You’re going to the law bookstore looking for some interesting reads. You browse the spines of the books, pick one, and pull it down off the shelf. It’s three hundred pages; every page ends with a call to action — “if you’ve been injured, call me.” Skimming the text, you notice that the words “truck accident,” “lawyer,” “attorney,” and a few others are mentioned over and over and over again. You put that book back and try another. It’s got more of the same, except instead of “truck accident” it has repeated references to “DUI.” You’d be interested in learning about both topics, but the writing with all those repeated phrases is hackneyed, and you don’t care to be sold. That one goes back on the shelf.
The next book you choose has interesting information without the marketing; you put it in your basket and continue. After about fifteen minutes you realize that 75% of the books in the store are thinly disguised advertising. The other books are what you’re looking for, but they’re hard to find, and it’s frustrating.
Will you ever return to that bookstore?
I won’t mince words — this is a program that is designed to show you how to use blawging for marketing and client generation. And there’s no one more qualified to teach than Grant Griffiths, a former lawyer renowned for relying on his blog on his sole marketing tool.
I’m familiar with the great blawgosphere debate from a few months back over whether lawyers can or should blog for love (i.e., conversation) or money (i.e., marketing). I never quite understood the debate because frankly, a blog designed for marketing and a blog intended to stimulate conversation are two separate animals entirely, just as self-help books fall into an entirely different category than writings by philosophers like Camus or Buber or Kant which on their most basic level also try to help individuals make sense of their place in the world. Which genre is superior? Of course, I have my own views but mostly, it depends on what the reader wants. Somehow, I’m not so sure that a lawyer who’s just lost a job will be up for plowing through Sartre’s essays to realize that even when things seem hopeless we all have a choice– he’d probably prefer the breezy-easy-reassuring tone of the self-help book instead.
I’ll take it for granted that Grant and Michael are trying to provide the blawgosphere’s equivalent of a self-help book. But that’s not what they’re trying to get other lawyers to provide. They’re trying to get 250 lawyers to “blog for profit” — to create marketing blogs. A blog, the primary purpose of which is advertisement, is not a self-help book but an advertisement.
The point is that there’s room in the lawyer blogosphere for all types of blogs and the existence of one form doesn’t diminish the other — or at least, it shouldn’t.
To the contrary, Grant and Michael want lawyers to pack the law section of the virtual bookstore of the blawgosphere with thinly-disguised advertising. People read books (and blogs) for entertainment and education; that’s all. Readers who have to winnow out many books-for-profit to find a few books-for-education or books-for-entertainment are not likely to return to the store.
While any fool with a few dollars can self-publish a book, Barnes and Noble is not going to put it on the shelf (unless said fool has followers who are willing to buy all copies). The bricks-and-moreter bookstore has barriers to entry.
The blawgosphere has no barriers to entry. Any idiot can put up a blog, say whatever he thinks will get him clients, and produce a “hire me!” commercial of no redeeming value.
There is another approach to blog marketing: blog for reputation. Developing a reputation online is easy — even the blatant marketers are creating reputations for themselves — but developing a good reputation requires content and talent. Kevin O’Keefe (LexBlog) thinks that developing a reputation through blogging is itself a powerful marketing tool; I am dubious about that point, but I think the blawgosphere can only be improved by more talented bloggers writing about the things they know with an eye to entertaining and educating, so I won’t argue it.
If you have some writing talent, something to say, and some free time, you don’t need to pay someone to teach you how to parlay those assets into a blog that will entertain and educate. There’s a world of advice available to you for free, and the practical blawgosphere wants you to succeed. Write worth a damn, join in the conversation, link to posts on the blawgs you like reading, and we’ll find your blog and spread the word.
One good thing about the blatant marketing blawgs is that they give people writing nonmarketing blawgs something to mock. This can have high entertainment value (to us, if not to our readers), but it is very bad for the people doing the marketing — some of the blawgs that will be mocking you have higher Google pagerank than your little advertising blog will ever have, and it’s easy to buy yourself a bad reputation online (just ask Frank Pignatelli). If Scott Greenfield puts your name in the title of a blog post, for example, that post is going to pop up high in the search results for your name for a long, long time.
If you want to join in the conversation and educate and entertain yourself, the bar, and/or the public, then get a domain name, install WordPress, and start writing what you know. Write well, be patient, and the links will come. There is no shortcut — the only way to get noticed is to start writing. If we were in this to turn a buck, you’d be competition, but since we’re not, you’re a colleague. So if you need help, drop a line to one of your favorite bloggers.
If, on the other hand, the idea of being held up to public ridicule appeals to you, then by all means blog for profit.