We have seen an extraordinary amount of COVID-19 law firm guidance published daily - and, with it, an equally extraordinary spike in readership and engagement. (JD Supra readership numbers, which rise steadily month over month, doubled during March as subscribers flocked to make sense of their new professional and personal realities.)
However, in the balance between providing signal or adding to the noise, we have all seen an increase in criticisms that much law firm writing suffers from the old problems: it remains generic; is hard to parse quickly when our days are busy and we don't have much time to focus; and the point - the key takeaway - is often buried deep in a wall of text and too hard to find.
Don't Cover Everything
"If you try too hard to be a little something to everyone, you end up being nothing to anyone."
Without a sharp point, without a message that resonates to a key group of people within your marketplace, your efforts fall on deaf ears. Marketing - connecting with people who matter to the growth of your business - can't be done with broad, generic strokes.
We see these broad strokes in a particular type of law firm writing that attempts to make sense of the implications of a new law or regulatory development, but is encyclopedic in approach. These posts are long and include a lot of information that has no legal application to particular businesses, given their size, industry, or situation. How they are written is not how people read.
Write for a Specific Reader
Far more useful: focus only on the new legislation and provisions that apply to a particular person or business and write a single post about that.
Readers only care about what applies to them; your encyclopedic coverage of all provisions will lose their interest quickly. A small business owner of a local company of less than 50 employees likely faces a different reality than the head of human resources for a multi-national with 1,000 employees. Neither one will read your publication if you bury their takeaways within a collection of other analysis and commentary that only pertains to other readers in other roles and industries.
Or, put another way: each of these readers, and all your other potential readers, will find and focus on the content that was crafted - in title and from first to last word - clearly with their need in mind. By your competition.
Provide Only the Information & Takeaways Relevant to Your Readers
As you dedicate valuable time (yours and your support team's, in place to make sure your insights see the light of day online, and your clients' and readers' time), practice a new type of focus in your writing. The question every reader brings to your work is:
How does this impact me?
Your answer likely begins with: "Well that depends on who you are, what size business you run, the industry in which you operate, etc..."
Each distinction you make should help determine the focus of your writing, starting with the title, the key takeaways stated at the top of the piece, and the analysis and insights that follow in support.
Clearly Identify Who, What & Why in Your Title
All but two of the 25 most well-read posts on JD Supra last month focused on COVID-19. Many of the publications on this list of popular reads practice the type of focus I mean. You need not read far beyond the title to know the framing, and for whom it is intended. Some more than others, but all in the right direction:
- Cancelled Due to the Coronavirus: Maximizing Insurance Coverage for Event Cancellation Losses
- How Does the Coronavirus Pandemic Affect Your Lease Obligations?
- Is the Coronavirus a Force Majeure that Excuses Performance of A Lease?
- Extensions Of Non Immigration Visa Status And Tax Residency Due To COVID-19
- COVID-19 and Child Custody
Ask & Answer the Question Your Most Valuable Reader Would Ask
Make the question your title. Make the focused answer your post. Don't bury the takeaway, lead with it. Be useful with precision.
As my colleagues at JD Supra have said in other forums: now is a time like no other in which lawyers are proving their essential value as thought leaders, as their insights and commentary are read by the c-suite, media members, clients, prospects, and anyone else trying to make sense of this global crisis. Prove your essential value with focus. Don't make your readers work too hard, they are busy enough as it is.
Paul Ryplewski, VP Client Services