Blogging Basics for Lawyers
By Amy Boardman Hunt ©Androvett Legal Media & Marketing
In the old days, a lawyer looking to showcase her expertise had two main marketing options:
- Peer-to-peer, such as word-of-mouth and CLE presentations
- Convincing the media to quote you or publish your commentaries
Both of those are still valuable tools, but many lawyers have found blogging to be an important addition to their marketing efforts. Blogging, particularly when supplemented by sharing across various social media platforms, amounts to a free (or nearly free) self-publishing platform that allows attorneys to opine and analyze current events, recent case law and new regulations, or answer frequently asked client questions. Particularly if your practice area is quite specific, a blog may be the ideal way to get “published” on topics of interest to you and your clients.
A well-maintained blog highlights an attorney’s expertise and tells clients, potential clients and referral sources that the lawyer is a thought-leader in his or her field. The key phrase there is well-maintained. A blog that hasn’t been updated in the last three months could be worse than having no blog at all.
If you’re starting a blog, here are some items to consider before you take the plunge:
Do you have the time (or a knowledgeable helper who has the time)?
Most blogs fail simply because they are not updated. If you can’t commit to posting at least every other week, don’t start a blog. The good news is that not every blog item needs to be a fully fleshed-out piece of thought leadership. In fact, your readers may thank you if the occasional post is simply a few sentences about an interesting development in your practice area with a link to a news story or a court opinion. You’ll want to include your two cents of course, but that can be fairly brief.If you suspect you don’t have the time to maintain your blog, consider hiring someone to help you keep it updated. Your helper can generate ideas, research case law or regulatory updates, and even write rough drafts for you to review and edit. Even if all your helper does is work on the back-end (uploading your blog post, inserting hyperlinks and sharing your posts via social media), that can save you valuable time. Either way, active engagement by a lawyer is required for an effective blog. So even with assistance, a blog is still a time commitment.
Tip: Create a content calendar with deadlines for ideas, first drafts and publication. That will put some structure on your efforts and help you stay accountable.
What are the pitfalls?
Besides letting it die on the vine, the other main peril of having a blog is the possibility of creating client conflicts. This shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, of course. It’s just something to be mindful of as you write. Don’t stake out a position your opposing counsel is likely to throw back in your face some day.
Tip: Have 3-5 blog posts already published before you unveil your blog to the world.
How are you unique?
Chances are you’re not the only lawyer in your practice area with a blog. So you need to set yourself apart by staking out a niche. That could be geographical, by industry or some other differentiator. If you don’t have a readily apparent way to set yourself apart, then you’ll need to supply extremely well-written, user-friendly content on a frequent basis. After all, what’s a better differentiator than “better”?
Tip: Find fresh eyes. If you’re doing all the writing, have someone else give it a thorough read before you publish. Even Hemingway had an editor, so don’t take it personally.
How do you get readers?
Growing your readership is as important as maintaining a regular publication schedule. One way to drive traffic to your blog is to share your posts across various social media platforms, including Twitter and LinkedIn. Many blogging platforms include plug-ins that allow readers to share your posts via social media. If your blog isn’t already featured on your law firm’s website, it should be highlighted there as well.
One other tool to build traffic is to maintain a blog roll, a listing of other blogs that might be of interest to your readers. Take the time to visit those other blogs and post the occasional comment (including a link to your own blog). If you see something great on one of those other blogs, write a few sentences about it and link to it from your own blog. If the blogger has his own Twitter feed, tweet about the blog post (including the blogger’s Twitter handle so that he’ll be notified that you’re tweeting about him). The more you share others’ work, the more likely they’ll be to share yours.
Tip: Once you’ve built up a solid base of blog posts, submit your blog to the State Bar of Texas’ blog roll.
How do you get started?
First, decide which blogging platform you want to use. There are several free and low-cost blogging platforms, including WordPress, Blogger and Type Pad. But they are far from the only options.
Bottom line: A blog can be an extremely effective communication tool, but you have to be dedicated to make it successful.
Other helpful tips:
- Link to other content. That could be a court opinion, a news story or anything else relevant to your blog post.
- Include art. Artwork can break up all the gray in your blog and make your site vastly more readable. However, using photos or images without permission can get bloggers in trouble. If the photo does not belong to you, make sure you have permission to use it. For a small fee, you can purchase photos from stock photo services such as iStockphoto. Alternatively, a search for “free photos for blogs” or “public domain images” will yield several options for free photos. Including the image in your tweet and/or LinkedIn post will also draw more views to those posts.
- Along those lines, make sure your formatting is user-friendly. Keep paragraphs brief and include subheads throughout.
- A blog isn’t a law journal. Write in plain English, and keep the jargon and legalese to a bare minimum. Be conversational and keep posts to no more than 700 words (at the outside). Shorter is better. Show some personality and have fun.
- Make headlines strong, provocative and descriptive. Don’t make your audience guess what your blog post is about.
If you need help starting or updating your blog, drop us a line.