Tag Archives: Blogging

If your content’s not educational, you’re losing work

According to some recent research  conducted by Kentico, a company’s educational content doesn’t come up when searching for topics related to a problem or need nearly as often as it should. Only 27% of those interviewed report it happens often, 57% sometimes, 11% hardly ever and 5% never.

If your content’s not educational, you’re losing work

While not specific to the professional services sector, it does suggest there is a huge opportunity for firms to put out more useful content that educates people around their problems and needs.

I’m not saying some firms don’t do that already. There is a heap of useful content out there and some of it is great.

But, that’s not always the case. While being helpful is often the intent, sometimes the salient points are buried on page 3. Or there’s too much jargon, too many big words and unbearably loooooooong sentences.

If you’re not putting out content that helps and informs your prospective clients (or the helpful bits aren’t easy to find), then you can bet your bottom dollar that you’re losing work to your competitors.

If you’re putting out puff pieces that aren’t particularly interesting or helpful to others then STOP right now.

Put down your pen. Or your Dictaphone.

And rethink things.

Starting with what do the people you’re looking to talk to want or need to know?

  • What are the common questions your clients ask you?
  • What upcoming, new, emerging legislation are you aware of that will or could impact them?
  • What are some tips you could provide for dealing with X or Y situations?
  • What research have you conducted or commissioned that your clients and prospects will want to hear about?

Once you’ve brainstormed a list of topics, put together a content calendar, setting out what you’ll produce, when. Don’t forget to mark in dates like when a Bill’s having its next reading before Parliament, when a decision is expected that could create case law and so on.

Assign responsibility for compiling each piece of content, sharing it around your team. If you decide to produce one piece per month then a team of 6 would only need to put together two pieces each per year.

Tips to make compiling content easier for you:

  1. Play to your strengths – if you don’t like writing, how about an audio or video post.
  2. Block out time in your diary to produce the content – blocking out an afternoon means you could draft 4+ pieces (giving you enough content for a good few months).
  3. Ask a skilled interviewer (such as someone in your marketing team or an external consultant) to interview you for a piece. They could then draft this for you – but you will need to make sure you check it carefully!
  4. Once you have a piece of content, repurpose it. If you’ve written a blog post, record it, break it down into bite-sized tips, combine 3-4 posts into a free guide, turn it into a Slideshare presentation (or Prezi). The list is endless.
  5. Get help editing and optimising your content – you don’t have to do everything yourself. Ask someone to physically put the post up (their job  could include sourcing and adding an image, adding hyperlinks, creating any call to action you want to add, categorising the post, SEO etc.)

Once your content’s ready, share it via your usual channels.

Make sure you don’t blast it everywhere simultaneously. Space posts out (using a tool such as Hootsuite to schedule them) to maximise the number of people who see them.

Don’t forget to identify clients or contacts who’d specifically benefit from a particular piece and to share this with them directly (think about whether any journalists might be interested). Let them know why you’ve done so and why you thought they’d be interested. You could do this via email, LinkedIn, Twitter or another social network.

Monitor how your content goes down. Respond to any comments in a timely fashion. Then re-purpose your content and put it out there in another form.

What strategies have worked for you when compiling content and how do you keep it educational (versus promotional)?
Image credit: www.flinders.edu.au

Professionals: how to take advantage of LinkedIn opening its blogging platform to all users

A couple of weeks ago LinkedIn announced that it’s opening its blogging platform to all users.

LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform

This provides a HUGE opportunity for professionals who post helpful, authentic original content.

What’s LinkedIn doing?

Over the coming weeks and months LinkedIn is rolling out its publishing platform (i.e. the place where Influencers currently post) to all members. You’ll know you have it when you see the pencil edit icon within your ‘Share an update’ box on your homepage.

What does this mean?

Once you’ve got the feature you’ll have the potential to reach more of the people you wish to by sharing helpful, relevant and inspiring content.

Think about it.

If your content hits the mark then people it would currently be difficult to reach will share it with their networks. And they will choose to follow you on LinkedIn.

There could be a snowball effect.

This does assume people will use the feature selectively. LinkedIn’s put up some great guidelines within its Help Center that you should check out. These explain what to do and what not to do.

Putting up your latest PR piece will undermine the feature and it will be hard for other members to sort the wheat from the chaff.

So, please only post content that is genuinely going to be of interest or helpful to other LinkedIn members.

How will your posts be distributed?

I’ve paraphrased the below from the LinkedIn Help Center:

  • All of these posts will be public so can be found by people not on LinkedIn. 
  • They will be shared with your connections and followers through their newsfeeds. 
  • Posts will be displayed on your LinkedIn profile, directly below the top section, which contains your photo and headline. 
  • Interactions such as likes, comments and shares will help distribute your content beyond your immediate network. 
  • LinkedIn may also distribute your posts independently as part of aggregated ‘best of LinkedIn’ content. 
  • Your posts can be found in an Articles search on LinkedIn.

