Before we jump into our regularly scheduled post, I wanted to mention that the Legal Marketing Association has put together several of the sessions from the Bay Area Chapter’s Legal Tech Conference, which are available as a webinar series – members can download them for free, and non-members get them at a rate which is really a bargain, considering the depth of content offered. One of the sessions is the panel I participated on with Adrian Lurssen of JD Supra and Laura Toledo of Nilan Johnson & Lewis, but as an independent attendee for the other sessions, I can say that the content was really smart and thoughtful, and would be well worth the time and cost invested! So I share the link with you in the event that you’d like to take a look at it – descriptions of the sessions offered with this bundle are included.
I watched our panel from the conference again, and one of the questions that we were asked during the session is one that I think Zen readers would benefit from discussing as well – that is “How do you motivate lawyers to produce content?”
It’s easy to become convinced that content development is a time-consuming process that you have to devote significant resources to. But if you invest some time in setting up good processes, and marketing professionals act as the support team for the lawyers that are producing the work, it can run much more efficiently than you’d expect.
In our answers to the audience member, we broke the answer of motivation down into three key areas: competition & success, marketing support, and editorial management.
Competition & Success
Adrian joked that at a legal tech conference, when speaking about lawyers, you’ll often hear them described first as “luddites,” then as “risk-averse,” and finally as “competitive.” This competitiveness is what marketers want to harness (and lawyers, you can harness this yourselves as well). It takes two forms – internal and external.
Internally, firms will often set up content production as a competition among their lawyers. Some firms will highlight successes in weekly or monthly newsletters, to show which of the firm’s partners are producing content and how many views/hits/responses that lawyer is receiving. Some firms may even tie this into financial rewards – Laura mentioned that at her firm, media mentions are tied into a lawyer’s bonus at the end of the year, so they’re motivated to call reporters back and act as story sources, as well as being motivated by seeing their name in print.
This can be useful, but it may also cause some lawyers to compare rather than identify – “that may work for Bob in his labor practice, but he’s not a litigator like me, so it’s not the same.” In those cases, look externally. Identify the content being produced by competitors, and see how they’re using it successfully. In many cases, those lawyers and firms will promote the success stories (not just the content itself), and you can point to those as examples of what works for production, content and distribution for lawyers in exactly the same practice area with the same types of demands on their time. Companies like LexBlog and JD Supra can be extremely helpful in pointing you to who is doing content “right” and offer best practices for making content production part of your routine, so it’s not so demanding on your time.
Heather Morse of Greenberg Glusker believes that the marketing department should act in a strong support role, serving as managing editors for their lawyers and their content:
What are your competitors writing about? What new cases have been decided? What news articles are trending? What are the other bloggers saying? Any new legislative actions? I subscribe to numerous RSS feeds and have them all categorized so I can quickly scan to see what’s happening in our industry sectors. I can then relay story ideas to our team of bloggers.”
This is an excellent way to cut down on the time commitment a lawyer is making to producing content. Obviously, they’re the number one source for what they’ll be writing about, and they should be the authors of their content, full stop. But marketing professionals can act in a support role by being the managing editor – get out there and issue spot. Get involved in learning about the hot topics of the day in their area of expertise, and send them an email to make suggestions for what they should write or talk about. Lawyers, if you’re in a firm without a marketing department, there are services that do this as well, such as Clearview Social. It will take a little bit of added time, but less than if you’re investing all of the time into researching the latest topics in your area of expertise. You can also do what Heather is doing, through categorizing the feeds you subscribe to in your RSS reader, setting up columns for keywords and lists on Twitter, and following strategic groups and companies on LinkedIn – when you’re looking to write and share, you then peruse these to get a bird’s eye view of the trends and then delve in deeper to identify what you’d like to write or speak about in more depth.
This part is really two-fold, and the first piece is one I talk about so much, I’m sure you’re sick of it – the editorial calendar. But it’s such a valuable tool for making your content management life easier, I can’t emphasize it enough. Without an editorial calendar, one of two things will happen – either you won’t write at all, because it will entirely slip your mind while you’re so busy with other work, or you’ll think about it daily or weekly and struggle to come up with topics, wasting time trying to find something/anything to write about and maybe write something decent once in a while, or maybe just scrap the whole thing after wasting a bunch of time thinking and feeling guilty about it. Sound familiar?
With an editorial calendar, you’re taking the guesswork out of your content. Every week, you look at the following week’s assigned topics, which are broadly defined to allow you room for changes/timely topics. You’ve reviewed them each quarter to ensure that they are working with what your audience is interested in – perhaps your lists are popular or your audience loves when you do interviews or collaborative pieces with your clients. Maybe videos get more results than when you write something. You’ve already learned that your formula is one post a week, or two (or whatever works for you), and you’ve slotted those into your schedule based on what works best for you – perhaps you get most readership on Monday afternoons or Wednesday mornings, so your posts are scheduled to publish when they’ll get the best traction.
Either way, you don’t have to think too much about the mechanics of it. You focus instead on the subject matter of what you’re writing or speaking about, and get the piece written or produced.
That’s where the second piece comes in, and I’ll call this “time management.” This is about defining your style of content production. For some people, they like to write on the weekends, first thing in the morning, before their families get up. They schedule the article to publish at a time when it will get greatest readership, but they do the writing when it’s most convenient for them. Perhaps you know looking at the week ahead, that you’ll have a light Thursday afternoon, but that the following week will be a nightmare. So you put together a quick video clip on your topic of choice and set it up to release on the day scheduled in your editorial calendar. This is both about being flexible and scheduled – the tools allow us to write or produce content when WE want to (minus the live tools), and then schedule them for maximum impact (as long as you’re around to promote and distribute them appropriately, or pull things down if there’s a reason to not publish).
Incentives, competition, support, and management are all great ways to motivate yourself or your lawyers to produce content. What are some of the things that have worked for you and your firm in getting content out there on a regular basis?