As travel restrictions increase, and law firms begin to close their offices and reduce their client meetings, it’s time to get creative about the ways in which we keep in touch. “Collaboration” sounds like the sort of thing that requires you to be in the same room to achieve, but in fact, you can use content collaboration as a way to build relationships with clients, potential clients, and others all while remaining in your office (home or otherwise).
I recently read a great piece on 9 Free Tools to Co-Create Content, which not only included some great resources, but also some excellent inspiration for ways we can be better content collaborators in pursuit of building better relationships.
Before we get into the HOW, let’s talk about the WHY, since the “why” extends past just “let’s not catch any communicable diseases this week.”
The article’s author, Ann Smarty, tells us that co-creating content can help you to achieve the following goals:
- Build relationships with niche influencers (with whom you co-create content)
- Create more diverse and in-depth content (easier to find more angles and discover more marketing channels)
- Produce more content (collaboration improves your productivity)
- Build more exposure (co-writers and co-editors more willing to promote the piece since they participated)”
I think we can all agree that these are goals we’d like to focus on! Imagine, for example, that there’s a client you’d like to get more work from, but you’re having trouble finding yet another reason to call him or her. Suggest co-authoring an article or blog post on a topic of mutual interest, from both sides of the table, and use that collaboration as a jumping off point to work together. Or perhaps you were planning to have lunch with a potential client, but that lunch has been moved to a conference call. While you’re chatting, why not also propose working together on an article? It gives you the perfect follow up, and the article discussions will also give you more insight into his or her business.
You’re not trying to make hard sells here; you’re simply trying to collaborate with other experts that you respect and admire to produce worthwhile thought pieces for a common audience. And it’s a good interim measure (not to mention generally good marketing tactic) for riding out the coronavirus prevention measures.
With that in mind, let’s look at a couple of ways you may want to co-create content!
Tip One: Co-write
Co-writing is the obvious one, but that doesn’t mean we skip over it. This is great for writers of all levels – those just getting started right up through regular authors and bloggers.
You’ve got a lot of options to consider when looking at co-writing:
- Colleagues in your practice area: you can co-write a piece on a relevant topic that highlights the collective strength of your department. Even if all of you are working remotely, you can reach out by phone, email or video conference to discuss how you can work together.
- Colleagues from different practice areas: you can co-write a piece that showcases the breadth of expertise at your firm (think cross-selling, but less painful).
- Influencers in the industry: You know who the experts are, and they may be people that you feel you should be better connected to. Offer to write a piece together to not only get on their radar screen, but also give them a reason to share your work now and in the future. Reach out to them by email or social media to kick off the discussions, and use Zoom or the phone to have your initial planning call.
- Existing clients: As I mentioned above, existing clients are an excellent source to consider for co-authoring articles. During several panel discussions I’ve attended, in-house counsel have commented that they were surprised that more of their lawyers weren’t asking them to do just that – it was something they’d really like to be doing more of. So the willingness is likely there with some (of course it won’t be the case with all of them), and at the minimum, it’s opening a dialogue between you and the clients that you reach out to. While we’ll all be busy managing our workload without leaving home or town, we will have some more time open because of less travel. Use those opportunities to discuss co-writing with your clients.
- Potential clients: This would be the toughest pool, but it can act as a foot in the door for you. If there is a client that you would like to get work from, and haven’t been able to, reach out to them to pitch co-authoring an article. We all know that this is a relationship business, and it’s an opportunity to build a relationship with that person. The worst that they can say is no!
Take a look through Smarty’s suggestions for collaboration tools for writing – I know lawyers are a tough group when it comes to embracing new technology (come on, you know it’s true), but these are some nice options for working together on writing that wouldn’t require you to be sending Word documents back and forth! And when it comes to publishing, if you’ve never authored a blog before, and you don’t have a place to submit an article to, consider posting the finished piece to LinkedIn publisher, and inviting your co-author to share it. We’re all our own publishers these days, and with a few keystrokes, your writing can be out there for everyone to see.
Tip Two: Co-Teach
This is the one that really sparked my interest. Many lawyers are great teachers, and work at law schools while practicing, and afterwards. So why not take that show on the internet, and co-teach online? You’re looking at the same possible collaborators as above, and expanding your network and reach in a more ongoing way than an article or blog post would achieve. Plus, a lot of schools are testing tele-schooling while we are facing the coronavirus, so now is the time to see what tools are available to you to deliver a great product.
There is obviously more work and commitment involved in this latter suggestion, but the relationship-development benefits are astronomical, and if you record the sessions and package them, they can market for you for a long time to come – yet another benefit of this tool!
This can be further expanded to other areas too – you could collaborate on a weekly or biweekly podcast with a client or industry influencer. Each of you can be in your own office to record the podcast (consider bringing on guests as well!), and then you can package the full session to share. There’s no time like the present.
Why not do a “road show” of presentations with a client? One of my lawyers did this with one of his top clients – his client was an excellent speaker on the inside counsel perspective, so he teamed up with my lawyer, and they did a series of presentations together across the country, which were very well-received. They played well off of each other, and it was an opportunity not only to deepen the relationship between them, but also to strengthen their dual brands. While this was in person, you can do this virtually – set up a series of live webinars or Zoom sessions where you and your co-presenter are available in your own locations and present together. Record the sessions and make them available online for later use, but show them live so that attendees can log in, ask questions, and engage with you as if you were all together in a conference room.
Get creative with collaborating. Smarty gives you some online tools, but you don’t have to limit yourself to these – find your own way, collaborate online, and just co-create however you can. You get the benefit of continuing to build those relationships without leaving your home or office, and at the same time, you’re also building content that you can use in other ways to continue to market for you (and potentially source MORE relationships), while you’re doing work that you can also bill for.
What other collaborative solutions do you have?