s about the Molly Porter Public Offering – what you’re seeing here.

Fozzy hits the nail on the head.

This is a manifesto, of sorts. A declaration of principles and intentions for my online presence.

Because of my work, I maintain profiles on all the major platforms. It’s a part of my job to understand inside and out the environments in which my firm’s content and messaging circulates. I have also been extremely selective about who sees what on my personal profiles, locking things down with “defcon” privacy settings.

No more. It’s just too much work.

As of a couple of weeks ago, all my social media profiles are now completely open and all feature my name. This isn’t exactly unique or daring or all that unheard of in my line of work. But it represents a real paradigm shift for me – a convergence of professional and personal life.  (There’s probably a longer post in here about WHY I used social media this way – I’ll save that for another time.)

My decision to go public has multiple immediate positive outcomes.

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Social and Digital Media for Law Firms 2012

I will be on a panel at the upcoming Social and Digital Media for Law Firms 2012 in San Francisco.  Sign up soon and use SOCIAL15 to receive a 15% discount on registration. See you there!

More details and registration form here:

Molly Porter at Social and Digital Media for Law Firms 2012

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