You can also share your posts via other social networks, email, on your website and so on.

If you put together original content, you should seriously consider whether it would be worth posting this directly on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn says, “You can republish something that you have published somewhere else as long as it is your original content that you own the rights to.”

You know all those great blog posts you’ve compiled? Why don’t you take a look through them, work out which resonated most with your audience and, if they fit LinkedIn’s best practices, re-post them there.

You wouldn’t want to use LinkedIn in place of your blog because your blog is easily searchable, gives people an instant feel for you, helps you get found and is under your control…but it’s definitely another tool you can use to disseminate your best content.

LinkedIn hasn’t been specific about when the feature will roll out to everyone but you can apply for early access

I will be.

What do you think of this development? How else do you think it will benefit professionals? 

 

Be passionate and know your niche – positioning yourself online

If you want to use social media to help you position yourself, you’ve got to answer a fundamental question first:

What do you want to be known for?

It sounds like a simple enough question but it’s amazing how many professionals don’t have a clear answer.

You can’t be all things to all people, so the first step is to define your niche – what issues or things are you going to help people with and who are these people? For example, a divorce lawyer might position themselves as a divorce lawyer for women or a childs rights’ advocate. An accountant may position themselves as a virtual CFO…the opportunities are endless. Continue reading

Social media tips from Julian Summerhayes – What’s your USP?

by Kirsten Hodgson

Julian Summerhayes runs Brand You, a UK based company helping people become the best they can be: his strap line is “to become what we truly are.”

He works mainly within the professional services sector, assisting clients to leverage their talent to maximise client wins and revenue, mainly using social media.

Julian is a former lawyer who specialised in sports law and dispute resolution; he practised for 14 years. I started following Julian on Twitter (@Ju_Summerhayes) about 18 months ago and love his straight-up, practical advice and his clear passion for what he does.

I talked to him about his raison d’être and how he envisages social media helping professionals build and develop their personal brand (amongst a number of other interesting, service orientated issues – Excellence being Julian’s other big thing!)

KH: Tell me about Brand You?

JS: I had an epiphany one day. My passion has always been people – or the reason why some people make more of their talents than do others. I have been a long time student of personal development in the broadest sense (Napoleon Hill being high up as one of my all time favourite authors). I set up Brand You to help my clients – mainly service professionals – leverage their intellectual and creative capital to become the best version of their brand indentity/persona. Brand You is about passion. It’s about finding your unique voice, being different, memorable and making a lasting impression. It’s also about talent and managing your talent.

KH: When and why did you start using social media tools?

JS: When I was a practising lawyer I set up a sports law team acting for agents and athletes, which I loved; it stems from my passion for cycling. Lance Armstrong was an early adopter of Twitter and, because he was on there, a number of other professional cyclists also joined. I did too.

KH: How can leveraging social media help lawyers and other professionals to harness the power of their own brand?

JS: If someone is passionate about what they do, and if they have the patience to make a difference in their area, then they can think about how social media tools can help them to make a dent in their world. Social media isn’t an instant fix. I think lawyers (in particular) expect to do one thing one day and see an immediate return the next. For me, it’s about tapping someone’s passion, focusing on why they got into their profession and what they want to achieve and then using some of the social media tools and methodologies to make more of that passion. In a way it feels like I am helping people who have a message to share reach out and connect with their tribe.

One suite of tools will be right for one person, another suite will work for someone else and that’s the great thing. One person might say let’s do a blog and another person might put some videos out: It’s about finding your unique voice.

I think the key thing many professionals struggle with is the idea of a USP. I always say to people think about how you can sum yourself up in the smallest number of words that you possibly can. I try to tap into this and help people convey their passion succinctly. Using Twitter as an example, I’d ask what the difference between your Twitter feed and your competitors’ feeds is.  If you’re all dishing out the same news, the same reports of case law, and the same piece of legislation, why should people follow you?

What you will see soon, I suspect, is lots of redundant accounts, lots of people who give up on it because they think that’s a waste of time, and a distraction.  Quite what they will revert back to, who knows!

There are professionals who absolutely hate what they do and social media is the last thing in the world that they need. What they need is some coaching, possibly some career counselling to say ‘Do you know what, you have this absolute passion for painting.  Why the heck are you pursuing law when you should be painting?”  People are not fixed to their careers – yes there’s a financial constraint if you’re a senior partner, you’ve got a huge amount resting on this but ultimately you won’t be happy and won’t deliver the best value nor the best service if you don’t enjoy what you do.

It’s a complex issue but in terms of the power of social media it’s about maximising the how rather than just the what.  If you pursue something that you are passionate about, then everything else will fall into place.

