In previous posts, we addressed best practices for eMarketing and email design as well as internal processes for creating good email communications. If it seems that you’re doing everything right and your email metrics are still disappointing, what’s left to improve? Well, let’s look the 10,000-pound elephant in the room squarely in the eye: your content.
For law firms, the content is typically written by the lawyers. This can be… well, a bit challenging, because many lawyers are legal writers, favoring a specific style that may not necessarily be conducive for eMarketing purposes. This leaves the Marketing department to attempt to shape the content to make it as effective as possible.
So what is a marketer to do when faced with a partner who is convinced that posting 5,000 words (1,000 of which are footnotes) on the latest regulatory change is the best way to communicate with Clients and prospective Clients? Here are some suggestions and talking points to help build consensus and buy-in for improving your firm’s publications.
Best of the Bunch
Look at all your firm’s recent publications by practice area. Are there one or two groups that consistently provide concise, well-written content that is not drowning in legalese? Now have a look at their metrics. If their mailing list is in good shape, they should also have the best open and click through rates in the firm. These are the folks to hold up as examples of how to do it correctly. Anyone who’s been a marketer in a professional services firm will already know that capitalizing on the competitive spirit of a partnership business model can be a powerful tool for changing behavior. If you can find one or two practices with superior metrics and can tie it to their effective content, then you have something to hold up as an example to the rest of the firm.
Train ‘Em Young
Today’s associates have grown up with the internet, email, Twitter and LinkedIn, so they get it. Firms should capitalize on the technology-savvy and sponge-like nature of the younger members and tap a few of them to create content that resonates with Clients. They will likely already understand the importance of concise messaging as the key to effective communications.
Break Down Their Mailing Lists
Lawyers tend to write for other lawyers. As marketers, we need them to write for people in all walks of life. Remember, the CEOs of many companies probably don’t have a JD. Some quick analysis of the job titles in lawyers’ mailing lists may help to persuade them that they’re not just sending to other lawyers. Even though you may find that their lists are made up primarily of lawyers, lawyer writers need to understand that well-written and relevant pieces are often the ones that are most likely to be circulated throughout companies. Human Resources and Marketing for example, are two departments that are often the ‘beneficiaries’ of law firm alerts. Writing in heavy legalese is counterproductive for these groups. If your lawyers still insist they are writing for other lawyers, remind them that lawyers also read newspapers, magazines and even novels, and some of the most important and complex issues of our time involving complex legal issues such as foreign policy, terrorism, taxes, the economy and healthcare are communicated every day in these publications – without the use of footnotes. Amazing.
First Is Not Always Best
While Clients do want to know that the firm is on top of recent developments, simply sending out a regurgitation of that new regulation doesn’t necessarily convey that your firm understands the impact of the law on the Client’s business. Yes, you want your email on the topic to be among the first received, but that’s not all there is to it. They also need to demonstrate that they understand the implications of the law by addressing some simple questions such as, “What does this mean for me? Do I need to be concerned? What can I do to prepare or minimize the risk for the company?” Both speed and depth are important. Get the alert out quickly and explain why it is important to readers. Later, your lawyers can write a longer, in-depth piece for an outside publication which, of course, can also be forwarded to their mailing list.
Your lawyers are busy. So why would they assume their readers are any less busy? No one has time to read a 3,000-word, footnoted dissertation on a new regulation – and certainly no one has the time (or inclination) to read it on a mobile device, which is how much of your content is now being accessed. A recent Forbes article on content marketing trends confirms this, noting that “audiences are overwhelmed with content…” and “simply can’t take it all in.”
If lawyers believe that they’re demonstrating their knowledge with a lengthy, dense alert, it then falls to the marketer to dissuade them of that notion and help them to understand that what needs to be demonstrated to Clients is the lawyers’ ability to apply their knowledge of the law to the Client’s situation. That can often be done quite effectively and succinctly with a few bullet points and no more than 1,500 words, and the good news is that this also takes a lot less time to produce.