Thanks for allowing me to host this week’s Blawg Review. I’ll see if I can uphold the standard of excellence set by lawyers over the last 2 1/2 years.

For me, the mantra for lawyer blogs is, ‘Do good – for society, yourself, and the image of our legal profession.’ With such a charge, it’s important that we continue to learn the ‘art of blogging.’

Learning solely from other lawyers and legal marketing professionals is not enough. In addition to learning from all of you, I’ve learned a ton from leaders in blogging, PR, journalism, marketing, and new media.

With this week’s Blawg Review, I can only hope to wet your appetite to continue to learn from these forerunners by subscribing to their RSS feeds. From my ‘blog mentors,’ here’s some posts they thought would be helpful to lawyers as well as some I pulled on my own.

What is a blog? That’s a loaded question. Dave Winer, a software developer who, among other things, pioneered the development of RSS technology (in effect giving us blogging), described blogs as the unedited voice of a person when doing a fellowship at Harvard Law’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

…[I]t wasn’t so much the form, although most blogs seem to follow a similar form, nor was it the content, rather it was the voice. If it was one voice, unedited, not determined by group-think — then it was a blog, no matter what form it took. If it was the result of group-think, with lots of ass-covering and offense avoiding, then it’s not. Things like spelling and grammatic errors were okay, in fact they helped convince one that it was unedited. (Dogma 2000 expressed this very concisely.) Do comments make it a blog? Do the lack of comments make it not a blog? Well actually, my opinion is different from many, but it still is my opinion that it does not follow that a blog must have comments, in fact, to the extent that comments interfere with the natural expression of the unedited voice of an individual, comments may act to make something not a blog……Me, I like diversity of opinion. I learn from the extremes. You think evolution is a liberal plot? Okay, I disagree, but I think you should have the right to say it, and further you should have a place to say it. You think global warming is a lie? Speak your mind brother. You thought the war in Iraq was a bad idea? Thank god you had a place you could say that. That’s what’s important about blogs, not that people can comment on your ideas. As long as they can start their own blog, there will be no shortage of places to comment. What there is always a shortage of, however, is courage to say the exceptional thing, to be an individual, to stand up for your beliefs, even if they aren’t popular.

A surprise to most law bloggers, if you’re trying to get business from your blog, Winer explains you’ll want your blog to send people away.

The way to make money on the Internet is to send them away. Google proved this, in the age of portals that were trying to suck the eyeballs in and not let them go, Google took over by sending you off more efficiently than anyone else……Yahoo doubled their share of the online news market by adopting RSS and sending readers away as fast as they can. Who to? Their competitors, of course……People come back to places that send them away. Memorize that one. This came up in a back-and-forth with Jakob Nielsen in 1999. The duality of the Internet. The dark side sees eyeballs and user-generated content. The light side sends them away, trusting that they’ll come back. The beauty of it is that the light side works and the dark side doesn’t. This is where the optimism of web people comes from. We called it Web Energy in the early days, and it’s still with us today.

Don’t understand blog speak? Australia’s Duncan Riley, co-founder and former vice president of b5media, TechCrunch contributor, and publisher of his own blog focusing on the values of participatory blogging, gives us an "Understanding Blog Speak" (4/7/05) dictionary.

Go the distance, Riley also says. You build traffic through your perseverance.

Very few people find fame and fortune through launching a blog overnight, but over time most people can build a reasonable audience, or even more, based on perseverance at blogging, literally going the distance.

Riley gives you 3 tips.

  1. Post regularly. Blogging should never be a chore but try setting a time each day you can spend reading and blogging as required. By all means take days off, but develop a pattern.
  2. Post quality. You need to provide readers with a reason to return, and quality does it all the time.
  3. Don’t give in. There are going to be times where you get the blog blues, where you’d ask yourself why you even bothered, we all get them at some stage, your success will be measured on your ability to get past this and get on with the task at hand. Remember, the longer you post and the more you post, results in more traffic from search engines, which means more visitors to your blog.

Look before you leap into blogging, advises Amy Gahran, a Colorado-based media consultant, journalist and regular contributor to Poynter Online.

Before you do anything else, figure out which groups you wish to engage in a public conversation. Next, figure out where they already spend time online… Go where they are, and start following their existing conversations. Depending on your niche, this part can be trickier than it sounds. It means spending time searching through blog search engines …to find blogs that are already succeeding in attracting attention from your core communities……The ideal outcome of this research is a short list (just 3-5 blogs or other sites) that you should start reading on a regular basis… Don’t just read the posts — comment threads are crucial to get a sense of the conversation and the community. Don’t just lurk, speak up! Start participating in existing discussions. Take the time to leave comments on blog posts or forum threads, and respond to others’ comments. Always be positive and helpful. More importantly, don’t be “salesy.” That is, don’t blatantly pump your business or agenda. When you join the public conversation, your guiding motive should always be: “What value can I offer this community?”

