5 Ways to Generate Great Content

Content marketing refers to the process of generating articles, blog posts, presentations, and more that are centered on your practice area and that share substantive information useful to your audience.
This newsletter is content marketing, for instance. When you teach a seminar to a room of clients, potential clients, or referral sources, that’s content marketing. When you speak for a CLE program, however, even though you’re presumably delivering useful information related to your practice area, it isn’t content marketing unless you stand to get business or frequent referrals from lawyers.

Content marketing is a reluctant rainmaker’s friend. When you offer valuable information to an interested audience, you’re demonstrating your knowledge, skill, trustworthiness, and approachability, among other qualities, without imposing on your audience. You’re marketing with information that’s beneficial, and your audience usually appreciates your efforts. (If they don’t, they’ll quickly leave your audience.) 

Content marketing is effective because your audience is actively interested in the information you’re sharing and you’re demonstrating your value while marketing. 

But content generation can be the bane of a lawyer’s existence. The content needs to be timely (or evergreen), relevant, easily consumed, and — most importantly — good. If you imagine sitting in front of an empty computer screen, wracking your brain for an interesting topic you can cover effectively in the time allotted, trying to squeeze in one more activity in your already-overburdened schedule, you aren’t alone.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be so painful. Most of my clients find that coming up with ideas is the most difficult part of content marketing. Here’s how to make it easy: 

  1. Use listening tools. Twitter is great for tracking trending topics. Skim or read periodicals relevant to your industry as well as some from outside your industry. One of my favorites is Zite (available for the iPad, iPhone, and Android phones) a “personalized magazine” that pulls news from a variety of sources grouped by the categories selected by the user.
  2. Use your clients’ questions and concerns. You probably field questions day in and day out. What themes do you notice? What questions should your clients be asking? If you’re stumped, skim your outbox. You’re almost certain to find topics suitable for content marketing.
  3. Ask your clients what they’re thinking and wondering about. Not only will you learn more about your clients’ needs, which is a great business development activity in itself, but also you’ll notice themes that interest your clients and are ripe for content generation.
  4. Review a book or service that your clients will find useful. Chances are that you’re aware of sources that your clients don’t generally follow. (That’s why I review business books in this newsletter. Most lawyers don’t read these books, and I often get notes of thanks for highlighting useful information.) Bringing information they might not discover otherwise adds value.
  5. Myths, misunderstandings, and outright lies. Chances are that there are some incorrect but commonly-held beliefs or approaches related to an issue that your clients face. Sometimes it’s a simple factual misunderstanding or misinterpretation, and sometimes it’s all about the deeper truth. Debunk those misapprehensions or challenge the common wisdom. When you explain myths and truths, you can quickly get the attention of your audience.

Whatever methods you use to identify content topics, keep a running list of your ideas. You’ll probably find that the best ideas occur to you while you’re exercising, showering, watching TV — anything except sitting at your desk. Use Evernote or a simple Word document to list your ideas. That way, when you are in front of the blank computer screen, you’ll have a list of ideas ready to go. 

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