Will journalism departments be part of the law firm of the future?

Journalism departments in law firms social media Earlier this year I wrote about the power large law firms have to leverage their brand to create media outlets online so as to bypass traditional media. The point being that with large law firms paying big dollars for syndication of content, advertising, PR, and communications, it’s only a matter of time until we see law firms creating their own online media outlets. Last week digital marketing executive and author, Mitch Joel, asked ‘Will A Brands Next Big Move Be A Journalism Department?’ Joel’s point is that while advertising and traditional marketing have their place, it’s all about relevant content that resonates with your target audience that’s everything in today’s social media world. Traditional marketing content rarely connects with your audience, per Joel. Why?

Because it’s really just marketing material that is thinly veiled as content, and it’s quickly becoming the kind of one-sided content that turns people off. What makes great content spread is how unique and inspiring the message is, not in how it slants into a direction that ultimately positions your company as the only one to buy from.

Rather than look at your firm’s lawyers as creators of content (articles, alerts, email newsletters, blogs offering little more than legal summaries), Joel might suggest looking to citizen journalists for your law firm. Citizen Journalists who could be your lawyers (blogging) or journalism professionals.

Maybe citizen journalists are the best marketers that a brand could ever ask for, and maybe, Geoff Livingston (presenting at Webcom Montreal) is right that the problem with content marketing is the “marketing” part. Instead of plopping Social Media into your communications or marketing department, why not start a journalism department (or start off in a more humble way by hiring a journalist part-time to write content that your organization will publish)?

What could these citizen journalists do for your law firm per Joel?

  • They could write articles about the industry you serve without slanting the piece to favor your brand (this would give you credibility and build trust).
  • They could become valuable by commenting and adding more content in the many other primary spaces for Social Media that people in your industry follow.
  • They could interview the industry leaders for you.
  • They could add a layer of credibility to the content you’re publishing, because you’re very clear in your disclosures that this journalist’s role is not to write favorable content about the company, but to write great content about the industry you serve.

I’m not talking of having a journalist working for your firm as a writer kicking out the stuff in-house counsel, the press, and other practicing lawyers have grown all to sick of. That would be missing the point per Joel.

The idea here is to start creating content that is both valuable and needed. The idea here is to see if a tactic like this could lead to an entire department of journalists that are publishing the most relevant and interesting stories about the industry you serve. It’s about becoming the de facto recognized authority for your industry. It’s about adding so much value that your clients (and potential clients) need you in their lives because the insights and information that you’re providing are so valuable. The challenge (of course) will be in doing this in an honest and credible way. Marketers don’t have a strong history of being able to pull this sort of stuff off, because we just can’t help ourselves but to push our own wares in the moment of truth (which is sad). The only way this will work is if the brand truly does let the journalist be an actual journalist (instead of a corporate shill).

No question we’re already seeing this trend among savvy lawyers and law firms. We’ve come to know the best law blogs as those publishing relevant and interesting insight and commentary for the industry served by the blogging lawyer.

The result being that the blogging lawyer has become a de facto recognized authority in their field. An authority status that has lead to seven figure annual revenue from business developed by the lawyer through relationships gained through blogging.

Multiple times a week I am meeting professionals with a journalism background who have begun working in law firms. Law firm Chief Marketing Officers and Marketing Directors are realizing it’s not the legal content of old that’s going to resonate with their target audience today. They know that journalists may be better equipped to take their law firms into the social media age.

My company, LexBlog, has launched numerous custom social media solutions, including recently launched, China Debate, which covers the latest in Chinese business, policy, and politics, for clients looking to publish relevant and interesting stories about the industry segments they serve.

We have more coming, including one for a large state bar association, and one for an international network of legal professionals. All of the custom social media solutions developed and produced by LexBlog involve a journalism component.

I’m in agreement with Joel that ‘Brand Journalism,’ as he describes the concept is a huge and interesting opportunity. Especially for law firms.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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