Confused about what blog software to use?

Susannah Gardner, co-founder of the internet consulting/web design company, Hop Studios and author of Buzz Marketing With Blogs for Dummies, has put together a review of popular blog software platforms published on USC’s Online Journalism Review. The best thing about it, she says, is the blog software comparison chart (updated in ’06).

Bozos saying blogs are a fad getting you down? Don’t believe it. One of the best known bloggers, Robert Scoble (who brought blogs to Microsoft and co-authored Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers) explains the naysayers don’t get it.

Totally miss the point of the new-more-efficient-word-of-mouth network. Here’s how it works. I write something. My two readers find what I wrote interesting. They email it to 40 other people (one guy I know has more than 300 press people on his email list, so this number might be way low). If a good percentage of those 40 people find something interesting they pass it along to their network. And, so on, and so on. Sooner or later we’re talking about a lot more than two people……If your post is interesting enough (not guaranteed, of course) then I’ll put it on my link blog or I’ll link to it here [his blog, Scobleizer]. Then if my two readers find that interesting you’ll get to their networks as well, again. Now, if I have more than two readers then the whole thing just gets amplified a little bit more.

Scoble says you can even pitch bloggers with your ideas and services – so long as you seek attention the right way.

Five bloggers is all it takes to spark something……. "But don’t bloggers get mad at getting pitched?" Yes, if it’s done in a non-clueful way. But, demonstrate you read our blogs and that you have something of value for our readers. Keep your message short and conversational. Don’t expect us to talk about you. Just present it as something that we might be interested in. Keep it to a paragraph. Include a note that demonstrates that you aren’t scripting this to 1,000 bloggers (we do compare with other bloggers behind the scenes, by the way). Offer your phone number, your email, and include a link to the URL. It is appreciated if you have your own blog. That tells us you’re serious about this new world. Plus, we can subscribe to your RSS feed if you do that.

Lawyer blogs are back to future for law firm marketing. Talking with people, word of mouth, relationships, and expertise, the heart of legal marketing before ads on buses and late night TV, are the essence of blogging.

Toby Bloomberg, president of Atlanta-based Bloomberg Marketing and publisher of the Diva Marketing Blog, says that blogs establish relationships and connect with potential clients.

Technology (oh that scary geeky word!) has given us the ability to know each other again in ways that were impossible ever since we became an on-the-move global society……Blogs, wikis, mash-up communities, podcasts, vlogs, virtual communities are vehicles that can help reestablish the Bakery customers and corner grocery store relationship. By that I mean a time when people knew who their customers were and what was important to them. How did they know? Shopkeepers took the time to kibbutz with their customers. They intuitively understood that the relationship was the heart of a successful business. Ironically, it is these new tech tools that are the keys to opening the doors of conversations with our customers that will to rebuild an old fashion type of relationship.

Shel Israel, strategic communications advisor, co-author with Scoble of Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers, and publisher of his social media/technology centered blog Global Neighbourhoods, offers 10 tips when blogging as an employee of a corporation. Included in the list:

  1. When identifiable as part of a company you must be much more careful with using corporate imagery than other people need to be. People get very nervous whenever you talk about competitors or partners in anything but the most glowing terms.
  2. Always be sensitive to your boss and what he/she expects to see in public.
  3. Don’t post when you’re pissed. It’s too easy to have a snarky post make a situation even worse.
  4. If you posted it and you pull it down, it’s too late. Someone will have seen it. Search engines will have cached it. News aggregators will display it.
  5. If you make a mistake, admit it. Say you’re sorry. Fix it. Make a penance. Link to people who are talking about you or the mistake.

Some of you will be asked the dreaded ROI question: "How can we measure the return of our lawyers blogging?"

Charlene Li, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, has a report that helps to define the ROI of business blogging.

Jeremiah Owyang, a Bay Area web strategist and soon-to-be Senior Analyst at Forrester Research, wishes it were as simple as a report. He explains there’s not a black and white answer to the ROI question for blogs and social media.

…[T]here is no cookie cutter way to measure success, it depends on the goals of the program, whether it be thought leadership, buzz, reaching to customers, managing crises, customer outreaches, etc……How do you measure the success of a conversation between your sales rep and a prospect in the early stages of a relationship? How do you measure the success of all your other marketing and branding activities, the formula would be the same.

Though most decision makers understand the ROI of blogging, Owyang concedes it may take time.

Shel Israel is right, much of the blogging will happen at the edges of the company, built up by grassroots efforts. Corporate Marketers tend to figure this out really early, or really late, many often don’t realize that their own employees are already blogging.

