Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with LexBlog’s Bob Ambrogi on “This Week in Legal Blogging,” their new Facebook Live interview series. Bob and I discussed the ILN, running a legal network during a pandemic, and the eleven years that I’ve spent blogging here on Zen (how did that happen??). Two of his questions touched on tips for bloggers who were either getting started in legal blogging, or looking to focus or amplify their efforts, so I wanted to share them here with you! These are my six tips for legal bloggers:
- Consistency: Anyone in the legal field (or any field, frankly) is busy. But if you want to be a blogger, your audience will come to expect a certain level of publication from you. This doesn’t have to be every day or even every week if you don’t want it to be. Whatever publication schedule you decide on, however, needs to be consistent. If you decide you want to be a weekly blogger, then it’s essential to schedule in writing time so that you can publish weekly. If it’s biweekly, commit to biweekly. Your audience doesn’t want to hear excuses; they’ll simply disappear. You know how your scheduling functions best, so whether it’s calendaring in reminders to write or post, writing them in a task list, including them in your phone, or taking out a billboard, get it done.
- Don’t blog in a vacuum: Yes, we all have a voice, and you may be an expert (or even THE expert) in your field, but we ALL have something to learn – even if it’s from someone in another industry. Learning, reading, growing, and experiencing other things makes us good humans and great bloggers. When the only things I’m reading are my own posts and ideas, I’m not very interesting. So whether you’re reading books or articles, listening to podcasts or watching programs, or having great, thoughtful conversations with other industry leaders, ensure that you’re not the only voice in the industry that you’re listening to when it comes to your area of expertise.
- Regularly review your goals & strategies: We all know that the only constant is change, and this is just as true for the state of your blog as it is for the state of the world. Audiences and their needs change, and YOU will also change. I keep an editorial calendar that I review on a quarterly basis (tracking data on a weekly basis, as well as what posts I have upcoming for the following week). This allows me to see a snapshot of what’s working, what’s not working, what’s most popular, and what may need to change. At the minimum, it also requires me to think about it – what’s the goal of my blog right now? What is the strategy I’m putting into place to achieve that goal? Do I know who my audience is, and what they want? Is that the same right now as it was six months ago? A year ago? Do I need to ask them? Keep in mind, too, that this can change given world events, such as COVID or race riots – you may not want to be blogging “as usual” while your audience is struggling with other concerns.
- Find your “why”: This is something we always talk about in running. If you don’t have a good “why,” you’re going to stop when it gets hard (and it always gets hard in running – for me, pretty much immediately). The same is true in blogging. As soon as you get busier, or slightly bored with your topic, or you run out of ideas, you’ll want to give up. If you’re not deeply passionate about your topic, and blogging about it, you won’t be inspired to keep looking for new ways to write, new ideas, ways to break the writer’s block, and your blog will founder. I’m saying this from experience, because I definitely wouldn’t have made it through eleven years of blogging about the legal industry without sometimes being bored, frustrated, or stuck.
- Who is your audience? If you have followed me for any length of time, you’ll know this is probably my favorite refrain. Audience, audience, audience. Who are you writing for? Who are your favorite clients? What kinds of clients do you want more of? Write for THOSE clients. Specificity is important in blogging because the more general your blogging, the harder it is to promote, and the harder it is to write (trust me). Once you identify who you want to connect with, and create an idea in your mind about the ideal “audience” member for your blog, you can picture that person each time you’re writing, as if you’re writing just for them.
- Don’t assume (and you know why): We all do this – we assume what our audiences want out of our blogs. Maybe it’s because we’re scared to find out what that really is. But now that you know who your ideal audience is, and it’s likely made up of your favorite clients, you can reach out and ASK them what they want to hear more about. “Hey, Sara, I’m starting a blog on x. I’m planning to cover a, b, and c issues because those seem to come up a lot in our conversations and are most relevant to your business. Would you agree? Is there anything I’m missing that would be relevant to you?” Maybe Sara will say “Perfect! That’s exactly what I need. Please make it short and to the point. I’m also concerned about y, so that would help too.” Or she’ll say, “I can’t even think about doing any more reading right now. I love listening to podcasts though. Maybe you could think about starting a podcast, and interviewing x, y and z which would give me some insight into what may be coming up over the next few months. I’d listen to that while I’m working out.” She may even tell you that a podcast with a transcript in your blog would be exactly what she needs. But from speaking to her, you have the skinny on what she wants. Rinse and repeat with a few other trusted ideal audience candidates.
As I mentioned in the interview, blogging has been one of the greatest gifts in my professional life, and I’m grateful for the lessons it’s taught me, and continues to teach me. What would you add to this list?