Some firms in the UK have really gone niche, but they haven’t done it from a passion point of view, they have done it from an economics point of view, which is actually wrong.  For example, they’ve got into spinal injuries claims because there’s a rash of these coming through. Is it something they’re passionate about?

No?

Then why do it?

If you don’t have passion you can’t sustain anything for very long.  

KH: Assuming someone is passionate about what they do and they want to build their own brand, what do they need to think about before they start using social media?

JS: Less is more.  Just start with one thing and get good at it.  Get really, really good at it.  In terms of building your tribe, you need to be thinking about each platform having its own individual theme, ecosystem and way of doing things.

Try not to do too much.  If I was starting off again, frankly I’d probably only start with a blog and maybe Twitter but I wouldn’t end up as I did at one point, having about 40 platforms that I messed around with.  

You need to be quite strategic, you need to think about where your clients/referrers/fans are going to congregate.  If you’re in a private client scenario, you may not start with LinkedIn.  You may start with Twitter, a blog, a video.  It’s important that you understand the viewing habits of your audience. The book Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research introduces the Social Technographics Ladder, which breaks users into groups based on their level of participation online.

In terms of ROI you can have that conversation but it’s pointless at this early state, I want to see how committed you are.  Are you going to master the two platforms, are you going to stay engaged, are you going to fall off the wagon after three months?

Social networks are just tools! They will evolve and change over time. Don’t get hung up on the tools.  Focus on the passion, focus on your messaging.

I follow the POST philosophy – People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology. Focus on the people first.  Don’t worry about the objectives, the strategy will come and the technology is last.  I have a thing about it, strategy is execution. Strategy will come out as you do more stuff. The more stuff you do, the better your strategy will become.  I think too many firms spend hours and hours drafting a strategy.  Then, when they execute it they think ‘hmmm, maybe we should try something else’.

Do lots of stuff

Fail faster.

That way you’ll know what works through trial and error. Try different messaging, different content.  Don’t expect instant results.

I believe it’s going to be the quirky ones, the edgy ones, the rebels who are going to get noted.  Their service may be frankly no better than others but that doesn’t matter.  From a social media point of view it’s these quirky personalities that get picked up.

KH: Talking about client service…

JS: The thing that attracts me to social media is the collaborative spirit, which you just don’t get in many professional services firms. It is counter-intuitive. At the end of the day it’s about the client experience. Without the client you have no business.  What you should be thinking about is am I the best person for this job, if I’m not then who can I refer this work to who will do a better job than me?  

If you don’t do the very, very best job you can, clients are going to go somewhere else. Put your people first or equal first with your clients because with the people doing a fantastic job, marketing will take care of itself.  If you make promises to someone else and keep them, you will be doing well.

Social media for me is just a tool, an extension of who you are and if it helps you do your job better, great.  But don’t get wrapped up in it in thinking that people will go around and forget the fact that you provide a lousy service and your receptionist doesn’t answer the phone in a very polite manner.  Those are things that, for most people, make more of a difference than regular tweets.

What’s your view?

You can find out more about Julian and Brand You at www.juliansummerhayes.com

 

Professional Services Marketing: How the Internet Has Stolen Your New Business – And What To Do About It

by Kirsten Hodgson

 

A guest post by Gihan Perera, an Internet coach for thought leaders, consultants and other business professionals on why it's so important for lawyers, accountants and other professionals to establish their authority online: 

The Internet has changed the entire buying process – and it affects you, even if you don’t sell anything on-line. Barry Trailer and Jim Dickie, writing in the Harvard Business Review in 2006, put it this way:

“Buyers have always had a buy cycle, starting at the point they perceive a need. Sellers have always had a sales cycle, starting at the point they spot a prospect. It used to be that these were in sync … [but] now, the buy cycle is often well under way before the seller is even aware there is a cycle.” [emphasis added]

Customers still need to deal with businesses, but now they do it differently.

In the past, when they wanted to buy something important – whether it was insurance, real estate, legal advice or their next car – they would start by talking to a professional, preferably somebody they already knew, liked and trusted. This adviser would then take them on a journey, guiding them to the right buying decision.

That’s no longer the case. If you’re an adviser, you might want people to turn to you first, but they don’t. Instead, they first ask Google. And then perhaps they will ask their Facebook and LinkedIn friends. Or send a tweet to their followers. Or be guided by an e-mail newsletter or blog they read recently. At the end of this process, they might still choose to talk to you, but now the interaction is very different. Information is power, and the customer now has all the power.

Of course, some of your long-term clients do still call you first. But many don’t. That’s why you have to be there consistently in their minds, so that when they’re ready to take action, you’re the first person they call.

