Just google it?

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When you’re fresh out of ideas for blog posts, newsletter articles, or other content, you can always head over to your favorite search engine, put in some keywords related to your field, and see what people, a.k.a. prospective clients, are searching for. 

Not only will you get ideas for your next blog post or article, you can use the same search terms they use, or a variation thereof, in your title or subject.

The subjects they search for, the questions they ask, can not only provide you with subjects to write about, but search traffic to your blog or article.

You can wing it and see what comes up, or use a more methodical method:  

Type a keyword in the search field, press the spacebar, type the letter “a”, and you’ll get 10 search results (on Google) in the drop-down menu. Copy these and search again using the same keyword and the letter “b”. 

You can go through the entire alphabet and get more results. You can then type in keyword phrases instead of single words and go through the process again. 

And then, if you want even more results, choose a different keyword (or phrase) and search again. 

30 minutes of searching and you’ll have more topics than you can shake a stick at. 

But there’s more. . . 

On the Google search results page, look for the “People Also Ask” section. You’ll see questions related to your search term. Grab some of those questions and answer them in your next post. 

Then, scroll down to the bottom of the search results page and look for the “Related Searches” section. Yep, even more ideas.  

You can also use the “Google Trends” tool to find more current or newsworthy (trending) ideas.

But you’re not limited to using dusty old search engines to find ideas. Now you can use one of the many AI tools that are popping up everywhere.  

This morning, I asked one of those AI Chabots, “What are some ways to get ideas for blog posts other than using google?” It gave me several suggestions: 

  • Look at your competitor’s blogs, “to see what topics they are covering. this can give you ideas for new topics, or inspire you to approach a topic from a different angle.”
  • Ask your readers what they would like to see or see more of. Use a poll, email, social media, “or by simply asking for feedback in a blog post”. 
  • Peruse social media popular posts or hashtags to see what people are asking or talking about.
  • Attend industry events (to learn the latest trends and news in your niche and write about those subjects).
  • Use tools like BuzzSumo, Feedly, or Pocket to see what’s being covered. 

And that was just a few results from asking a very general question. 

You can ask these bots much more specific questions that elicit more detailed responses related to your field and your target market.

Ask it what estate planning subjects are popular with people in your area who now work from home. Ask it to tell you the questions burn victims typically ask when they’re looking for an attorney who specializes in this field. Ask it to tell you which market sectors are more likely to buy or sell commercial real estate in the next few years.

And if it doesn’t give you enough information, or specific enough information, ask follow-up questions until it does.

My favorite part: unlike simple search engines, these bots remember what you previously asked, and the answers it provided, which means you can carry on a conversation with it and get better results.

Don’t rely completely on anything it tells you, of course. Use the results you get as a starting point—ideas to research and write about.

More ideas than you could ever use.

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I’m working

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One of the nice things about being a writer, or an attorney who does a lot of writing, is being able to indulge our other interests.

When we watch videos about something that interests us, for no other reason than because we enjoy it, we not only give our brains and bodies a brief respite from our busy schedules, we learn things we can use in our writing.

Examples, stories, new ideas or new ways of looking at old ideas help us illustrate our points and make our articles and posts more interesting. 

They can also stimulate us to be more creative and productive. Seeing how others do presentations, structure their articles, or make their points can give us new ways of doing what we do. 

Reading books about history can make us better leaders and problem solvers. Reading about entrepreneurship can help us get better at building our practice or business. Reading mysteries or doing crossword puzzles can make us better problem solvers and keep our brains from getting rusty.

Read widely. Every day, even if just for ten minutes. Take notes, even if it’s just a quote or one sentence about what you read.

Follow your curiosity. Go for walks and think about whatever is on your mind. 

And don’t feel guilty about taking time to do this. 

What you read can teach you, inspire you, and help you become better at what you do.

You may not be able to bill for the time you spend doing something other than your core work, but you’re still getting paid.

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Write for yourself first

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We write for our subscribers and followers, to show them we understand them and can help them. So, besides talking about their problems and our solutions, we talk about their world—their industry or market and subjects that interest them. 

Because if we don’t, if all we talk about is the law and “how-to’s”, prospective clients might read us today (when they need us) but might not read us tomorrow. 

