5 tips for writing quicker blog posts and newsletters

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Notice the word “tips” in the title of this post? I recently said I rarely use that word to describe things I write because it suggests something common and of lesser value. I’m using it here to illustrate that there are exceptions.

It’s okay to use the word when you’re sharing quick ideas, short bits of information, a list of resources or recommendations.

It’s also okay to use the word because you want to.

But always consider when you might use a more powerful alternative.

Today, I’m using the word because it fits this article—simple practices that allow you to write brief articles in less time.

As you know, I write an article every weekday. Here’s how I do it:

  1. No research. Write from your knowledge and experience, from something in your notes or files, something you read, watched, observed, or thought.
  2. Collect ideas. Set up a file and save articles, notes, observations, quotes, and fleeting ideas you find or think of throughout your day. When you have hundreds of ideas at your fingertips, you never want for something to write about.
  3. Choose your topic the night before. Your subconscious mind will “work” on the idea overnight and the next day, you won’t have to decide what to write. You can sit down and write it.
  4. Short and simple. A few paragraphs are fine. A few hundred words are plenty. Don’t obsess over images, SEO, link building, or formatting.
  5. Watch the time. Give yourself 20 or 30 minutes to finish (at least the first draft). Train yourself to write, publish, and get on with your day. Adopt the motto: “Done is better than perfect.”

    Bonus tip: write often. The more you write, the quicker you get.

    For more ways to write quicker (and better), get this
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One word you usually won’t hear me say

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I write about marketing and productivity. What to do, how to do it, how to do it better, at lower cost, in less time, and with better results.

You usually hear me describe these ideas as strategies, techniques, methods, advice, best practices, and the like, but I don’t call them “tips”.

To my ear, “tips” are like candy—tasty but lacking nutritional value. The word implies the information is commonplace, light-weight, and for a general audience. I associate “tips” with the content of articles in pop culture magazines and consumer-oriented blogs and channels.

Not the kind of information I want to convey to you or, I would think, you want to deliver to your readers.

Yes, it’s just a word, but it lacks gravitas. It’s not the type of word we expect to hear in content created by experts, professionals, and other serious-minded people.

At times, you may think me a wild and crazy guy, but I hope you never think of my ideas that way.

We all read articles that contain tips because we think we can quickly skim the article and find one or two interesting facts or nuggets we can use. That’s not a bad thing.

What’s bad is when we avoid reading the article entirely because we’re busy, we think we know most of the tips already, and we prefer to invest our precious time consuming content we think will be more valuable.

Speaking of tips, may I offer you one? Yeah, so can everyone else.

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So what?

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How much do your readers, followers, or audience already know about the law and other things you write or speak about?

That’s not the right question.

The question isn’t, do they know? It’s, “are they doing anything with that information?”

Information abounds. Your audience can find it in a book or video or on hundreds of websites. Countless other lawyers, writers, and other experts provide that information. You’ve probably provided that same information to them many times before.

So what? You’re not in the information delivery business. You’re in the “solving problems” and “delivering solutions” business. It’s up to you to show people the significance of the information and persuade them and guide them to do something with it.

Help them understand what the information means in their world. Tell them what could happen next, tell them the options they have available, and convince them to take action.

Use the information to scare them or inspire them and get them to make the right decision.

You’re an advocate, so advocate. Use the information as your evidence, your witnesses, and your arguments. Present the evidence, tell them what to do, and why.

Because if they do nothing with the information, and they need to, you’re not going to get the verdict you seek.

If you’re ready to take your practice to the next level, this is what you need

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I know you won’t read this

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Most people don’t have time to read your blog posts and articles. That includes mine. At best, they’ll give you a few seconds and skim.

But that’s enough.

It’s enough to give them a nugget or two of information they can tuck away in their minds or their notes. It’s enough to show them you know what you’re doing and deserve a return visit. It’s enough to let them know you’ve helped others like them and you can help them, too.

It’s enough, but only if you do a few things.

First, avoid the “wall of text”. Make your article look inviting and easy to scan:

  • Headlines that get attention and pique curiosity
  • Short articles that look like they can be consumed in a few minutes
  • Short paragraphs and sentences
  • Bullet points, numbered lists, sub-heads
  • Bold, CAPS, indents, and other visual cues
  • Images, graphics, simple charts or tables
  • Minimal citations/hyperlinks, if any

Second, make it interesting to read and relevant to your reader:

  • Get to the point—and stay there
  • Ask questions, to draw them in, make them think, and keep them reading to find out the answer
  • Include surprising statements, statistics, inside information, opinions
  • Stories about people like your reader
  • Quotes from clients, experts, influential people
  • Imagery—show what happened or what will happen
  • Conversational tone; active voice
  • Repetition to clarify and sell your points
  • Simple language, vocabulary; even for a sophisticated audience
  • Point out the risks but be mostly positive
  • A light touch, where appropriate
  • Share contrasting views, arguments, stories
  • Involvement—ask them to do something (while reading)
  • Call to action—ask them to do something (when they’re done)

There’s more you can do to make your articles interesting (and easy to skim) but if you do only some of the above, you’ll find more people consuming your articles and eager to hear more.

