Breaking Stories From a Legal Marketing Perspective: How Soon Is Too Soon?
To Blog or Not to Blog?
Yesterday, a member of our legal marketing team shared a breaking news piece about a bus crash in Connecticut that killed two and injured more than two dozen others.
This story interested our team because we often write pieces for our clients that we refer to as “on-call articles” — that is, pieces on current trending stories that help showcase the law office’s awareness of current events and ability to analyze them from a legal standpoint.
We have a number of clients that could benefit from writing a marketing blog post on such a newsworthy and relevant topic as the Connecticut crash. However, knowing when to comment on a breaking story — a situation where facts are often still being gathered and the available information is in flux — involves a delicate balance, especially for personal injury firms and those that specialize in commercial trucking cases. There are many different factors in a crash or other newsworthy event that need to be taken into account, and no law office wants to appear that they are “chasing” the story for potential clients.
In this particular case, a debate about whether to weigh in on the Connecticut crash with a timely legal blog article began within our team.
Same Team, Different Perspectives
Some members of our content team took the stance that the snowy weather in Connecticut was most likely the major contributing factor in this particular crash, and that there would be no case for negligence as a result. Another of our teammates remarked that there must be a story, invoking an old adage: “If someone is injured, someone is at fault.” Meanwhile, our social media team began looking at the reviews in social channels for the bus company involved in order to find more information on their track record, finding a number of bad consumer ratings in the process.
The truth of the matter, though, is that no one on our team is a qualified attorney, and certainly not a personal injury attorney with the experience needed to estimate the likelihood of potential legal action in such a case. Even an attorney might have a difficult time evaluating the circumstances in a breaking news story where actual facts are scarce — which means any content creator has to walk a fine line when writing, posting, or creating video around a trending topic.
With that in mind, we thought we could at least provide a few important tips for creating newsworthy blog pieces in order to give our clients and potential clients some guidance. Here are four great guidelines for creating marketing content around newsworthy current events:
- Keep it Simple
Your law office is better equipped than many journalists or media entities to comment on the legal ramifications surrounding a current event. However, the public won’t understand the message that your law office is trying to convey if you explain it in complicated legal jargon.
Adapt your language for readers or content consumers that may not have the education level and training to understand complex legal language, and always keep your commentary informative and engaging. When do you need to use legal terminology, this is an opportunity to explain those terms so that your potential or current clients understand them going forward.
- Write about Broad Topics as They Pertain to the Incident
In a breaking news situation, a lot of facts surrounding the story have not yet come to light. When writing about news stories as the facts continue to unfold, stick to the possible legal issues around the incident.
One example of a potential legal topic in the Connecticut bus crash is whether the incident might fall under “common carrier” law. You could write about the legal responsibilities that a transportation company has, such as making sure that their drivers obey speed limits and avoid being fatigued, ensuring that their vehicles are properly maintained, and providing adequate training to drivers and employees. You could also write about the legal concept of negligence and how it might pertain to the company, the operator, the passengers, and the general public in this case.
These are just some initial ideas, and as an attorney in your area of specialization you can probably come up with even more. The important rule is to use the specific incident and the possibilities involved as a window into the broader legal topic, not vice versa. You don’t want your post to be completely based around the specific details of the news event — that’s what reporters do (and it often gets them in hot water).
- Keep the Post up to Date
If you commit to writing on an emerging topic where new facts are being published on a regular basis, make sure that you keep your information up to date as well. Once you’ve written about the story, your audience will be expecting you to keep them informed, especially if the topic that you are writing about is in your local area.
This is your office’s opportunity to provide useful information and legal insight on a local or national situation. Besides positioning your law office as a thought leader on new developments, you are also raising your profile as a community leader who wants to keep the local populace informed about developing situations.
- Use Credible Sources — Avoid Speculation or Hearsay
Our social media team found it interesting that the bus company received a number of negative reviews in the months before this incident, and perhaps that is a telling detail. However, the truth is that many bus companies get a lot of bad ratings on social sites, and talking about the negative (often typo-ridden) reviews created by anonymous third parties on these sites does not constitute a legitimate, persuasive, and credible sources.
However, consider this fact from the Hartford Courant: “A bus bearing the same license plate number as the bus involved in the crash was inspected in May of last year and was found to have four violations including one involving a fire extinguisher.” This detail from a local newspaper provides some evidence of possible past negligent behavior on the part of the company or driver.
Citing a worthwhile fact like this from a credible media source displays an additional level of investigation on your part. However, keep your statements open-ended as the story unfolds, and let your audience know that your office intends to investigate and update further as the story develops.
Your office can benefit from timely blog articles discussing current events and help educate your audience at the same time. Twitter is an invaluable tool to find these trending topics and news events by using hashtags and other search tools. Once you find a timely, relevant issue to discuss, your article can separate your team and your law office from the competition and help you pull in a diverse audience who may have never found your firm otherwise.
However, remember to follow the guidelines discussed here, and don’t forget to keep everything on point and focused on the facts. By focusing on the legal implications of a news story, your office can showcase knowledge and experience in areas of the law related to that story. It’s opportunities like these that attract potential clients and convince them that your office is the right fit for their case.
If identifying and investigating trending, relevant news stories; crafting well-written blog articles targeted to your ideal client audience; and then promoting and updating those articles as stories develop seems overwhelming, you’re not alone. Law firms just like yours are often busy focusing on important cases, which is why they call the digital marketing experts at LaFleur to deftly manage their online presence and bring new clients to their door. Call us today at 888-222-1512 to learn how you can take your marketing efforts to the next level and rise above the competition.
Dempsey, C. (2016, February 9). State police: Bus was changing lanes on snowy road when it crashed. The Hartford Courant. Retrieved from http://www.courant.com/breaking-news/hc-madison-overturned-bus-0209-20160208-story.html
McFadden, R. D. (2016, February 9). Bus to casinos skids off parkway; 2 die and 28 are injured. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/08/nyregion/bus-to-casinos-skids-off-parkway-2-die-and-28-are-injured.html