How to use content to raise your professional profile
Words provided by East Park Communications
Solicitors earn their living through their expert legal knowledge. Each law student who gains a training contract and qualifies does so through hard study, and in a competitive legal world.
In times gone by, rather than giving away their knowledge, lawyers would keep it under wraps, and only reveal it in return for a fee.
But times they are changing. People now expect to type legal queries into Google and get answers – for free. In-depth searching reveals helpful, and not so helpful, articles, written by solicitors practising in that particular specialism.
The growth of online research provides the perfect opportunity for lawyers to show off their knowledge, build reputation and develop relationships with potential clients.
There will usually come a time when an online legal researcher will need to take professional advice tailored to their particular problem or dispute. Who better to turn to than the lawyer or firm they’ve discovered during their research – assuming, that is, that the content they’ve discovered is useful and relevant to the potential client, as well as being easy to understand?
Here are some points to consider when writing to promote yourself, to your own professional networks (of lawyers and other professionals), and to clients and potential clients:
Think about the reason you’re writing the article.
Often solicitors are invited to submit articles on their particular specialism and are given carte blanche regarding subjects. If you’re a senior partner or a committee member of your local law society, it may feel like a distraction from your workload.
But it’s actually a great opportunity, if you approach it in a positive way. Before beginning the article, think carefully about your reason for writing the article. What message is it going to send out to the readers, and how will it be useful?
You need to consider carefully the information you want to include in your article, so it’s helpful to your reader and shows off your specialist knowledge. Analyse new legislation, or clarify points in the law that are not immediately apparent to a non-specialist.
Think about who you’re writing the article for.
If you’re writing an article in a legal news blog or magazine, your audience will be fellow lawyers (great for referrals and to grow your professional network).
These readers will have a certain level of knowledge of most areas of law (more so than most non-lawyers), even if they’re not a specialist in your field.
For this reader, your content needs to be more in-depth. There’s no need to include information they’re already aware of, as this will dilute the effectiveness of the article.
By the same token, if you’re writing for the public at large your content needs to suitable for the non-lawyer, to solve problems they need solutions to, and not contain too much terminology they won’t understand.
Be clear on who your reader is, and pitch the content accordingly.
Do not promote yourself in the article
Avoid any self-promotion or any awards or achievements, when you’re writing about a subject. The reader will be interested in how an article can be useful to them. Self-promotion risks making you sound desperate and spammy. It’s about ‘show’ not ‘tell’: show your audience how good you are through great content, rather than just telling them.
If you refer to one of your own cases, keep purely to the details of the outcome. You may have won the case against all odds, but keep the article down to the respective arguments, and the reason why the judge made the decision. The important facts raised in the article will often get revisits and postings by the readership.
Try to stand out
Depending on the uniqueness of the issue you’re writing about, there will usually be other writers who will have put similar content online. It’s important yours is relevant on its own – what can you add that other writers haven’t?
It could be you’re the first to write about a new development or case. It could be your firm was involved in a case and so can bring a unique perspective. Or perhaps you have a unique take on a controversial area of law.
Always ask yourself: what makes my content stand out as particularly useful to my reader?
Don’t include any information that is not useful
Keep strictly to the point in your article and do not personalise it with irrelevant detail, such as your concerns about your favourite football team or the fact that you’re running a half-marathon for a local charity.
Legal issues are extremely important to your target audience, and any deviation may irritate the reader as they are anxious to get qualified information. Keep purely to the subject, and give an informative overview.
You can give a short biography, purely about your position and professional qualifications. It should include contact details and a link to your firm’s website or to another useful article. You want your content to generate web traffic, leads, and ultimately new customers.
If your firm has a newsletter, use a link in your article to encourage readers to sign up to it. Then you’ve got their details and can target other relevant content at them
Use keywords in your headings
When you have decided on the subject of your article, make sure you use keywords in your headings to increase your chances of being picked up by search engines.
For example, if you’re writing content for respondents in unfair prejudice claims, you need to ensure that if someone searches Google for “How to defend a claim against unfair prejudice from a minority shareholder”, your article appears on the first page of search results.
Google AdWords: Keyword Planner is a good place to start researching the best keywords to use.
As with any promotional activity, it’s often unclear how effective your articles will be in raising your profile, and how much benefit it has been to gaining more business. The main aim is to get your name out there, and build up a portfolio. It may have an immediate effect, or you may only strike gold on your 100th article.
Writing online is one weapon to make sure you do not go unnoticed. It helps the right people become more aware of you, and gives you an edge over your competitors in other firms who don’t take advantage of this new opportunity.
Simon Castell is sales manager at East Park Communications, a company specialising in providing free on- and off-line magazines to the legal profession.
Phone number: 0151 651 2776