Think of the social network you are building from blogging as your community, Owyang advises, and reward them. Discover what drives them, then reward them with it. In turn, your community will reward you by citing you as an authority in news articles and blogs. Program coordinators will invite you to speak. How?

  • Comment on their blog posts and news stories.
  • Promote conferences in your blog.
  • Use LinkedIn to network with bloggers and reporters whose content you cite and who cite you. For some, a real badge of honor is showing to others how connected one is.
  • Cite others as experts in their field in your blog posts.

Alex Barnett, a five-year Microsoft veteran and now VP, Community for Bungee Labs thought lawyers would be learning from the early days of corporate blogging from Korby Parnell’s Brief [and Subjective] History of Corporate Blogging at Microsoft.

The key to realizing the long-term marketing benefits of blogging is understanding that marketing is a conversation. Your prospective clients talk among themselves and with those who influence them.

Networked markets are beginning to self-organize faster than the companies that have traditionally served them. Thanks to the web, markets are becoming better informed, smarter, and more demanding of qualities missing from most business organizations.

Doc Searls, a fellow at UC Santa Barbara’s Center for Information Technology & Society and well-known blogger is credited for coining the phrase, "Markets are conversations," which is the first thesis in The Cluetrain Manifesto, which he co-wrote in 1999.

Doc explains:

With ‘markets are conversations’ we suggest that markets are more than (or other than just) bulls, bears, invisible hands, forces, demographics, battlefields, playing fields, arenas, regions and the rest of the metaphors we’ve all been using throughout the Industrial Age. In fact, we were trying to get past metaphor altogether, and back to what markets were in the first place: places where people meet to do business and make culture……[T]he Internet serves as a platform under which a new and very real (though non-physical) marketplace can thrive. We were also suggested that the supply side, no matter how powerful it may remain (yes, the Industrial Age has not really ended), has less leverage than it did before the Net came along — while the demand side has far more.

And for a profession with an awful reputation like the law, we ought to listen to Doc.

[M]arkets are conversations means simply that the company still shouldn’t isolate itself either from talk within their marketplace or from talk with customers when the need arises. In other words, it should still be ready to Get Real when the time comes for real conversation.

I use LinkedIn to further network with bloggers I follow and vice versa. And it’s starting to pay dividends.

Guy Kawasaki, CEO of Garage Technology Ventures, co-founder of the user-created social media site Truemors and evangelist extraordinaire offers 11 ways business professionals can use LinkedIn in his blog, How to Change the World. From his list:

  • Increase your visibility. By adding connections, you increase the likelihood that people will see your profile first when they’re searching for someone to hire or do business with.
  • Improve your connectability. You should fill out your profile like it’s an executive bio, so include past companies, education, affiliations, and activities.
  • Improve your Google PageRank. LinkedIn allows you to make your profile information available for search engines to index. Since LinkedIn profiles receive a fairly high PageRank in Google, this is a good way to influence what people see when they search for you.
  • Gauge the health of a company. Former employees usually give more candid opinions about a company’s prospects than someone who’s still on board.
  • Ask for advice. LinkedIn’s newest product, LinkedIn Answers, aims to enable this online. The product allows you to broadcast your business-related questions to both your network and the greater LinkedIn network.

I’m all over lawyers to live blog conferences. I don’t buy this ‘lawyers are too busy learning and networking’ to blog live from a legal seminar or conference. Busy and high-powered folks and technology and new media conferences do it all the time. P,lus the collaboration to be gained and info available for non-attendees would be amazing.

Blogging a conference is important, says Josh Hallett, a social media consultant and public speaker from Florida. Josh runs the consulting firm Hyku, LLC and operates the company’s Hyku Blog, where he offered some skills that can help citizen journalists do their thing on-the-go.

Breaking his ‘blogging a conference” entry down into two main categories, Josh presents readers with the tools – both the software & hardware (cameras, laptops, internet connections, etc) – and the strategy most effective for live blogging.

For program coordinators and others that want to do more of a professional job, Josh warns that live blogging isn’t a one-man act. To be effective at large conferences, bloggers need to assemble a team of fellow bloggers.

Not every organization has the luxury of having a large blogging staff (whether paid or volunteers). You might be all on your own, but having some helpers makes a big difference. If you plan to cover everything, your lowest common denominator is the maximum number of breakout sessions. For example if at some point there are four concurrent breakout sessions you’ll need at least four bloggers to get the job done.

But how do firms ensure that staff blogs are painting the firm in a good light and following the law while doing so? For that we turn to John Cass, an author and marketer out of Massachusetts. His blog, PR Communications, covers issues related to marketing and the Internet. To give law firms a better idea of how to initiate a blogging policy, John points us to SCOUT Backbone Media, Inc.’s Corporate Guidelines for Using Blogs and Forums.

