~ Archive for Communication Tips ~

Important Basics for Your Content Marketing Strategy

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I just read a great blog post by Hinge Marketing’s Professional Marketing Blog, Rethinking Thought Leadership: 7 Tips for Gaining New Clients. It nicely describes how professionals should approach writing for their website, blog, etc. I’ve been telling my clients the same basic things for years, and thought this post might help reinforce the points — so, I shared the link with them. And now, I am sharing it here. I especially like tip #3, because this is where you can really add value and differentiate yourself by speaking the client’s language instead of the esoteric language of your profession.

The first 3 tips are below. Click here to read the rest.

1. Thought leadership should not be aimed at impressing your peers. While it may feel good to be the most clever tax attorney or the sharpest programmer, it will likely do little to generate new business for your firm.

2. It’s much more productive to impress potential clients. Potential clients are just that, potential clients. They are the appropriate targets for a thought leadership strategy.

3. Potential clients are impressed by the ability to explain a complicated topic simply. Making an already complicated topic more complicated doesn’t help. Even though you are impressed by your understanding of a topic’s subtleties and nuances, many readers will get that glassy-eyed look and stop reading.

Thank you to Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D. for writing this.

Putting the Power of the Press To Work for Your Law Firm or Business

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“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”
A. J. Liebling

The web turns everyone and every business into a publisher. And your website is your press. Now, you have the freedom and the power to decide what is “news” for your business, organization or firm, and you have the power to publish it on your own website. Writing press releases for the traditional mass media requires you to meet their standards for what is newsworthy based on their editorial requirements and readership, their audience. But now, because you own a website, you too are a media outlet and you can decide what is newsworthy (read relevant) to your audience (read customers). You decide what is news. So, while you may still write press releases for the local or trade press, don’t forget to be writing them for your own corporate press — your website.

Things that can qualify for web news items for law firms and other professional services firms can include the following:

  • New hires
  • Awards and achievements of individuals
  • Awards and achievements of the firm
  • Done deals
  • Significant court decisions
  • An attorney speaking at an upcoming event on a specific topic
  • An attorney quoted in the mainstream press, or industry-specific trade press
  • New services offered by your firm
  • A seminar or workshop offered by your firm
  • Special appointments of attorneys to boards or panels
  • Attorney receives new credential, office
  • Firm opens new office, branch
  • Launch of new white paper
  • Launch of new blog
  • Launch of any other new customer-focused information product or tool
  • and more!

I am often surprised when I visit a client and in conversation will find out that, let’s say, Attorney Smith was interviewed on local television about the changes to the tax law. I’ll then say, “Well that should be on the website! Let’s see if we can get the video and we’ll do a brief news item for the website.” Sometimes you are so close to the news that you forget to think of it as news. Remember that often the things that create a bit of buzz around the office, are the things that you want to include in your site’s News section.

Keep this rule of thumb in mind when deciding what is news. Ask yourself, will putting something about this on our website help to better demonstrate to clients and prospective clients who we are, what we do, and position us in our areas of expertise? If the answer is yes, then go for it.

Content for SEO, Simplified

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Click on graphic for larger version. Enjoy!

Brafton's Infographic: Why Content for SEO?

Communication Tip: Fight Capitalization Creep

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Do your firm’s communications suffer from capitalization creep? It’s an insidious virus that infects the writing of many a professional — lawyers chief among them — resulting in an over abundance of capitalized words on a page. Legal contract writing encourages this behavior of capitalizing words as a way to personify or make them formal subjects of a document. Writers will often capitalize a word to give it extra importance. But don’t allow that logic to creep into your marketing writing.

A handy weapon in the fight against capitalization creep in your firm’s public facing communications is a style guide. You can develop your own in-house style guide as a way to define a preferred usage for firm-authored articles, web bios and marketing materials. If you don’t have a style guide, the AP Stylebook is a great place to start. You can either use it verbatim, or you can use it as your base guide and make exceptions or additions to it over time. (The AP Stylebook is one of my favorite reference books of all time.)

A Style Guide To the Rescue

A style guide is helpful not only to keep everyone on the same page using consistent style, but it is also great support when you need to tell a specific attorney why you keep lower-casing his or her capitalized terms.

It can sometimes be difficult especially for a younger professional to tell a senior attorney that his “Fellow” should be a “fellow” or that her “Chair” should be a “chair.” However, a nicely worded e-mail stating that you’ve made the following edits to the article “to maintain consistency with the rest of the web site and to adhere to AP style” almost always gets your point across and accepted.

Another good reason to limit capitalization: It’s much easier to read a sentence or paragraph that isn’t fraught with capitalized words. Lots of capitalized words make a paragraph clunky and slow down reading.

One big trouble area especially when preparing attorney bios is titles. Formal titles are capitalized when used immediately before a name, not when they are used alone or separated from the name by commas.

