One of the most important things a lawyer can do to become a well-branded, well-recognized expert, is to produce high-quality content. In most cases, particularly in the legal industry, the written format is most popular when it comes to producing content. But the format matters far less than the substance. Ideas can be conveyed via podcast, video, live talks – it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the content, itself, is of such high-quality that it raises the profile and reputation of the content producer in the minds of content consumers.
Content is one of the few tools that allows a lawyer to establish relationships built on trust with those who she may never have personally come into contact with. Here’s how it works:
When it comes to addressing their challenges and opportunities, clients want expertise, not generalized knowledge. Unless expertise can be conveyed and validated through referral or reputation, it must be demonstrated through thought leadership expressed in the marketplace of ideas. In this sense, content is what sells a lawyer when she’s not there to sell herself. It gives others a window into the lawyer’s mind, her ideas, and the quality of her insights. Through reading and evaluating her content, potential referral sources and clients have already determined, to at least some extent, that their needs and her expertise align.
Content marketing is critically important when it comes to personal brand building and business development. But it takes time. Generating and disseminating compelling content is the “long game” with a focus on relationship building, not the hard sell.
The reason that most lawyers don’t earn dividends from their content is that they’re not invested for the long-term. They write a few articles, put them out in the world, and expect the world to beat a path to their email inbox with accolades and opportunities. It doesn’t work that way, unfortunately. What works is sustained effort, and a clear strategy about who you’re creating content for.
Here are a few principles to keep in mind when building your personal brand through the content you produce and share.
The digital world is too noisy and fragmented to try to reach everyone. Those that try to create content of general interest end up drowning in anonymity. Those that consistently create content that is of intense interest to a smaller, niche audience are able to break through the noise.
Think of your content focus like a tree. Your core, niche focus is the tree trunk. As you dive into the world of content creation, you need to establish deep roots and a strong, sturdy trunk. Focusing your content on a particular niche helps accomplish this. It allows you to build a following and community around your content. Then, once a community has been established, you’ll be able to branch out and experiment with new content topics. Some of those branches will be weak and break. But others will grow strong, like the trunk.
Start small. Find your core. Then branch out.
CONNECT THE DOTS
Most content efforts fail because they are too shallow. Any lawyer can summarize an appeals court decision or new statute and post it on their blog. This is another reason that having a narrow focus with your content is important, because it allows you to go deep on topics that matter to your audience.
Through intense focus on a specific subject matter you hone your expertise. You start to recognize patterns and correlations that others do not. You connect dots that others didn’t even know existed.
By going deep in a narrow niche, you can start imparting wisdom while everyone else around you is simply producing content.
FUEL THE FIRE AND CAPTURE YOUR IDEAS
Connecting the dots is not easy. It requires dedicated practice. It also requires space and time.
Effective content creators schedule “white space” time to think and process information, and give their minds an opportunity to make creative connections. They also take advantage of margin time – time spent in the car, on the subway, waiting in line – to fire up their content ideation.
Fire requires fuel, however, so effective content creators also consume content – judiciously and strategically – to help generate their own ideas. They read. They listen to podcasts. They digest and distill wisdom from thought leaders in other disciplines and draw inspiration that allows them to shed new light on issues in their own areas of focus.
Finally, effective content creators have a method for capturing ideas. Ideas spring up during the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected places. But ideas are fleeting, so it’s important to jot down ideas when inspiration strikes, whether it’s in the middle of the night or during a morning shower.
It’s not easy to build a powerful personal brand by becoming a thought leader in the marketplace of ideas. But it’s precisely because it’s hard that so few do it well. And therein lies the opportunity. The marketplace is crowded and noisy. Immense opportunity exists above the noise.