It’s time for another Two for Tuesdays, and I’ve just read an EXCELLENT article from Neil Patel over at the Content Marketing Institute. It’s quite a meaty one, so we’re going to dissect it a little bit over the next couple of weeks so that you, too, can become a MacGyver of content marketing (and really, who doesn’t want that?).
Patel is looking at five obvious content marketing strategies that most companies overlook, and despite the fact that law firms have been doing this content marketing thing much longer than most companies, they’re still very guilty of these things themselves. It’s a real shame, because if you can get these right, there’s huge opportunity to connect with clients, potential clients, influencers and amplifiers and get your message out there.
Today, we’ll look at two of these strategies in depth to discuss why they’re as important for law firms and lawyers as for any other company, and how you can be taking better advantage of them.
Tip One: Use Great Visuals
No matter how many times the idea of using great visuals is discussed, law firm and lawyer content producers continue to insist on either using mediocre images or none at all. I can already hear the arguments – “we’re serious business people, doing serious legal work. We don’t need silly images to illustrate our points.”
I’m not asking you to add a monkey on a bicycle to your content. But it is a proven fact that visuals make a difference when added to content.
- Visuals generate more click-throughs (lawyers, this is something you want, because often those click throughs will be to your website – think: bio, or perhaps another piece of content you’ve written that you want someone to read).
- Visuals make your blog more memorable (this is DEFINITELY something you want – wouldn’t it be great if an in-house counsel could remember reading your post three or five days or weeks from now, when an issue comes up that they need help with?)
- Visuals are evergreen (that means they stick around – they’re relevant over time, because people will continue to share them over and over again. That means even more chances that someone will find your content in the future and read and share it again!).
- Visuals increase social media engagement (this includes things like “likes” and comments – since that means your post is then shared with someone else’s audience, you really want those things, so isn’t that even MORE of a reason to add a great image?)
- Visuals say more with less (always a good thing).
So, now you’re sold that you should add images and maybe even video to your content. But just slapping any old picture up there isn’t going to be effective.
Patel points out:
Just adding an image to an article doesn’t mean that the content will have higher engagement. An image in an article does not mean ‘visual content.’ The picture with a dollar sign and ‘save customers money’ text is, unfortunately, bland and generic. It doesn’t add value to the article and warrants little more than a passing glance because of its cliché nature.”
Is that something you’re guilty of with your own content images? Look at recent articles, blog posts, and even press releases – what visuals are included? Are they compelling? Find an uninvolved third party and ask them for their opinion – would they be more interested in reading the content of the piece because of the images…or less? The images should be a carefully considered part of the content creation process – not an afterthought at the end of the writing process that you have to throw in there before you publish.
Patel offers some great suggestions for how images can be used for better engagement:
- Infographics: While losing a bit of their steam, they can still be useful. “Plus, you can easily double your traffic with infographics.“
- Charts, graphics and relevant images: Here’s one I’m guilty of – Patel says “Throwing a stock image at the top of a blog doesn’t cut it.” Instead, “You should add relevant images throughout the article. Try to keep the user’s engagement high through the whole piece of content, not just the introduction.”An important thing to keep in mind with images is copyright. I use iStockPhoto for my images to ensure I have the rights to use them, and there are also free resources for images as well. Patel shares some here.
- SlideShare: Here’s one you may not have thought of – SlideShare! If you can create a PowerPoint, you can use SlideShare – just make sure that your PowerPoints are powerful – and not slides full of bullet points and text. You want something that is dynamic.”Visual content isn’t merely the stuff you incorporate in your blog. It also includes content on places like YouTube, Instagram, and SlideShare.”
Make sure that the visual content you’re including as part of your written content is as much a part of your strategy as the words you’re putting down on your screen!
Tip Two: Create Really Well-Written Content
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s more than just being smart. If you’re a lawyer, you went to law school and we’re assuming that by virtue of wanting to share good, strong content with your clients, potential clients, influencers and amplifiers that you’re a talented and brilliant professional.
But that doesn’t mean you’re producing well-written content.
Interestingly, Patel offers some reasons why articles go viral, and they’re not necessarily what you’d think. This is based off an analysis of 100 million articles by BuzzSumo, by the way, so not just an arbitrary list:
- Longer length – 3,000 to 10,000 words
- Includes images
- Appeals to emotions
- Is a how-to article, a list, or infographic
- Perceived as trustworthy
- Shared by at least one influencer
- Promoted several days, weeks, and months after it was originally written
How many of these items do we think lawyers and law firms are ignoring in their content? Almost all of them. I’d add another one too for this specialty area, and that is “As little legalese as possible.”
When I compare this list with typical corporate B2C blogs, I have to shake my head in disbelief. It’s as if they are deliberately breaking all the rules of viral-prone articles.”
I have to agree with him. I see this again and again in the legal industry. That’s not to say that all legal content is like this – it’s not. There are absolutely well-written blogs and other legal content out there. And they stand head and shoulders above everyone else in the industry in terms of getting the attention of those they seek, staying relevant over time, and continuing to get eyes on them, long after they’ve been published.
Isn’t that what you want as well?
So Patel offers three excellent tips that we’ll adapt to the legal industry and I’ll share with you here for how you can do that:
- Stop using legalese and what he refers to as “third-person corporate gibberish.” It doesn’t connect with people, and that’s what you need to be doing with your content. As Patel points out with a great example, which of these two sentences is more interesting?
- “CorpCorp has recently been selected by AmericCorp’s best practice board to be the recipient of an annual merit award.”
- “Woot! Guess what, guys! Get this: We just won a prize – a big one!”Now, you don’t have to use words like “Woot,” so don’t get upset just yet – but the idea here is to write as if you’re a person behind that computer screen, who cares about the subject you’re writing about. When I talk to many of my lawyers in person, they’re amazingly passionate about their subject. I have one lawyer I’ll talk to on the phone about energy law, and he’s always offering me updates about the latest news as though I have been watching it as closely as he has, because he thinks everyone gets as exciting about it as he does. That’s EXACTLY the kind of passion that needs to be translated from his heart onto the screen, both visually and textually. Show that you care about what you’re doing, and you’ll connect with people in your content.
- Don’t be afraid to write long pieces. I normally counsel my lawyers to write between 500-700 words, so this is a new one for me. I’m a lengthy writer myself (in case you couldn’t already tell), but with attention spans being what they are, I thought shorter was better. Turns out that’s not the case! Patel notes that “Long is trustworthy, shareable, engaging, and valuable.” I know that seems like it may be a big task, so think baby steps – if you’re already in a groove of writing shorter pieces, continue doing that and throw in a long article/post every now and then. Challenge yourself!
- This last one may be a tough one, but it will be worthwhile – “Send your article to the industry’s leading influencer and ask him or her for feedback.” It may be someone in the legal industry, or someone in your specialty industry – it may be a client or a potential client. It seems like a risk, but it’s a networking tool (blogging is an excellent way to connect with people that you want to meet – quote them, send them your post afterwards, and use it to start a conversation) and they may like it enough to share it with their own audience, which will have an effect on who is looking at your work.You want those with the strongest networks to share your work, so that their networks start to become familiar with who you are, and you can expand your reputation as well. This is an excellent way to do that. Not every influencer will want to share your work, or give you feedback, but there may be great opportunities in there!
Next week, we’ll delve into a couple of Patel’s other points. But first, what do you think about his suggestions for using great visuals and having strong, well-written content?