And tomorrow might be the day they do need us, or talk to someone they can refer. 

Writing a blog or newsletter or other content isn’t just about “getting the sale”. It is also about building relationships. 

And that’s why marketing folks (myself included) tell you not to make your content all about you. 

But this doesn’t mean you should never make it about you.

You are important in this equation. People want to know not just about your work, or even exclusively about their world, they also want to know about you. 

A relationship is about two people and you’re one of them. So, in addition to writing for your readers, it’s important that you also write for yourself. 

That means sometimes you write at length about your life and weave in lessons or stories that apply to your readers. You might talk about your trip to the bookstore, something interesting you saw in the courthouse, about your kids, or something about your hobby, and share a lesson told by the experience.

Other times, you simply mention these things in passing. “I was running errands on Saturday, looking for a parking space, and thought of something I want you to know”. 

If you don’t write for yourself, writing a blog or newsletter can eventually feel like drudgery. You’ll run out of ideas and energy and your writing will become boring and ineffectual. If you write for yourself, however, you’ll enjoy it and continue doing it because talking about yourself is enjoyable. 

A good rule of thumb is to write your first draft for yourself. Write what you want to write about, not just what the market wants or needs. Say what you want to say, what you find interesting, inspiring, or that made you laugh. Forget about your reader on this first pass and tell your story the way you want to tell it.

Then, on a second pass, bring them into the picture. 

This will help you write more effective content

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Superman’s hemorrhoids

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We all know we shouldn’t talk about sex, religion, and politic in polite company (or in our newsletter).

Unless sex, religion, or politics are your primary business, nothing good can come of it.

I’d like to add a fourth subject to the list. Our personal health.

Too many people talk about that subject and while some of their clients or readers will sympathize and wish them well, on balance, this is a subject that is usually best avoided.

I’m not suggesting a complete ban. But if you talk about your health or an injury or condition, don’t do it too often and, whatever you do, avoid the gory details.

Because most people don’t want to hear it.

Some people are hypochondriacs and will get all hinky thinking they have what you have or will be its next victim. Some people have weak stomachs and don’t want to hear about things that ooze, severe pain, or chronic conditions.

But perhaps the most important reason is that people want to think of their lawyer as a superhero—strong, impervious to illness and pain, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Don’t spoil the movie in their mind.

They know you’re human. They like hearing some things about your personal life. But they don’t want to think about you as someone who might not be able to protect them from monsters.

So, if you have a choice, and you almost always do, think twice about discussing your illness, injury, or condition.

When in doubt, leave it out. Find another way to illustrate your point or tell your story.

There are some health-related subjects that are relatively safe. You can speak about taking vitamins, getting in your reps, or going for your annual checkup.

You can even talk about an occasional headache, bump, or bruise.

But if you do, it’s probably best to talk about that in the past tense. Because when a superhero gets blasted by a death ray, they’re back on the job long before the third act.

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Before I tell you that, I want to tell you this

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No. Don’t do that.

You’ll get more readers reading and listeners listening—to your articles, presentations, newsletters, email, or posts on social—if you do one simple thing.

Get to the point.

I see so many writers and speakers who don’t.

First, they want to tell you about their day or about their kid or about something they’re working on, thinking you’ll care about this or get all warm and fuzzy about them because you can see they’re just like you.

But that’s not why folks are reading the article or watching the presentation.

They want to learn something valuable or interesting (to them). Or be entertained.

So, in those first few seconds, yes seconds, you need to show them you’ve got this for them.

If you start out clearing your throat and warming up your tonsils before you get to the point of your message, many folks will think you don’t have a point and won’t stick around to find out.

Because people are busy and have the attention span of a gnat.

If you don’t get their attention immediately, they’re going to buzz away (do gnats buzz?)

Just the way it is.

This doesn’t mean you should never tell them about your day or your kid or something you’re working on. Just don’t lead with it.

Get their attention first. Tell them about other things later. Or weave those other things into your narrative to illustrate your points.

You listen to a baseball game on the radio to hear the play-by-play. The “color” commentary adds to that but can’t replace it.