That’s easier said than done, because you don’t know exactly when the buying process started (exactly the point that Trailer and Dickie made in the extract I quoted earlier). So the only way to be there is to always be there.

Give Value, Get Business

One of my favourite actors, Steve Martin, when asked for his secret to success, put it this way:

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

That’s the approach to take in your marketing, and it all starts with your expertise. The more you can position yourself as an expert (and even better, as the expert), the greater the leverage you have in your business.

You must do this, because if you don’t, somebody else will! This is not something you can ignore. Even if you already have a stable of existing clients, you need to generate new business. And even those loyal clients might be tempted to look elsewhere.

So how can you do this without giving away the farm or spending every waking moment on-line?

The Secret is Consistency

I spent a month in Auckland in 2010, and one of the simple pleasures during my stay was buying from “The White Lady”, a mobile hamburger stand that parked itself every night on a street corner near my apartment:

The White Lady is an Auckland icon, which has been in operation since 1948. Its most impressive feature is not its longevity, but its consistency. When I said it’s been there every night, I really do mean every night. It has a proud history of being open every night for decades, except for a few weeks in 1998 when Auckland suffered a major power outage.

Make consistency your goal as well. Success on-line is not an event; it’s a process.

Here’s a sample process you can use to consistently deliver high-quality material that establishes your authority:

1.       At the start of each month, find a topic of interest to your clients and prospective clients, and write a 300-500 word article on that topic.

2.       Post it to your Web site and blog at the start of the month.

3.       A week later, send it to your newsletter subscribers.

4.       A week later, post it to your Twitter feed as well.

5.       A week later, post it to your LinkedIn account.

6.       Repeat this process each month!

If you follow this process diligently, you’ll be taking the first steps to building your authority and reputation on-line with a blog, newsletter, Twitter and LinkedIn. As a result, you’ll be increasing the chance that you’ll be the first port of call when somebody is ready to take action.

Remember: Be so good they can’t ignore you!

Gihan Perera is an Internet coach for thought leaders, consultants and other business professionals. He's the author of "Fast, Flat and Free: How the Internet Has Changed Your Business". Visit http://GihanPerera.com and get free e-books, webinars and more.

What's your view? 

What other tips would you share? 

Should professional services firms blog?

by Kirsten Hodgson

To my mind, there's no right or wrong answer to the question 'should professional services firms blog?'  If an individual, a group, or the firm commits to blogging on a pre-determined basis then it's a great tool, but if it's something that will fall off the radar when things get busy, it's probably best not to start. 

Why consider blogging? 

  1. Demonstrate your capabilities, knowledge and expertise - blogging is a great way to share information, ideas, opinions etc with those you wish to engage. Because it has a long shelf-life (i.e. posts remain up until you remove them) it is a great library of your content. I seem to use this scenario a lot but if you are recommended to a prospective client along with two or three of your competitors, and the person then looks each of you up online, what will they find? A blog is a great way to differentiate yourself before the person has met you. If they are interested they can look through your posts and determine if they like what they find. 
  2. Engage others - one of the real benefits I've found with blogging is the interactions with others. You get to engage with people, some of whom you may not otherwise have come across and, often, you get another perspective on something you've posted which is great for your own professional development. 
  3. Promote your clients and/or other products/services you think would be of value to your target audience - blogging about a client's achievement is a great way to publicly recognise your client and pointing those who read your blog in the direction of a product or service that you think could help them can be really valuable. The key thing is to disclose if you have any affiliations with that product/service up front.  
  4. SEO – I am NOT an SEO expert (I know next to nothing about it) but I do know Google loves fresh content and so regularly blogging on topics relevant to your target audience means you are more likely to get found. One law firm I spoke to recently said that they were surprised how prospective clients found them and that it was often very specific search terms that led the prospect to their blog, which then resulted in them making contact. 

Tips for professionals who want to blog

  • Agree to a blog frequency you can stick to - while there's a temptation to think you will be able to blog 2-3 times per week before you start you need to think what's realistic for you. It's far better to decide to blog once a week and to stick to it than to start off with 3 or 4 posts per week only for them to fall by the wayside when you get busy. 
  • Share the load - once you've determined how frequently you will blog, agree as a team who will write which post. This means you personally may only need to write a post once every month, whereas you as a team/firm are still able to commit to weekly/twice weekly posts. 
  • Brainstorm topics - create a list of possible topics and keep adding to this. 
  • Stick to one topic per post – if there is a lot of info or the post leads into another thought, save it for a later post. 
  • Write several posts at once so that you have content ready to go during busy times. 
  • Consider audio or video posts as well as/instead of written posts – it's fine to mix it up or to stick to what you're comfortable with. 
  • Include a question at the end of each post to encourage comments and to engage others. 

What other reasons are there for professionals/professional services firms to blog? 

What other tips would you share?