Friday, December 27, 2013

There's No Excuse to Have a Blah-Blah-Blog -- Get Your Blogging Gears Going

There's No Excuse to Have a Blah-Blah Blog
Published in Bigger Law Firm Magazine (December 2013)

Link to BLF Website and Download of Magazine:
There is no doubt about it: you’re busy. 
If your dream was to be a marketing professional, you wouldn’t have gotten your Juris Doctor. You could have saved a bundle by pursuing that business degree (the one that possessed far more abundant opportunities for employment, as your uncle kindly reminded you). But now, here you are, faced with the reality of practicing law in the 21st century:  every attorney is in the marketing business.

The good news? Marketing is still all about your connections. However, these connections grow more complex as technology continues to open new channels for their maintenance and proliferation. If you have not already, there is one marketing tool you should adopt immediately to help find valuable professional contacts and convert them into billable clients: a blog.

If your law firm describes itself as “fun,” “cutting-edge” or “new and creative,” then your blogging avenue is a veritable Autobahn of opportunity. If your 20-years-and-counting law firm of unparalleled excellence and stellar client outcomes is described as “the best kept
secret in the business,” then blog. Do not Pass Go, do not Collect $200, do not see if the guy in jail needs representation: launch a blog. Do not over-think or question your decision, but do make yourself safe by checking the ethics rules for your state and by incorporating well-established disclaimers (“...information contained on this site is not legal advice...does not create an attorney/client relationship…”). Also, while commenting on legal issues related to your practice area, be sure to avoid any over-the-top sales claims. While your blog is a marketing tool, its primary function should be informational.

Make your blog I.N.T.E.R.E.S.T.I.N.G

Identifiable: who is writing, and why?
Nicely formatted and branded: a clean style that is
pleasing to the eye.
Timely: topics that are well-timed to complement
trends, decisions and legal issues.
Emotional: do inject your personality.
Regularly updated: about once every 10 days.
Engaging: will your readers come back again, or
even subscribe?
Structured for the quick read: 250-350 words, with a
beginning, middle and punched-up end.
Tone-aware: tone is mood, so it changes, but your voice
should be solidly consistent.
Includes a call to action: hyperlinks and references to
other articles/blogs you’ve written.
No legalese: live dangerously and use the first person.
Grabs readers’ attention: snappy titles like, “How to
Market Your Law Practice Like Lady Gaga” – thank you,
Larry Bodine.

Setting up a blog is free on reputable platforms. Whether you use Blogger, WordPress or another tool, these platforms offer easy-to-follow tutorials. You can be up and running in less time than it takes to order your new iPhone 5c.

You may be good at what you do because you approach new situations with caution (when warranted). But the downside of that caution is a tendency to become a late adopter
of technology. Most marketing-savvy litigators understand that online networking can be very effective, and they are taking the plunge. The first wave of Generation Y lawyers are embracing unknown technologies fearlessly, having grown up to the familiar whine
of dial-up modem connections.

Getting Started and Staying Active

In the Court of Social Media, useful content is king. And the queen? Appropriate delivery.

Finding the right tone is important, whether you are a personality blogger who “enjoys playing the harmonica and rugby on weekends, although not at the same time” or an attorney blogger who “loves sampling foods from all nations and taking prodigious naps, although not at the same time.”

As a swamped attorney with billable hours at the top of your priorities, you have a tougher challenge than the harmonica-playing rugby star: you must personalize your professional parlance. Your readers should feel as though you speaking directly to them as you direct them to the inside track. (There are heady academic blogs that are not particularly conversational, but these reside in a different class.)

You must find a professional, balanced voice that avoids sounding too dry or pedantic. Potential clients want to trust their attorney on a personal and professional level. However irrational the tendency may be, people hire individuals and brands they “like.” By speaking to your prospects’ needs, you can help to build this trust.

Begin by setting Google Alerts specific to your practice area and expertise. Subjects of interest to those in need of your services – rather than topics aimed at an audience of your law school colleagues – help encourage repeat visitors and referral traffic (some of the best traffic in terms of conversion). When you post an update, you should almost be able to
feel it catching your readers’ eyes.

As you draft your law firm’s strategic marketing plan for 2014, consider this conquering vision as your lofty goal: at any given time, someone, somewhere, will be quoting one of your blogs.

Diane Dean-Epps is the Director of Client Services and Marketing for the Sacramento labor and employment firm Cook Brown LLP, as well as a published author of books and essays.

Monday, July 22, 2013

LinkedIn Groups Isn't Just for Breakfast Anymore

Cue the iconic Beatles’ birthday song, “Duh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh, they say it’s your birthday!” because LinkedIn just rounded its 10th birthday. Lest you think no 10-year-old should get this much attention, here is a fun fact sanctioning the celebration.

This form of social media boasts a membership of 225 million worldwide users with an additional two members adding in per second, per day.

There is a perception that LinkedIn is just for job seekers. That’s not the case, however. The reality is that you are being vetted by a potential client through LinkedIn right now.

While there is scads to know about LinkedIn, I’d like to focus on the often missed opportunity that lies under the “groups” tab of your LinkedIn profile. (This is located somewhat in the upper left-hand quadrant of the page, the fourth tab over.)

Think of LinkedIn groups as a constitutional first amendment right to assemble, albeit virtually. That way you will feel as though it’s really your duty as an American to take the time to use the groups function.

The value in using LinkedIn groups lies in the fact that you can generate leads, engage with people you wouldn’t normally have access to, develop quality contacts, establish yourself as an expert, keep current in your field of expertise, let interested parties know about your company’s offerings, post notifications of company seminars and events, and publish snippets of your writings with links to the full meal deal.

