Steal this blog post

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I’ve had people steal my content. One guy took one of my sales letters and published it as an ebook on Amazon.

The nerve.

But once I got over the shock of someone doing that, I realized it’s nothing to worry about, or try to stop.

You shouldn’t, either.

You shouldn’t worry about anyone stealing your content or idea. If that’s something on your mind, let it go.

You’ve got better things to do.

The time and energy you might put into stopping them could be much better used creating new content and new ideas, or building on what you’ve already done.

I know this might trigger some IP practitioners, but think about it. Even if you could stop someone from stealing and using your stuff, is it really worth the effort?

Don’t take that case.

Besides, the purloiner of your content isn’t going to do as well with it as you do because it’s your baby, not there’s.

You’re writing to and for your readers. You have a relationship with them and your content resonates with them. It has your personality and style, your stories and examples, watermarked on it, and anyone who tries to pass it off as their own is going to fall flat.

Even if someone successfully passes off your stuff as their own, even if they make a fortune with your idea, so what? If you have an abundant mindset, you know there’s plenty for everyone.

If you are worried about someone stealing your content, the best thing you can do is avoid writing generic articles and posts. Write something that carries your brand.

Spend your time creating good content, not looking over your shoulder.

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Don’t write it, teach it

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Sometimes, we get stuck trying to collect our thoughts and cogently express them. If you ever suffer from that affliction, you might try something I learned from another attorney who does a lot of writing.

He suggests making an outline of key points, as you might for a slide presentation, and narrating those points as if you were teaching them.

Record and transcribe your “talk” and you’ll have the skeleton of your article, if not the entire article—at least the first draft.

I’ve tried it and like it.

It’s liberating because there’s no pressure to “write”. You just talk. Your thoughts might not yet be completely fleshed out, your words might need “fixing,” but what you say (write) should flow smoothly out of you and onto the page.

This is easier to do when you know your subject well but even if you don’t, you can quickly present the basic ideas and come back for another pass to fill in the blanks and tidy things up.

The first time I heard this, I thought it was a bit simplistic, but then I realized that the best writing, mine included, is conversational, which is no doubt what is meant when we are told to write like we talk.

Give this a try. In fact, I challenge you to do it right now with a brief blog post, article or email.

Pick a topic and a working title or email subject.

Jot down 3-5 bullet points to cover and if you have examples or stories that illustrate your points, note these too.

Grab your phone or recording device and talk your way through your points for just 5 minutes.

If you’re like me, the first time you try this, you’ll be amazed at how many words you get, and how (nearly) ready they to publish they are.

More writing ideas here

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What is quality content?

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If you can write and publish more content than your competition, you should. But while quantity might bring more traffic to your digital door, it is the quality of your content that will convert that traffic into leads and new clients.

What is quality content? It’s content that is more likely to get someone to read it and take the next step.

Here are the key elements:

  • Benefits. Especially in the headline and lead. Show the reader you have something they want; make them curious to read your post to learn more about it.
  • Specific. Specialized content from a specialist. Talk about a specific issue or problem, and the solution, and address it to a specific reader who has that problem.
  • Interesting. Don’t bore people with boring information or overwhelm them with too much of it.
  • Stories. Tell readers about people like them with problems like theirs who came to you for help and got it.
  • Conversational. Write to them, not at them. Don’t make it all about you. Ask questions to draw them into the content.
  • Easy to read. Plain language, scannable (short sentences and paragraphs, lots of white space, sub-heads, bullet points).
  • Call(s) to action. Tell them what to do next and why. Make it easy to do that by highlighting your phone number, form, or link.
  • Email opt-in form. So you can stay in touch with them and continue to market to them, because most people don’t hire a lawyer the first time they visit their site.

Those are the basics. Get these right and you get an A.

For extra credit, consider:

  • Variety. Short and long articles for those who want them.
  • Involvement devices: quizzes, questionnaires, checklists, forms.
  • Visuals: graphics, charts, videos.
  • Service-related offers. You may not have one in every post, but when you do, promote it and limit it (time, quantity) to make it more valuable and create a fear of loss.
  • Why you: They can find this in your About page, testimonials, and other pages on your site, but if you see a place to mention something compelling about you or your practice, do it.
  • Links to related content, so they can drill down and learn more.

Ultimately, you want quality and quantity. But since most of your visitors will be first-time visitors and, statistically speaking, are unlikely to return to your site, better to have 10 great posts than 100 that don’t provide a great first impression.

This will help

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Lede, follow, or go home

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If you want more people to read what you write, write a headline that flags them down as they go sailing by and “forces” them to pay attention.

Because if you don’t, they’ll won’t, and they will (probably) move on and read something else.

One way to get their attention is to write something unusual, as I did with the archaic, journalistic spelling of “lead” in the headline of this post. It makes you stop and wonder if I misspelled the word or I mean something else.

For a second or two, you’re reading and, therefore, a bit more likely to continue reading.

Remember, you can’t bore people into reading. So do something different, interesting, or fun.

