Law360 (June 23, 2020, 5:56 PM EDT) --
The perfect law firm alert grabs the reader's attention by being well-written, succinct, and to the point. It provides some personalization and delivers a fantastic reason to hire the firm that sent the alert.
In normal times, we all receive many law firm alerts on a variety of topics. Today, however, I suspect your inbox is overwhelmed.
In the past weeks, as lawyers have had more time to write, alerts have increased massively. Based on what I've seen, a lot of these alerts fail to capture readers and deliver new business.
So what should firm leaders be asking to create the perfect alert?
Law firm leaders must ask several, perhaps obvious and simple, questions and seek answers about alert effectiveness.
- How much time is spent writing and editing alerts? Who are they written for, reader or the writer? Are they read by and helpful to clients or potential clients?
- Are they thought leadership pieces that position lawyer expertise and advance or position firm brand? Which topics have and which topics have not driven new business?
- Is there a firmwide alert plan, with a rolling schedule for most of the year, including topics, distribution targets and dates?
- Following the pandemic and protests, what is the firm's new, up-to-date ubiquitous selling proposition and is it messaged in all its alerts? How do your alerts differentiate you from peers in content and style?
- Do you have analytic tools to determine effectiveness? Did readers pass on your alerts to others? Is material being reused in multiple postings involving several partners?
- Who has the responsibility to read and bless alerts? Is there a process for suggesting alerts before they are written? Do those responsible have real expertise in business development writing and the clout to edit or reject alerts from partners?
These are some questions law firm leaders should be tackling concerning alerts.
We conducted informal conversations regarding law firm alerts with 22 chief corporate counsels — 19 from companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, and three from large private corporations. Some were clients or former clients. Also, I made some new contacts and friends along the way.
Several factors stood out in our conversations. Coupling them with my own experience, following are some thoughts.
Nine Tips for Crafting the Perfect Law Firm Alert
Consider the topic.
Is the topic relevant to current news, trends, geography and client base? Has the same information been overwritten by other firms? What new ideas — or new angles — are you suggesting that others have not written about? That's how you differentiate the lawyer and the firm.
Engage the reader.
Alerts should begin with two crisp, clear and catchy sentences that would serve as the headline. Not three sentences. Not four sentences. This headline captures the reader.
Summaries should be at the beginning and should not exceed 50 words. Importantly, state why the alert will interest the reader, not why it is important to the writer or the firm. The content should engage readers, not encourage them to quickly press their delete button.
Target your audience.
Everyone on your distribution list should not receive every alert. Otherwise, alerts will be captured by spam filters.
Alerts should target those interested by subject, not by title, and by survey request. Send alerts to those frequently quoted in media on that subject, as well as those in media who cover that content.
Write an alert, not a brief.
Write in simple English, not language you would use to write briefs. Write alerts as if you are speaking to freshman college students. That keeps language easy to read and provides opportunity to think.
If readers see you have new ideas, they will pass it on for discussion or possible engagement. If that is accomplished, it might be a perfect alert — and also show how smart you are.
Write once and repurpose many times.
Every document today should have multiple uses. Content must be summarized for the medium or platform it is posted on.
For example, if posted on LinkedIn or other platforms, the post should be, importantly, two crisp, clear, catchy sentences about the alert that the reader will find interesting, and then link to the document on your website. Do not post the document itself across all media.
We now live in a Twitter world of 280 characters — simple, direct, to the point. Yet, many lawyers are still writing 2,800 words as one paragraph that covers several pages.
The full alert should be less than 500 words. You could write 8,000 words for an alert, but no one might read it.
Seize the reader's eyes and ears.
A photo is worth 1,000 words. However, a video is worth 1 million words.
Few firms provide photos or colorful graphs in alerts. Fewer post videos. They are essential for firms to attract attention, differentiate themselves, and seize the readers' eyes and ears.
Videos deliver personalization emphasizing points written in alerts. But a single video should not exceed 45 seconds and should enunciate one, perhaps two, of the most important points in the alert. Writer photo is OK if it is current and reflects the dress culture at the firm.
Few firms include simple checklists with their alerts. Incorporate three, four or even five key steps clients need to consider in relation to the issue discussed.
You have time to write, but how many clients did you email or call for candid feedback before or after you published? Probably none, or perhaps just one? Feedback will improve your next piece, which, unless it is absolutely vital, will not distribute in the next day or week.
With corporations cutting costs, slimming down the number of firms they engage and seeking better value, achieving the perfect law firm alert is critical. Alerts should build brand, develop new relationships and achieve new assignments. Firms should therefore consider whether their alerts are really delivering what clients want, seeking help from an outside governor if required.
P.S. This article is a bit more than 1,000 words, but it is not an alert. Different rules for different channels.
Richard Torrenzano is chief executive at The Torrenzano Group.
The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.
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