Greentarget, ALM Legal Intelligence, and Zeughauser Group have released the results of their 2014 survey, newly titled "2014 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey." The change in title is a great reflection of the change in conversation in the last year, a shift in focus to the discussion around content marketing, and how social tools are used to that end.
As we in legal know, lawyers have been doing content marketing for as long as we can remember, but we finally have a name for it!
This year’s survey also has another new feature – a survey of law firm CMOs and marketers. You may remember that we discussed some of the results already, with a focus on LinkedIn, following the LMA conference, but today, let’s take a look at the most important conversation piece to come out of the survey (which you can review in full here). Next week, we’ll take a look at some of the results in more detail.
According to the press release included with the survey results, the:
Fourth annual survey of in-house counsel and law firm marketers illustrates value of corporate journalism – combining a firm’s market intelligence and subject matter expertise with the credibility of narrative techniques of professional journalism."
This is an incredibly important point, both for lawyers and for marketers. John Corey (@greentarget), Greentarget’s founding partner, says in the release that:
This year’s survey of in-house counsel shows how hard it is for content to stand out when so much is flooding our computer screens, inboxes and mobile devices. If law-firm marketers, and marketers of professional services generally, hope to make an impression, they must deliver information that readers find essential and are compelled to share. That’s why we believe firms should embrace content strategies that are rooted in corporate journalism so that they can shape and deliver the most compelling stories they have to tell with credibility and impact."
Let’s talk about this idea for a moment – the idea of corporate journalism.
For these purposes, corporate journalism is defined by the survey’s authors as:
a practice that combines an organization’s market intelligence and subject-matter expertise with the credibility and narrative techniques of professional journalism. Done well, corporate journalism should incorporate elements of traditional journalism, including the critical notion that journalism serves its audience above all others."
Corporate journalism allows organizations to ‘act like media companies’ by shaping and sharing the most compelling stories they have to tell in order to demonstrate thought leadership and build brand awareness."
As I alluded to above, there’s been a major shift in the last year or so from a discussion of strategy that surrounds tactics and tools, to one that focuses on content (with those tactics and tools being considered as delivery vehicles).
The idea here is that in order to be successful, you have to look at what your firm’s "story" is – find out what message you want to focus on (not a marketing message, per se, but which expertise to highlight and share), how you want to communicate that message, and which tools work best to deliver it. Importantly though, that story has to be one that matters to your AUDIENCE. Good journalism combines an understanding of your target with a compelling story.
For example, I want to communicate the ILN’s focus on relationships, because for us, relationships drive our business – relationships between the organization and its members, and the relationships among the members themselves, which give them the confidence to work together and to refer business to one another (people do business with those they know, like and trust, so we are in the business of getting them to know, like and trust each other).
How do we communicate this message? Through stories that we deliver in a number of ways:
- Each of our conferences supports this focus on relationships: we offer an incredible number of networking opportunities that facilitate conversation and bonding, we work to mix up the pairings and groupings as much as possible to encourage the greatest possible networking, etc. In everything we do, we’re asking ourselves, how does this add value for our attendees?
- We drill down within areas of practice to create additional levels of exposure for members who don’t attend conferences, and facilitate opportunities to work together and build relationships through the industry events they attend, co-presenting webinars, co-authoring articles, organizing regular phone calls and email communication.
- We have regular, strategic contact with our members – the running joke when people meet me for the first time is "You’re the one I get all the emails from!" It’s true, and it’s on purpose. The more they think of me, and see me as present and willing to help, the stronger the relationships get. The attorneys know that they will get a quick response from someone in the Administration 24/7 (literally).
- We use social media to connect with our attorneys regularly as well – through LinkedIn groups, Facebook pages and connections, and even Twitter. Not only are the attorneys regularly seeing our names and faces virtually, but we’re sharing their content, showing that we pay attention to what’s important and going on with their firms because it matters to us.
