5 Ways to Identify Topics for Writing & Speaking

One of the best ways to build your reputation as being skilled in your area of practice is through content marketing. Offering articles, blog posts, presentations, and the like that are centered on your practice area and that share substantive information useful to your audience highlights your knowledge, adds to your credibility, and shares something about who you are as a lawyer. If used well, these pieces can also lead to website traffic and even direct contact with a potential client.

Content marketing just might be a reluctant rainmaker’s best tool, if used strategically. Assuming you select the right topics and that you place your writings in appropriate online and offline publications and speak to the right audiences, you can benefit because your audience is actively interested in the information you’re sharing and you’re demonstrating your value while marketing. 

But the need for content generation can also be the bane of a lawyer’s existence. The content must be timely (or evergreen), relevant, easily consumed, and—most importantly—good. Creating qualified content isn’t necessarily easy. If you imagine sitting in front of a blank computer screen, wracking your brain for an interesting topic you can cover effectively in the time you have available, not to mention 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.  Many of my private clients find that coming up with ideas is the most difficult part of content marketing.  Here’s how to make it easier:

  1. Use listening tools. Twitter and LinkedIn can be useful for tracking trending topics. Skim or read periodicals relevant to your industry as well as some from outside your industry. One of my favorite tools is the app Flipboard, 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 sent emails. You’re almost certain to find topics suitable for inclusion in written materials and presentations.
  3. Ask your clients what they’re thinking and wondering about. Not only will you learn more about your clients’ needs, which is a useful 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. (For example, I periodically review business books in this newsletter. Most lawyers don’t make the time to read these books, and I often get notes of thanks for highlighting useful information.) Bringing information your audience 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. And it’s ok to take a controversial position in doing so as long as you have facts and logic to back up your position.

Most importantly, keep a running list of your ideas for content. 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’re facing a blank computer screen, you’ll have a list of ideas ready to go.

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