Back in 2004, when blogs were in their infancy, a small group of Microsoft developers launched Channel 9 as a way to get closer to customers. Lenn Pryor and four others wanted to open up a direct line of communication between Microsoft’s developers and the outside development community.

Microsoft, then known as the evil empire by many had no dialogue going on with the technology community. Through blogs, forums and the like Microsoft began to dialogue with outside developers who came to see Microsoft developers as some pretty decent and smart folks. True trust was established.

Outside developers came to know the why and how as to Microsoft’s product development. They were more apt to speak and blog favorably as to new products from Microsoft and, in many cases, buy the products.

The underlying concept of Channel 9 was transparency. To be real. To be genuine. To let folks listen in a way that they never could before. The name itself was taken from Channel 9 on United Airlines which enabled us to listen in on the cockpit.

Adding to the transparency was the way blogs arose at Microsoft. Back then I remember seeing something like 1,500 of them. They were not all branded Microsoft or on some common blog software platform. The fact that the blogs were in all colors, shapes and sizes lent to the transparency and trust.

Fast forward eleven years to blogging in the law today. For most folks, it’s all about content.

How much content can we get up? How much traffic can we get to our blog as a result of the content? Better yet, let’s get traffic to our website from the blog content, even if it means burying blogs inside our website. If we cannot get traffic to our blog, let’s pay to have our blog content pushed at people. If it takes too much time to produce content let’s hire someone to create the content. It doesn’t matter if the content creator is not a practicing lawyer or that we don’t disclose that we didn’t create the content.

Not much transparency there. Not giving folks the opportunity of listening in to the cockpit to get a feel as to who the blogging lawyer really is. Trust? Relationships? Hardly.

Blogs of course require content. Content is required to offer true value to your audience, whether they be in-house counsel, consumers or small business people.

But what sets blogs apart from articles, books and newsletters is the transparency that develops from conversation. By following what others are writing and saying and offering your insight, you, as a lawyer, are joining a conversation.

Writing in a real and genuine way you give people a true sense of your passion, experience and care. People get a sense of you really are. They’ve listened in where they never could have before.

Look at Channel 9’s doctrine. A good portion could apply to law blogging.

  1. Channel 9 is all about the conversation. Channel 9 should inspire Microsoft and our customers to talk in an honest and human voice. Channel 9 is not a marketing tool, not a PR tool, not a lead generation tool.
  2. Be a human being. Channel 9 is a place for us to be ourselves, to share who we are, and for us to learn who our customers are.
  3. Learn by listening. When our customers speak, learn from them. Don’t get defensive, don’t argue for the sake of argument. Listen and take what benefits you to heart.
  4. Be smart. Think before you speak, there are some conversations which have no benefit other than to reinforce stereotypes or create negative situations.
  5. Marketing has no place on Channel 9. When we spend money on Channel 9 the goal is to surprise and delight, not to promote or preach.
  6. Don’t shock the system. Lasting change only happens in baby steps.
  7. Know when to turn the mic off. There are some topics which will only result in problems when you discuss them. This has nothing to do with censorship, but with working within the reality of the system that exists in our world today. You will not change anything by taking on legal or financial issues, you will only shock the system, spook the passengers, and create a negative situation.
  8. Don’t be a jerk. Nobody likes mean people.
  9. Commit to the conversation. Don’t stop listening just because you are busy. Don’t stop participating because you don’t agree with someone. Relationships are not built in a day, be in it for the long haul and we will all reap the benefits as an industry.

Sure, “produce” the content for your blog, but take advantage of what blogging gives you. Not a means of drawing attention, but a means of being transparent, building relationships and establishing trust.