LexBlog needs to up our game in 2016. Rather than merely selling and supporting a technology solution for publishing, we need to champion the role of legal blogging in our society. Just seems there is too much at stake for lawyers and the people we serve not to.

LexBlog was started twelve years ago to fill a void — that being to provide a tasteful and eloquent solution to support blogging lawyers. Blogging, then, as now, could theoretically be done at little or no expense but lawyers wanting to look good and to build a reputation would pay for technology and support.

I always presumed lawyers would do good through blogging. They’d freely offer information, insight and commentary on niches that were not being covered. They’d build their network for learning and advance the law — we’d have better lawyers through blogging. Lawyers would have a better name.

Consumers of legal services, whether an executive, in-house counsel, consumer or small business person would be better equipped to pick legal counsel in an informed fashion. After all, reading a blog where a lawyer put their knowledge, experience, passion and care on display enabled one to size a lawyer up more than a directory listing could.

I knew SEO and web traffic were advantages of blogging, but blogging offered lawyers so much more. Blogging democratized publishing for lawyers. It enabled the average lawyer to reach new heights and go places they’d never have dreamed of.

Blogging was like writing a book or two on a niche. Niche blogs became must haves for people with relevant interests. Blogs enabled lawyers to network and meet with people they’d never have before. Speaking engagements and being quoted in other blogs and in the mainstream media became routine.

Blogging as a lawyer was like becoming part of a literary guild, a journalist, a reporter, a publisher and community leader. All of which put blogging lawyers in a position of authority and influence. This authority and the growing relationships got lawyers hired by consumers, corporations and small business people.

A decade or so later we have companies selling content to lawyers so they can have a blog without blogging. Major law firms are identifying popular keywords their lawyers should use more liberally in blogs to draw traffic through a sales a funnel on consumer products web software they have bought for business development. Metrics of pageviews and subscribers versus measuring the value offered and the reputation grown have become the norm in legal blogging.

Take a look at what Jeff Jarvis had to say as to journalists on this point as reported by the Guardian in a piece I came across a couple nights ago. Imagine how much better lawyers and the people we serve would be if we all focused on service to others in our blogging versus attention and traffic.

  • News organizations need to rethink journalism away from being a content service and more toward the idea of being a service.
  • News outlets should “know people as individuals, not as a mass” and tailor the news and experiences they offer accordingly.
  • Perhaps defining ourselves as content creators is a trap. That workflow convinces us that our value is embodied entirely in what we make rather than in the good value people derive from it.
  • An over-reliance on traditional metrics, such as pageviews, as a measure of success will lead to nothing but cats, and crap.
  • We have to decide what we really are. Because if we keep on going with volume, with the old media metrics, the mass media metrics of reach and frequency, transpired to our world in terms of pageviews and unique users, then we’ll be commodified as a business.
  • It is also important for news outlets to acknowledge they are “not alone.” It makes sense for outlets to work together through collaboration and curation, “sharing content and audiences” which could improve the scope of coverage and public service for everyone.
  • In an increasingly crowded news space, all outlets have to find their niche. No one can do everything, and you have to figure out what you do. Cover what you do best and link to the rest.
  • If you’re not the best at what you do – if you’re the 20th best or the 30th best – don’t bother doing it. And we have too much of that going on in this industry. We are a very inefficient industry.

Despite some great blogging on our network, LexBlog has been guilty of facilitating less than quality blogging more than once over the years. Rather than teaching and supporting best practices in ways that reach lawyers, we’ll enable copy which accomplishes little for lawyers and offers their audience little, if anything, of value.

So rather than foster less than quality blogging at times, in 2016 we’ll do the best we can to service good legal bloggers and shine a light on them along the way.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Patrick Nouhailler.

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On behalf of our team to the entire legal blogging community, have a safe and merry holiday season!

