Triggering Law Firm Web Content
In this newsletter we look at the problem of getting people in your law firm, particularly fee-earners, to co-operate with your ongoing effort to produce useful website content.
We describe our ‘trigger lists’ content strategy for law firms and give you a step-by-step guide that shows you how to implement it for your law firm’s website. The newsletter finishes with a practical example showing the process applied to the lawyer profile section of your website.
An event-based approach to law firm content strategy
Building a website for a law firm with several hundred fee-earners can be a large task, but at the point the site goes live things are only really just getting started. Successful websites continue to evolve and grow with the work of the firm and provide visitors with timely and useful information. Doing this well requires the input of more that just the marketing department.
The main challenge faced by those charged with managing a law firm’s profile online come from being several steps removed from the work of fee-earners and the interest of clients. Information often arrives in the marketing department in a piecemeal fashion, with marketers having to take the initiative to ask fee-earners for information they can turn in to useful content. At times it can feel like you’re doing battle with the people you’re working hard to promote.
Defining the root of the problem
As marketers we are trained to see information that comes across our desks in terms of it’s marketing and promotional potential. This sometimes makes it hard for us to understand why people don’t tell us about things. Looked at this way, the problem becomes one of training and process. We need to teach people what we are looking for, and provide a clear process for delivering it.
Triggering information flow
Given that those people who are closest to the source material, cannot necessarily identify it’s marketing potential we need to put in place a process that facilitate information flow without the need for marketing expertise. The simplest route would be to conduct all the assessments yourself by asking your lawyers to call you anytime they work on something new. Taken logically to the point of being ridiculous this simple approach could result in you being told the intimate details of every lawyer’s working day.
Multiplied by several hundred fee-earners and you’d find yourself working in a firm with a very busy marketing department, a huge phone bill and very little fee-earning going on!
Another approach is tackling the skills gap by teaching lawyers to recognise marketing potential for you. This might work in small firms, but large firm will likely struggle to get widespread commitment from fee-earners to undergo training to a suitable degree of expertise.
The third solution, and the one I recommend you try in your firm, is the systematic identification of triggering events for each type of content you publish, combined with training for those people in the firm who will be able to provide the earliest alert.
It is the responsibility of everyone in the firm to look out for triggers and to alert the person responsible for creating the associated website content. Training should focus on teaching everyone in the firm which triggers they are likely to come across in their day-to-day work, and who should be told.
If these actions are properly defined it should be clear for every type of content you publish:
- What event causes this content to be produced
- Who should be looking out for it
- Who should be alerted
- Who is responsible for creating that content
- Where the producer can get support services
- Who can check the resulting content and approve it for publication
Putting it into Practice
The triggers system is easy to set-up if you follow this simple 5 step process.
Step 1 – Identify content types
The first step to implementing triggers in you firm is to identify all the different types of content you’re publishing. If you’re using a content management system of decent quality, this should just be a case of going to your ‘create content section’ and printing off the list of options. Alternatively, you can reverse engineer your list by systematically clicking through all the pages on your site.
Your list will typically include items such as:
- Firm profile
- Office locations
- Lawyer profiles
- News articles / Press releases
- Practice group descriptions
- Cases, deals, and tombstones
- Key client profiles
Step 2 – Identify triggers and the people closest to them
For each content type, think about the event that arise in the day to day operation of your firm that give rise to the need to create or modify that kind of content on your firms website. For even the most specialised content type you will usual be able to come up with between 5 and 10 trigger events.
Next, for each trigger, identify the person who is most likely to be the first to hear of that event. These people will either be the originator of the event themselves, or else they will be well placed to hear of it at an early stage. Getting fee-earner co-operation is notoriously difficult, so think as widely as you can, especially amongst the support functions. It’s a bit like starting a spy ring within your own firm!
Step 3 – Identify the people involved
The team of trusty spies identified in step 2 are going to alert you to events in the firm that you will be able to use to produce content. However, they are not always (rarely in fact) the person who has the most information to help your craft your content. The next person to identify for each trigger is the person most likely to be able to help you flesh out your piece. Aim for the most junior person who will have enough information to be useful.
At this stage you also need to identify the person who will be able to sign off the content, once you have written it. The triggers process is a pro-active one from the point of view of the marketing department. The idea is that by the time you meet with a partner or senior member of staff you should already have an almost finished piece of content.
This changes the conversation from “can you write a piece for the website” to “I’ve written this piece for the website, can you check it”. The second approach is more likely to get you a rapid response.
Step 4 – Identify sources of support
At every step of the process, your aim is to make life as easy for other people in your firm as possible. This means giving the appropriate support to enable them to help you. For each trigger, identify the different sources of support that people can draw on. This could be research services like the library or information centre, technical assistance such as photographers and graphic designer, or a copywriting and proofing service to help whip a rough draft into shape.
Step 5 – Training
The ins and outs of training would be enough to fill another newsletter entirely, so I’m not going to go into a huge amount of detail here. The key thing though is to structure training sessions according to the role each person or group of people. Training is generally best delivered on a need-to-know basis. Unless someone shows particular interest, just teach the bare minimum needed to do a good job and make clear that you’re there to help if they need to know more.
A Practical Example
Now you have seen how the process works in detail, I’ll finish this month’s newsletter with a practical example. We use an Excel spreadsheet to prepare our trigger lists. Drop me an email if you would like a blank copy for your own use, and I’ll send one over to you.
For this example we’ll take a content type that most firms will have on their website – the lawyer profile:
|Triggering Event||Provides the Alert||Produces the Content||Checks Content||Provides Support|
|Lawyer joins the firm||HR||Lawyer||Line Manager||Marketing / PR|
|Lawyer is promoted||HR/Lawyer||Lawyer||Line Manager||Marketing / PR|
|Completes deal of note||Lawyer||Lawyer||Line Manager||Marketing / PR / Library|
|Completes significant CPD||Training & Development||Lawyer||Training & Development||Marketing / PR|
|Receives good press||Library / News Feed||PR||Lawyer / Line Manager||Library|
|Changes practice group||Lawyer||Lawyer||Line Manager||Marketing / PR|
|Annual review||Calendar Event||Lawyer||Line Manager||Marketing / PR Lawyer / Line Manager|
|Leaves the firm||HR||Marketing||Marketing||Marketing|
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