The guidelines explain why a corporate blogging policy is so key.

Selecting a blogging policy and guidelines to set the level of interaction between a company blog and its readers will help you to avoid bad publicity and diminished credibility. […] It’s important that an employee consider his obligations to his employer and colleagues when an employee writes on a blog, even if the blog posting is on the employee’s corporate blog or his own personal blog.

For more information on this, don’t forget that last week I published a draft of what I think a law firm ‘s internal blog policy should look like.

Mark Cuban is more than just owner of Dallas Mavericks. Between his NBA duties, serving as Chairman of HDNet and preparing for his role on ABC’s third season of Dancing with the Stars, Mark also manages to maintain a blog, Blog Maverick. In a post from 2005, Mark explains how blog searching can be a powerful ‘competitive intelligence’ business tool.

In business, you usually already know something about the people, places, things, companies, services, whatever you want more information on. Not only do you usually know something about them, but you are more interested in the latest information, rather than the "most relevant" information.

                                                                …

It used to be an old customer service mantra, that "One upset customer can tell 20 people about how poorly your company performed, and those 20 people could tell 20 more and your business could really suffer. Keep all your customers happy, and you won’t have to worry". Those numbers are miniscule compared to today.

In today’s world, one upset customer can write in their blog about how upset they are about your product or service and it could be linked to by any number of other blogs, which in turn are linked to by any number of blogs, which is in turn picked up by a TV news show. In 24 hours or less, tens to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people have heard the complaint and your business and brand are at risk.

By searching for your firm or business using blog searches and subscribing to RSS feeds of those searches, Mark says, you can stay on top of customer satisfaction and do competitive intelligence in ways never before thought possible.

Darren Rowse has his hands in a lot of projects, including the blog network b5media (of which he is co-founder and vice president). Based out of Australia, Darren writes for a lot of blogs – some say as many as 20 – while maintaining his site ProBlogger, spreading tips for blogging success around the Internet.

One tip of Darren’s is inviting guest writers to publish content in your blog.

  • The blogger who does the guest spot wins because it exposes them to a new readership;
  • The blogger who owns the blog wins because they get to take a break and keep their blog ticking over, they get to involve another blogger (remember giving readers jobs can be a great way to increase ownership of your blog by them) and they get a fresh perspective on their topic;
  • The reader wins because they get to hear about the topic of the blog from a new angle.

Steve Rubel is a public relations strategist and early advocate of business blogs. Currently working for the world’s largest independent public relations firm, Edelman, Steve also maintains the blog Micro Persuasion, writing about “how technology is revolutionizing media and marketing."

Steve thinks that the future of PR is participation, not pitching. The web has become more influential than traditional media, and smart PR specialists are doing what they can to adjust their business models to reflect these changes. But for the most part, he says, the industry isn’t moving fast enough.

Many in PR seem to be treating Web 2.0 as simply an extension of the traditional media – another venue for buzz. They are pumping thousands of email pitches into the community every day. I know because I receive hundreds of these emails every day, as do many other bloggers I have spoken to over the last several weeks. Some are good, most are not. And many are getting fed up.

                                                                …

To thrive in this new distributed environment, the PR community must step out in front of the curtain, become a bit more technically adept and participate transparently as individuals in online communities. We will have to openly collaborate and add value to the network and help the companies we represent do exactly the same.

A former attorney, Brian Clark now works as an Internet marketing strategist and content developer. Aside from his consulting work, Brian runs Copyblogger, providing tips for successful online marketing.

To be a successful lawyer, the art of persuasion is a necessary trait. Why limit that too the courtroom? In his 5 Immutable Laws of Persuasive Blogging, Brian gives tips for gaining influence in the blogosphere.

  1. The Law of Value: Your blog must provide value to the reader by addressing a problem, concern, desire, or need that the reader already has. Fresh, original content is critical.
  2. The Law of Headlines and Hooks: Your post titles must stand out in a crowded, noisy blogosphere, and you must quickly communicate the value of reading further with your opening.
  3. The Law of “How To": People don’t want to know “what” you can do, they want to know “how” it’s done. If you think you’re giving away too much information, you’re on the right track.
  4. The Law of the List: Love them or hate them, informational posts presented in list format are easily digestible, and allow for an efficient transfer of your value proposition to the reader.
  5. The Law of the Story: Stories are the most persuasive blogging element of all, as they allow you to present a problem, the solution, and the results, all while the connotation of the story allows readers to sell themselves on what you have to offer.

That’s all folks. Hope you learned a few things. I know I have in pulling this Blawg Review together. If you want a list of these blogs and the many, many others I follow, drop me an email. I’ll send you a list and an OPML file of the feeds to drop in your newsreader.

Thanks again to the Editor of Blawg Review and all of you. From Seattle, have a great week and blog with passion.