Pictured (from left to right) back row: Scott Fennell, Kevin O’Keefe, John McCallum, Christopher Rachal, Jared Sulzdorf, Joshua Lynch, Mark Clagett, Garry Vander Voort, Wendy Nickolay, Audrea Fink

Pictured (from left to right) front row: Colin O’Keefe, Margaret Kuo, Zosha Millman, Kristina Corbitt, Angelo Carosio, Brian Biddle, Catherine Sherwood

Not pictured: Chloe Nichols, Ying-Ju Chen

 

LexBlog Members please note: we do have some special hours and holiday office closures over the next two weeks, but Reach support and technical support for site outages will continue to be available 24/7.

I recently wrote about social selling from the the standpoint of Jen McLure, the Vice President of Digital and Social Media at Thomson Reuters.

With the advent of the Internet and social media, McLure saw it as a no brainer for accounts and sales people at Thomson Reuters to be using social to build reputations as trusted resources and to grow personal relationships through social networks. After all, people buy in large part from the people they like, trust and view as authorities.

I’m proud of what we’re doing at LexBlog. With the work we’re completing on a new digital publishing solution for professional services people and organizations, we’ll have the best offering in the industry.

But LexBlog and I can’t sit back and wait for folks to come to us to learn about what we’re doing and offering, we need to get out at press the flesh, so to speak. I need to talk to both existing clients and other law firms who I think could benefit from our technology.

It’s not that difficult to find law firms who could benefit from our offering. I can go to their websites look for blogs, publications, alerts, informational sites and email newsletters. In most cases, the firm could do better on multiple fronts – cost, presentation, format, technology and reach.

Armed with this information there are multiple ways to approach a law firm. Cold call them. Drop them an email cold. Ask someone for an introduction. And what have you.

I’ve done the “You don’t know me from Adam, but here’s who I am, what I do and while in town I’d really like to meet.” It’s actually worked in the case of incredibly large law firms who became LexBlog clients. It may have helped that someone in their firm knew me from my blog.

But with everyone now cold selling via email and phone that may not be the best approach.

So my team and I am are going to take a page out of McLure’s playbook and start social selling.

We’ll start by identifying law firms which we think we can help. Rather than immediately reaching out to them, we’re going to learn a little about them and their people. Not by just reading their website and what not, but really trying to get to know the firm and the people we’d like to meet.

What’s it mean for me personally?

  • Following relevant law firm blogs and third publications their people contribute too
  • Following relevant firm names through Google News/Feedly
  • Following and engaging the firm and relevant professionals through Twitter
  • Befriending people on Facebook as appropriate (I have a really nice network of professionals as Facebook friends which often results in worthwhile discussions)
  • Connecting on LinkedIn, again as appropriate and with personal notes
  • Re-energizing my LinkedIn Legal Blogging Group which already has about 8,000 members who have shared information and discussed social media, blogging and social networking matters as they relate to law firms
  • Inviting folks to join our LinkedIn Legal Blogging Group

There’s probably more that could be done, but that’s more than enough. It’s also being done in grass roots fashion. There’s no way to automate getting to know people in a real and authentic fashion.

Don’t get me wrong either about the need to personally meet with people. Despite my networking online via my blog and social media, I am a huge believer that there’s no substitute for spending time with people. The Internet enables us to get to know people better and, for me, build relationships of trust, but if I expect to work with people for the long haul I better be meeting with them.

I shared my thoughts with you for a few reasons.

One, hopefully this gives you a roadmap of how you as a lawyer or other professional can use social selling. Two, I am going to be more transparent about the goings- on at LexBlog – much like I did via this blog when I was first building the company. And three, sharing my goals will make me a little more accountable.

I’ll let you know along the way how things are going. I’d welcome your thoughts on any social selling you’re trying to do as well.

Jen McClure (@jen_mcclure), the Vice President of Digital and Social Media at Thomson Reuters was a recent guest of Carrie Kerpen (@carriekerpen) on her podcast, All the Social Ladies. Kerpen summarized their discussion  in a piece at Forbes.

