Want to Get Noticed with Your Thought Leadership? Write Early...

At time of writing, two weeks have passed since the FTC voted to ban most non-compete agreements in the U.S. – and in that period, April 23rd to May 6th – I've counted over 200 posts by almost as many firms on JD Supra analyzing and making sense of this news.

Of course, this is evidence of one of the foundational tenets of professional services content marketing at work: after a big development, something that likely impacts how your clients conduct business, write about it!

AKA: Make sense of the news for your clients and prospects.

A quick scan of JD Supra's non-compete category shows a multitude of firms and organizations making sense of the FTC's final rule, with their clients in mind, after the April 23rd vote. In that mix of 200+ posts, you can read general advisories ("Don't panic yet') as well as analysis for specific segments and sectors (M&A, private equity, healthcare, etc) to focuses on trade secrets/IP, and on and on and on.

Most content about non-competes is doing well right now, it's a hot topic. Reader interest is at a peak. At the end of the month, it'll be interesting to see which of the 200 updates have done especially well – and if any appear on our monthly list of Popular Reads on JD Supra, relative to all other content and topics on the site during May.

Regarding popularity, I can tell you this:

In the month before the FTC's late-April meeting, we published only 20 updates on the impending non-compete vote. (That is: in twice the amount of time leading up to the news, we published only about 10% as many pieces as those published in the two weeks after the vote.)

One of those posts appeared on JD Supra on April 17th: FTC Vote on Rule to Ban Non-Competes Scheduled for April 23rd, by Mark Daniels at Epstein Becker & Green. It also now appears in fourth spot on JD Supra's Popular Reads list for all of April – a great accomplishment for something published mid-month during the period in which readership is being measured.

And this is my point. That one update, appearing a week before the news broke, earned early attention around the non-compete story – key word: early

If you'd like to be part of the sense making around news that impacts your clients, don't always wait for the news to break.

Start writing about it – and potential implications – in advance of the story. This puts you at an advantage in terms of visibility not only with your competitors at other firms (think: 20 updates instead of 200), but often also with mainstream and industry press whose editors and reporters give priority to breaking news. It also puts you at advantage for being found by reporters, editors, and industry bloggers researching for insight and backstory once they, too, begin writing on the issue. Often with speed and urgency.

I am not suggesting that one is better than the other – however, I do know that the best thought leaders sustain their writing around key issues. So, writing the before and after analysis is better than writing just one piece.

This is not always practical, but it is a lesson in the value of sustaining your content campaign around topics and issues for which you'd like to be known. I see firms also now promoting webinars about the non-compete ban and this is a good next step. In fact, if you are looking for a basic formula, it may look something like this:

  • Write preemptive analysis before the news breaks. Let your clients know what's coming (and show them: you're paying attention)
  • Once the news breaks, and the facts are clear, make sense of it for clients. Depending on comments and follow-up questions, continue your coverage as interest merits, focusing on responding to the direct feedback you're receiving.
  • As your sense of specific client concerns and questions develops, adjust your content. Host a webinar that addresses what you are hearing. In other words, shift from text to conversation.
  • As needed, adjust your content to meet need and audience. For example if, during the webinar, attendees ask pointed questions around a particular issue, consider publishing a new post addressing what comes up. If one question is repeated more than others, consider whether or not to host a webinar on that aspect.

A thought leader engages their audience and content on an ongoing basis, in a sustained campaign, not the occasional one-off post based on news of the day after it has happened. This month I was able to see with clarity the benefit of jumping into the public conversation in advance of the news. While not necessarily feasible with every piece of writing on every issue, I recommend this approach for those strategically important issues around which you'd especially like to be know.

Write early, write often.


Paul Ryplewski is JD Supra's VP of Client Services. Connect with him on LinkedIn.