It’s best to begin by choosing groups pertaining directly to what you do for a living. If you’re not sure where to start or what names to tap to get results, have no fear; LinkedIn automatically suggests groups for you as you go along. A word of caution here. Sometimes these suggestions are rather like your grandmother’s attempts to fix you up with “that nice boy down at the supermarket.” Not exactly what you’re looking for.

As director of client services and marketing for a law firm, one of my goals in 2013 is to optimize my LinkedIn usage by becoming more active in groups, specifically groups pertaining to labor and employment law. I set out to do this by focusing on a specific event we were planning. In this way I could target my posts and track activity easily while assessing results in a short period of time. Translation: I was going to try something new for a while and see if it worked.

In a three-week period, I noted — via Google Analytics — a substantial uptick in LinkedIn referrals to our website, I interacted with several new contacts who expressed an interest in both our event and our practice, I registered new contacts for our seminar, and one of our attorneys met with a potential new client. I assessed this as a successful “do this more than once” endeavor.

Why not take a second to explore the possibilities in the groups section? Scroll over to the “groups” drop-down menu where you will see these four options:

• Your groups — This will show you a list of the groups in which you are a member.
• Groups you may like — These are suggestions for you based upon your connections, the type of industry you are in, and/or your interests.
• Groups directory — This reflects all group choices available to you.
• Create a group — You can create your own group, which can be extremely beneficial. However, if you’ve got enough to do already, just add it to your bucket list.

There are about a million groups to choose from and that’s not just hyperbole. You can amass up to 50 and, believe me, that’s plenty. In fact, don’t join that many because you need to visit these groups more frequently than you do your taxes.

You are not looking to garner a master’s degree in LinkedIn, so a targeted approach is desirable. Know that you are free to leave a LinkedIn group at will and, no, LinkedIn will not trumpet that fact to the world at large or to your connections.

In a nutshell: LinkedIn Groups are useful. Try a few and view them with what I call the “cornflakes for breakfast approach.” You like cornflakes for breakfast, and hey, that’s great, but would you like to eat cornflakes for breakfast every day? Try something new with LinkedIn and see if you can get some traction. If not: Buy a box of cornflakes and call it a day.


Sunday, February 3, 2013


I Couldn’t Age Less

(Make sure and say this as though you’re uttering that favorite phrase from moms everywhere when teens offer up lame excuses about why they’re trying to skid in after curfew. “I Couldn’t Care Less.”)

I bought a new moisturizer last month because I figured I’d better hurry up and take advantage of the fact that women’s magazines kindly recommend these items to folks like me. After all, nothing underscores the passage of time so much as reading articles segmented into decade groupings and you are now at the tail-end of the aforementioned grouping.

Once upon a time I quickly consumed information about beauty regimens for women in their 20’s, never noticing the advice for the elderly that comes afterwards. As the decades have rolled by I now fly past the helpful, “in your 20’s you should…” section followed by in your 30’s you should…” tidbit, and I make a quick pit stop at “in your 40’s you should…”

It is as I settle in to reap the wisdom of the beauty editors that I can almost feel the twenty-something writers practically giving up after tackling that late, what is sure to be final, stage of caring about your appearance. The magazine might as well type in an italicized disclaimer that pronounces, “Looking for beauty products and advice? After your 50’s, why bother? Take this opportunity to really work on the insert and elevate your personality to a heretofore unrealized asset. See article, Elevating Your Personality to a Heretofore Unrealized Asset.

So, I bought the heavy duty axle grease product made from moose antler, an orchid that blooms once every thousand years and eye of newt. As it turns out, this quality stuff eventually soaks in as heavily as does the realization that I’ve just paid as much for this secret sauce as I did for my daughter’s first semester of college tuition. No matter, I will co-opt a popular phrase and say, “I’m worth it” and for 30 days I have been fairly glistening with moisture goodness and it’s clear that my water intake is right up there with the daily recommended requirement too.

It was with this well-hydrated and upbeat attitude that I sashayed into the health food store to pick-up a few necessary almost-food items. And on that point I must make a few observations.

Oh, how these “must-have’s” have changed. Where once I couldn’t live without Oreos, peanut M&M’s, and Caravelle bars (See what I mean? They don’t even make Caravelle bars anymore), I now must have flaxseed, green algae, and those stress relief tab thingies that prevent my non-self-editing alter ego from expressing herself. (In stress relief tab measuring lingo I call that “three tabs away” from doing much verbal harm.)

Yes, so there I was bothering to care about how I look and eat which is when it happened: a painful defining moment. The little twinkie at the register asked me if I’d like to use my senior discount.

“Come again?” I gasped, standing up straighter and trying to unfurrow my brow.

“Your senior discount. It’ll save you 10%” she offered helpfully as she surveyed my vast supplies of senior-like purchases. After all, as a senior I must also be on a fixed income.

I tried to keep the snark out of my tone, unsuccessfully as it turns out, when I heard myself say snippily, “Well, maybe when I AM a senior I’ll do that.” I may have even harrumphed, I’m not sure.

Because I care about how I look, what I eat, AND how I sound I threw in some levity. “I guess maybe my moisturizer isn’t working” to which I received no reply. Nothing. Nada. She left me hanging. She’d already moved on to her much more interesting, light-moisturizer-is-still-optional co-worker.

It was a quiet, awkward, and paid-in-full exit from the store as I reassured myself it was just one of those weird things that happens; no need to turn it into a “thing” for pity’s sake. Until the young man in the parking lot who worked for a neighboring retail store asked me if I needed help with my bags, one of which was my purse.

And let’s go ahead and add a helping of insult to that injury. Did you notice the pièce de résistance on this story? I referred to someone as a “young man.” It’s going to take four stress tabs to get over this one.