Content Marketing Law FirmsAs law firms move from traditional websites to ‘content marketing’ the question of who is going to produce all the content continues to arise.

Could a start-up such as Contently, or others like them, be a credible answer for law firms?

Lauren Drell, Campaigns Editor at Mashable (@drelly) asked in a piece yesterday and accompanying video interview interview of Contently co-founder, Shane Snow (@shanesnow), Can This Startup Revolutionize Content Creation?

As more and more brands look to become content creators, the need for good writing is growing. We’re not talking about content farms, we’re talking about good, high-quality copy. The recession forced thousands of top-notch writers and journalists out of their jobs; these content creators are scraping to find outlets for their talents, not quite knowing where or how to land a gig.

……

Contently is a platform that connects brands seeking content with writers who can produce it. Writers are vetted through a series of edit tests and are paid competitive rates, based on the amount of research, interviews and expertise required to produce a post, and they build a portfolio on Contently to see how their posts perform and where they get distributed. Brands come on board because they want to create content, but lack the resources to do it in house; they can search for something as precise as a bird expert in Denver or a fashion blogger in Sydney and work with the writer to revise the content until it’s perfect. All correspondence between brands and writers is done within the project management system Contently built in-house to streamline assignments and editing. With 4,000 freelancers and 100 publishers and brands on board, there are a lot of assignments going back and forth.

Joining Contently is free, and brands pay for each post they commission; Contently takes a cut of each assignment fee and pays the writers directly, so writers don’t have to send bank and tax information to every brand that pays them.

No question the idea of connecting unemployed and underemployed journalists and writers with brands requiring content is a laudatory concept.

Brands have traditionally used mainstream media (newspapers, magazines, television, radio) to get their message out. This has generally been done through public relations professionals.

With fewer reporters, newspapers, and periodicals today brands are left with no other choice than producing their own content. Combine that with the ability to cost-effectively self publish and produce video and have both spread through social media and you’re looking at ‘content marketing’ gone wild.

But I am not sure content produced by third parties is nearly as effective for law firms and lawyers looking to use the Internet, via social media (blogging included), to engage their target audience, to build relationships, and to build a strong word of mouth reputation.

Content is undoubtedly the currency of engagement, but content is not the beginning and the end as it is when content production is outsourced to third parties per a ‘content marketing’ plan. Content as a means of developing relationships and a word of mouth reputation requires strategy. Who to listen to? How to listen to them? Who to engage? How to engage them? And how to build relationships with those you engage?

In addition, the passion, expertise, insight, and care that comes from an individual lawyer when engaging their audience with their own content is tough to beat when it comes to developing trust.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe there’s a place for online custom publishing done by third parties for, and in conjunction with, law firms.

  • Articles that may have been written by trade publications, quoting your lawyers, could be written by hired journalists.
  • Clients, potential clients, and members of your relevant business community could be covered or featured in stories reported and published by third parties.
  • White papers and reports on relevant matters could be produced by those with subject matter expertise.
  • Online periodicals, including articles by your firm’s lawyers and third parties, could be published by custom publishers.

In fact, professional publishers, journalsits and reporters are better equipped to produce some of the content that law firms are trying to produce today as part of their ‘content marketing’ plan.

But if you are looking to realize client development success like other law firms and lawyers are through blogging and other social media, as opposed to ‘content marketing,’ third party produced content is unlikely to get you there.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Jeremy Brooks.