Looking for ideas for your newsletter or blog? Here are 3 places to find them

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Where do you find ideas for writing interesting and relevant posts your clients and prospects look forward to reading?

Here are 3 “can’t fail” places:

1) Books

I know, you already read plenty. But if you only read about the law, or you only read short articles you find online, you’re missing out on an opportunity to create superlative content.

Read more books and talk about the ideas you learn.

Read history, philosophy, and books about business (even if you target consumers). Read books about important subjects, written by smart and accomplished people with interesting information and stories.

If it interests you, it will interest many of your readers.

Entrepreneur Patrick Collison said, “You could try to pound your head against the wall and think of original ideas or you can cheat by reading them in books.”

2) Posts written by your colleagues

Other lawyers are writing about subjects that interest their clients and prospects. There’s a good chance those same subjects will interest yours.

Read the blogs and newsletters written by professionals in your niche. Read what lawyers, accountants, consultants, and other experts are writing about and use their ideas to create your own content.

If you handle estate planning, read blogs written by other estate planners, even in other jurisdictions. Read tax experts, divorce lawyers, financial planners and others who sell to or advise the people you target.

Agree or disagree with them, amplify their article with examples from your own experience, quote them and link to them if you want, or simply use their idea as a starting point to share your own thoughts on the subject.

3) News about your target market

What’s going on in your target market and with the people in it? What are people talking about, complaining about or celebrating?

Report on trends in the market, predictions, and news. Which company or industry is in an upswing, which one is having trouble? What’s expected to happen next month or next year?

Share information and ideas on consumer issues, e.g., taxes, insurance, credit, debt, etc. If you target business clients, talk about avoiding lawsuits, protecting assets, increasing productivity and profits, and bringing in more business.

Identify prominent people in the market and write about them, interview them, review their books and profile their companies, products and services.

Share news and helpful and interesting information people want to know.

3 simple ways to get ideas for content your readers want to read.

Want more ideas? Get my email marketing course

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Back phrasing and negative space in writing

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In music, “back phrasing” is when “a singer intentionally sings in front of the beat (or behind it–“front phrasing”). I’m told that Willie Nelson does this effectively, as do many jazz artists.

The purpose is to create “negative space,” which ostensibly gives the ear a place to rest or surprises the listener with notes or timing that defy expectations.

It’s attractive because it sounds different. More complex. More interesting.

Negative space is also used in art, architecture, and other visual mediums.

Basically, negative space is the opposite of positive space. When our ears or eyes or brains expect something to be present–a sound, an image or a physical form–and it is not there, it draws our attention.

Negative space is also used in writing.

You can make your writing more interesting by omitting words, or using unexpected words or phrases, or by changing the “normal” flow of the message.

Like this.

Or. . .

THIS.

And by using other visual ornaments the reader doesn’t expect, like bold, CAPS, and other choices (e.g., varying the length of sentences and paragraphs, using slang).

You’ll see me use unexpected words or examples, and throw in the occasional cuss word (or simulated cuss word), to provide visual and auditory interest (auditory because we “hear” the words in our head).

It’s all about doing something the reader doesn’t expect.

Because the opposite is boring.

Boring works in the world of law or commerce. But “interesting” works better because readers are pulled into the writing.

There’s an art to doing it right. Overdo it and some readers will be repelled.

To get it right takes practice. Start by changing up the pattern of your writing. Use an occasional one- or two-word sentence. Turn statements into questions, to engage the reader in the “conversation” you’re having with them on paper.

Does that make sense? (Yeah, like that.)

I started doing this in my demand letters. I loosened up and had fun with them, staying professional but not nearly so formal.

And now, I do it in my newsletter and blog.

Try it. You’ll like it. So will your readers.

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What topic could you be interviewed about for 30 minutes with zero preparation?

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This was a headline for an ad I saw on social media. It’s a good headline and a good question for those who want to create more content to use in their marketing.

Which is something every lawyer should do.

My challenge to you is to answer that question and then turn your knowledge into a short presentation, a long article or blog post, or a series of emails for your newsletter.

Because people want to know what you know.

When you share your knowledge this way, they’ll want to ask you about their specific situation and hire you to help them.

Put your content online and it will live there forever, bringing you clients for years to come.

An easy way to do this is to have a friend interview you about your subject. Give them some starter questions to ask you and have at it.

Or, interview yourself.

Record yourself speaking about the subject for 30 minutes, transcribe the recording, and you’ll have a valuable piece of content. Or at least the first draft.

