When I talk to legal marketing professionals about content marketing, I sometimes detect a tiny cringe. A faint crinkle of the nose or curling of the lip is a vital clue: it tells me this person has had a bad experience with content marketing before.
Naturally, I think content marketing is an excellent tool, but I recognise its limitations. Some firms pump out substandard content, bleating into the ether about their services without anyone paying a modicum of attention. If you do content marketing the wrong way, it is simply a drain on time. It won’t impress your clients or boost your SEO ratings if output is weak or sporadic.
Yet even firms that are otherwise superb can have bad experiences with content marketing. If you experience the content marketing cringe, perhaps you work for one of them. If so, I am confident your experience will fall into one of the following categories.
Being overly self-referential
It’s marvellous that Fiona in Commercial Property has been promoted to Associate, but are your clients really interested? If they are, perhaps they want to know more about her skills than where she went to university or her favourite hobbies.
Congratulatory profile pieces should have a very minor place in your content marketing offering. Unless they explain clearly the skills each person is bringing to the firm, your clients will simply anticipate that their favourite fee-earner’s hourly rate is about to go up.
The wrong voices
Content creation is a niche skill within marketing. It is wrong to assume all marketing professionals will be able to turn their hand to it, as for some people it’s just not where their natural ability lies.
Unfortunately, this can be difficult for marketing teams to talk about openly, so you end up with someone producing content who would much rather be doing something else. Readers can pick up on half-hearted content a mile away – and they turn off in response.
Clashing ideas about direction
Perhaps the marketing team has designed a well-thought through schedule for content marketing over the coming months, but does a senior partner think he knows better? Unless you have an inclusive process for planning content and gathering ideas from each department, it’s likely there will be friction.
If you ask for content suggestions then appoint someone firm to select suitable content, the process will go much more smoothly.
Leaving it to the juniors
To get high-quality content, you need input from somebody with the experience and perspective to know what will interest clients. Trainees and juniors might be full of enthusiasm, but they need direction in order to produce content that will hit the mark.
Too many firms leave it to junior staff to churn out content that is acceptable but not brilliant, but does any firm have ‘acceptable but not brilliant’ in its brand statement?
Failure to distribute
Even if your content is world-class, you can’t take it for granted that people will find you. If you start a blog, tell clients about it using all channels available to you. That’s a minimum commitment; to get real results you will have to dedicate time and effort to get your content distributed further.
Guest blogs, repurposing for social media and video, even paid placements will prove worth it in the long run if they attract more people to your content, your firm and, let’s hope, your services.
If you have had difficult experiences with content marketing like those above, don’t let it put you off for good. Why not review your offering to ensure it is as insightful, useful and worthwhile as possible?