LaFleur
MENU Scroll

Reveal Thought Leadership With Content Marketing and Current Events

Lawyers don’t always get fair treatment from the general public. Most of this negative perception is unfair, but sometimes it’s warranted. And one of the most common critiques levied against attorneys is their occasional penchant toward opportunism.

Spreading awareness about current events is an important responsibility that many lawyers take seriously. Unfortunately, your target audience might interpret your input and legal analysis as shameless grandstanding to win clients and manipulate the justice system. In fact, I can’t think of any other profession (other than perhaps news journalists in the post-truth era of Donald Trump) where expressing an expert opinion is so universally ignored, condemned, and abhorred. This makes it even more important to position yourself and other stakeholders at your law firm as thought leaders offering insights about current events rather than profiteering carpetbaggers dredging for vulnerable clients.

Why Is Developing Content Based on Current Events So Important for Lawyers?

Regardless of your firm’s proximity to a given event, if it’s relevant to your practice area(s), you should consider developing related content for your website. You will exhibit your expertise on the topic and let current and future clients know you’re a reliable option if something similar happens to them. And if multi-district litigation or a class action lawsuit arises, you could receive inquiries from potential clients or referrals from other attorneys.

Reporting on current events in a timely fashion can also impact your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Certain generic keywords are exceptionally difficult to rank highly for due to intense competition. Examples would include terms such as:

  • “Chicago lawyer”
  • “car accident attorney Los Angeles”
  • “tax attorney Florida”

Thankfully, Google takes hundreds of factors into account when determining your ranking, and one of them is timeliness. If you have recently created or updated content on your website and/or blog, then you’re more likely to perform well when Google ranks your site. One excellent way to do this is to track relevant current events and write about them.

Google also cares about consistency. Far too many lawyers (and professionals in other industries) create a blog, publish a few posts right away, and then never bother writing again. This directly contradicts any notion that your law firm is consistent and reliable. If you can’t be bothered to write a few hundred words each month to at least keep up appearances, why should Google boost your rankings? Why would potential clients believe you’re going to fight for them when things get tough? By keeping an eye on current events and creating original, relevant content, you’ll maintain a constant presence on your blog and encourage readers to continue checking in with you to receive expert legal opinions and advice.

RELATED: No Quick Fix: Digital Marketing Success Requires Commitment

Convert Current Events Into Evergreen Content

When writing about current events, it’s important to take the long view. With the rapidly evolving news cycle, whatever story you’re discussing won’t be newsworthy very long, so you want to make sure your words have staying power, both for your audience and SEO efforts. Getting out in front of a story can be helpful for your website and your firm in the short term, but you also want to take a tasteful and sustainable approach that will deliver long-term results from your content. You want to answer potential questions before they’re asked and position your firm as a thought leader in your area(s) of expertise.

The first thing you want to do is include pertinent, accurate details related to the event. If you’re a personal injury attorney and there has been a school bus crash in your state, you want to explain where the wreck occurred, how many people were injured (or worse) and their current status, relevant details about how the crash happened, and any quotes from victims, eyewitnesses, authorities, and other experts.

Do not give any specific opinion on the event itself. You weren’t present and probably don’t have enough information. Instead, stick to the facts and convey them with a sympathetic, respectful tone. If you are going to present an argument either way, be sure to explain that your thoughts are speculative and that the truth will be exposed in time through due process. Your primary goal is to establish and comment on the facts as you understand them and to communicate your legal perspective on what is known for sure.

Once you have covered the facts, you can take several different approaches to transition into a long-form piece that will have a positive long-term impact.

Use Your Blog Article to Speak to a Wider Issue

Newsworthy events are nearly always part of a larger trend. To continue the school bus crash example, it would not be the first bus crash to occur, and it will unfortunately not be the last. You can use a specific event to discuss a larger issue. If bus crashes are declining, explain how a specific crash is an outlier. If they are increasing, discuss why, what can be done to reduce them, and how people can stay safe.

You can also take a wider view by comparing the effectiveness of different policies in other states or even other countries. Don’t hesitate to take a stand on what laws or actions could be implemented to address a problem.

Relate the Current Event to Your Experience and Expertise

While there are certain benefits to tangential content marketing, you should always write about current events that directly relate to your law firm’s primary services. This allows to you link to the relevant service page on your site and keep potential clients moving forward in the sales process. It also allows you to use current events as a springboard to discuss your experience and expertise.

For example, you can discuss similar cases you have (successfully) resolved. You can speak in-depth about a specific, relevant case. You can describe the unique qualifications and resources you and your team have to handle similar cases.

The most important thing to remember, though, is that you want to keep this type of content focused on how you have helped your clients. People are drawn in by stories, but if your piece seems even a bit self-aggrandizing, your potential clients will tune out and leave your site — and they won’t be coming back.