There are exceptions. If you are an incredibly talented writer, or you’re writing to a captive audience, e.g., your clients who are inclined to read or listen to everything you say because they’re afraid of missing something important (to them), you can get away with some throat clearing before you begin your speech.

For everyone else, get to the point.

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Turn your writing into a client magnet

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One of your best marketing tools is your writing. Not just what you write about, but how you write it.

Yes, how you write it.

You might provide great information via how-to articles and posts. You might show prospective clients how you can help them solve a problem or achieve a goal. You might tell prospects what you offer, how you work with your clients, and why they should choose you.

And you should.

But other lawyers will say a lot of the things you say. So, unless you write in a way that makes readers feel an emotional attachment to you, you might struggle to close the deal.

There are many strategies for improving the effectiveness of your writing. Ways to make it more inviting, easier to read, and more persuasive. Study these strategies. Practice these techniques. They will help you get more new clients and repeat clients, more referrals, and more subscribers and followers.

But if you want readers to feel there’s something special about you, there’s something else you should do.

It goes beyond technique and better writing. It’s actually a marketing superpower. An elixir that will comple prospective clients to make an appointment, sign up for your list, or otherwise take the next step.

How do you acquire this superpower?

Research.

Find out what your market is interested in, what they know, and how they think.

Learn what frustrates them and keeps them up at night. Get conversant with the issues that abound in their industry or market. Be familiar with the words they use to describe their problems and desires.

When you do this, you can show prospects you understand them better than other lawyers who cross their path and talk about the law, but not about them.

Which is why you need to target a niche market and study it and the people in it.

When you write about an issue in that market and reference or quote someone prominent in that market, for example, someone your readers know about (or actually know) and trust, or when you’re able to talk about little details that only someone with a lot of experience in their market would know, your readers will see that you aren’t like other lawyers, you’re one of them.

Choose a niche market and study it. Your knowledge will allow you to write in a way that resonates with prospects on a deep level. You’ll be able to write in a way that makes their Spidey-sense tingle as they realize they’ve found the lawyer they’ve been looking for.

How to choose the right niche market for you

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I was wrong

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You’re reading this because you want to know what I was wrong about and why I’m sharing my “confession” with you.

Mission accomplished.

Well, almost. I haven’t told you what I was wrong about, or why admitting you were wrong is a good way to connect with your readers.

It’s good because people see you don’t pretend to be infallible. You’re a real person, just like them.

Warts and all.

It makes you likeable. Someone they can trust.

Confession is good for the soul.

Maybe you trusted a friend and should have known better. Maybe you recommended a certain app to everyone and had to backtrack when you found out it has a security flaw. Maybe you predicted something would happen on the world stage and you were dead wrong.

Show your readers the real you. Warts and all.

But you have to be careful. You don’t want to admit you were wrong about something irretrievably tied to your core competency.

It’s okay to admit you once hired a secretary too hastily, and she stole from you. It’s not okay to admit you settled a certain case because you didn’t think you had enough experience to take it to trial.

Capice?

In addition to admitting to a mistake, you can also admit to a weakness or quirk, or share a personal experience that humanizes you.

Maybe you like cherry pie a little too much (me!). Maybe you took your daughter to ballet class and had to ask one of the moms to do up her hair (me!) Maybe your sense of humor gets you into trouble a little too often (me!)

The more embarrassing, or humorous, the better.

Admit a mistake or a weakness (that isn’t too weird) and your readers will love you for it. Unless you eat all the cherry pie and don’t leave any for them.

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Write your content for two people

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Yesterday, we talked about creating the kinds of content your audience wants to read. But the subject isn’t the entire story.

Your readers also have preferences regarding how you present your content.

They might prefer you to write formally, like the good lawyer you are, or more casually and conversationally.

They might like in-depth pieces or prefer something more basic. Or perhaps a mix of each.

How about what your content “looks” like? Does your audience like brief articles, 200-500 words, or something longer, perhaps 1000-2000 words? Do they want images or illustrations or is plain text just fine?

Do they want videos or audios they can listen to on the go or do they prefer being able to skim and highlight written text?