How to write a newsletter that brings in clients

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Adventures in dictationland

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I’m not a dictation-only kind of guy. I enjoy typing and do most of my writing that way. But there’s something liberating about being able to sit down, flap my gums, and have the words appear on the page, and when I dictate, I’m able to crank out a lot of them.

For a long time, I used DragonNaturally Speaking to dictate on my Windows desktop. I recently retired that computer in favor of a new laptop and haven’t installed Dragon. When I want to dictate, I’ve been using Google Voice Typing, which is fast and accurate, at least for me. The only drawback is that you can only use it via the Chrome browser and I use Brave as my default.

A few days ago, I downloaded a free app called LilySpeech (Windows only) and have been trying it out. It uses Google’s servers for transcription and seems to deliver equally impressive results.

The advantage of LilySpeech is that I can use it anywhere on Windows—in any browser or app, including Scrivener, which is something I wasn’t able to do with Dragon. Right now, I’m dictating this into Obsidian, and it works like a charm.

On iOS, Siri dictation works well but times out after 30-40 seconds. I tried Google Docs Voice Typing, both the app and via Safari, and it also times out. But who knows, I may be doing something wrong.

The Drafts app (iOS, Mac, Android) does dictation well. I just tested it on my iPad and it didn’t time out, even after several minutes of continuous speaking. (If you get different results, try launching a new document via the widget instead of the app.)

When I started practicing, I would dictate and record and have a secretary transcribe it. Today, many attorneys record and upload to a transcription service like Rev.com. But unless human transcription is required, I’m a proponent for letting technology do it.

There are many other options for each platform that seem to deliver varying degrees of speed and accuracy. If you’d like something that’s cross-platform and can be used via the web or an app, I recommend giving Otter.ai a try. They have a generous free plan and the paid plan is reasonable.

Otter has a couple of killer features to recommend it. It allows you to transcribe a conversation, identifying each speaker by time stamp. Very handing for interviews and meetings. Otter also adds punctuation (at your option), meaning you don’t have to dictate it.

So, over to you. Do you use dictation? What apps or process do you use on desktop, web, and mobile?

I’m all ears.

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When you don’t feel like writing anything, do this

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What do you do when you don’t feel like writing anything on your blog or in your newsletter?

Most people will tell you to suck it up and write it anyway, because you made a commitment to your subscribers or followers and they’re expecting to hear from you, and because you don’t want to break the chain.

“Figure it out,“ they tell you. So you scramble to find an idea and force yourself to get it done.

And all is right with the world.

But sometimes, you just can’t. You’re fresh out of ideas, you’re ill or recovering from surgery, you’re slammed with work, or you’re having a sad and need a day off.

Take it. Take the day off.

It’s your blog. Your newsletter. Your channel. The world won’t end if you miss a day.

If you don’t feel like writing or have nothing to say, say nothing. That’s why God created sick days and snow days and bad hair days. If you need some personal time, take it.

Or. . . go to Plan B.

Plan B is to write a very short post. Instead of hundreds of words, you write a paragraph or two.

Yes, you can.

Seth Godin does it. So do many others. Why not you?

Something else. If you still can’t think of anything to say, go ahead and post something someone else said.

You can do that, too.

A passage from a book or article. A pithy quote. Or an intriguing question you saw that’s got you thinking.

Note to self: set up a file and start collecting this kind of stuff.

If you don’t feel well, you can post this “as is” and go back to bed.

But you might find, as I often do, that a short passage or quote you dig out of your notes gets your juices flowing and you find yourself writing a “regular-sized” post.

Many of my posts start that way. I grab something I found interesting and see what I have to say about it.

In fact, that’s how I wrote this post.

Email Marketing for Attorneys

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Choosing your topic

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“What should I write about?” asks many an attorney.

“That’s simple,” comes the answer. “Write what you know.“

Here’s the thing. What’s obvious and basic to you is obscure and complicated to your readers. They don’t know what you know. If they did, they wouldn’t be reading you or hiring you.

Write about something that’s obvious to you, because it’s not obvious to them.

Unless you’re writing to other lawyers, of course.

In which case, write about the kinds of things you would talk to them about if you were speaking to them. Shop talk—strategy, interesting cases, new laws, or your thoughts about something that might interest them because it interests you.

