Ten Ways Blogs Boost A Law Firm's Image
When done right, blogs are an informative, vibrant calling card that represents you to the world. When done wrong, blogs are a chore and unwelcome expense, and produce little return on your effort. The difference between the two depends on having a realistic understanding of what you face before you start a blog.
Here are 10 tips to help make the experience worthwhile:
- Hit the Target.
The first step is to define, and then target, your ideal audience. Effective blogs speak to specific niche markets. For example, if your target clients are low-income, blue collar consumers, question whether they are likely to be Web-savvy and facile with search tools. (The answer may still be "yes.") If not, a blog might not be a wise investment of your time. As Harvey Mackay said, "If you want to catch bass, you've got to fish where they are."
- Demonstrate your expertise.
Use your blog to "show and tell" your knowledge, authority and experience. Be specific in your posts, and follow up -- respond to inquiries (and incorporate your posted material into articles, speeches and client updates). This will help your audience learn, over time, how you can assist them, and why they need you and your services and products.
- Write clearly and concisely.
You aren't writing a legal brief -- rather, think of it as a one-on-one conversation with a client or prospect when you can't meet face-to-face. The best blogs are informal, conversational and demonstrate your expertise and experience. Save the Latin for the judge.
- Make the commitment.
Blogs get stale fast. They are most effective when they have a steady flow of posts. That's easier said than done -- it takes real dedication, and time. Develop a routine for blogging. Think of working on blog content as the equivalent to working in the garden -- not so much a chore as relaxing time away from the daily grind.
- Image counts.
You don't go to court in a T-shirt, likewise, pay attention to the look and feel of your blog. All of our activities shape impressions: the way we speak to people, the way we dress, even the way we eat. Some actions may invite interaction, others subtlely repel. Consider carefully the design of your blog, its presentation, color palette, (and of course, first and foremost, its content) to be sure that it reflects you at your best -- your expertise, personality and values.
- Everything has a cost.
It takes time to maintain a blog. Creating posts and answering e-mail comments can quickly add up. If you devote two hours per week, times 50 work weeks per year, and your billing rate is $200 per hour -- that's $20,000 a year of billable time.
Certainly worth it, if the investment produces a strong return, but time is money, so watch out for the temptation to get addicted beyond the value of your ROI!
- Do your homework.
One way to keep time and costs down is to learn and use Web tools that help you produce and distribute your blog. For example, you can write several posts at one sitting, but schedule each to appear on a specific day and time using TypePad's "Publish On" feature. Incorporating RSS (really simple syndication) and other tools can help you reach your audience by allowing your readers to "subscribe" to your blog and receive e-mail alerts.
Worried that you'll spend too much time blogging? Consider hiring someone to manage the technical aspects of your blog, such as uploading posts and graphics, tracking replies to posts, working on search engine optimization. The expense may be far less than the time spent updating and managing -- no matter how easy with TypePad or other tools -- that take you away from other marketing activities or even from your practice.
- Remember your professional responsibility.
Delegating the maintenance of a blog doesn't mean abdicating the responsibility. The rules governing professional conduct and advertising vary greatly from state to state. Web sties that openly provide advice and/or solicit clients may be subject to disciplinary regulation, and many states are extending jurisdiction to lawyers who have no presence in their state other than on the Internet.
- Keep your perspective.
Don't confuse blogs with the second coming of the printing press. Ultimately, they are just another communication vehicle. Most technology innovations over the past decade are just another turn of the wheel in the law's evolution from private club to business.