- My editorial calendar for the blog shows a strong focus on networking and relationship-building topics, along with items that I know will hold value for my attorneys.
Our tagline is "Where lawyers become friends," and I hear this from my attorneys without prompting these days, because it’s become a part of the fabric of what we do – it’s our "story." And it matters to them because the foundation of these relationships is what allows them to be more successful professionally.
I’m not suggesting that firms focus on the idea of "relationships" or "quality," but I am saying you need to know who you are – is your firm truly excellent in two or three practice areas? Then create your strategy around the expertise there. Identify who you are as a firm, what you’re truly good at, and then develop the strategy around that, and then look at the tools to deliver it. When writing your "story," find out what aspect of that matters to your clients the most and focus on that.
Why is strategy so important? The survey results are backing it up – regardless of whether we’re talking about digital tools or other kinds of delivery mechanisms, the truth is that we’re all inundated with information these days. We hear it from friends, on the phone, from television, on our computers, on our handheld devices, in the written word, on the radio – information is everywhere. The likelihood of one piece of content catching someone’s attention is so very small – we just don’t have time to pay close attention to everything.
The information we push out then has to be relevant, specific, interesting, and targeted. The more focused you are, the more that the information you deliver is reinforcing the same idea,the more that information matters to the person glancing at it, the more likely you will become known for that, and be in the right place at the right time when the right person needs it.
As the executive summary of the survey says:
First the digital era made everyone a publisher, giving marketers and bloggers, advocates and experts a dissemination platform that had long been the exclusive province of the mass media. Then the mobile era brought devices that made all this new content available to consumers anytime, anywhere. Today we are in a new era, one marked by constant access and endless communication."
Welcome to the era of information overload."
I’d argue that law firms were publishers LONG before the digital age, but it was limited to a golden few who were invited to author articles which were pitched or sought after by mass media, or lived on the law firm’s website to be seen only by those who took the time to visit and read them. The digital age just caused our ability to create and disseminate information to explode and to reach people and markets we never dreamed of reaching.
And the speed at which we can reach those people and markets seems to increase moment by moment, so we have the added pressure of needing to produce more and more content to stay relevant and top of mind. It is challenging, and can tempt us to worry less about strategy, and more about "what can we just get out there today?"
With the advent of digital media, that stream [of content] has become an ocean – one that threatens to drown out all but the most compelling voices. To stay afloat, a firm must establish and stick to a clear strategy for creating, disseminating and measuring content."
To meet that demand [for information] law firms dramatically increased their content production. It’s little wonder that in-house counsel now show signs of information overload. This year’s survey indicates that while lawyers are using technology to access more information – all the time, wherever they go – they’re also struggling to separate the good content from the bad or the merely mediocre."
None of us want to fall into the "bad" or "mediocre" categories, and that’s where proper strategy comes in. Greentarget tells us that as a part of that strategy, we need to embrace those principles of corporate journalism to make our content stand out.
If we do this, this can help us:
- Deliberately focus on and produce content aligned with the firm’s strategic priorities;"
- Enhance the consistency, quality, reach and shelf life of existing content;"
- Ensure that content reaches its intended audiences, and devise new content vehicles to position [our] brands strategically."
As legal marketers, are we asked to do more and more these days, to constantly be shifting focus, change our outlooks, open our minds, and wear more hats? Yes, absolutely. But that’s the price of success.
Attorneys are equally being asked to open their minds and change focus, to think as business people and not just lawyers, to understand other roles and pressures. Those of us who embrace it because that’s what necessary to serve our clients, will continue to lead the pack, while those who don’t will be left behind.
There’s no one right answer or magic bullet here to get the expertise from within our firms and organizations out into the world in a way that makes people pay attention. We’ve got to dig into the trenches, find out what our firm’s stories are, who our clients are, what those clients want, how they want it, and how we can package and deliver it, and refresh that as necessary.
Next week, we’ll dig into the nitty gritty of what in-house counsel and marketers are saying about digital media and content marketing.