Avoid waffle: How to create engaging website content for your law firm
As a survivor of two law firm merger website projects, I've spent a lot of time looking at law firm websites. Far too much to be healthy in fact. It has, however, given me good insight into the types of content that law firms employ to sell their firms, people and practices.
I'm going to start with a brief classification of two types of online content. Evergreen and Current. Evergreen content is content that doesn't change regularly, but remains relevant to a visitor. This could be 'about' content, information on corporate responsibility, or the core messaging for a practice group or sector. Current content tends to be updated or refreshed regularly, track news, current affairs, or change in a sector or market, and is likely to draw visitors into your site.
It is widely recognised that websites will hold these two types of content in varying proportions, but I've taken this a step further by splitting the content into five sub-categories and applying them in the context of law firm websites.
Five types of content used in law firm websites:
- Shouty, shouty promo content
"We aren't just lawyers, we're rolex-wearing, ferrari-driving, gold plated lawyers. We can handle all your most expensive work because we are the best at what we do. Find out how we can spend your money, NOW!"
This kind of content is brash and unsophisticated, and although the kind of firms using this style of content marketing tend to appeal to the demographic likely to use their services, for everyone else it's an instant turn-off.
- Knowledge-led content
"Our lawyers are instrumental in driving/guiding/drafting in this area of law, they regularly blog on the latest themes and topics and have their fingers on the pulse."
Sure, your lawyers write chapters, draft legislation, and fire out publications regularly, but so do a hundred other law firms. What makes your knowledge different? Is it first to market? Is it straight from the horse's mouth? Is it from a client's perspective? This content needs to have clear calls-to-action as visitors from search engines/RSS feeds are likely to have a specific interest in keeping up-to-date with the subject matter.
- Benefits-led content
"Your sector has a number of significant challenges to profitable business, including excessive regulation, and increasingly litigious customers. Our lawyers work with a number of organisations in your sector to manage their business risk and effectively lobby on their behalf."
The benefits-led approach puts the visitor at the heart of the content and empathises with their specific needs. It answers the 'do you understand the challenges facing my business' question, which is one of the first boxes to be ticked in panel pitch firm research, and being able to articulate this in a short paragraph online is beneficial to time-poor legal counsel or procurement teams.
- Rankings-led content
"Our team is recognised in the Top Tier for the work we do."
As part of a balanced content set, rankings and awards go a long way to support a firm's positioning, as do testimonials and other sound-bite-type devices. However, leading with ranking and award content can do more harm than good, especially if it is superficial or lacks credibility in the example of awards being accredited by less well-known or respected organisations.
- Experience-led content
"Our lawyers have extensive experience of solving problems like yours, for organisations like yours."
Matching your experience to your client's needs is a powerful way of engaging with them. It tells the story in their words and both sells the firm, and reassures them they will be in safe hands. This goes hand-in-hand with benefits-led content and puts the visitor first.
Ok, so there is a sixth (and sadly more common than you'd think) content type.
- Generic, non-differentiated content
"We are organised in strong sector-led teams and spend time getting to know our clients business which helps us give sound, commercial advice."
Waffle. And instantly forgettable. While it is difficult to cut this kind of content out completely (we need to use some content to describe our culture, way of doing business, approach to client relationships etc.) it is tedious to intro one of your main web properties with it.
What many firms fail to convey on their websites is a strong positioning statement and, even more so, they fail to continue the foundations of that brand positioning across multiple practice areas. There is a tendency to go to one extreme (no consistency between practice content and intended firmwide positioning) or the other (generic messaging across all practices). There is a careful balance to strike, and can only be done with strong governance and a clear understanding that the firm website is not a personal vanity project, but rather the most visible channel a firm has to inform, engage, and drive action from, visitors.
What content types do you use on your website? Are there any that I've missed? Use the comments section below to let me know your thoughts.