But if you’re writing to lay people, however sophisticated and intelligent they may be, you don’t need to give it much thought. Write about something you know well, something you could rattle off the top of your head in less time than it takes to ask, “What should I write about?”

You know this stuff, remember?

It might help to imagine you’re writing to a specific client, teaching him something about the law, procedure, or process. Or telling him about an interesting case you had (or heard about), explaining what happened and why it could be important to him.

You could give him a peek behind the curtain and show him what you do when you meet with a new client. What do you ask? What do you tell him? Do you fill out any forms? What’s on them? What do you do with the information?

Do you explain “what happens next?” Give him a quick rundown now so he can see what it will be like to work with you.

It doesn’t really matter what you write because your reader doesn’t know any of this and you know everything. He will see you as the expert and the solution to his problem, so make sure you also tell him what to do to get started.

How to write a newsletter that brings in business

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Get to the point

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The best presenters don’t begin their presentation by welcoming the audience or telling them they’re going to get a lot out the presentation. They start their presentation.

That’s what people came to hear and they let them hear it.

They start by saying something important or remarkable. Or they tell a story or ask a question. In the first few seconds, they get the audience involved.

If they have announcements or promotions, if they want to introduce themselves, they save it for later—after they’ve got people listening and nodding their heads, glad they showed up.

Because if they don’t, the audience will tune out. And think about the work they need to finish or the errand they need to run on their way home.

Good speakers get to the point.

The same is true of good writers.

One of the best writing tips I’ve ever heard was to get rid of the “throat clearing”–the filler at the start of your article, post, report or email.

The purpose of the first sentence is to get them to read the second sentence. If that first sentence doesn’t hook ’em, like the audience at a presentation, the reader will tune out.

Yes, there are exceptions. Occasions where a little warm up or background is appropriate. But those are exceptions.

The default: get to the point.

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Know thy client

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I read an article in the Wisconsin Lawyer that provided “tips for writing in ways that attract the attention of search engines, readers, and new clients.”

It’s good information. And a good reminder about the importance and value of writing in building a law practice.

But that’s not why I’m telling you about it.

At the end of the article, in her “bio,” the author tells a story about one of her consulting clients who was unhappy with her advice:

A few years ago, an attorney I was working with called me to complain because one of their former clients gave them a bad online review. I had encouraged them to follow up with clients to thank them for their business and ask for reviews, so the bad review they received was, in their mind, my fault. It didn’t occur to me that I needed to tell attorneys that they should only ask for reviews from clients they suspected had a positive opinion of them. I now emphasize that you should never ask for a review you don’t want. It’s the legal marketing equivalent of the age-old advice that you should never ask a question you don’t want to know the answer to!

It seems so simple. Ask for reviews; don’t ask for reviews from clients who might not love ya.

You want reviews. You need reviews. Good reviews can bring in a boatload of clients.

Seriously.

So you should ask for reviews.

But how do you avoid bad reviews?

Simple.

Ask for reviews, but do it in stages:

  1. Routinely send every client a form to fill out to provide feedback about you, your services, your office, etc. Include a question asking if they would recommend you to others, and why or why not.
  2. When the client provides positive feedback and says they would recommend/refer you, ask them to post this in a review (and give them a link to the site you prefer).

Keep your enemies close. Keep your friends (and clients) closer, because you never know what they might say about you.

The Quantum Leap Marketing System

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Plagiarizing for fun and profit

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Yesterday, I talked about finding blog posts and articles written by other lawyers and rewriting them, as an easy and effective way to create your content.

Today, I have an even easier method.

No, I’m not going to tell you to plagiarize their content—copy it and call it your own.

You can’t do that. But you can plagiarize your own content.

You can re-post or re-send something you’ve shared in the past.

Take one of your old posts and post it again. Without changing a word.

Can you really do that?

It’s your content. You can do whatever you want with it.

But should you?

Yes. Here’s why.

You’ve got new subscribers who didn’t see your article before. You’ve got readers who saw it months or years ago and won’t remember. You’ve got readers who read it before weren’t ready to do anything with the information. And readers who did something but need to be reminded to do it again.

Do you do everything I tell you to do? No, you don’t. Which is why you’ll hear me say it again.

Sometimes I re-write, update, shorten or lengthen my old posts. Sometimes, I write a new post on the same idea. But you don’t have to do any of that and if you don’t want to or you don’t have time, don’t bother.

Click and send that puppy and get on with your day.

Now for the best part.

You can take some of your better articles or posts, load them into your autoresponder, and schedule them to go out over the course of the next few weeks or months. When the cycle ends, you can reset it and let your best stuff get sent all over again.

Automate your self-plagiarism. For the win.

Email Marketing for Attorneys

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