McClure, who has a wealth of experience in publishing, PR, marketing and sales makes clear the number one way to measure return on social media is sales.

How could it be anything else? An increase in sales is the best way to communicate the ROI (return on investment) of social media, which is something the industry has always struggled to quantify.

Thomson Reuters doesn’t screw around as to use of social media by its sales and accounts people or the KPI’s used to measure their success.

Thomson Reuters has deployed a “social selling” program, where its sales members undergo intensive training and receive certification to become social media sellers. This shrinks the bridge between the company and the consumer, and helps the sales staff engage with the community. The KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) it measures through social media selling include answers to the following questions: “Do you have a better understanding of our customers and our prospects and their business needs as a result of interacting with them across social networks? Are you getting into that sales cycle conversation earlier? Are you increasing your thought leadership and your influence position and really transforming yourself from being the rep. to a valued resource that can help?”

The results so far?

Sales members love social media selling because it’s fun, easy, and empowering, and because it helps them build their social networks. They are able to engage customers over new channels, ones where customers are starting, and sometimes ending, their buying journeys. It makes the staff feel better about its work.

From McClure:

When we survey our sales people and ask, ‘To what extent do you feel like you have increased your thought leadership, your influence, your understanding of the customers,’ it’s in the 85- to 95-percent range…

Could your law firm’s lawyers be social selling? Of course they could.

  • They could use all social media (blogging, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) to gain a better understanding, personally and professionally, of their clients and prospective clients.
  • They could gain a better understanding of their business needs specifically and as to specific industries in general.
  • They could leverage this increased knowledge into sales meetings discussions with clients and prospective clients with whom they now have better relationships as a result of social media.
  • They could be increasing their thought leadership and influence position by blogging on a real publication independent of the firm’s website. Authorship and speaking have been at the heart of establishing oneself as a “lawyers’ lawyer” since the beginning of time.
  • They could be transforming themselves from just a lawyer to a “go to” lawyer who is viewed as reliable and trusted authority on a niche area of the law or niche business. A lawyer is looked as a resource for information and counsel.

Law firms are not alone. LexBlog is right with you in the need to be social selling. We need to be getting to know, personally and professionally, the people we serve. The only limits should be good taste and how appropriate a particular client or prospective client feels about the use of a particular social media in our getting to know them.

We, as a team, have to develop a comfort with the social media being used by those we serve. Facebook, which of course people view differently, is a perfect medium to engage our audience, professionally and personally.

Facebook is where people get to know what’s really important in others’ lives. A family vacation, anniversary celebration, or the death of a loved one can often rank well above news and information shared online.

Blogging to engage authorities and influencers in the field you are passionate about establishes huge authority over time. Why not be the person who is viewed as a ‘go to’ resource? Aim high.

Create Twitter lists of your clients and potential clients so you can share what they are sharing and engage them personally and professionally.

LinkedIn works for initial connection and initial outreach. But LinkedIn doesn’t generate the warm and fuzzy relationships or thought leadership status. This is ironic in that most professionals feel the most comfortable on LinkedIn.

Rather than look at social media as something that’s a compliment to the things we do to build relationships and influence. Let’s look at social media as the new reality.

People connect and engage with people on social media all of the time. Professionals publish, without gated walls, their insight to blogs all of the time. These blog posts move across social media all of the time.

We’re not going back in time. To nurture relationships and build influence, law firms (and LexBlog) need to have their teams using social media in an effective way and to be prepared to measure the results by the bottom line.

I was sent a copy of David Ogilvy’s “Confessions of an Advertising Man” by a gentleman who through hard work and good judgement co-founded and lead to prominence one of the world’s leading semiconductor companies.

I have taken many lessons from his counseling of me, so I cannot be sure why he sent me Olgivy’s book to read.

I have enjoyed the read though and picked up any number of ideas and lessons from Ogilvy, who took his advertising agency from zero to $55,000,ooo in annual billings in 15 years. Those are in 1963 dollars.