But that’s not the only way to do it. You can’t go wrong promising benefits, asking a thought-provoking question, or sharing a surprising fact, statistic, or quote.

You can also win friends and influence readers by leading with a story.

People want to hear what happened to your client, your friend, your friend’s client, or you.

Your headline should be simple, make the reader curious, and give them a reason to read your first sentence. Of course, that first sentence has to be good enough to get them to read the second sentence.

You can also get attention with images and other visual elements: charts, lists, color, bullet points, sub-heads, unusual typography, and a P.S. (in a letter or email).

But while all the above is true, it’s also situational. If you’re writing to someone who knows you personally, or to your list of regular readers, to some extent, you can assume you have their attention and can get away with being clever, mysterious or weird. People who know you are probably going to read what you write because they know you and want to hear what you say.

Which is why you will find more than a few of my headlines make you question my sanity and want to see my bar card.

Just having fun. Because if it’s not fun for me, I’m pretty sure it won’t be fun for you.

And if it’s not fun, why bother?

How to write something people want to read

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The law is boring. You aren’t.

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Most people who read your content aren’t interested in hearing about the law. Not all the time, anyway, and not in as much detail as might interest another lawyer.

Keep that in mind when you fashion your next blog post, article, or video.

Give ‘em a summary, the highlights, the down-and-dirty version, because if you do more, at some point, they’ll tune out.

“Yes, but. . .” you say. “What should I write about if not my area of expertise?“

Write about the reader. Their life, their business, their industry, their niche, their local market. Write about things they are experiencing and talking about and worried about, or might be soon.

Even if there’s nary a legal issue in sight.

If a legal issue applies, mention it. Explain it (briefly). Provide advice and how-to’s, to warn them, protect them, and add value to their life or business.

But your readers are more interested in themselves, so talk mostly about them.

Of course you should also write about your actual clients, since you know them best of all. Tell their stories, their problems, their cases, and how you helped them.

Real people experiencing real problems or seeking to protect themselves from harm.

Again, mention the law if it’s applicable, but sparingly. Your readers are more interested in hearing about what happened to your clients, and what to do if the same thing happens to them.

What else?

Well, your readers also want to hear about you.

Oh yes they do. Especially if they’re thinking about hiring you or referring you. Yes, you, slayer of problems, bestower of benefits, protector of rights, friend to the friendless.

People want to know about what you do and how you do it.

Tell ‘em.

To do that effectively, you might want to start documenting what you do, so you’ll have it on hand when you need it.

Keep a journal or database and, at the end of each day, make a note about what you did, who you helped, the victories, struggles, defeats, and what you think (and feel) about it all.

Then, when you’re looking for something to write about, you can go back to your log and find something worth sharing.

You may think your account would bore your readers, because to you, it’s just another day doing more of the same. You’re too close to it, my friend. Record the days, step back, come back later, and you’ll be surprised at how interesting your days will be to your readers.

The law itself might be boring; you aren’t.

But even if your stories are as boring as dry toast, your readers will still want to hear them. Because as you tell your stories, you’re also telling your clients’ stories, and to someone who is similarly situated, those stories are endlessly fascinating.

How to write interesting stories

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The novelty effect and writing

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A writer says that when he is blocked or stuck or unmotivated to work on or finish a piece, he knows he has to come at it with fresh eyes.

One way he does that is switch to a different “word processor”—computer or phone or tablet.

I do that, too. It works.

The author thinks it is the “novelty effect” which was first discovered in the 1930s during an experiment at a factory where researchers changed the lighting levels to see if it would improve the productivity of the workers.

When they raised the lighting level, productivity went up. When they lowered the level, it also went up.

Which told them it wasn’t the lighting, it was the novelty of the changed environment.

The author says, “It almost doesn’t matter what type of change you make to your work environment — just so long as you make a change. So long as it renders your work slightly askew, you get a novelty effect.“

I agree. Our brains like novelty. It helps us focus. This is true no matter what the task, project, or goal.

If you’re stuck, change something—about the task or how you do it. Changing the place, the tools, the time of day, the order of the steps—anything different can trigger the novelty effect and help you move forward.

For writing projects, another writer has an interesting idea. He says he does all his writing “one sentence per line”.

Sentence, hit return, next sentence.

(Note, this is for his eyes only. He doesn’t publish his writing like this.)

He’s been doing it this way for 20 years and cites several benefits to writing this way.

He doesn’t specifically mention the novelty effect, but the next time I’m stuck, I’m going to try it.

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The 5-minute interview

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If you like the idea of interviewing lawyers and other people with something to say, don’t be put off by the thought that an interview will take up a lot of time because it doesn’t have to—you can do everything via email.

Including “the interview”. No need to schedule anything or talk to anyone.

Step One: Email (or call if you want to), explain that you’d like to interview them for your blog or newsletter or book, tell them why you chose them and what they get out of it, e.g., exposure, supporting a good cause, etc.

And. . . tell them everything can be done via email and should only take a few minutes of their time.