Or, keep talking for another 30 minutes and you’ll have enough for a short book.

One thing I can tell you, if you know your subject, the time will go quickly. 30 minutes will feel like 5. Which means you’ll have the rest of the day to talk on another topic people want to know.

My ebook, The Easy Way to Write a Book, shows you everything you need to know

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What ancient Egyptian sounded like and how we know

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Last night I watched a video with the above title. I don’t have a particular interest in the subject; the title caught my eye and made me curious.

Like you would be if you were about to witness the opening of a pyramid for the first time.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything about the subject because it was late and I fell asleep a few minutes after the video began. I woke up and trundled off to bed, but not before recording the title on my phone.

I did this because I collect good titles and headlines. You should, too.

They provide a template of sorts that we can use to write headlines and titles for our blog posts, articles, emails, and books.

Headlines that make people curious to read more.

If you’re a PI lawyer, for example, the title of this video might prompt you to write a blog post with the title, “How much is my case worth and how do you know?”

That’s something clients and prospects frequently ask, isn’t it?

Hopefully, people won’t fall asleep once they start reading your post, or turn the page because you failed to deliver on the promise of your title.

In other words, don’t write clickbait-y titles. That’s a surefire way to alienate people.

So, while you obviously can’t tell anyone what their case is worth in advance, make sure you provide enough information in your post so the reader feels like you didn’t lie to them.

And, when a clickbait-y title gets your attention and makes you curious, add it to your collection. It may prompt you to write a headline that promises something you can actually deliver.

How to write headlines and titles that get more referrals

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You already said that

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In one of his newsletters, legendary copywriter Gary Halbert tells a story about a reader who urged him to re-read a newsletter he’d written nearly a decade earlier. When he did, he found that the earlier newsletter was “almost word-for-word the same” as his latest.

Oops? Not at all. Halbert said, “. . .what I wrote almost ten years ago is as accurate and important today… as… it was back then.”

He added:

“It Is More Important To Be Reminded Of “Core Fundamentals” Than To Be Dazzled With Some New Piece Of Contemporary Creativity!”

For those of us who write newsletters and blogs and other content, the takeaway is clear. It’s okay to say things you’ve said before.

In fact, it’s a good thing. Here’s why:

  • You continually have new subscribers and followers, reading you for the first time.
  • Most people don’t read everything you write.
  • Most people don’t remember what you said before.
  • Some people may not have needed to hear your message before but very much need to hear it now.
  • You may repeat the basic points but use a different headline, lead, examples, stories, or quotes. You may say it more persuasively or make it more memorable.
  • Some people need to hear it again (and again) before they’re willing to do something about it.

If what you say is important, if you’re writing about “core fundamentals,” the best thing you can do for your readers is to write about it often.

So don’t worry about repeating yourself. Say what you want to say, as often as you want to say it. (Just don’t make it boring.)

And, on those days when you can’t think of anything to write about, find something you wrote about before and write about it again.

The core fundamentals of a lawyer’s newsletter

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2 things you need to know before your next paper or presentation

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You’re working on a presentation, paper, article, brief or book. You’re about to have a conversation with a client or prospect, negotiate a contract or address a jury. You’re writing an email for your newsletter or to someone you’d like to meet.

Any time you have a message to communicate, there are two things you need to know first:

  1. Your audience.

Who are they and what do you know about them and their situation? What’s important to them? What do they already know about you and your subject? How will they benefit from reading or listening to your message?

  1. Your purpose.

Why are you writing to or speaking with them? What do you want them to know? Why is this important? What do you want them to do after they read or listen to your message?

Give this some thought, make some notes, and then distill this information into a single sentence:

“As a result of my [talk, paper, email, etc.], they will understand [this] and respond by doing [this].”

For example:

“After reading my [email/blog post/article], they will understand the benefits for [updating their estate planning/corporate documents and the problems that can occur if they don’t], and respond by [making an appointment].”

Answering these questions before you write or speak will help you create a more effective message and make it more likely you’ll get the response you want.

[Based on this article about writing a better speech]

How to build your practice with email

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Don’t know what to write about? Here’s what to do

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When you’re out of ideas to write about in your blog or newsletter, there’s no need to panic.

You can write about almost anything.

Let’s say you’re in the market for a new computer. You’ve looked at the options, compared brands, found answers to lots of questions, and made some decisions. You may have ruled out certain brands or operating systems or options. You may have chosen your next machine.

Why not write about that?

Share the story of your quest–what you went through, what you discovered, what you decided and why. And. . .