One lesson really resonated. Though you have a very competent team, it’s critical for the leader of the company to make the presentations to prospective clients.

Most agencies send delegations to present their case to prospective clients. The head of the agency limits their participation to introducing a series of subordinates who take turns haranguing the prospect. I have always preferred to make the presentation myself. The final choice of agency is almost always made by the head of the client company, and chairpersons ought by harangued by chairpersons.

I have also found that changes of speaker lead to confusion with other angencies competing for the account. One orchestra looks like every other orchestra, but there is no confusing one conductor for another.

When we were invited to solicit the Sears, Roebuck account I bearded their board of directors by myself. Sophisticated corporations are seldom deceived by a show of bodies. The agencies with the best record in new-business solicitation rely on their leader to put on solo performances. (When you consider the repulsive personalities of many of these soloists, you are forced to conclude that singularity is an important ingredient in winning accounts.)

This is a good kick in the butt for me in a number respects. One, We work with a lot of large clients. New ones contact us regularly. I need to be on and lead any initial phone calls with such prospective clients.

Two, I need to be meeting with and making presentations to prospective clients in person. Following Henry Ford’s advice to dealers that they should “solicit by personal visitation,” Ogilvy started solicited advertisers who did not employ an agency, “figuring he lacked the credentials to knock any incumbent agency out of bed.”

Who knows? Being at this for 10 years, with the firms we have as clients and with the reputation I have built through blogging, I may be able to push an incumbent or two out of bed.

Good lessons for me. Maybe for law firms putting on beauty contests as well.

 Image courtesy of Flickr by Mark’s Postcards from Beloit

Twenty years ago it would have been crazy to think that a successful media company could not only exist, but prosper, without owning any media.

The New York Times employed a fleet of reporters and editors to produce articles and copy the company owned and distributeed. CBS employed thousands of producers, directors, actors, stage hands and other workers to produce television shows, movies and news reports.

It would have been absurd to think of third parties producing content and media for CBS and The Times – for free.

But that’s exactly what is going on today.

Facebook is eight times bigger than The New Times, as measured by annual revenue ($12.5 Billion to $1.6 Billion). And Facebook neither produces nor owns any media.

Is Facebook a media company? Of course they are, just in a different vein than we’re accustomed to.

Facebook’s media is produced and distributed (shared) by users. The media is in the form of text and video.

Just like traditional media, the revenue model is advertising. Perhaps making the media on Facebook more attractive than traditional media, is that the media on Facebook is free. The Times requires a subscription and viewing CBS requires a cable subscription.

When Facebook acquired Instagram three years ago for $1 Billion, everyone thought Facebook was nuts.

But as Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) told a gathering of us in Seattle, Facebook needed media. Facebook had the technology to deliver media, they had the audience, they knew how to generate advertising revenue online and they knew how to mine user data. Facebook just needed more media to generate more revenue and Instagram had lots of free media.

Facebook’s revenue and stock price is off the charts. But you say they own no revenue. It doesn’t matter. Facebook has a relationship with the producers of media – its users. Facebook is even developing relationships with publishers such as The Times which wants its content distributed on Facebook.

Of course Facebook has to deliver value to earn and nurture relationships with the media producers. Facebook does it with the experience it provides users. Who, as a regular Facebook user, doesn’t enjoy the ability to share, read, and watch media on Facebook.

LexBlog is transitioning from solely a marketing company to a media company. We support our members with the technology to produce and share their media in an engaging fashion. We provide them strategy, coaching, design and on-going support so that they will be successful and professional in their media production.

Law firms and other professional firms understand they need to produce their own media today. Distributing content in articles and the like or issuing press releases is not enough any longer. LexBlog becomes their media partner.

Taking it another step, The LexBlog Network (LXBN) curates and highlights the best and brightest insight and commentary from the over 1,100 blogs and 8,000 contributors on our network.

