Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Building An Authentic Voice

More great stuff from Michelle Golden -- Diving into the Blogosphere? Where to Begin.

Not that she needs it, but let me backup Michelle on one of her points - voice really is that important. When it comes to blogging, nothing will sink a blog faster than lacking a genuine and authentic voice.

Last October I posted on how some law firm blogs are simply re-purposed newsletter content. The important distinction was, once again, voice. Functionally, blog software is classed as a CMS product, not much more than an easy publishing tool. It doesn't have to be used for, or called, a blog.

It's interesting to note eight years have passed since Cluetrain was first published, and the lessons Michelle is teaching are finally being heard in the legal industry. If you haven't read Cluetrain, it's worth the time. At the very least skim the 95 theses at the bottom of the homepage. See #14:
Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.
Take out 'corporations' and put in lawyers, law firms, or legal academics - it still holds true. Lawyers have no problem talking to clients in a candid or frank way, but keyboard-enabled and they're back writing law review. So I ask, how much legalese or jargon do you see on Rob Hyndman's blog? Rob's not publishing, he's talking, and building a mountain of relationships in the process.

And finally, how does one create an authentic voice, and still maintain a professional presence? Here are some of my thoughts on the subject:
  1. Writing in the third person exclusively doesn't connect with people. Blogs should include some first person narrative.
  2. You must have an opinion to offer. Anyone can relay the latest headline. If you're going to recommend a source, tell me why.
  3. Watch the mix between jargon and communication. It's ok to be 'wordy' when needed, but don't be afraid to break things down to a simpler scale.
  4. Communicate regularly, and lower your threshold to publication. Blog posts don't have to be exhaustive works.
  5. Be passionate about your topic. No one will care if you don't care, and worse from a marketing standpoint, no one will link in.
  6. Niche your perspective. Think about what makes your opinion (somewhat) unique, and try to keep it in the mix.
  7. Weigh the benefit of selectively adding a human touch. Dennis Kennedy likes Springsteen. Do you care? Maybe not, but his readers appreciate the insight that he's not chained to his desk 24/7.
  8. Provide context no one else can. Identify the issue or trend *all* of your readers are talking about, but no one ever writes about. [hint... Reporters may be trolling, and just might need a quotable source. ]
  9. Blogs are a community that require participation, law blogs included. Read, comment, link, argue, praise and help. Participation is required to get full value.
  10. You can be an authority and not come off as a jerk. Can the sales pitch, mix in your personality, and add a little self-deprecating humour. It works.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Tom Collins is on a Roll

Just a note to say I've really been enjoying Tom Collins blog More Partner Income lately. Not only is Tom a very smart guy and founder of Juris, he's also pretty savvy when it comes to the importance of information & technology in modern law practice. See Virtual Space Replacing Law Office Space and Lawyers Coping With Information Obesity as prime examples.

The real reason I read Tom's blog though, is that he generously shares his experience on legal economics & business, with commentary often targeted at mid-sized law firms. Check out:

If you're already reading Gerry Riskin or Bruce MacEwan, you should consider taking Tom Collins' feed too.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

U2 Singer Bono to Buy

How's that for a headline? Funny but quite true. From the Reuters story:

"Elevation Partners, the media-focused buyout firm founded by veteran dealmakers and U2 lead singer Bono, is also bidding for ALM, sources say."

And speaking of funny, what's with that $700 million value for a company with "annual cash flow of about $50 million"? ALM may be the 800-lb gorilla of legal news media, but sounds to me like Bono & Co. are in for a Sunday Bloody Sunday. [ok, I was waiting to use that one...]

Don't get me wrong. ALM has made some innovative moves in recent years, especially in getting closer to bloggers and practitioners generally, but there's a lot of old-school overhead there. In this day of easy web publishing, and authors with competing brands, is ALM really worth 14 times annual cash flow? wow.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Thanks to CBA National Magazine!

A big thank-you goes out to everyone at the CBA National magazine. They didn't declare it Steve Matthews month or anything, but I am very appreciative of all the recognition in this month's issue.

Not only were they kind enough to re-publish my Top 10 Uses for RSS in Law Firms, and mention the VLLB as a place to watch on Connie Crosby's legal research article, but they also pointed their readers to my feed scraping post on how to pull court decisions into an RSS feed.

It was also really great to see Clark Wilson's Brock Johnston quoted in the article on Public-Private Partnerships. Way to go Brock!


Sandra Rubin Leaves the Post?

Picked this up from Melissa over at Precedent... It seems that Sandra Rubin has left the National Post.

I think most people in the Canadian legal market recognize how well connected Sandra is within the community. It will certainly be interesting to watch who takes that spot, if anyone, and where Sandra Rubin ends up. I do know that A LOT of Canadian lawyers pick up the Legal Post to read THAT column.

Can you imagine Sandra Rubin blogging? me too. :-)

[Shout out to Sandra - if you're looking for some help, offer's open! ]

[update 06/15: I guess this shouldn't have been a surprise.]