If your marketing or business development role includes supporting an attorney or practice group (or entire firm) with their writing, here's an easy process to implement that will, among other things:
- Help communicate the ROI of your firm's content marketing efforts to everyone involved
- Foster collaboration via a process that puts everyone on the same page
- Ensure that your attorneys' thought leadership is more strategic
Before Writing, Establish and Measure Benchmarks
Before any writing is underway, create in an Excel document (or Google Sheet, for easy online sharing among your team) a report that tracks some basic, key performance indicators for each of your writers.
You should take a first pass at establishing this list of metrics, but also share it with the writer and ask them what they would like to add or delete. By asking an attorney writer what metrics they hope to track (i.e., what benefits they hope to see from their writing), so begins the collaborative conversation in answer to the question: Why write?
In most cases, here's a good place to start. At the start of your writing efforts, and then every three months afterward, measure and report:
- Total reach/visibility: Measured, of course, by total view count for all work on the platforms upon which you are publishing your content
- Media references: Measured by the number of times per quarter a reporter or industry blogger referenced or linked to an attorney's publication
- Press contacts: The number of times within a quarter an attorney was contacted for background or quotes for a story, based on their existing, available thought leadership
- Speaking gigs: Number of new conference or webinar speaking invitations an attorney received during the quarter
- Reader contacts: Number of comments, questions or emails an attorney received in response to their writing
- Size of network: An ongoing tally of the number of follows an attorney has on social media ― as well as the size of their email list of both clients and contacts
- Social shares/engagement: The number of times high-value readers (e.g., targets, prospects, referral sources) tweeted, shared or praised an attorney's work on a social platform during the quarter
As a Team, Understand What You Are Measuring — and Why
Each of these metrics serves a different purpose, but all share the goal of initiating a conversation in which you and a writer explore the reason for writing in the first place (and also begin the reasonable and ongoing process of documenting, communicating and evaluating its value).
Obviously, the main goal of writing thought leadership is to grow new business. However, it's seldom as simple as “write and wait for the phone to ring.” While home runs happen, most practice growth through thought leadership is done over time through smart, strategic planning. It starts by knowing what to measure and then how to act upon it.
For example, it's a common refrain to hear among successful thought leaders that after writing on a particular issue they have been invited to speak at conferences and in niche-topic webinars. (In fact, this was attorney Ary Rosenbaum's initial path toward a national, successful practice.) The writing leads to speaking gigs, and the speaking gigs lead to new connections, relationships and client matters.
Track the number of speaking invitations that result from writing. It's a no-brainer.
Communication + Collaboration = Content Strategy
As mentioned earlier, to establish and track benchmarks is actually to instigate a process of collaboration and communication between marketer and writer — and here's what I mean by that:
An attorney stands at the threshold of your office and announces: "I want to start blogging." As part of the process to get the writing underway, you determine that in the previous six months the attorney was invited to speak at just one conference. You both hope his writing will increase that number.
Six months later, you sit down to measure the impact of this new thought leadership and see some good results. In the metric of total reach, you see that 50,000 people read the attorney's work, and that's a great place to start. Many of those readers (you can tell from your analytics) were in industries and at companies served by this attorney, so this wasn't just new visibility ― it was the beginning of targeted reach.
However, during the six months of writing (or three months, or any period you agree to regularly measure), the attorney was not invited to speak at new conferences, nor on industry-specific webinars.
This data point is not a failure. It's a terrific opportunity to discuss something strategically important to business growth and content efforts. It’s time to revisit key questions you addressed at the start of this writing initiative, to ensure your efforts are aligned with your goals, such as: At what type of conferences do you hope to speak? And what do they cover? Are you writing on those topics?
Investigate: What Can We Learn From Our Metrics?
During the course of evaluation, you determine that during the past months, while the attorney wrote a lot, he didn't address any of the issues typically raised at his target conferences (easily determined by looking online at past conference agendas). Nor did he connect on LinkedIn with any of the folks putting on those conferences (thereby increasing the chances of being noticed for writing on-topic work). And when he had an opportunity to select a topic for one of the firm's practice group webinars, his topic choice had nothing at all to do with the types of topics covered in his target conferences.
Establishing these benchmarks — and measuring whether or not attorney writing moves the dial on any of them — is not merely an exercise in reporting success or failure. It is, again, a process by which your team can focus content efforts to meet specific goals on the path to new business.
In this one example, your “writing team” (the attorney and those who support him) can fine-tune topics for the upcoming quarter (assign topics in a simple editorial calendar) and while the attorney writes, business development or marketing folks can investigate ways to get closer to conference organizers and ensure they read the new, on-topic work.
Likewise, if you find in your metrics that your attorney is not getting as many industry media references as he'd expected, use that as an opportunity to revisit the questions you answered at the start of these writing efforts. Try to understand your targets with even more depth. In which specific periodicals would you like more visibility? What do they write about (look at past stories, all online)? Who is writing — and can those reporters/bloggers become connections on LinkedIn?
Writing Is a Means to an End ― Know Your Goals
Recently I wrote a post about turning readers who discover you for the first time into readers who make a habit of reading you on an ongoing basis. This is a pretty solid and basic objective to any writing effort. You measure it by looking at your total count of followers on all platforms, social and email at various intervals. (Our readers choose the platforms upon which they read us; such is the nature of the digital age.)
This is why I listed size of network as a basic measure for attorney writing to be tracked, at the very least, quarterly. A growing network shows, of course, that your attorney's writing is leading to new relationships — but (as I explain in more detail in my article), it also indicates how many of your new readers are becoming habitual readers.
The point of this is not to make more work for you, your team and your attorneys, but rather to be smart about the work you are already doing. One way to be more strategic is to simply track some basic metrics and, at regular intervals, meet to discuss their meaning and next steps as a result of your shared insights and observations.
Send me a note if you'd like to see a sample Excel file that tracks basic benchmarks. It truly is a simple record and worth the scant time it takes to set up and update at regular intervals.
[A version of this article by Adrian Lurssen appeared originally on the LMA Strategies blog.]