Common Capitalization Creep Culprits

Here are a few examples of the most common types of phrases I find myself editing (de-capitating)…

  • He is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Brown Company.
    He is chairman of the board of directors of Brown Company.
  • Mary is Editor in Chief of the Technology News Quarterly, and a Contributing Writer to several IP Newsletters.
    Mary is editor in chief of the Technology News Quarterly, and a contributing writer to several IP newsletters.
  • He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Ceramics and a Master of Science degree in Chemistry.
    He has a B.A. in ceramics and an M.S. in chemistry.

Capitalization is just one battle you will win armed with the AP Stylebook. It’s a great reference for any communicator and solves any moments of indecision you may encounter on the job. The Associated Press also has an online version of the guide that you can use with a site license and customize to define your firm’s or organization’s specific style preferences.

Attention Boston-area Nonprofits: Win a Free Web Site Makeover!

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If you know of a good nonprofit organization in Boston with a bad web site, then please tell them about Extreme Markover, an effort to give away one free web site redesign to a Boston-area nonprofit.

Extreme Markover is a partnership of the World Organization of Webmasters (WOW), a not-for-profit professional association that provides education and support for web professionals; Web Design World, a web-design conference that takes place at the Westin Copley on December 8-10; and Bizland, a website-hosting company.

I attend Web Design World each year and can vouch for the quality of their presenters and experts and the leadership they provide in the web design world (hey, no pun intended!).

Here’s more information on the free redesign from the official press release.

“We’re calling it the Extreme Markover,” said Bill Cullifer, executive director of WOW, “and our goal is to provide a deserving non-profit organization with a website that showcases today’s best design practices, which is exactly what WOW and the Web Design World conference strive to teach.”

Boston-area nonprofit organizations are invited to submit their existing site for consideration by going to the Extreme Markover site (www.extrememarkover.org). A panel including some of the world’s top web designers will review the sites and choose one for the makeover. Selected WOW members will then implement the design, and designers everywhere can follow along through frequent podcast interviews, tutorial articles, and more.

The deadline for submissions is Monday, November 24.

48 Tips for Better Writing, Reporting

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Valuable footprints from this month’s National Writers Workshop in Hartford, Connecticut have been left on this Poynteronline blog, 48 Tips in 48 Hours, a collection of practical reporting and writing ideas. Even if you’re not a reporter with a beat, many of these tips are applicable to many kinds of writing and general business situations. A few of my favorites:

  • #7: Keep it simple… (click through to read more)
  • #23: Write a killer lead…
  • #21: Rewrite the lead… and the whole damn thing…
  • #26: Be the expert…
  • #40: Ask yourself why do my readers care about this topic now?

How People “Read” on the Web

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I participated in a focus group with a client recently, which among other things, studied the way people use the web to find specific information. It was a good reminder that no matter how sophisticated we get using computers and search engines, web sites and web marketing strategies need to be designed carefully for those who spend milliseconds looking (not reading, but looking) for information. It sent me back to Jakob Nielsen’s useit.com, the bible of web usability, which is where this F-pattern “heat map” of how people “read” on the web came from. If you want to understand web user behavoir, this is a must read: F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content. See more at Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox.

Are Republicans Better Brand Managers?

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Marketers and politicians alike can take a lesson from Republicans on how to “frame” an issue, debate or person using just a few words. This article from UCBerkeley News, Linguistics professor George Lakoff dissects the “war on terror” and other conservative catchphrases, shows how the Republicans are masters of using language. As a student of marketing, I’ve always wondered why the Democrats have not had more success telling their story and “branding” their party or candidates. (And been amazed at the success of the Republican party to “define” certain phrases… such as Bush 1′s ability to take a nice word like liberal and turn it into a dirty word like the “L” word.) Lakoff does a great job explaining how it works and how progressives need to learn how to start talking. At the bottom of the article are links to more on this topic, including this one: Framing the Dems, How conservatives control political debate and how progressives can take it back.

This article also shines a giant spotlight on the media conglomeration problem and the danger of combining the power of words with the power of a concentrated media. See Outfoxed (Quicktime) or Outfoxed (WindowsMedia) if you haven’t already.

“Power Writing” Tips

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Boston Women’s Business has published my top five “power writing” tips for business. The article is a shortened version of Power Writing in the Age of Spam posted on my web site, which stresses the importance of writing with clarity and authority in an age of electronic publishing and information overload — all part of a book project in the works.

Good Resource for MarComm

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I recently signed up for Harvard B School’s free companion e-newsletter to its Working Knowledge web site. This week’s issue had a couple interesting items for marketing communications buffs.

1. Speechwriting Under the Gun -
It doesnt matter to your audience if you have ten days or ten minutes to write a speech. You still must deliver. Here are tips for speeding your speech prep.

2. Ad*Access and The Emergence of Advertising in America -
A database of advertisements from 1911 to 1955. (This link brings you to a page of recommended web sites in addition to the Ad*Access Site.)

Visit the site, sign up for the e-newsletter. Both are excellent examples of giving away “information of value” to gain exposure, showcase expertise, build awareness and strengthen brand. Beyond that, the editorial is set up to trigger sales of products and encourage additional viral marketing.

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