Today’s guest for the LexBlog Q & A is Anita Campbell, an Ohio-based lawyer with a wealth of knowledge on technology issues currently serving as CEO/editor-in-chief of Small Business Trends.

Her blog, which launched in 2003 and has been going strong ever since, recently added more authors and has been further expanding its coverage of small business-focused issues. In our interview we chatted about how blogs can be used productively by lawyers (and any entrepreneur looking to expand their reach, regardless of the industry) as a community building tool. The specifics are after the jump.

1. Rob La Gatta: Why do you blog?

Anita Campbell: The reason I started and the reason I do it now are very different.

I started the blog as a way to publish a newsletter, easily and quickly. I was doing some consulting, working with small business clients – doing business plans, helping them with strategy, development and so on – and was doing an e-mail newsletter, just to develop a bit more of a customer base. But it was just taking me forever to actually create the newsletter every month. Someone said, "Go over to Blogger and start a free blog." So I did, and I started putting up little articles up there. Then, when it came time to do the newsletter, it was very simple…at the end of the month I could simply create some links, and maybe a little paragraph introduction about an article…and voila, that was my newsletter.

Of course, things have changed since then. As time went on, I realized that the Small Business Trends site got much higher rankings in the search engines that my regular business website, and so I started putting more and more time into it. And that just grew; the blog tended to get a lot of attention. (It was good timing, too, because it was when business blogs were just starting to take off in late 2003 and 2004). Gradually, it totally changed my business model. I realized I could make money with a business model where the blog was central to it.

2. Rob La Gatta: Do you think that approach is a growing trend among businesses?

Anita Campbell: I definitely think so…though I’ll qualify that by saying I don’t think a blog is for everyone. But I do think that a growing number of professionals (especially small businesses, lawyers & CPAs) really get tremendous benefit from a blog compared with the amount of money that you have to put in it. If you tried to get those same results by other means, you could spend a tiny fortune.

A blog is definitely cost effective, but there are tradeoffs…you have to spend a little more effort of your own. But I find with lawyers – who tend to be good with words – that’s really not as big of an issue as it might be with some people.

3. Rob La Gatta: Do you see a blog as something that can give a company transparency and help consumers feel more at ease?

Anita Campbell: Yes, and I think part of it comes from the conversational nature of blogs. You can talk in a more intimate way…“me to you,” if you will, as opposed to a regular website where you tend to write in marketing speak. And that creates a connection with people. They come to trust you more, and you come to have this emotional bond that you really can’t get from a traditional website. Plus, on a lot of blogs, you can talk back – a visitor can comment, and so it really does become a conversation in that sense.

4. Rob La Gatta: There are few general counsels out there blogging, but those numbers are still low. As a former GC yourself, why do you think that there aren’t many of these professionals blogging?

Anita Campbell: I think it’s difficult for larger companies to blog in the same way that I think a smaller businesses can blog. The bigger you are, the more you have to be concerned about:

  • First of all, everybody inside your company or your firm being on board;
  • second, if you’re a publicly traded company, you have concerns over what gets revealed in a blog and what can you reveal;
  • and third, with a larger company, you have more constituencies, and so you have to be concerned about all of these different angles.

That said, I think it definitely can be done. And like you said, there are some general counsels who are writing, because they find things to write about that don’t violate SEC rules and that don’t hit too close to home on customer issues that might be problematic.

5. Rob La Gatta: What do you personally see as the most rewarding element of writing a blog?

Anita Campbell: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this idea of community. A blog lets you build a community, and it’s a community of people that could include everyone: 

  • current clients or customers,
  • those who might be checking you out to see whether they want to hire you,
  • or just the general public – who knows, someday they may become a client, or come to know you. 

You can develop a reputation as an expert in your field or niche, and blogs are perfect for that: they’re cheap, and you don’t have any gatekeepers that are keeping you out of developing that reputation. If you use a blog and you think of it as developing a community, what you’re really doing is you’re extending your network…you’re able to touch more and more people, literally sitting at your desk in front of your computer.

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