12080125_10153722408697792_7221889797601040086_oLast week, I had the great pleasure of presenting with Laura Toledo of Nilan Johnson Lewis and Adrian Lurssen of JD Supra during the Legal Marketing Association’s Technology Conference. Our panel focused on “Crafting your online story: Demystifying the process behind content marketing.”

It was a great interactive session, with questions from the audience and a back and forth dialogue with my two smart co-panelists. Although we covered a LOT of ground in the session, there was one piece of our presentation that we dropped out for time constraints – it’s still an important one, so I’d like to address it here.

The answer to the question “Who are your best sources?” may seem like an obvious one, but some of the ways in which you’ll go about finding the answers, while simple, are not always so black and white. Your best sources of content are going to be your clients, your readers, and the media. Let’s break these down. 

Your Clients

A note to legal marketing professionals here – this is applicable to you as well. Just think of your lawyers as your “clients” and the rest of this will make a lot of sense.

Adrian talks about how he has been in a number of presentations by lawyers, or chatting with them in a networking capacity, and someone will ask them a question about their area of practice. Generally, what happens is, they’ll respond, starting with “That’s funny, I’m often asked…”

And that’s the key right there, the “I’m often asked.”

If more than one person is interested in your thoughts on a particular subject/question, the likelihood is that there are others out on the Internet that will be interested as well – clients and potential clients. How can you make use of this?

Sit down with a sheet of paper and write down six answers to the prompt, “I’m often asked…”

Don’t think about how these translate to content, or how you’re going to write about them; just brainstorm six questions that your clients ask you regularly and write them down.

The next step is to slot them into an editorial calendar – look at the next six months, and say, for example, that you have a post due on the first and third Wednesday of the month. Then take each of the topics that you identified and put them down as week one topics for the next six months – you now have six months’ worth of blog post ideas in a matter of about five minutes. Not bad, huh?

Your Readers

But your clients aren’t your only source of content – your readers are another. And while these two groups may overlap, the way that you’re going to look at them to find inspiration is different. This is where analytics and engagement come in.

Popular Topics

The first place to look is among your own work – what have been the most popular posts that you’ve written? Look through your analytics to see which posts have been read the most, which ones are shared the most, etc. This is telling you what your readers WANT – and you should give it to them.

One way to do that is by looking for themes. You may look at your work and notice that over the last couple of months, the most popular pieces you’ve written are all about startups. That’s not a coincidence – keep writing about them. Turn it into a series of blog posts, which will bring your readers back again and again. If it seems to be wildly popular, you may even get to the point where you start a separate blog dedicated just to startups. But keep looking at your analytics to see what your readers are focused on the most.

Searches

Another thing to keep an eye on is Google searches – what search terms are people entering into Google that are bringing them to your posts? In some cases, they will match what  you’re writing about. But in most cases, they’ll be different – and that tells you what you SHOULD be writing about. These searches that people are doing are things that they *want* to read about, and they’re not finding those things when they arrive at your posts, because you’ve written on something else.

So as long as you’re qualified to write on it, why not address the issues that they’re searching for?

Social Engagement

This one takes a little more time, though Adrian and his team are developing a tool at JD Supra that will make this much easier to manage. The idea here is looking at how your readers are being social, and what they’re interested in, to find the subjects for your next posts. Let’s say you’re tracking your readers and engaging with them on Twitter. For those who share your work, and especially those who comment on it and engage with you, look at their Twitter feeds for more information on what motivates them.

What other articles are they sharing? What other topics in your area of expertise are they looking at and reading? Can you be capitalizing on the interests that your readers have, that you haven’t yet written about?

There’s more to engagement here as well – run searches on your name, and if you’re really motivated, the individual titles/subjects of each of your posts. That will alert you to when people are discussing your work, and you can jump in and engage with them (and then see what else it is that they’re interested in). But also look to engage in conversations where you have something to add, but people AREN’T addressing your work. Laura made the excellent point that often, there will be holes in the discussions that people are having around a certain topic, and you may be just the lawyer to fill in those holes.

You can do so in the conversation itself, but you can also parlay that into a longer blog post, citing the conversation and getting permissions where necessary. It shows that you’re engaged in the dialogue happening around your area of expertise, even when you didn’t generate it.

The Media

And finally, look to the media as an excellent source of content. Adrian grabbed some recent headlines from Business Day and within moments, had 8 articles that had a legal angle to them that a lawyer could write about. Look to business publications and breaking news to see what the latest headlines are, and whether you can address the legal aspect of those headlines.

For the marketers out there, you can act as a managing editor for your lawyer bloggers. Subscribe to RSS feeds in your industry sectors and scan through them daily, sending story ideas to your bloggers. Look at:

  • What your competitors are writing
  • New cases that have been decided
  • Trending news articles
  • What other bloggers are saying
  • New legislative actions

Lawyers, you can do this yourselves, or you can work with someone on your marketing team to help you.

The key here isn’t to try to break the news – you’re looking to write about why the news that has broken matters to your clients. Pay attention to the language used in these articles as well, as that’s the language that will resonate most clearly with your audience as well.

What other tips and tricks do you have for managing your sources of content, and how best to make use of them?