When done right, a blog can be a living, detailed entity that represents you to the world. When done wrong, a blog can be a chore, an unwelcome expense that produces little return on your effort, or even an ethical minefield. The difference lies in how well you implement fundamental policies.
Policies on purpose
Blogs must be considered in light of your entire strategy for reaching your target market, not as isolated productions. Achieving that requires policies to define a blog’s purpose, including the following:
• Create a profile of your ideal client who will give you the kind of work that you want, and develop a marketing strategy that focuses on that target, not on everyone.
• Make sure that your blog supports your market and your strategy. If your target market still consists of consumers who do not regularly search the web, then blogging, while still a worthwhile endeavor, may take a back seat to other marketing efforts for now.
• Prepare your blog postings to visualize and address your market, so that recipients will learn what your value is and why they need you.
• Express your knowledge and opinion in your practice area. Remember: The goal is business development; this is not a personal journal.
• Write your blog posts with the intention of carrying on a conversation with your ideal client whom you can’t meet face-to-face. Be informal and conversational, and show that you have something meaningful to say.
Policies on technology
There’s no getting around the fact that blogs require some technological expertise. However, you can keep the technology cost-manageable.
• Don’t go for the high-end software if you don’t need it. Purchase inexpensive, easy-to-use programs if you want to do blog posts yourself.
• Avoid fancy graphics and complex navigation. Blog posts should be in chronological order, with the most recent first. If you want to archive your older posts, group them into categories.
• Create links from your blog to your website to improve your website’s standing in the search engines.
• Link your blog to other blogs and encourage bloggers to link to you. External linkage is another key driver of search engine rankings.
• Consider hiring someone to manage the technical aspects of your blog: posting your content, tracking replies to posts, and working on search engine optimization. The expense may be far less than the time you would spend in updating and managing the blog yourself.
Policies on expense and time
Making frequent posts and answering dozens, or hundreds, of email comments can take time and cost money. To be sure the expense is worth it, implement the following policies:
• Follow up on your blogging, both by responding to inquiries and incorporating your posted material into articles, speeches, client updates, etc.
• Incorporate blogging into your daily professional routine. Occasional posts are simply not effective; you must keep content fresh.
• Leverage the efforts of others. If you use a ghostwriter or have staff members do research, incorporate their efforts into your blog content to free more of your time to do what you do best: practice law.
Policies on professional responsibility
Lawyers are traditionally governed by the rules of professional conduct. When you have a blog, you may be governed by many more jurisdictions, i.e., those where your readers are located. That means that you must have policies in place to avoid ethical snares.
• Avoid openly giving advice and soliciting clients.
• Maintain the final responsibility for your blog’s content.
• Remember: A blog is a public forum, open to all. An online criticism of an expert witness or an adversary in a current case could become an ex parte communication if the judge hearing the case reads your criticism.
Edward Poll is the principal of LawBiz Management. He coaches lawyers and is the creator of “Life After Law,” a program that helps attorneys plan for profitable exits. He can be contacted at email@example.com.