As the Virtual Marketing Officer predicted in an early 2009 post, social and digital content marketing has become a very important—even critical—marketing investment for you and your law firm marketing team.
Publishing to the web is easy, writing well is not.
It’s easy to publish to the web. All you need is a blog or social media account. It is not, however, easy to write well. Writing well means not only avoiding spelling and grammar mistakes, it includes not BORING readers to death. Luckily there is a fairly straightforward fix for boring content: learn to write a basic essay. (Or, refresh your memory…)
If you work these 8 steps below you will have a better chance of producing something people will read. And, you’ll get better in the process. The more often you write, the more natural it becomes, and you won’t even have to think twice about writing an excellent post or article that connects and communicates with your audience.
How to write an essay in 8 steps
(1) Pick the topic: Preferably the topic is something you are genuinely interested in writing about. If you like the topic, others will “feel” your interest and be interested. The topic should also have a human angle. Even if you are writing on a piece of legislation, ruling, or other dry topic, you must conjure up the human side. For example, a cyber security topic could include a story about a business owner or IT director. A new employment law might allow you to fictionalize a workplace scenario. Or, a television show episode might illustrate a pertinent topic related to your practice.
(2) Be the expert: If you’re not an expert on the topic, do the research and become familiar with the issues. Think about the common problems or objections people have with this topic. Then ask yourself a dozen questions about the topic and answer them in writing. This activity will lead you to exactly what is important and what is humanly relatable.
(3) Pin down the main point: Your thesis, hook, or main idea captures the essence of why readers should care, why they should read your content. You must write this in one sentence, summing up concisely where you’re going to go with your essay and why. It’s practically impossible to write a good blog post or article without this type of anchor. The sentence you write does not necessarily make it into the article, rather it serves you, the writer, as you develop your article. When you feel yourself getting side tracked, e.g., introducing a B or C plot line, you go back to the thesis statement. Does the extra plot line help readers understand your main point, probably not. I’m an experienced writer and I do it all the time. As I write, I think of one or two other things to “add.” Yet, they rarely aid understanding. In most cases they would confuse the reader. But, if it’s something really good, I make a note and use it for another day, another topic.
(4) Build your outline: Make a list of facts, ideas, and examples that support your main point. Don’t worry about writing paragraphs, just write a simple statement on each. A series of single ideas that support your thesis. Then play with their order. Move them around: What is most important or least important? You’ll fill in the details later.
(5) Write the introduction: Now that you have the key pieces in place, its time to write. Start with the opening paragraph, or lead. The opening is where the reader will decide whether or not your article or post is worth their time. Is there a story that illustrates what you are writing about? That will be your best lead. It can be a personal anecdote—a short account of a particular incident or event, especially of an interesting or amusing nature—that illustrates your main point. Or, for a legal topic, you could use a case study, a current news story, a business example (it can be fictitious) or, use the results of a recent survey to illustrate your opening. The idea here is create human drama, something the reader might relate to. Avoid simply reporting details in the first paragraph. In cases where the topic is current, the media has already reported on it. Don’t waste your time rehashing. But, if you must get the details front loaded, try describing the situation in conversational terms. Honestly, there is nothing less inviting than an opening paragraph that reads like this:
On January, 7, 2016, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the court held that (add more legal jargon here), which reverses the U.S. Circuit Court’s ruling in the case that applies the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (“FSIA”) (case site here), on behalf of (full name of company) (full name of county where incorporated) (Date/Year).
Obviously, if your only audience is the legal profession, then go for it. But don’t expect a client to read it.
(6) Fill in the details: Each of the points in your outline (step 4) is a paragraph, or two. Use sub headings that tell the reader in one or two words the main point of each section.
(7) Cut: Remove non-essential words. There are dozens of books and educational videos on how to do this. I’m not suggesting that you take out your personal voice, which for lawyers can involve legalese or flowery language, rather, look at every word and decide if it adds or detracts from the understanding and clarity of what you are attempting to communicate.
(8) Review your work: The best way to ensure you’ve written something worth reading is to read it aloud. Does it flow? Have you made your point? Is it free of spelling and grammar errors? Don’t depend on spell check. After you’ve done that, ask someone else, with a fresh set of eyes, to review it for you.
You may also want to read this post: Content Ideas for Lawyers
Signing off for now…