Offer Your Expert Opinion About the Current Event

Be sure to keep your opinions rooted in your personal history and legal knowledge. Let readers know what you suspect will be the next steps and how the case may move forward. You could also include a discussion of similar events that have happened within the last several years and describe the outcomes.

You could also pull in details about statutes related to what happened and if any new or pending litigation might impact the process. Focus on providing information and educating your readers about what rights the injured parties have and the actions they and their families should (or shouldn’t take). Without getting too sales-focused, provide the sort of advice a reputable firm would provide to someone in this position who had requested a consultation.

These are just a few styles of long-form, topical content that we consistently see positive results from. Many other approaches could be effective, depending on the unique goals, branding, and size of your law firm.

RELATED ARTICLE: How to Write Great Legal Content

Don’t Forget the Essentials of High-Performing Blog Content

Regardless of which approach you take, always close your piece with a strong call to action (CTA) that lets your readers know that you and your firm are available to answer their questions and take their case if they experience something similar in the future.

In addition, you should remember to follow basic on-page SEO best practices:

  • Use a 60- to 70-character title tag that includes organic keywords and, potentially, your firm’s name.
  • Create a 160-character meta description that provides an engaging preview of the article.
  • Implement descriptive heading tags that reveal the structure of your piece and allow readers (and search engines) to easily understand your content.
  • Naturally incorporate relevant keywords throughout the piece. But don’t overdo it. Google’s algorithms are highly sophisticated and have been designed to weed out spammy content with contrived keyword usage.

Effectively using SEO best practices throughout your content will improve your page’s visibility, clicks, time on page, and search ranking.

FREE EBOOK: Law Firm Website Fundamentals: Improve Your Search Engine Ranking Today

A word of warning: You want to be exceedingly careful if you are trying to reach people who were involved in the event you are discussing. You do not want to come off as opportunistic, exploitative, or insensitive. The best way to avoid having your writing backfire is to work with content marketing experts who have successfully leveraged timely, relevant events into lead-generating assets.

LaFleur Can Help Your Law Firm Capitalize on Current Events in an Ethical, Effective Way

Staying abreast of relevant events in real time, developing ideas for long-form content, regularly writing several pages about those events, and getting your content posted and live on your site quickly enough to capitalize on trending topics may seem overwhelming. As a busy attorney, you are likely sitting at your desk with a pile of work that needs to be done. The first thing running through your mind may be, “That sounds like a great idea!” But the second thought is probably, “Where would I find the time to get all this done?”

This is where LaFleur comes in. We can reduce strain on you and your staff by tracking news, providing commentary, and posting content on your website so you can improve your online visibility and position yourself as an expert without having to lift a finger. We offer holistic marketing solutions with affordable packaging built for law firms of every size.

Plus, our writing and editing team includes former attorneys, master’s-level writers, journalists, and other talented professionals. Our expertise gives you ultimate flexibility:

  • We can write complete articles for publication and get your approval before they go live.
  • We can outline the majority of the article and incorporate feedback from you for specific quotes or commentary.
  • We can take your written content or dictation and edit that into an article that’s ready to post.

Whether you already have a content marketing strategy or you’re starting from square one, we can take your firm’s marketing efforts to the next level. Please contact us by calling (888) 222-1512 or by completing this brief form to schedule a free consultation. We’ll discuss your goals and objectives and build a customized marketing plan uniquely tailored to your budget and ambition.

Writing for the Web: Using Bulletgraphs to Optimize Web Content

By now we are all aware that people do not read Internet content the way that they do newspapers, magazines, or novels. Unlike those forms of writing, the web is a place where users often come to get information quickly. Content is king, as they say, but it will only maintain its place on the throne as long as it is easily digestible. One way to optimize your web content is by paring it down using what we affectionately call “bulletgraphs.”

Contextualize the Content

The task of the online content writer is to pack as much usable information as possible into a relatively concise, scannable document. To do so, many writers like to use brief lists in the form of bullet points in addition to brief two- or three-sentence paragraphs that use little to no descriptive fluff.

When done correctly, though, succinct, direct paragraphs can be utilized as bullets, allowing the reader easier access to the information within. We like to refer to these snippets of content by a not-so-clever, yet perfectly descriptive term: bulletgraphs – a bullet followed by two or three direct, informative sentences that reinforce a larger idea.

Of course, using bulletgraphs doesn’t make any sense if they are scattered throughout the text of an article without any context. In order for them to work effectively, there still must be some sort of exposition that justifies their existence as well as a conclusion that neatly wraps things up. After all, we are still using bullets and bullets are a quick, easy, and scannable way to convey relevant information without taxing the reader’s patience. In short, bulletgraphs should fit comfortably into the larger whole as a way of reinforcing the main point without causing clutter or confusion.