Step Two: Once they agree, send them 5 to 10 questions and provide some context about your readers—what they do, what they know, what they want to know, and why this is important to them. Thank them for helping and give them a brief window of time to reply, say, a week or so.

Generally, don’t ask yes-or-no questions or questions that invite one or two-word answers. It’s an interview, not a survey. But don’t expect them to write long, detailed answers.

On the other hand, encourage them to add any additional information or thoughts they think your readers might like to know.

Ask for their bio or a link thereto so you can properly “introduce” them. Finally, ask if they have anything they want to promote or offer to your readers.

Step Three: When they respond, do a light edit, write your post (including their intro and offer), send them a copy and thank them again. When your post appears, email a link and yes, thank them again.

Because there’s always next time.

For more about email interviews, see my book

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The problem with story telling

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I once had a client who asked me to. . .

Yeah, a story.

You probably want to hear how it goes. But I’m not going to tell you that story right now, I’m going to give you some advice about story telling.

My first piece of advice is to do it. Put stories in your articles and presentations and conversations.

People love a good story, which means they’ll be more likely to read or listen to you when you tell one. They’ll be more likely to understand and remember your story, more than your other words, and remember you as the one who shared it with them.

Facts tell. Stories sell.

Second, talk about people your reader will relate to, and tell them three things:

What did they want? What did they do? What happened?

The essence of every story ever told.

Third, use “The Goldilocks Rule”: Not too much, not too little, just right.

People love stories, but they don’t have time to read them when they are impossibly long or there are too many in your emails or blog posts.

If they wanted to read a book, they’d read a book.

Which is why most of my emails and blog posts are short and sweet and yours should be, too.

The good news is that you can tell a good story in a few sentences.

Like the time a friend asked me to sign a letter she had written to her landlord, with my name and address typed at the top and filled with typos, and when I refused and told her I would write the letter, on my letterhead, she was hurt and thought I just wanted to ‘make money off her’.

One sentence.

I need one more sentence to tell you ‘what happened’.

What happened is she dropped the subject but never forgot that I ‘refused to help her’ (the way she wanted) and our friendship was never the same after that.

Stories don’t always have a happy ending.

Anyway, I’m done telling that story. I’ve got another one to tell you, but that will have to wait until next time.

If you related to my story, maybe remembered a time a friend or client asked you to do something you didn’t want to do, I’m pretty sure you’ll come back to hear another.

Which is what your readers will do when you tell them stories. But not too many or too long.

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Playing with words

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Sometimes, I get an idea for a blog post, write it, and add a title. Sometimes, I start with a title and start writing without knowing what I want to say.

It’s all good. And sometimes, it’s a lot of fun.

The other day, I read the phrase, “Use it or lose it” which we’ve all heard a thousand times and thought I could use this as the title of a post about the value of practice and keeping your “instrument” well tuned.

I thought I might get a good article out of it. But I’m weird.

When I see a phrase like “Use it or lose it,” I play with the words. I turn them around, mix and match them with other words, punch the sentence in the face, kick it in the groin, and see what happens.

Sometimes nothing happens. Sometimes, something interesting emerges and I use it.

In this case, I turned “Use it or lose it” into “Lose it or use it” and wrote about “losing” bad habits so you don’t use them and make bad things happen like alienating your clients.

And I got a pretty good article out of it. Arguably better than what I would have written had I stuck with the original meaning of the words.

If you’d like to add a creative spark to your writing, consider playing with your words. It can help you look at things differently and generate ideas you might never have thought of.

Try it. Go find a quote, aphorism, song or movie title, or other pop culture reference, and give it a poke in the eye. Twist and turn it and see what you come up.

If nothing else, you’ll come up with something original that people will notice and remember.

It works especially well when you start with something well known. Your readers will recognize something familiar in your title and be curious. Is this a typo? Is something missing? What’s this all about?

And read your article to find out.

If so, mission accomplished.

Email Marketing for Attorneys

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Murder your darlings

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Relax, it’s a literary metaphor, suggesting that when you edit your writing you cut out some of your best passages, your ‘darlings,‘ to leave room for the even better ones.

Make your writing lean by removing the fat.

That’s good advice for everything we do. A romantic version of the Pareto Principle (aka, The 80/20 Rule)—prioritizing the “precious few” over the “trivial many”.

If you’re like me, things often take longer than they need to. Projects that might be completed in a weekend are still in the planning stages weeks or months down the road.

Sometimes, it is our inner perfectionist bedeviling us. Yeah, we should murder him, too.

But it might simply be we have too much on our plate.

The simple solution—do less.

When doing research, focus on the key cases and arguments. Give yourself two hours to distill the essentials, not two weeks to categorize the entire library.

With tasks and projects, choose a few (at a time) and put the rest on the back burner.

Use fewer tools or systems to do the job and don’t get seduced by productivity porn.

When we have fewer options, fewer things going on in our life, we can focus on the precious few and do them well.

We can accomplish more and have plenty of time to attend our darlings’ funeral.

If you only use one marketing strategy, make it this

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