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Think Like an Editor – A Webinar Recap

In Monday’s post recapping Adrian Lurssen & John Hellerman’s recent webinar, we talked about their advice to see the world from your audience’s point of view. Today, we’ll look at their next point, to think like an editor.

Adrian kicked off this section with a quote from Barger & Wolen’s Heather Morse:

What are your competitors writing about? What new cases have been decided? What news articles are trending? What are the other bloggers saying? Any new legislative actions? I subscribe to numerous RSS feeds and have them all categorized so I can quickly scan to see what’s happening in our industry sectors. I can then relay story ideas to our team of bloggers.”

This is excellent, excellent advice. Heather is suggesting that you use various sources to stay on top of what’s happening in the marketplaces that your attorneys work in, and then filter through to them the story ideas that they can write about. You can then send them follow up topics.

This is the first step in a good editorial process in a firm. So let’s look at how an example would work. Adrian showed us a list of some of the latest news items in the public eye, including “N.Y. Mom Fired After Donating Kidney to Help Her Boss.” Adrian suggested that you’d see a headline line this, and send it on to labor attorneys, and even healthcare attorneys to spark their interests and encourage them to blog about it.

Similarly, “Former BP Engineer Charged in Gulf Spill” – this could lead to other topics, such as who’s responsible. Adrian reminded us that attorneys are not just writing for in-house counsel though; they’re also writing for journalists, other management teams, and influencers.  So it’s important to understand the rules of what makes something important to someone:

  • Proximity: Does the news affect your audience?
  • Impact: How much does the news affect your audience? More impact = higher news value.
  • Unusualness: Is the new different from the ordinary? More unusual = great news potential.
  • Timeliness: How current is the news?
  • Prominence: Who is involved?
  • Conflict: Tension = News.

But the editorial process doesn’t end there – attorneys also need support and follow up.  Along these lines, it’s recommended to keep an editorial calendar. Rob Kahn of Fenwick & West told the panelists:

… we’ve found one of the best ways to keep the content trains running is the use of editorial calendars. Each quarter, we get the practice or industry group to agree upon the topics that are likely to be of interest to clients and reporters in the upcoming two quarters. Partner and associates are then assigned roles for those topics: article, alert, PR contact, blog post, twitter feed, etc. These assignments to specific tasks and topics help keep the content flowing because the attorneys know they only have one or two things to do each quarter. A marketer serves as project manager, reminding people when content is due, as well as coordinating proofing and distribution if applicable. For a firm our size, this method helps us generate a relatively significant amount of content and press visibility.”

Having an editorial calendar ensures that regular, fresh content is being posted to the blog. However, it doesn’t have to limit the content either – if a timely story pops up and the attorneys want to write about it, that content can be included as well.

Attorneys need a manageable assignment and a support team to help get it published and shared – it shouldn’t require the attorneys to work too hard to get it visible.

The next step is to spot light the right stuff, show the attorneys how well their work did, and thank people for participating.  Russell Lawson of Sands Anderson says:

When we kicked off our social media plan, we recognized that lawyers might lack the internal motivation to be regular participants in these tactics. It was new, unproven, took time and they would be personally responsible for it. So, we started a feature in our regular internal marketing news called Whooz Famous Now? (so called because of a long firm tradition of Woohoos for victories and significant events). Each issue, we shine the light of recognition on the PR side, skewed to social media, both for participants and what results we gather anecdotally. Not only does this make our contributors more visible among their fellow lawyers, but it has demonstrated itself to be an incentive for them to report to us.”

In this way, Russell also helped to foster competition among the attorneys, which also made them more active in participating.

There’s so much excellent advice right here, and I’ll be doing one more post early next week to finish out the re-cap!