Structure

Let’s time warp back to elementary school for just a moment. Recess, square pizza, Oregon Trail – all that good stuff. In between the fun, though, we also occasionally learned a few things. For instance, all essays should have some sort of thesis statement that all subsequent paragraphs should more or less serve to support. These paragraphs should then be broken down into a series of related topics that advance the primary thesis in a coherent, (usually) chronological order.

Now, whereas the thesis statement served as a macro-directive for the piece as a whole, the paragraphs themselves operated on the micro level. And, as we would later learn in our biology courses, just because something is smaller doesn’t mean that it doesn’t possess its own complex structure. To that end, all good paragraphs have a topic sentence that is supported by a set of compatible points and some sort of transition, conclusion, or both.

These are important elements to remember when creating your own bulletgraphs because these convenient little content snippets essentially work as the main points to support a topic sentence. Remember, the key here is increasing comprehension by decreasing complexity. So when we use bulletgraphs, we are really just deconstructing seemingly cluttered or lengthy paragraphs for our reader’s benefit while also remaining on point.

Words with Benefits

There are several advantages to using bulletgraphs to support the thesis of an article, but perhaps the primary benefit is that they allow the reader to easily digest the content while simultaneously weeding out any fluff – the great scourge of most online content. Think of bulletgraphs as a way of finishing a rough outline. The idea is there. The main points are there. But your thoughts need to be expounded upon without being lost in gigantic paragraphs. The information that you provide in bulletgraphs will help your reader easily scan your article without fear of being consumed by clutter.

I’m going to provide a short example of how to use bulletgraphs that usually would have been better served at the beginning of the article. In this instance, however, I had to bury the lead a bit in order to introduce the idea of a bulletgraph and to extoll its many virtues. Remember, content is nothing without at least a modicum of context.

Many writers use short paragraphs in tandem with bullet points to break down their topics and themes.

  • Bulletgraphs are snippets of content that combine the scanability of bullets with the meaningful content of short, direct paragraphs.
  • Just as bullets and paragraphs follow the general aesthetic and order of a larger piece, bulletgraphs should always be placed within their proper context. They aren’t a cop out, and this isn’t a free-for-all.
  • These stylistic elements are basically concise versions of supporting sentences within a paragraph. They reinforce the topic sentence, which simultaneously reinforces the thesis statement.
  • Bulletgraphs are extremely effective when trying to eliminate fluff, highlight main points, and allow your readers to digest content quickly and easily. In fact, you can even use them to stress and summarize some key points at the end of your piece – if you’re into that kind of thing.

Bulletgraphs take the guesswork out of content creation for both the reader and the writer.

When writing online content, there’s no need to go to Faulknerian lengths to prove your rhetorical mastery. Be honest, be clear, and keep it short. Utilizing bulletgraphs allows you to accomplish all three stress free.

Writing for the Web: Crafting Headlines and Crapping Convention

When creating great content for your website, from blog posts to landing pages, the first thing’s first: writing a headline. Let’s just hurry up and get this out of the way, shall we? After all, our readers can’t wait to jump headfirst into the meat of the content, right?

Whoa! Not so fast, Grasshoppers! Not only is writing a headline difficult, but it is also perhaps the most important aspect of writing for the Internet. Far too many writers waste valuable time, inspiration, and brainpower trying to craft the perfect headline right off the bat – before they’ve had the chance to write a single word of content. Luckily for all of us, there are a few crucial elements to this process that will help dumb it down even as it speeds it up.

Foundations

Question: How can we possibly slap a headline on a piece that we have yet to write? 

Answer: You can’t! (Or, at least, you shouldn’t.)

When building a new house, it’s usually advisable to pour the foundation before installing the roof. Writing a good piece of content with a likewise compelling headline or title is much the same. The title won’t fit the body of your content until that body has been carefully constructed with mesmerizing copy. Stake a headline on an amorphous blob of grey sludge and it will entomb itself in vague nebulosity rather than resting like a crown on a meticulously designed fortress.

A good practice is to first develop a tentative thesis statement; then craft a working title that includes a few keywords from that thesis statement. This won’t necessarily serve as your final title, but it serve as a beacon to remind you of your purpose and to keep you on track as you develop the body. Once you’re finished writing the body of your piece and are in the process of reviewing your monument of truth, you can begin giving your headline or title a bit more thought. In other words, the headline should always spring from the content – not the other way around.

Trial and Error

Don’t be afraid to fail with your first headline – or your second, or third, or fourteenth! Unlike the rest of the decisions you’ll make in your life, the first choice of headline probably isn’t the right one, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Often, the best headlines are an amalgamation of several previous ideas that may have been good but not quite perfect. Play with your ideas. Mix and match. Ask questions. Be direct, but don’t be afraid to give a sarcastic wink and ironic nod to your audience. Worst-case scenario: there will always be a place in this world for alliteration.

