Providing expert level insights on legal topics has become an increasingly important element in law firm marketing and business development. That means, most often, attorneys writing blog articles for the firm web site. Legal marketers agree that these articles are valuable, but also agree that it can be like pulling teeth to actually get attorneys to write and submit web-ready content.
We’ve encountered this over and over in working with law firms and other professional services organizations. Management and marketing want a robust blog capability. We build that component into the web site but only a few articles are posted. Many blogs end up being abandoned.
I had the opportunity to speak with one of our clients that is having more success than most firms in this area. David Glod, a shareholder at Rich May in Boston, was kind enough to share the strategy that has helped the firm maintain a steady flow of content for its blog and social media efforts. David handles both business transactional matters and litigation, including contract and employment disputes, securities issues, and complex land title claims.
“I feel that for lawyers there’s always a difficult balance between the marketing component of our job and the practice of law,” David describes. “For years, we knew that it was important to have blog pieces, to have news items and updates and we’ve continually pushed to do that, but it’s a whole separate question of how to get people to set aside billable client work to produce this content.”
This is a common refrain we hear from clients. Blog posts are never the priority for those asked to write them and the marketing staff has little leverage to make busy experts generate them. As David relates, “It’s not directly benefiting them in a financial sense, and it’s not directly driving business in a way that’s easily measurable. So we figured that the easiest fix was to create a financial incentive to drive the result we wanted. We set up a program where any associate of the firm could earn a $250 bonus for each blog piece.” Twice a year bonuses are distributed based on who wrote what.
The results have been encouraging. The volume of high-quality content is up, and some of the authors have received inquiries from potential clients about legal issues they explored in their articles. From a management perspective, the bonus expense has been worth it.
Other creative solutions
Financial incentives can be powerful motivators, but we’ve seen other approaches to improve the quantity and quality of written content. Here are a few strategies to consider.
Create an editorial calendar
Instead of simply asking attorneys to submit articles when they get inspired, put some structure around the effort. Form a small editorial committee and create a list of topics for articles for the coming year. Then get commitments from attorney authors and publish the calendar. This structure creates accountability for the effort and justifies the reminders that should go out to authors as due dates approach.
Don’t let blog submissions disappear into a black hole. Let everyone in the firm know when a new article goes live – via an internal email, on your intranet, or other means. This simple notoriety may inspire others to submit posts.
Create a friendly competition
Attorneys like to win. Why not pit corporate lawyers versus litigators or environmental versus healthcare in a yearlong writing contest? Which team can post the most articles or meet the most due dates? Keep participants posted on the score throughout the year and reward the winners with an appropriate prize.
Be a collaborator, not a nuisance
The marketing team often gets stuck in the role of reminding, begging and cajoling attorneys to produce articles. This role may be inevitable but it can be far more productive to also get involved as a teammate. Schedule brief meetings with attorneys and ask questions about recent casework, current events and legal issues clients have been talking about. Work together to select a topic for an article and add it to the calendar.
Keep it short
Articles do not have to be long to be valuable. Instead of soliciting an exhaustive treatise on a topic, ask for a high-level primer. Remember the goal of blog articles is to demonstrate knowledge and capability, not to teach the reader how to solve legal problems on their own. Shorter articles mean less writing time, and a higher likelihood of getting them done on schedule.
Compromise when necessary
Some attorneys will not write articles, no matter how or how often you ask. For these resistors, offer a middle ground. Let them submit five or six bullet points on the designated topic and let an outside writer take it from there as a ghostwriter. When a draft is complete, circle back to the attorney for editing or feedback. It’s typically much easier and faster to react to something already written than to start from scratch. This compromise approach may not be your first choice, but can still produce valuable content, which is the ultimate aim.
If you have other ideas for motivating experts to produce blog content, let me know. Our clients are always interested in solving this challenge.