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Great discussion on marketing power of blogs for lawyers

There is a great discussion going on about the merits of blogs for legal marketing. Began when Dale Tincher at wrote an article on his Web site saying lawyers should go slow on blogs. Citing some half truths (arguably false statements) about blogs in the article I questioned in a post of mine whether the article was really an objective view on the marketing power of blogs.

Discussion continued over to later post of mine and comment to it from on Consultwebs needing to run Internet advertising (Google Adwords) to get folks to read the article as they did not have an effective Internet presence via the blogosphere.

Bob Ambrogi has jumped in with what we have come to expect from him, a eloquent and well written post on the discussion. I commented on Bob’s piece at his blog and wanted to share my comment with you.

Law blogs not focused on marketing fail to generate new business

The big concern I have is that many people’s views on the marketing power of blogs is developed by having a blog that was not focused on marketing one’s practice or that they are listening to folks who have not done a good job marketing via their blog so assume it’s the medium’s fault. Use a tool wrong and of course it will not work.

One of the big fears I have is that when Martindale & FindLaw begin offering blogs they will be border line junk that will not work for marketing. The result is the thousands of lawyers who buy their stuff will conclude blogs do not work for marketing and they’ll poison the market.

Internet legal marketing is about conversations & relationships

In 1996 I started marketing on the Internet to market a small firm I had just started after leaving a firm I was a partner in for 14 years. I knew nothing about the Internet or technology. I was a country lawyer in every sense of the word having grown up and practiced in the rural Midwest. I read a couple books and attended a Internet marketing seminar in Monterey. I concluded very quickly that Internet marketing was all about conversations, the exchange of information and establishing relationships with people. (sounds like blogs)

So I set out on the journey of meeting people and establishing relationships and leaving bread crumbs behind so people could find their way to me if they decided they had the need. I did it by answering a few questions a day on AOL’s message boards (questions on personal injury, medical malpractice, workers compensation & distressed employees). Not advice – just info and left a signature line with my web site url address. Then I archived the Q & A’s on a nice looking Web site designed with Frank Lloyd Wright blueprint/drawing look.

Boy did the people come – in the thousands. And the thank you emails came in every morning. I had reached everyday people in a real way. I was establishing a relationship with people whose questions I had not answered. They were faced with a similar plight and loved the down to earth talk they read. Took less than an hour in the am for me to do.

In a few months we drew regional and national recognition for what we were doing. People in Wisconsin contacted me to take their case. They found me on search engines as content was there or in message board discussions via other people talking about us. Local people contacted us to handle their cases because they heard of us via discussion offline. The people who contacted us to represent them were not some tech geeks – they were average people who found there way to a computer to look for help.

Now, that took us learning how to update a Web site each am (had local college marketing intern making $5 an hour doing it). I knew nothing about technology but from years as a trial lawyer and representing average folks & small businesses I related to people on the net in a way that was very moving for me. I loved the feedback and thanks from people who I would never meet. It may me proud to be a lawyer. It got my juices going to really want to help people – something I am not sure I had experienced since the first day of law school.

Law firm Web sites do not create conversations or relationships

10 years later I do not see lawyer Web sites doing what I was doing without any great time and expense on my part in 1996. But in November 2003, when I saw blogs and what lawyers were writing and doing via blogs, it was like ‘hot dam’ – this is what lawyers have been waiting for. A way to have a conversation, to exchange of information and establish relationships with people. Whether you can do that on Web sites or not, the fact is it is not happening. With blogs we make it happen. That is good stuff no matter how you slice it.

Lawyers should be looking for new ways to present themselves

As lawyers we should be champions for social improvement, we should be reaching for the stars in ways to help people (consumers or businesses) and looking for every opportunity we can get to improve the image of our profession. Say what you want about blogs but I’ll put my money (I have) that lawyers empowered with this new found medium can address the needs of people looking for help, enhance their reputation by doing so and improve the image of our profession by marketing in a way that is terribly constructive and upbeat.

I almost wish blogs did not get all this hype. Hype always generates pessimism and skepticism. Plus as lawyers we get paid lots of money by clients to be skeptics and be untrustworthy. But it is what it is. And representing a few underdogs along the way, I’ll remain passionate in my belief that blogs – done well from marketing standpoint (not always done) will beat the heck out of other forms of Internet marketing. And with people coming to the net in droves for information, beat the heck out of offline marketing.

Future of law blogs in marketing

In the not distance future most lawyers will use a personal publishing platform to communicate with folks. These communications will be streamed to a Web site via RSS by separate category feeds to be displayed on designated pages on the site. The content will also be syndicated out to other aggregators/portals for an audience the lawyer may want to reach (no more begging people to republish articles – update your blog and the stuff is fired out and up elsewhere). We’ll then have a blend of Web sites, blogs and RSS. At that point the hype about blogs will have been swallowed up in a new of way networking, building relationships and having conversations – marketing at it’s finest. Lawyers who will have risen to the cause will be rewarded.

May sound nuts but only 6 or 7 years ago lawyers thought Web sites were nuts and would only reach a geek or tech audience.