When we flipped the calendar page to a new year, few could have anticipated the turmoil COVID-19 would foist upon our work and our lives. By March, it seemed everything was canceled, including events that were essential to forming meaningful relationships and growing our practices.
Marketing has always involved a multipronged approach, but the pandemic has effectively snapped the “in-person networking” prong clean off. Attorneys and law firms are now discovering the unspeakable benefits of thought leadership as a long-term business development strategy. Unconstrained by traditional barriers of time and place, constructing a digital platform through relevant, insightful content remains a plausible marketing tactic even when face-to-face meetings are impossible.
However, as we all know, it is virtually impossible to get through the day without consuming a glut of content across various media. As such, innovative lawyers are faced with a perennial challenge: making their content stand out.
#1: COMMIT TO CONSISTENCY.
You cannot demand respect from your audience; you need to earn it. Start to garner this respect by consistently showing up in various media to offer opinions, perspectives, and insights that are timely and relevant to your target client population.
If you are a content novice, set a realistic and attainable goal. I encourage my clients to commit to one quality article per month. To ease the load, many clients opt to divide their articles among the attorneys in their firm. Others choose to coauthor pieces with practitioners in complementary practice areas.
When creating content – whether written or spoken, illustrated, or curated – aim to create niche content for a niche audience. Instead of trifling over vanity metrics such as likes, follows, and comments, delve deeply into a narrow set of topics geared toward serving a narrow set of people. This will set you apart from the crowd, giving you a unique edge and zone of expertise.
What makes your work constitute thought leadership and not just bland reporting is the unique angle you offer. Even if 1,000 other lawyers write an article about the same SCOTUS decision, your specific take, based on your own experience, education, or area of interest, is what separates you from the masses. As such, aim to distinguish yourself by offering your audience a tailored, unique panoply of issues that inform, inspire, or spark meaningful conversations.
Lawyers are perennially pressed for time and as such, cannot (or, for good reason, don’t want to) sacrifice billable hours writing their own marketing content. To ensure they remain visible to prospective clients while staying productive in their practices, many lawyers turn to ghostwriters, professional writers for hire who craft articles without taking authorial credit. In some cases, a ghostwriter can assist an attorney who does not like to write this kind of content but needs to do so as part of a firm’s marketing plan.
While many ghostwriters seek to break into the legal field, I caution lawyers against hiring a ghostwriter without a legal background. A ghostwriter needs to be able to accurately recount your story, mission, and experience to your prospective clients and referral sources. Not to mention, your writer should ensure he or she avoids including language that can trigger an ethical violation. As a licensed attorney myself, I am not only fluent in the language lawyers speak across disparate practice areas, but I also understand the ethical guidelines binding our conduct when we write content that may be used for marketing purposes.
The cost of hiring a ghostwriter often spooks budget-minded lawyers. However, ghostwriter fees rarely, if ever, exceed the commensurate cost of lost billable hours. As such, if you are pressed for time but still feel pressure to publish, consider how outsourcing could preserve your valuable billable time – all while helping you remain visible, credible, and productive within your practice.
THIS IS A LONG GAME
It takes time and commitment to build a platform, but thought leadership marketing carries tangible, powerful ROI: every piece of content you thoughtfully craft and publish further solidifies your status as a trusted authority. Explosive, overnight success is rare. Rather, what matters is continuing to show up, meet your audience where they are, and refine your messaging. In time, you will build a sturdy platform that even a pandemic cannot destroy.