No, there’s really no need to fear failure. Combining your failures is usually what leads to success. What you should be most afraid of is when you have absolutely no idea of where to begin. The reason that there isn’t a single title or headline coming to mind is usually because your writing is distorted, incoherent, or perhaps even nonexistent. If this is the case, you might want to go back through and review your work once more. Make sure that your thesis is clearly stated and that each successive paragraph makes clearly defined points and follows a clearly defined order toward a logical and original conclusion.

KISS Sucks (In So Many Ways)

One of the most common acronyms referenced in relation to writing online content is KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. I couldn’t disagree more. Or rather, I couldn’t disagree more with the way that individuals choose to interpret KISS.

Most of us confuse simplicity for brevity, which is a problem because those two words have vastly different meanings. In any case, your headline doesn’t have to be simple, nor does it have to be brief. What it must be is relevant. Feel free to play with double entendre or litotes, as long as you’re confident that the wordplay incorporated is directly related to your topic and that it won’t go over your audience’s collective heads.

In addition (and contrary to popular opinion), headlines don’t have to be less than four words in length. Sometimes certain concepts simply cannot be expressed concisely. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, longer headlines have the benefit of acting as their own form of content and can intrigue a potential reader based on sheer length alone. One good method when dealing with a longer headline is to use a colon to create a sub-header. This way, you get the best of both worlds: you can give your readers an easily digestible title while also showcasing a bit of your creative side. This will show the reader that not only are they going to be getting some useful information, but that it will be delivered in a playful and skillful way.

The Last Will Be First

Writing headlines is sometimes viewed as an ancillary, insipid task that is secondary to writing the body of the piece. The problem is that research has shown us time and time again that readers skim web content rather than read it; thus, the headline is actually what readers will likely remember most. In addition, headlines can assist SEO best practices, boost your Google rankings, and ensure that your posts are shared on social media. Above all else, though, an engaging headline prompts the reader to continue on to the body of the content, which is all a writer can ever really ask for.

 

References:

Feldman, B. (2013, May 12). How do you write the perfect headline? Unbounce. Retrieved from: http://unbounce.com/online-marketing/write-the-perfect-headline/

Smarty, A. (2014, August 11). How to (try to) write a perfect headline. Internet Marketing Ninjas. Retrieved from: http://www.internetmarketingninjas.com/blog/content/try-write-perfect-headline/

Writing for the Web: Caressing the Counterintuitive

Read this. Blah, Blah, Blah…

My first job out of grad school was blogging about health and wellness for a failing online startup company. I had a cubicle replete with drably carpeted partitions, an editor who begrudged my recent academic achievement, and a head full of delusion. Finally, I thought, my prose genius will be unleashed on an unsuspecting public who will soon be mainlining lyrical rhetoric from an IV of my persuasive insight and profundity. That was Monday. By Wednesday I wanted to go back to school to get my MBA.

But I didn’t, and after months of steadily diminishing returns following my first few posts, I couldn’t understand why my writing wasn’t being liked, why it wasn’t being shared – and commented on and re-tweeted and quoted on e-cards and paraphrased at baptisms and chiseled on tombstones. Why wasn’t my brilliance being celebrated? The simple reason is that no one was reading it – at least not from start to finish. And the simple reason that no one was reading it is the same reason a lot of really excellent online content doesn’t get read: the average modern reader doesn’t have the time or the inclination to read 2,500 words on the relationship between Michael Jordan, cultural embellishment, and mid-western hipsters. Looking back, the piece I just mentioned has aged well, but outside of a few select sites, long-form content no longer has a place on the Internet – if it ever did in the first place.

Keep reading. Ooh, la, la!

Here’s the good news: If you made it through those first two paragraphs, this article is for you. You can easily digest large chunks of content filled with compound sentences and self-indulgent vernacular. You appreciate this sort of convoluted, “challenging” content. You prize truth and meaning over facts and entropy.

Here’s the bad news: If you read like this, you probably write like this. And if you write like this, your content will likely never find an audience.

Essay, poems, and short stories are genres meant for abstraction. Online content is a genre meant for information. And how do people ingest information? They skim. More to the point, they skim headlines, subheads, links, and bullet points. They look for connections between keywords and images. They defer to social media for easily digestible snippets. What they do not do is read every word of every 1,500-word essay, so you have to create opportunities and then take full advantage if you want to supply real meaning in a world of impatient demand.

Over the next six weeks, we are going to touch on a variety of topics related to writing online content. The purpose of this series is to give you some insight on how to optimize your page. The goal is to increase your page views, time on page, conversions, and return users (among other analytics and metrics) while continuing to craft compelling copy that is fun to read and write. We will proceed in a chronological/spatial order, more or less, beginning with crafting the ideal headline.