One of your most important questions is how frequently your audience wants to hear from you. Is daily too often? Is quarterly not often enough? Would they prefer to hear from you once a month with longer pieces or once a week with something they can consume in a few minutes?

Perhaps a mix of shorter pieces and the occasional longer one is just right.

But here’s the thing. Just like the subject of your content, people don’t always know what they want until they see it. And just because they’re used to consuming other content a certain way doesn’t mean they expect or demand yours to be the same.

If you have the time and resources to research how your readers want to consume the content you provide them, and you are willing to fine-tune your content to suit them, this might be worth exploring.

But you can also go another route. Give them what you want to give them and let them to adapt to you.

Because people do adapt.

Besides, if you’re giving them interesting and helpful content, how you dress it up and deliver it isn’t really that important, is it?

To some on your list, it is important. But you’ll never please everyone, nor should you try.

Instead, write for two people. Write for your ideal reader. The people who love what you do and how you do it.

And write for yourself.

Write what you want, package and deliver it the way you want to.

Because if you’re not happy, if you don’t enjoy writing your newsletter or blog or other content, if it is a chore instead of a labor of love, it’s going to show.

Give people what they want, but don’t sacrifice yourself to do that.

How to write a newsletter people want to read and you want to write

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In my humble (but accurate) opinion

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Risk and reward. That’s what’s at stake today when you publicly state your opinion. You risk offending people who hold a different opinion, losing followers, and even losing clients who didn’t know you thought that way.

On the other hand, you might gain the allegiance of clients and followers who never knew how you felt about an issue and love you more because you do.

Opinion-based blog posts can help you win friends and influence people, or they can explode in your face.

So, lawyers, where do you draw the line?

You draw it on the side of expressing your opinion.

Because that’s why people read your blog or social posts.

If they just want straight news and information, they can get it anywhere. They follow you because they want to know what you think.

They want you to guide them, warn them, and lead them. They want to know how you see things and what you recommend.

They want your opinion.

That doesn’t mean you have to light fires and watch them burn.

Tell them what you recommend, and why. Tell them what you do, or would do if you were in their situation. But also show them both sides, contrary views, and other factors they should consider.

Because that’s what a good advisor does.

But you also convey your opinion without coming right out and stating it.

You do that every time you publish something, by the topics you choose to write about and the examples you use to illustrate them. You also do that by the subjects you choose to avoid.

Your readers might not know precisely what you think about every subject, but they get a sense of what’s important in your world, and for many subjects, a sense is enough.

Finally, while you might eventually choose to play it safe regarding a certain opinion or topic, your default should be to do the opposite.

Be edgy. Go out on a few limbs. Take some chances.

Yes, you might lose 10 followers if you go too far; I’ve done that. But you might gain 100 because you did. I’ve done that, too.

That’s what makes it interesting.

A successful life doesn’t require the complete avoidance of risk. It requires the intelligent management of risk.

Of course, that’s just my opinion.

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Let me entertain you

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Most people read your blog or newsletter because they are looking for information. But you can also use your content to entertain them.

It’s a great way to connect with your audience. Make people smile or think about something besides their problems and they’ll like you and come back next time to hear more.

But it depends on how you define entertainment.

Humor is fine, if it is appropriate and you don’t overdo it. A sprinkling of puns, turns of phrase, wry observations, and colorful asides can show your audience that you are down to earth. Not just a legal machine, but a person they can talk to and might like to know.

But you have to be careful. Especially today, where it’s difficult to know what is and isn’t acceptable.

You have to know your audience. And maybe have an editor or someone who can tell you when you’ve gone too far.

But entertainment isn’t just about humor. Sports, games, books, and music are also entertaining. Use them, either to make a point or add context or color to your information.

If you’re writing about winning a case, for example, and you’re in a hockey town, go ahead and use phrases like “hat trick” or “shutout”. Or talk about something you saw or heard when you were at a game.

What we’re really talking about isn’t so much about being entertaining, it’s about being interesting.

Not just the facts. Not just the law. Something else people will recognize and relate to or like hearing about because it’s different.

Speaking of different, did you see Heidi’s latest Halloween costume? Girlfriend did it again.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of a way to fit that into a blog post for lawyers. Wait, I just did.

How to write interesting articles and blog posts

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