Marketing Directly To Clients With Weblogs
They’re called Weblogs, blogs and "blawgs," and they are the hottest thing to come along in marketing since the telephone. In a nutshell, they are online diaries or chronologically-ordered journals on the Web. The beauty of blogs is that they allow any business person, including lawyers in big and small firms alike, to market themselves directly to clients and prospects.
There are an estimated 600,000 blogs online as of July 2003, according to the National Institute for Technology & Liberal Education. The number is growing rapidly every day. While blogs have been around for more than a year, they came to widespread public attention during the Iraq war, when news correspondents would file on-the-scene reports in their "war blogs." News junkies worldwide read their blogs to get up-to-the-minute reports, and the notion of blogs took off.
There are hundreds of law-related blogs focusing on appellate, criminal, Delaware, ethics, health, immigration, products liability, securities, and tax law, just to name a few topics. A good list of law blogs or "blawgs" is maintained by New Orleans lawyer Ernest Svenson (just look up "Ernie the attorney" in Google to find it). These blawgs were created by lawyers who write about their area of expertise, and update readers with new opinions and developments in the law.
That’s why blogs are excellent marketing vehicles: they let a lawyer demonstrate expertise in a particular topic. A well-done blog is very impressive to clients and is a great business-getter. Examples include:
- HIPAA blog – http://hipaablog.blogspot.com, maintained by lawyer Jeff Drummond, who discusses medical privacy issues.
- SCOTUSblog – http://www.goldsteinhowe.com/blog, maintained by the law firm Goldstein & Howe, which tracks U.S. Supreme Court cases.
- How Appealing – http://radio.weblogs.com/0104634, maintained by lawyer Howard Bashman of Philadelphia on appellate law topics. He is famed for mentioning an error in a court opinion in his blog, which the judge read and then corrected.
I operate The LawMarketing Blog at www.LarryBodine.com/blog that discusses news, information and insights into law firm marketing. The blog has attracted thousands of visitors since it went online in May 2003. It took 10 minutes to set it up.
Here are the compelling reasons for lawyers to start their own blogs:
Practice Group Blogs
- They are easy to set up and use. Simply go to Blogspot at www.blogspot.com or Radio Userland at http://radio.userland.com and download the software. These are the two most popular programs in the "blogosphere." Install one and follow the self-evident instructions. You don’t need to know HTML code, and can simply type in the text of your message in an online box. To post your message, just click on the appropriate button. The software will select a Web address for you.
- They are cheap. You get a month’s free trial of the software, and pay about $40 when you purchase it. This is much cheaper than hiring a developer to create a Web site for you.
- They are highly visible and quickly draw visitors. Without any special effort, I made the LawMarketing Blog the No. 1 listing in Google when you search on "law marketing blog." Search engines rank blogs highly because they predominately contain text and they are updated frequently – two things that attract search engines like Spanish Fly. The aforementioned Mr. Svenson’s blog gets more traffic than the Web sites of many major law firms.
- They can be about anything. A blog can simply recount a person’s thoughts, viewpoints and news. They can also be used for firm announcements, client newsletters, legal updates, and answers to cmmon client questions.
- They give the author instant credibility and expert status on the topic.
- If you fail to set up a blog on your special topic, someone else will claim it before you do. The attention and traffic goes to the early adopters, not the lawyers who wait to decide to join the trend a year later. You’ll be missing out on the hottest new trend on the Internet.
Business executives are already setting up corporate blogs, because they provide a way to talk informally to customers. For example, Alan M. Meckler, the chief executive of Jupitermedia in Darien, CT, a technology market research firm, keeps blog at http://weblogs.cdxpo.com/meckler/. He views blogging as a great marketing opportunity.
Similarly, Tim O’Reilly, president of a Sebastopol, CA producer of technology books and seminars, started a corporate blog at http://www.oreillynet.com/weblogs/author/27. He estimates that it has more than 10,000 readers. John G. Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, runs a blog at blogs.law.harvard.edu/palfrey.
Smart law firms will set up blogs for an entire practice group, so that multiple lawyers in a group can add information to it. For example, Denise Howell, an appellate and intellectual property lawyer with Reed Smith in Pennsylvania, maintains a blog called Bag and Baggage, at http://bgbg.blogspot.com. Other law firms are similarly allowing lawyers to maintain high-profile blogs.
Obviously, only trusted employees should be allowed to post to a practice group or industry group blog. It should also carry a legal disclaimer that the blog is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Bloggers should be aware that libel laws of the print world apply equally to online messages.
New law blogs spring up daily. They provide an excellent way to distribute firm news and gain a nationally-recognized voice. Don't let this trend pass you by.
About The Author
Larry Bodine is a Web and Marketing Consultant based in Glen Ellyn, IL. He has advised law firms on marketing strategy, individual lawyer marketing plans and Web site plans. Please see http://www.LarryBodine.com. He can be reached at Lbodine@LawMarketing.com and 630.942.0977. A version of this article appears in the Fall 2003 edition of American Lawyer Media Inc.'s Law Firm Inc.
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