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Posted by Nick Salloway on 18 August 2016

A helpful guide for law firms on creating content that delivers results

In previous blogs, I’ve discussed the significant value that law firms can gain from the adoption of a strategic approach to inbound marketing, and, in particular, the development of an effective content strategy. Some of the fundamental rules relating to the ultimate success of a content strategy which we have already covered include;

  • Carefully linking your content strategy to your firm’s overall business goals
  • Having empathy with your audience, so you can create content that addresses their needs, and is available to them at the right time, and in the right place

Of course, as well as being useful and accessible, your content must also be written in a way that’s appropriate for your audience, and most importantly it MUST be understood. So yes, there’s quite a lot to get right! But don’t panic, provided your law firm takes a structured, customer focused and strategic approach to your content planning, you can create awesome content that your customers and prospects will love. 

In this post, I’m going to provide six simple tips to help your law firm create content that your audience 'gets', and which will keep your sales funnel nicely filled.

6 Tips for creating content for people who aren't lawyers

1. Your content contributors must understand your customers and their buyer journey

It’s essential that anyone tasked with creating content for your law firm understands precisely who the content is for, and what their specific needs are at any given point in time.

For example, a prospective business owner may be seeking advice on how to set up a company, or create a shareholder agreement, whereas an established business owner approaching retirement is more likely to be interested in content about exit strategies.

Whatever format the content takes, the key is to understand each customer’s needs, and then create content that they value because it helps them to stay informed, or because it helps them to solve a specific problem they have at a given point in time.

Buyer personas, customer journey maps, and customer ecosystems are all audience profiling techniques that we use at Status to understand what content people are likely to need and work out how best to provide it to them.

2. Avoid Jargon at all costs

It’s quite a paradox that lawyers, so often called upon to eloquently use the English language, are frequently guilty of peppering the content they create with confusing legal jargon. It's not a surprise as lawyers are essentially trained to understand highly technical topics, but unless you’re a lawyer creating content for other lawyers, overuse of highly complex legal jargon is likely to mean a lay audience simply won’t understand it.

In fact, if your content ends up confusing your audience, they are more likely to walk away rather than seek further clarification from you. Your prospective customers don’t want to read complicated explanations; they want content, and particularly online content, that is easy to scan and understand.

When it comes to legal content there are some common legal phrases which have the potential to confuse the lay reader. For example, phrases such as:

  • ‘Final and conclusive,' ‘will and testament' and ‘goods and chattels’ are all examples of potentially confusing combinations of English/Non-English words that aren't likely to add value to the meaning of a sentence
  • ‘Inter alia’, ‘prima facie', ‘de-facto' and ‘ad-nauseam’ are all useful phrases that to the legal profession explain something in a couple of Latin words that would take longer in English. What you need to remember, however, is that when writing blog content, you’re unlikely to be writing for other legal colleagues, and therefore you need to tailor the tone of your content to reflect this

In their publication The Decline and Fall of Gobbledygook, the Canadian Bar Association agrees and comments that “The term ‘legalese’ refers to a style of writing used by lawyers that is incomprehensible to ordinary readers.” It goes on to say, “The reader should not be required, because of the writer’s laziness, to struggle with the meaning of written text.” And for this reason, it's really important that lawyers find ways to simplify their writing to appropriate language levels for their clients.

3Encourage lawyers to write ‘conversationally’ rather than legally

Publishing content from individual lawyers will help to build their personal reputations and credibility, whilst also creating a human face for your firm. A conversational writing style can significantly increase levels of engagement of a piece of content, and also open up a dialogue with customers and prospects. People are much more likely to engage with someone who’s an expert in their field, and who also engenders emotional and empathetic connections with them whilst remaining relevant and interesting.

A touch of humour, controversy, strong opinions, linking topics to local or relevant news, or bringing in interesting twists on old topics, can all help to engage deeply with your audience. No-one wants to read something that’s boring, or they feel isn’t written for them. Good examples include the Morton Fraser blog and the Charles Russell Speechly’s blog, where the content is delivered in a friendly and conversational way and is tied in with topical news to engage readers better and hook them from the start.

4Don’t limit your content to text

According to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research, “a minute of video is worth 1.8 million words.” Incorporating visual elements into your content marketing strategy can add a real human face to your firm. We recommend identifying people within your firm who have the talent for face-to-face communication and build video content into your content plan. A great example of this can be seen on the Mishcon de Reya website, where within the 'Mishcon Thinks' section they publish a series of really engaging films that "explore topics affecting our clients, our business and the social, political and economic landscape at large.'

5. Encourage feedback about your content

If you understand your audience, and produce content they ‘get’ and value, you should automatically see engagement levels growing. That said, it never hurts to encourage people to comment on your posts. Why should you care? Well, because high levels of engagement are a great indicator that your content strategy is having the desired impacts of increasing visibility of your brand online, and driving traffic (and ultimately leads) to your website.

Whether it’s an invitation to comment on your blog post, or inviting comments on content you’ve shared on social media, it’s hugely valuable to encourage people to engage with your content, and to listen to their thoughts on whatever topic you are discussing.

If you're interested in learning more on this subject then we'll be publishing a blog post soon around measuring content engagement and the metrics that matter- subscribe to our blog alerts to make sure you don't miss out.  And in the meantime, here are a few great tips to get AND keep the conversation going.

6. Appoint a content ‘Editor’

In many businesses, this is likely to be the individual who wrote the content plan. This person plays an important role in the success of your content strategy by acting as the editor/proof-reader and arbitrator of the content submitted.  And crucially, they will ensure that the content meets the criteria set out in the plan, and make any neccessary changes to ensure legalese and jargon are kept to an absolute minimum. 

Next steps

So hopefully we've now set you on the right thinking path when it comes to creating digital content that your audience truly views as valuable, and in turn, delivers results for your firm.  

Your starting point should be to concentrate on understanding your audience and their needs. You’ll then be in a great position to create your content plan, setting out clear guidelines on exactly how you are going to talk to customers and prospects. By doing so you'll avoid the risk of alienating people with confusing content, and instead, benefit from a strategic approach that allows individual experts to develop empathetic relationships, wherein people trust them as approachable experts. Or to put in another way, and to coin a favorite phrase of mine from @mikegrehan from Acronym;

“Don't slug it out with everyone else at the I-want-to-buy moments. Reach these customers before your competition does in the I-want-to-know moments.”

So what do you think? Are you a lawyer who’s also a content marketing trailblazer? What would you add to my list? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below. On the other hand, if you’re an ambitious firm who needs some help to ramp up your content marketing, please get in touch, we'd love to hear from you.

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