LexBlog certainly doesn’t own the media on The LexBlog Network, but the value we provide our members has allowed us to establish enough of a relationship to showcase the memberships’ media.

It’s a wild world when media companies do not own media. But’s a world that exists today.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Terrell Woods

I’ll be in New York City this week for a half-day Social Media Marketing Summit for Law Firms being put on by the Business Development Institute and to visit with LexBlog Network lawyers and firms.

LexBlog is proud to be one of the sponsors of the Summit which is Tuesday, May 5, from 8 to 12:30.

Presenters and panelists include:

  • Seth Apple, President, Metro New York Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association & Business Development Manager, Davis Polk & Wardwell
  • Guy Alvarez, Chief Engagement Officer, Good2bSocial, LLC
  • Mark Cohen, Founder & CEO, Legal Mosaic, LLC
  • Daryl Drabinsky, Senior Digital Communications Manager, DLA Piper
  • Lee Garfinkle, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer of the Americas, Allen & Overy LLP
  • Judy Selby, Partner, Baker & Hostetler LLP
  • Kevin Colangelo, Vice President, Head of Strategic Accounts, Bloomberg BNA
  • Brandie Knox, Founder and CEO, Knox Design Strategy
  • Freddie Hustler, Senior Vice President, Americas, CONCEP
  • Stefanie Marine, Associate Director of Marketing Communications, Proskauer Rose LLP
  • Ivan Tsarynny, Co-Founder, Post Beyond
  • Mallory Walsh, Senior Account Executive, Relationship Science

It’s expected that 175 partners, associates, marketers, communicators, business developers, and technologists from law firms will be attending the conference. It’ll be at the Graduate Center of The City University of NY at 365 5th Avenue (at 34th) in the Elebash Auditorium.

To register, please go here. Please use the promo code lexblog to receive a discounted rate. I may also have a free pass, ping me for that.

I would welcome getting together socially or for business. I get in Sunday evening and don’t fly back to Seattle until Wednesday. My email is kevin@lexblog.com and cell, 206 321 3627.

Om Malik (@om) did a wonderful interview with Brunello Cucinelli, Italian fashion designer and chief executive of his eponymous brand, Brunello Cucinelli.

Like great interviews you leave with plenty to think about. The biggest take away for me from Cucinelli is the need to be real and authentic with your team. To treat them with dignity and respect.

… [Y]ou must be credible. Because everybody knows the problem that I’m concerned about.

……

Everything is visible, when things go well and also when they go less well. When we are sad, when we are worried, when we are happy: If you show all these different moods, then you are credible. That’s why I say this is simple.

You are told and often read how as a CEO you need to keep your feelings to yourself. That you cannot show worry, sadness and the like for fear it will spook your team.

To some extent that may be true, but at times you’re concerned, it’s your team that can help you — and the company. There’s no monopoly on good ideas and often it’s those closer to the challenges who have the solutions.

But until you’re authentic enough to tell folks you believe we can do better, how can you expect them to be authentic enough to approach you with ideas?

From Cucinelli:

You must believe in the human being, because the creativity of a company — Let’s say you have a company with 1,000 people. Maybe we were told that there are only two or three genius people in the 1,000. But I think that if you have 1,000 people, you have 1,000 geniuses. They’re just different kinds of genius and a different degree of intensity.

We hold a meeting here with all the staff every two months. Everybody takes part in it. Even the person with the humblest tasks knows exactly what was the latest shop we opened. Everything is based on esteem, and esteem then generates creativity.

I’ve gone to my team individually (quite a few more to go) and as a group over the last few weeks. I told them what I was working on. I told them where we were excelling. I told them where I was concerned. I asked for their ideas. I asked for their help. I asked them what I could do better.

I learned a lot. Their feedback and ideas will lead to improved products, service, and better overall performance of the company. As I learn to listen more and talk less, I will learn even more.

At age 60 Cucinelli told Malik he has come to appreciate the contemporary figures that left him with a different view on the world. Dostoyevsky, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Kafka, Kennedy and the Pope.

