By working out the high-level issues in advance, the law firm marketer will increase the likelihood that the article is just as compelling as the marketer envisioned.

Marketing leaders who approach the task of hiring freelancers with a purchase mentality are often disappointed. The quality of the work is uneven or, worse, just not up to the law firm’s standards.

This is because — regardless of the writer’s track record — the real expertise lies within the firm. When hiring a freelancer, the firm is actually leveraging its own expertise, trading money for time, in order to squeeze more value from existing personnel.

Hiring a freelancer should be viewed as a delegation, not a purchase. As such, the success of any editorial project involving freelancers depends on the extent to which firm marketing leaders invest the necessary time to make an effective delegation of the content creation aspect of their job responsibilities.

1. Define the Job in Detail


Be as specific as possible when assigning the topic. Don’t leave assignment details subject to interpretation. Generally speaking, the narrower the topic the more interesting it will be to the reader and the easier it will be for the writer to produce. “Representing seniors and seriously ill investors in a FINRA arbitration proceeding” is a good blog topic.  “What Is FINRA arbitration?” is a research paper. Not good.

If you want at least 1,000 words, say so at the outset. Do you have a particular reader in mind? Tell the writer. If your intended reader is a consumer, do you need a high Flesch reading ease score?

Which law firms compete with yours? Have they published have articles on the assigned topic?

2. Paint the Big Picture


Share with the writer why the article has been commissioned. Does it address a hot topic? Is it filling a content hole on the firm’s website. Is it being published in support of a new practice group?

If firm marketers are targeting keywords for SEO purposes, share those keywords with the writer. Share also the firm’s views on the extent to which keywords should appear within the article, and where.

Is the firm angling for a featured snippet on Google? 

What is the purpose of the article? In other words, what does the firm want the reader to do after reading the article? Subscribe to a list? Share the article? Pick up the phone?


3. Empower the Writer


Take whatever time is necessary to provide the writer with the resources necessary to do a good job. At a minimum, marketing leaders should share the firm’s style guide. A style guide makes the writing go much faster, and it’s a valuable resource when editing submitted work.

If the firm does not have a style guide, then direct the writer to follow a third-party style guide such as the Associated Press Stylebook. Any style guide will do. The point is to be consistent and provide everyone with a reference.

Beyond the style guide, marketing leaders should strongly consider sharing — if at all possible — client surveys, content marketing strategies, branding and positioning statements. These documents give the writer insight into the intended reader for the article. More importantly, they supply the writer with a lexicon of words and phrases for use in writing. If writers don’t know the firm’s preferred vocabulary for defining legal problems and addressing potential clients, then they’re going to come up with their own words, most likely less-than-ideal words.

Confidentiality concerns can be addressed with an NDA or with a “marketing strategy lite” document written specifically to guide freelance content creators.

4. Evaluate Submitted Work


The process of editing written work is the best opportunity to coach the writer for improved performance. Having given the writer a detailed work assignment, the firm’s in-house marketing team has a clear reference guide to assess the work and suggest edits to the writer. Compliance with the style guide ensures that the work is consistent with the rest of the firm’s content inventory. Finally, holding the work up to the firm’s branding and positioning documents means that the work will execute on the firm’s content marketing strategy.

The editor should strive to be positive wherever possible, to direct criticism to the written work rather than toward the writer, and to confine criticism to whether or not the article delivered on the assignment and was executed with the firm’s guidance documents in mind.

Managing the creation of editorial materials isn’t like buying a television or hiring a house painter. It’s more like delegating to someone else a job you would be doing yourself if you had the time and resources. With a delegation, the critical ingredients for success are the delegator’s effort and skill. By working out the high-level issues in advance and clearly communicating the job at hand to the writer, the law firm marketer will vastly increase the likelihood that the finished article is just as compelling as the marketer envisioned.
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By Thomas O'Toole

A journalist with three decades' experience reporting on legal affairs, Tom is the managing editor and lead writer at Lawyers Media LLC.

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