I’ve still got content marketing on the brain (not surprisingly), and I’m seeing more and more discussion about it in legal circles lately. Remember when Lance Godard of Fisher & Phillips told us that 2015 would be the year of content marketing

But just because we’re excited and focused on it doesn’t mean that it’s without it challenges. Last week, we looked at two from this WordStream post, and today, we’re going to tackle a couple more. 

Before we get started, you may want to read a couple of excellent articles – both shared by Adrian Lurssen, and one that he authored: 

Challenge One: Signal vs. Noise

This is something that Adrian talks about in his piece, which is why I suggest that you read it before diving into my comments. When WordStream talks about this challenge, they look at it as the challenge of maintaining an ambitious publishing schedule. 

They say: 

The term ‘signal vs. noise’ comes up frequently in discussions about content marketing. In this context, the signal is your content, and the noise is everything else. Simply put, with so much content being produced, the sense of urgency to publish as much as you can (with the ultimate goal of brute-forcing your way through the sheer volume of articles being published every day) is often too great to ignore."

As lawyers and legal professionals, you may not think of yourselves as publishers (yet) even if you are engaging in what John Corey calls "Corporate Journalism" (and that’s why I wanted you to read that piece).

But don’t get thrown off by the word "publish." No matter what terminology is used, there’s a tendency to shy away from wanting to blog, or even use something like LinkedIn publisher, because you may feel like there’s an expectation that you have to write every day, or even three times a week. 

Not so. 

Yes, it can be useful to publish a lot. But there’s no value in publishing a lot of posts if all of those posts are low quality. Let’s compare it to conversations – for example, there may be a person talking among a group of people, and he talks constantly. Some of what he has to say is pretty good and interesting, but he talks so much that the group’s tendency is to tune him out a little, and maybe even interrupt him quite a bit of the time. 

But then there’s another person, who’s more on the quiet side. She doesn’t say a lot, but when she does speak, it’s normally quite thought-provoking and intelligent.  When she opens her mouth, people stop what they’re doing to listen. 

Providing high quality, intermittent content is like that. If you’re not able to write constantly, but you write really well, it doesn’t mean you’re not a good content producer – people would rather read one good post a month from you, than 20 half-hearted posts. The idea is to create a signal instead of just noise. 

There are some ways to get over this hurdle though: 

  • Focus on quality over quantity, always.
  • Give yourself a goal and an editorial calendar. Perhaps a weekly post or every other week is reasonable, but try to stick with that so that your audience can rely on it. 
  • Produce content with a colleague – not all group blogs work well, but if you each add your unique voice to your own content, it can be successful. Find someone you can work well with, who practices in the same area as you do, and share the workload to keep the audience coming back without carrying too much of the burden. 
  • Invite clients to guest post – similar to the above, you’re sharing the workload, but you’re also partnering with your clients and featuring them in a nice way, which brooks goodwill and invites more non-billable conversation. 

Challenge Two: Risk Aversion

It surprised me that WordStream referred to content marketers as being risk averse in this post, since that’s something that lawyers are typically known for.  They say: 

Content marketers are, by and large, creatures of habit. We tend to stick with what works. If a particular type of post resonates with our audience, we’ll often apply this ‘formula’ to our next post, and the next, and so on. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that we genuinely want to provide our readers with content they find useful, actionable, and valuable."

The second reason was pageviews, but I find that less important for our purposes here. 

I think we can all identify with this, right? If you’re writing, whether it’s articles or blog posts, you tend to stick with what works. I’ve seen it a lot with lawyers, actually, who are blogging in the same way that they’ve been writing articles for scholarly legal journals. 

But blogging is an entirely different animal. 

So there are two kinds of risk aversion here – the first is that which has us using what’s always worked from the beginning of our careers in legal, and the second is not changing it up, even if we have adopted the strategies and tactics for blogging. 

What it boils down to is that neither of those things serves us well. 

The reason is this – we have to remember who we’re writing for. Writing an article for a scholarly journal requires a very specific tone of voice and style of writing, and legalese is well-suited here. It’s expected here. 

But for your on-the-go executive grabbing an industry magazine or clicking on a blog post to read on the train to work, they just want to scan quickly through to get the salient points and find out if you can tell them what they need to know quickly and efficiently – in their language. 

It’s not that they don’t understand the legalese – of course they do. They’re smart people. But it’s not efficient for them. Sticking with the same thing we’ve always done starts to keep us back with the noise, instead of helping us become the signal that breaks through all of that noise. 

Similarly, we need to freshen up our blogging from time to time. Wordstream says: 

Every day when I check my RSS feed for the latest news and content, the vast majority of it ends up looking and sounding exactly the same. Granted, this is particularly prevalent in marketing content (perhaps more so than other industries), but even well-known mainstream media brands all seem to be pushing the same content, day in, day out; six surprising ways to accomplish this routine task, 21 things you won’t believe about some everyday occurrence, why you shouldn’t be doing this thing everyone else is doing."

"Legal is different" I can hear you saying. And yes, it is. But because of our wanting to be "second to be first" mentality, how much are we racing to be just like everyone else in our content production, and not doing anything new or different? What content risks are you taking to stand out in the crowd, instead of just producing smart content, like everyone else? 

It’s the same discussion as with clients and the RFP process – clients keep saying that being smart is what gets you in the door. But what makes you different after that? 

We assume that you’ll put out smart content. But what is going to make me want to read it and pay attention? That’s the question you should be asking yourself. And it should be tied in with who your audience is and what your goals are. 

I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else – we find what works, and we keep working at it, until it doesn’t work anymore. So instead of scrapping everything and starting fresh, do what WordStream advises: 

If you decide to experiment with new content types, consider doing so alongside the strategies that are currently working. This way, you won’t risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If your experiment works, think about scaling your new content types to include additional subject matter or popular topics. If it doesn’t, learn from the experiment and apply the results to future projects."

What are your strategies for attacking these two content marketing challenges? Share them in the comments below!