Content is an essential component of marketing and business development, but law firms are often hesitant and overwhelmed at the thought. And frankly, many don’t know where to begin and how to build a content strategy. During this Law Firm Content series, we’ll talk to law firm marketers, business development leaders, and lawyers about their content efforts, problems, and successes.
The following is the second of a 2-part interview with Jennifer Topper, a long-time business development director for large law firms, and now a consultant to small and mid-size firms.
How do you get lawyers to write?
Not every lawyer is a strong writer and probably shouldn’t be writing for business development or marketing purposes, just as not every lawyer should be out there speaking on panels at conferences, and just as not every lawyer should be out there meeting clients.
Some lawyers prefer to stay behind closed doors to provide the brains and strategy and not everyone should be pressed to push out new content for marketing – service partners, if you will.
Set a goal or objective. It’s not about the content. It’s about how that content fits within a campaign that is set forth within an overall business plan and strategy. And content is just one of the components of that campaign. What is your core messaging? Differentiators? All content must start from this point.
What role do marketers play in helping lawyers and law firms produce content?
There are two ways: there’s one role marketers play in reality and there’s what role should they play if they weren’t so overextended and overburnded with other task based issues. Good marketers identify the hot issues and topics in the marketplace that serve as the drivers for the client base and the prospects, what is driving legal spend, what is driving decisions within corporations, then tipping off the lawyers about these trends and enourage them to be out ahead of those issues.
Marketers should be saying, “We should be writing on this particular issue, we should be rebutting the other issues, we should be submitting an op-ed.” The marketer should not be relied upon to generate the articles of piece of content. It speaks to the real experience that a lawyer has with her/his finger on the pulse of what clients are doing.
If a marketer creates a draft and gives to a lawyer to redline, it won’t get done. The back and forth process will go on for weeks. A key component of generating content is not just getting the commitments to generate it but to have a system of accountability to get it done and on time, and distributed to an appropriate network of contacts that are managed within the firm.
Calibrate and moderate the expectation of content generation from lawyers. It is not their core competency, but as a marketer, you can identify the most salient issues, the areas that are of utmost importance, prioritize, and set the table for them. Write the pitch, talk to the PR group to get the placement, put together the editorial guideline, do your research to make sure no one else has published to avoid redundancy, That’s a days work before you even pick up the phone and call the associate or practice group head.
Then comes the drafting and redlining, revising, approval process, submission. It’s hard to turn this stuff around. Nobody has the time. You can’t realistically expect anyone to change their practice to accommodate a marketing plan. The marketing plan has got to support the practice. And if it means not writing 6 articles, but instead, writing 2 bylined articles.
Smart marketers know what meetings their attorneys are going on, CLEs they’re presenting, what client pitches they’re going on. They need to pick and choose out of that world of information, where the important content is and how it can be repurposed, placed, rebuilt into a platform that’s not recreating the wheel. For instance, an attorney just creating a 30-slide presentation for a client. Unless a marketers says, wait a minute – let me read that.
What other clients should be receiving this presentation, how do we turn this presentation into an article or series of posts. Use what’s there and be smart about it. Understand what the competition is doing and what the client drivers are first. This is what the value of a marketer or business developer is within a large firm environment.
What about other departments?
Departments need to work together: technology, litigation support, finance and accounting, library, CLE…
Unfortunately, firms were not set up with a structure that help support departments work together. Even when there is a willingness to work together, structurally, it’s difficult. They are silos with little infrastructure for integration or innovation.
A good marketing and business development effort can’t be managed well without technology, collaboration, a sales pipeline, a comprehensive CRM, access to billable reports to understand who’s doing what, where the lowest hanging fruit is, identify problems, who’s responsible, and putting together an analytics-driven program for efficiencies and innovation. This is what some firms call Knowledge Management, but it’s not a standard silo and not well integrated universally.
After more than a decade of heading up business development initiatives at large law firms, Jennifer Topper founded Topper Consulting which provides law firm partners and professional services practitioners with practical advice, insight and guidance for business planning and new business development and client retention and acquisition. Jennifer incorporates research and risk analysis to develop innovative ways for law firms to offer new services.