9 Content Development Tips for Lawyers

| February 05, 2015

9 content development tips for lawyers
Content is an extremely important component of any online marketing effort.  It can influence the reasons users come to a website, it impacts a website’s presence in search and forms the foundation of all the other marketing efforts for a law firm.  For lawyers in particular, content needs to be well crafted and written by professionals.  Here are some tips for lawyers as they develop their own content strategy[1].

Developing Buyer Personas

Content strategies for law firms can be challenging to develop if the target audience is misunderstood.  Creating buyer personas is a good exercise in understanding who potential clients are, what their pain points might be and why they may be searching for an attorney.

A buyer persona is a fictional person that is assigned behavioral and personality characteristics that a typical member of a target audience might have.  When businesses develop these personas, they may even have names and pictures associated with them.  Sometimes businesses will even keep buyer personas out in the open so they always remember who it is they are selling to.  Personas are important[2] for so many reasons from developing content to targeting advertisements.

Law firms are businesses too and building out a persona is an effective strategy for developing content marketing ideas[3].  Lawyers should spend some time and figure out who their audience is.  Information about an audience can come from anywhere including:

  • Experience
  • Market research
  • Analytics platforms (for example Google analytics or Facebook Insights)
  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Colleagues
  • Industry-specific publications

Attorneys will find that the rest of their content strategy is influenced by this first step in the process.  By having accurate and complete buyer personas it is much easier to develop content that the target market will find valuable.  Hubspot has a very useful buyer persona template[4] that lawyers can use as a starting point.

Ethics in Legal Content Marketing

Attorneys have to be careful about the content they produce and publish on their website.  Of course every business needs to consider what is said carefully but attorneys may be held to higher standards depending on the state they are practicing in.  For example, you cannot say “specializes” or make any statement that would imply you are the best.  There are some states that are more particular in regards to their advertising ethics than others.  For example, in Indiana it is not clear as to whether attorneys can list Avvo rating badges and testimonials on their site.

Lawyers should check advertising guidelines with their particular state as it relates to the legal profession before they get too involved with a strategy.

Social Proof

Social proof refers to visual cues that consumers use to validate an attorney online without having to do a lot of research.  These could be in the form of awards, designations, badges, affiliations or even simpler things like share or subscriber counters.  Though it may seem insignificant, social proof goes a long way toward establishing credibility[5] with visitors to a website.

Some great forms of social proof for attorneys include:

  • Superlawyers[6]
  • National Trial Lawyers Association
  • Avvo rating badges
  • Million Dollar Advocates
  • Case results
  • As seen in (logos from prominent publications or media channels)
  • Local BBB listings
  • On-site testimonials

Be Authentic

An attorney’s content strategy should strive to be the real voice of that lawyer or the firm as a whole.  In other words, a lawyer should not try to be something he or she is not.  They should instead work hard to portray who and what their brand really is.  This is important for a variety of reasons:

  • Consumers crave authenticity
  • Being fake can backfire in a big way on the internet
  • Not being authentic is easily spotted when it comes to content

Consumers are not oblivious.  When they see someone being inauthentic it is easy to spot.  Worse yet, if they do not realize it in a lawyer’s content, they will certainly find out once they meet.  If consumers are ultimately disappointed with a lawyer’s services, this leaves the door open for negative reviews, negative posts on social media, and other PR-related issues.

Listen to Your Clients

Part of the process for making good buyer personas is listening to what clients have to say when it comes to what they look for in an attorney.  Lawyers can do that by learning about their audience on social media, doing surveys, or setting up interviews with past clients.

This does not always have to be a pre-planned effort.  Lawyers can find opportunities to make note of what clients feel is important in the relationship they have with their lawyer.  Look for what it is that makes people gravitate toward one attorney over another.  What kinds of things do people like to learn about?  What pain are they having?

Lawyers can then translate what they learn from their clients into a content strategy.  For example clients may feel that it is important to trust their lawyer.  This could translate into producing content that promotes trust among visitors to a website such as social proof or blog posts on how to develop a trustworthy relationship with an attorney.

Make Content Mobile Friendly

This is sort of indirect to a lawyer’s actual content strategy but it is important for delivery.  After all if people have a difficult time consuming content, they may avoid the source of that content altogether.

Mobile device usage has skyrocketed in recent years and it is only becoming more popular.  Lawyers who do not have a mobile responsive website need to get one.  If people have to work to resize the window to read text or if the site is not mobile responsive at all, people are more likely to have a bad experience.

Having a mobile friendly blog and/or website (although not directly related to content) is an important part of the puzzle.  The goal is to make consumption of content as easy and accessible for users as possible.

Outsource Appropriately

Lawyers have a unique challenge compared with other businesses when it comes to outsourcing their content.  They need someone who is qualified to write about legal information.  Lawyers who plan on outsourcing content need to make sure they hire a JD to do it (or someone else qualified to write about legal topics).

Lawyers should also find someone who can align with their overall strategy.  No one knows a brand and how the firm should be portrayed better than the people running it.  If high quality blogging, writing, direction on video production or other content development can be done in-house, that is the ideal scenario.

Follow the 80/20 Rule

Whether lawyers are generating blog posts, videos, social posts, white papers, eBooks or infographics, 80% (or more) should be non-self-promotional.  Branding content is still encouraged but it should be useful to the audience.  The fact is potential clients don’t care about information about the firm or the attorney when it comes through social channels, or blogs or videos.  They only care about how their problems are going to get solved or the information they are searching online for.  If an attorney’s content only talks about how great they are or what the firm is up to that day or what cases they have won, people will gloss over that information.  If there is no other information for them to find beyond that, they will move on.

Lawyers should follow the 80/20 rule in all of their content generation.  If they write 4 blog posts per week, at least 3 of them should be helpful to readers and not directly selling services.  If lawyers post to Facebook 7 times per week, 5 of those posts should have nothing directly to do with services.  They can still be related to the legal profession, the practice area or the mission of the firm in general, but they should not be trying to sell people.

Cite Authoritative Sources

There is a tendency online to try and keep people on a web page by not offering ways for them to leave (such as links to other sources).  Omitting links to external sources does not help keep people on a web page.  If someone wants to leave a site, a link placed as a source isn’t going to be what causes them to go.  Most of the time visitors leave because content is not good or navigability of the site is poor.

Lawyers who want to portray their firm as an authority in a specific area of law should cite sources that people will recognize or that have good information.  Not only does this help establish the lawyer as an authority but it gives signals to search engines that the page is of high quality.

In Closing

A lawyer’s content strategy is the foundation of their marketing efforts online.  They should produce content that establishes them as an authority in their particular practice area.  They can do that by making content that is useful and that points users to other useful sources of information.  Above all else, they should do this in an ethical way that resonates with their target audience.

[1] http://www.attorneyrankings.org/developing-a-content-strategy-for-attorneys/
[2] http://www.shopify.com/blog/15275657-how-to-build-buyer-personas-for-better-marketing
[3] http://www.attorneyrankings.org/content-marketing-tips-for-lawyers-interview-with-shawn-manaher/
[4] http://offers.hubspot.com/free-template-creating-buyer-personas
[5] http://www.businessesgrow.com/2012/03/08/social-proof-and-your-battle-for-credibility/
[6] http://www.attorneyrankings.org/how-to-become-a-super-lawyer/