Legal marketing pro Doug Stern endorses ’emerging issues’ concept

Robert Algeri, partner at Great Jakes, and Doug Stern, an award-winning freelance writer for the legal industry, both recently spoke about content marketing during an LMA New England chapter event. After the presentations, Doug wrote a fabulous piece about a key element of Robert's presentation — the need for law firms to shift their resources away from Practice Areas and towards "Emerging Issues."

Here is an excerpt from Doug's blog post:

He began by describing the obvious. Robert reminded us that giving users 40 to 70 pages of practice group or industry service descriptions is unlikely to work the way it’s intended. To put it mildly.

First, it’s unlikely that you’ll get anyone (maybe even me!) to create 40 to 70 pages, as Robert likes to put it, of “amazing content.” The kind that will engage and hold a visitor’s attention.

Next, think about the logistical wringer through which we put ourselves when we embark on this path. Think of the approval process and the involvement of practice group members and the tight rope we walk when we try to be so many things to so many people.

Then think about your visitors. Your typically lazy, selfish and ruthless visitors, to paraphrase Jakob Nielsen. The ones who see a long, long, long list of links to a bunch of legal practice areas that mean little to nothing to them. The ones who very most likely take a pass on the whole thing rather than take the time to find their needle in your haystack. (It’s called Cognitive Impenetrability.)

Instead, Robert proposes that we limit ourselves to a small number of topics (say, six) that are engaging by default. He calls them emerging issues and defines them as…

1. New
2. Exciting
3. Poorly understood

Think, for example, about surveillance and privacy rights. Or, what can be done to fix/improve our schools. You get the idea.

I’ll add a fourth filter. Your emerging issues are strategic topics that capture what your lawyers and firms do. Emerging issues that relate to at least some of the transactional or litigation-related services you offer.

Mind you, your emerging issues aren’t intended to showcase your bench or experience. They’re meant to be read and to brand you as a leader. As a bunch of smart, engaged people who are paying attention to the world around them.

One more thing. Adding an emerging issues tab on your site isn’t an either/or thing. Consider adding one or two or three or more emerging issue pages over time as a way to get your toe wet and begin to transition your resources away from your lists of service and industry descriptions.

Check your web stats. Your visitors already tend to ignore them.