Recently, Greentarget and Zeughauser Group released their annual results for the 2019 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey. I had the chance to chat with Greentarget President and Founding Partner, John Corey, about the results, which had some actionable findings for lawyers and law firms, as well as a few surprises.
First, the report – Corey notes that they work to take it somewhere new each year, and their six months of hard work are obvious. In addition to the report’s results this year, you also get access to some excellent thought leadership pieces that expand on the ideas revealed by the data. The data itself examines three categories of respondents – general counsel, the C-suite, and law firm CMOs, which gives a full and interesting picture of what your firm clients are looking for at various levels, and whether your firm may be correctly addressing these needs.
The Key Takeaway
The key takeaway from the results is that above anything else, clients want utility in their content:
For the second straight year, decision-makers in corporate legal departments and across the C-suite say it’s not so much the length, headline or even the source that most attracts them to a piece of content, but rather one simple attribute: utility – information or insights they can act on.”
In-house lawyers and the C-suite want to know what happened, why they should care, and what they need to do about it. They want guidance on addressing the issue, with the understanding that the only way they’ll get complete coverage on how to address it would be to follow up with a lawyer (preferably you) directly.
So content should be:
- Show urgency
- Have utility
- Be novel (this isn’t necessary, but it’s a nice bonus and can help differentiate you from all of the other noise out there)
Important things to note here:
- You’re not breaking the news – lawyers and law firms aren’t reporters, so breaking news will come from the trades or from mainstream media. It’s much more useful to in-house counsel and the C-suite to focus on utility than it is to try to be first.
- When we talk about content, we’re talking about the global universe of content, including podcasts, articles, newsletters, events, conferences, infographics, etc. It may surprise you to learn that podcasts are in the top 5 for in-house counsel in terms of content they’re consuming, so if you’re not currently considering them for your content marketing, it’s time. Also, when reviewing the results, note that the survey purposefully didn’t define “articles” as either blogs or traditional media, thus leaving it to the responding audience to decide when choosing their answers.
- Not all content is thought leadership – or needs to be. Consider content as a tool to help support client development, and use it strategically to do so.
- It’s important to know who’s doing the hiring – in the current market, more and more C-suite execs have influence or a direct say in the legal hiring process. So while you may be inclined to focus just on what in-house counsel say in the results of this survey, that would be a mistake. Tailor your content for both audiences, and promote it appropriately. This also reinforces the importance of a written content marketing plan.
- The CMO results may seem to show a disconnect between what firms are delivering on, and what clients want – Corey says anecdotally that CMOs and marketers do “get it,” but their internal clients don’t, and so their tactics are a direct result of having to answer to them. So lawyers, remember that you hired your marketing professionals for a reason – let them do their work in the effective and efficient way that they’d like to. And marketers, use this report to underline your arguments when advocating for certain tactics and strategies.
While there are a couple of surprises in the results (such as podcasts being of such high interest to in-house counsel), one of the most surprising findings for lawyers will be that Facebook is ahead of LinkedIn for in-house counsel’s access of business, industry and/or legal news and information. The C-suite is still accessing LinkedIn on a significant basis (59% versus 52% for Facebook), but for in-house counsel, it’s 35% looking at Facebook versus 31% looking at LinkedIn.
Initially, this finding may make you want to run for the hills and stop using LinkedIn – not so fast. I know LinkedIn is still extremely popular among lawyers (it’s the hottest topic here on Zen by far!), so you don’t have to worry just yet. Corey believes that the issue with LinkedIn is that the algorithm hasn’t yet caught up to the sheer volume of content – although Greentarget didn’t conduct any qualitative interviews on this question, there is an opportunity for firms here:
- Share relevant content with your connections: There is a ton of content on LinkedIn these days, and it can be hard to find exactly what we want. LinkedIn is definitely working on this, but it may take some time to catch up. One way around this (and I’m on the fence on this one, to be clear) is to tag relevant connections when you share a piece of content you think may be of interest to them. Note, in making this suggestion, I recommend you proceed extremely cautiously, since there will be people that find this obnoxious. If this is something that you do, ensure that the people you are tagging really are going to find the content highly relevant, and will want to be tagged. A better suggestion would be to use your content as a way to share other’s work, and you can do this in two ways:
- Curate content from colleagues: either share thought leadership pieces from those in your industry, and tag them when you share it, with your comments on what they’ve said, or create your own content that collects content from one or more colleagues, and tag them when you share that list.
- Alternately, create your own content around their piece with your thoughts, and when you share it, tag them in it to let them know that you’ve found their piece valuable. This has the additional benefit of helping to further your relationship with that person.
- Sponsored posts: very few firms are using LinkedIn sponsored posts, or using them effectively. There is a huge opportunity here for firms to do this right, and to get in front of the audience that they’re looking to meet as LinkedIn’s algorithm continues to improve.
- Showcase pages/groups: LinkedIn has the benefit of showcase pages and groups (similar to Facebook), and these special interest groups and pages that people opt into can be a real opportunity. You don’t want to use them as a place to drop in, post your content, and swoop out again, because you’ll quickly be thought of as spam and either ignored or banned. But if you engage in the groups, post thoughtful responses, and ask questions, you’ll also be encouraged to share your content, which will be considered as a value add for group members. Choose your groups carefully and strategically to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your engagement, and if a group doesn’t seem right for you, move on to another.
The results of the survey also encourage us to consider Facebook as another opportunity for content distribution – again, as long as that’s where your clients are. The lines between personal and professional continue to blur further, so it’s essential to stay up to date on the ethics rules in your jurisdictions for engaging in these platforms, while you explore their utility for your practice.
I also highly recommend taking a deeper dive into the Greentarget/Zeughauser report for more valuable insights!