This post originally appeared on JD Supra.
In my work as a marketing consultant for law firms, few questions are posed more frequently than this: How can we write more persuasive, effective content for our website?
This is an age-old question in legal marketing, and the answer is even older. Persuasive content is that which follows a path laid thousands of years ago by Aristotle, the original master of persuasion. Aristotle’s insight, which has as much relevance today as it did for the ancient Greeks, was that content that connects is structured according the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos.
Ethos relates to one’s credibility and expertise. To persuade through content, it's important to establish that you're credible. Ethos builds trust by demonstrating one’s integrity and competency.
Why it’s important: Today, consumers of legal services—from individuals to large corporate entities—are online, in control, with access to more information than ever. They’re not accepting claims at face value nor blindly following someone else’s referral. They’re hunting and searching, reading and validating, in the process of attempting to identify a particular type of expertise to help solve the particular problem they’re facing.
They’re not buying hyperbolic and unsubstantiated claims, and as a result not buying from those who make them. They’re merely one click away from a better solution.
Putting ethos into action: When writing a bio, blog post, or practice area description, replace bald assertions about your expertise and credibility (“trustworthy,” “skilled,” “experienced”) and instead provide examples that allow your readers to draw these conclusions about you on their own.
Use testimonials, case studies, and other objective examples of prior experience.
According to a study conducted by Nielsen, 92% of consumers are more likely to trust non-paid recommendations than any other form of marketing and advertising. Just as in the courtroom, for every claim you make in your content, back it up with some persuasive evidence (preferably testimony from others who know, like, and trust you).
The jury (i.e., your reader) is watching closely.
Pathos involves making an emotional connection through your content. Can you express empathy and tell stories that resonate? Does your content make it clear that you understand the challenges your audience is facing, and know what it’s like to walk in their shoes?
Why it’s important: We all like to believe that we make decisions based solely on logic, but the truth is that—from laundry detergent to legal services—our decision making is heavily, and perhaps primarily, influenced by emotion.
Douglas Van Praet, the author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing, explained the importance of emotion in marketing as follows:
“The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”
You can’t just appeal to logic in your content. You need to make an emotional connection with your prospects. Business development doesn’t happen all at once. It’s often a long, incremental process. By making an emotional connection, you can draw a prospect into your ecosystem, and keep them there. When the time is right, when their need is acute, you’ll be in a position to transform the relationship from that of writer/reader to attorney/client.
Putting pathos into action: Clients want to hire lawyers who understand them. They’re not buying legal services. They’re trying to buy a positive outcome. They’re not looking for a "super" lawyer. They want a super result. They’re not impressed by jargon and complexity. They’re seeking clarity.
For thousands of years, storytelling has been the best way to communicate a message that stands out and leaves a lasting, emotional impact. There's a story that matters to every client. It's what either attracts or repels them from your content and, by extension, you.
But here’s the thing: The story that’s important has nothing to do yourself. It's the client's own story that matters most.
Clients are attracted to stories that demonstrate an understanding of what it's like to walk in their shoes, and repelled by those that don't. What pain are they experiencing? What opportunities seem out of grasp? Speak their language. Demonstrate empathy. Tell a better story that makes your clients feel understood and validated, so they trust you to solve their problems.
As Stephen Covey explains in a discussion about pathos in his classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” If your readers like what they see, and your content evokes an emotional response, they'll be more likely to want to continue the conversation.
For most lawyers, logos (which means “word” in Greek) is their comfort zone, as it relates to an appeal to logic. Logos means presenting arguments, data, statistics, and other types of reasoning to make your case to prospects.
Why it’s important: Even if prospects grow to know, like, and trust you through your content, they’ll hesitate to engage further unless they are persuaded by the left brain, rational arguments that you make that you are better equipped to serve them than the multitude of available alternatives.
As a content creator, and as a lawyer, your job is to find evidence to support your claims. Evidence that is testimonial in nature appeals to your audience on the basis of ethos. When you present facts, data, and statistics, you appeal to your audience with logic or logos.
Putting logos into action: Can you quantify the value you deliver for clients? Have you secured multi-million dollar judgments for clients? Have you successfully defended significant lawsuits? Can you move clients through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring faster than others, saving clients massive professional fees and administrative costs in the process? Have you developed a unique project management process, or value-based billing system, that benefits clients? Do you have statistics, data, and research that support these claims?
Writing content for legal marketing requires balancing and integrating all three rhetorical appeals: ethos, pathos, and logos.
The objective of an attorney bio, blog post, or firm practice area description is to establish the authority and credibility of the service provider, make an emotional connection with the reader, and present a convincing argument that the lawyer or firm is the undeniable best option for the job. To accomplish this, to be truly persuasive, the writer—whether a lawyer or legal marketer—must use all tools at his or her disposal to influence the prospect.
Too much legal marketing content is rooted in ethos—attorney- or firm-centric in nature—and fails to take into account what really matters to the reader. The solution to this problem is rooted in the past. As the old saying goes, “Everything old is new again”—at least, when it comes to legal marketing content, it should be.
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Are you looking to build your reputation as a thought leader in an industry you serve but don’t know where to start? Or are you looking to take your thought leadership efforts to the next level? I provide coaching and consulting services to lawyers, consultants, accountants, and other professionals who are looking to build influence, authority, and new business by becoming recognized experts in their fields. From thought leadership strategy to content creation to ongoing coaching services, I can help you to elevate your ideas and get them in front of people that matter. Email me at Jay@hcommunications.biz, call 313-432-0287, or simply click the button below to set up a free consultation to discuss your objectives.