If Content is King, What’s the Best Approach for Getting and Keeping the Crown?

by Cheryl on July 18, 2012

As law firms continue to move beyond staid brochures and websites and embrace what some have coined “content marketing” – blogs, articles, social media, etc. — the question of who should produce that content is a growing debate .

More and more, lawyers understand that they need to present themselves as thought leaders in their particular area of focus and one of the best ways to do this is through writing. The issue, however, inevitably comes down to time. Writing takes time.

Factor in a growing cadre of out of work journalists – many of whom are knowledgeable in the subject matter the lawyers are writing about – and what you are seeing is something of a cottage industry of startups willing to offer writing services .  As with most new concepts, there is going to be advocates and detractors.

Proponents of the idea of third-party content providers argue that such an approach saves time for lawyers to focus on clients and bill hours. Opponents will argue that a journalist might not have the expertise and, ultimately, only a lawyer, through his or her own voice, can properly connect with his or her target audience.

So which is it? If you ask me, both sides have a point. But that doesn’t mean either is right. If properly managed and there is clear communication, third-party writers can be an amazing resource for attorneys. They can ghost write articles and blog posts, disseminate through social media and they generally can do so in a style that is more reader friendly (sorry lawyers).  The key is a relationship managed through the PR manager.

I do not think third-party web startups that farm out articles to invisible writers will work effectively for law firms, particularly since most lawyers will not trust such an approach. But if firms can develop relationships with freelance journalists and allow them to get to know the attorneys they are working with, it can be a great model that will drastically increase the output of content.

Journalists are trained to quickly absorb information and write about it in a reader-friendly way.  Generally a third-party writer should be able to, through a quick interview, understand what the lawyer wants to say and do the necessary research to produce a good blog post or article. The attorney only then needs to sign off on a finished product. This approach is a lot faster than an attorney sitting at a keyboard and much cheaper than billable time.

Several firms have tried this approach. I did when I was in-house and it was extremely effective. Not only was content being created daily, but it also led to increased PR for the firm.

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