. . .use that story as an analogy for hiring an attorney.

Tell readers what to look for in an attorney, the questions to ask and the answers they should hear.

Tell them the pros and cons of different types of attorneys or different services; explain the must-haves and the nice-to-haves.

Tell them what they need to know and do to make a good “purchase” and the problems they may have if they don’t.

Show readers you understand what they want and guide them to taking the next step.

You might end your post by telling them you’re happy with your choice of computer and relieved the hunt is over and you can get back to work, because that’s what readers want in their hunt for an attorney.

Look at what’s happening in your practice or personal life. The odds are there’s something you can use in your next post.

I’ve written posts about my cats, shopping with my wife, hiring service people for our home, stories about cases and clients, things I see online, things I see on my walk, and much more.

You can, too.

You don’t need to write more than a few sentences about your experience, a question someone asked you, a video you saw, or a thought that crossed your mind.

You can write about almost anything.

How to write emails that bring in repeat business and referrals

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How much, how often?

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Information overload is clearly a thing.

According to a 2014 study by UC San Diego, each day we spend an average of 11.8 hours consuming media on our devices, the equivalent of 174 full newspaper’s worth of information.

That’s approximately 113,000 words per day, and this is increasing 2.4% each year.

So it’s not surprising to hear many people tell those of us who write a blog or a newsletter or produce videos or other content to cut back.

But I’m not cutting back and neither should you.

Because we have people with problems that need solving or goals they wish to achieve, and the information we send them helps begin the process.

So, let other people cut back. Not us.

When you send out valuable and/or interesting information that educates clients and prospects about their problems and the available solutions, you give them hope for a better future.

And you can’t do that too much or too often.

Where many marketers go wrong, however, is by sending out information that’s not helpful or interesting, so people stop reading it and forget your name.

Which doesn’t help anyone.

The message is simple. Write something people want to read and send it often, because you don’t know how many times they need to be reminded that you have the solutions they seek, or when they’ll be ready to take the next step.

How to write content people want to read

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Ten tips for writing faster

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I’ll keep this short (which is my first tip for writing faster).

Most of my posts are a few hundred words. You don’t need more than that to get my point, and I don’t want to write more than that to make it.

So there.

  1. Lower your standards. You’re not writing literature. Tell people what you want to tell them, do a quick edit, and get on with your day.
  2. Keep a well-stocked supply of ideas. For me, deciding what I want to say takes a lot longer than actually saying it.
  3. Avoid (most) research. Write what you know.
  4. Write (something) every day. You’ll get faster and better.
  5. Schedule it. Decide when you want to write and put the time on your calendar. You’ll train your brain to accept that it’s time to write, making it more likely that the words will start flowing.
  6. Time it. Give yourself 15 minutes to write a first draft. (30 minutes if you must.)
  7. Learn to type faster. You can practice here
  8. Dictate. You speak several times faster than you can type and you can do it anywhere. Editing takes longer, though.
  9. Re-cycle. Most of your readers haven’t read or don’t remember what you wrote on the subject last year so write about it again this year.

Still think you can’t write a weekly newsletter or blog post?

Think again.

How to (quickly) write an email newsletter clients want to read

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When it comes to writing, law school messed us up

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We present the facts. We present the law. We argue our side, or both sides, and report what happened.

That works when you’re briefing cases, but if your blog and newsletter readers wanted to learn the law, they would have gone to law school.

So, you tell stories. And that helps. You write about what your client said or did. And how they felt.

You talk about how they were scared and worried. How they tossed and turned the night before court. How they gave you a big hug after they won.

But what about you?

How did you feel?

Did the case make you tear your hair out? Did the outcome make you smile ear to ear? Did you have tears in your eyes when the client said you saved his life?

Attorneys rarely talk about their feelings. In fact, it seems we usually go out of our way to hide them, perhaps thinking they make us look weak.

Not so.

When we share our feelings, it humanizes us and endears us to our readers and listeners, clients and colleagues. It shows that we care about what we do, and the people for whom we do it.

Have you ever had a client who made you so angry you wanted to throw their file at them? I remember one such client in particular who, in the middle of mediation, on a case that should have settled, changed her mind about what she’d previously told me she would accept.

Okay, that happens, But then, in front of the mediator, she blamed me for not getting her what she wanted, and told me I didn’t know how to do my job.

What? Where did this come from?

I suggested she find another attorney, she did, and life went on. But today, decades later, I still remember her name.

Something tells me you can relate.

Want more referrals? Here’s how to get them

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