A modest proposal to help law firm marketers

It’s a scenario that plays out all too frequently inside law firms: A lawyer asks for help from the internal marketing team getting an article published. Great, they think. You’ve come to the right place!

Oh, wait, he’s already written the article, they find out.

In an email, the lawyer attaches a 5,000-word treatise loaded with footnotes and long paragraphs about a law that Congress passed two months ago.

A collective sigh.

But it gets worse. A quick Google search reveals that dozens of other law firms have already published pieces on the law weeks ago. His article, while excruciatingly comprehensive, offers no specific takeaways and makes no effort to target a specific audience.

How can marketing teams get ahead of this train wreck?

Establishing a simple firm-wide content-creation protocol can help. We’re not talking about an elaborate process. Just a five-prompt form that content creators should complete before they start creating.

A content protocol has a couple of benefits. One, it discourages lawyers from writing articles first before pitching them. Trying to place an article after it has been written is a bane to many law firm marketers. With the odds stacked against them, they must search for publications that might take the article; it’s also a waste of time for authors who often need to make extensive revisions to meet a publication’s guidelines.

More importantly, a protocol will ensure content creators are focused on serving clients and prospective clients, not just their egos. Whether it’s an article, podcast, or video, thinking these five prompts through could go a long way in ensuring that content resonates with the right audience and distinguishes a firm’s place in the market.

This article is about…Can you explain what your piece is about in a sentence or two? Do you have a working headline? You should. It can help crystalize your thinking.

It is important because…Law firms aren’t in the breaking news business. But they are qualified to interpret the news—with perspective, experience and rich data. That means explaining why a news development is so important.

This piece will consider the perspective of…Who is this piece of content trying to reach? The answer should serve as the lens through which the content is created.

We will distinguish ourselves by… If you want to annoy your clients, send them content that adds nothing to the dozens of similar articles written on the subject. Make sure you have an angle that has not been picked over to death.

Readers will benefit by…What do you want readers, viewers or listeners to take away after digesting the content?

Historically, law firm content has been an ad hoc activity with attorneys given free rein to do as they wish when they wished. But that approach is increasingly costly and inefficient, both for the lawyers and their internal marketing teams. As more content floods the market, firms must focus on quality more than ever to break through.

Answering these kinds of questions is not just for novices. In a famous memo, the playwright David Mamet instructed the writing staff of the CBS TV show the Unit to answer three questions for every scene.

Who wants what?
What happens if she doesn’t get it?
Why now?

Mamet wanted to ensure that every scene was dramatic. Law firm content won’t likely be as dramatic, but at least a content protocol can help it be more valuable to clients.

How can we help?

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