At the end of the day, all these great people, what do they focus on? Human dignity. They all talk about being custodians in the world.

As a leader of a company, almost age 60 myself, I need my team now more perhaps than when I was younger. I need to show them the dignity and respect they deserve, empower them to do great things, and be willing to be true and authentic.

Maybe it is that simple.

Today, we decided to mix things up at LexBlog and host our first-ever AMA event in our Support Center community. The event was an overwhelming success – a fast-paced hour of back and forth Q&A between us and members of the LexBlog Network.

AMA stands for “Ask Me Anything.” The acronym took hold thanks to Reddit hosting a number of AMA events as well as (very similar) “I Am A” events (often with celebrities or notable figures). For example, here’s Barack Obama’s AMA he held back when he was campaigning in 2012.

LXBN Reporter Zosha Millman suggested the AMA format in a recent brainstorming meeting. All of us immediately latched onto the idea. From there, we saw an opportunity to add a bit of loose focus to the event with the theme “Mobile” (thanks to Google’s mobilegeddon) and true to the traditional AMA format we named Director of Technology Joshua Lynch as the primary “presenter.”

I especially loved this event because even though the Support Center community is a forum available 24/7 for LexBlog Network members, this event highlighted the best part about online communities: that feeling that you’re in a fun, full room of people engaged in conversation around something shared. In our case, conversations were about mobile-first design, blogging, technology, and even where the best hikes are nearby.

I don’t know about the other participants, but I’m certainly looking forward to our next AMA event!

Image cropped. Original by Alexander Henning Drachmann via Flickr Creative Commons.

Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt), co-founder of WordPress, used to say WordPress is democratizing publishing. Mullenweg now describes WordPress as democratizing publishing and development.

Rather than WordPress serving as just a powerful content management system, WordPress is becoming an application development framework. WordPress will serve as a platform enabling developers to build whatever they need in order to deliver media.

A perfect example is StoryCorps, an organization that aims “to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives.” Featured stories will be broadcast nationally on NPR.

Per a recent post by WordPress developer and writer, Brian Krogsgard (@Krogsgard) on how StoryCorps uses WordPress:

The latest initiative for creating ways for people to share their story is via StoryCorps.me, a website and companion apps that make it easy for anyone with a smartphone to record an interview and publish it.

StoryCorps.me is built on WordPress, and utilizes the WordPress REST API to enable access to a customized content architecture. The StoryCorps app utilizes the API to consume data and publish stories from the app back to the website.

Jared Sulzdorf (@j_sulz), LexBlog’s Product Manager, shared word of Krogsgard’s post with me because of LexBlog’s current use of WordPress as a publishing platform and impending use of WordPress as a development platform.

Jared explained he’s excited about WordPress’ serving as development platform for any number of reasons, including the following examples.

  • WordPress is developing a very interesting API that turns what has historically been “just” a content management system into a framework for developing on any platform – be it a browser or phone. Moving it well beyond a blogging platform.
  • The API opens things up for deep integration with other bits of software (think about sending blog data back into Salesforce for example) and some really interesting opportunities for plugin development (a true aggregation engine for LXBN comes to mind – one that could power network sites).
  • Building a mobile app on WordPress is an amazing concept. Imagine a podcasting app that lets you interview someone, jot down a few notes, and publish a post on your blog all in one interface, without having to log in and out of twenty different services. The same goes for shooting a video. That’s the sort of world that we could be moving into with WordPress as it matures.

For you as a law firm, other professional services firm, citizen journalist or publisher this progression of WordPress is an exciting development. Companies such as a LexBlog can develop and put in your hands easy to use and effective publishing and media solutions enabling you to publish or cover events like never before.

Rather than relying on traditional media and legacy publishers to get your insight or story out, WordPress has democratized the opportunity for you to do so directly. You’ll be able to do so because WordPress has democratized the ability of companies like LexBlog to develop applications and solutions.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Tom Woodward