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Commentary: Nine reasons to write a Top 10

The buzz phrase of the day is “content is king,” and you’ve no doubt been urged by your marketing staff to write an article, newsletter or blog post. If you’re like most lawyers, you agree that it’s a good idea, but you just can’t seem to find the time to actually write it.

Need more convincing? Here are nine reasons Top 10 lists make great content for both writers and readers:

1) Venti latte, skim milk, one sugar? Clients and prospects take their news like they take their coffee: in myriad forms. Some like skimming the headlines on a tablet, some expect to listen to the news over headphones on the train, and others are content to hold the print version in their hands. Offering advice in a succinct list that’s easy to read in various formats can help ensure your message is heard by your target audience. Sure, you can send everyone a newsletter, but in this client-centric age, why not give them their news in the form they prefer? If you don’t, someone else will.

2) No magic wand (or smartphone) required. It’s true: Composing a list of helpful employment law tips doesn’t require any more technology than writing your grocery list. You can start it right now or while you’re on the train ride home tonight. Unlike other marketing or business development initiatives, such as filming a video campaign or maintaining a timely social media presence, creating a useful, interesting Top 10 list is fairly low-tech. (That’s not to say that your witty explanation of the top 10 issues clients face when writing a will wouldn’t make an engaging video campaign!) Which brings us to No. 3 …

3) Reduce, reuse, recycle. Think of how impressive your Top 10 is going to look in presentation format at your next pitch. Need a one page handout for Monday morning’s panel discussion? Done. Now you’re saving time and trees. Have you been thinking of recording a podcast? With a Top 10 list in hand, you’ve already got your topic conveniently broken into 10 digestible chapters.

4) Legal-ease NOT spoken here. Sure, you’re an attorney, and we expect long, descriptive articles from you. But sometimes it’s the everyday, plain-English email explanation you send to a client that really drives the point. Aren’t we all looking for the practical answer? Ideally, your well-written Top 10 list will be a reference point for readers now and in the future. Say it simply now and they won’t need a translator later.

5) What have you done for me lately? Compose a Top 10 list for your clients and then share why it’s helpful to them. Lists such as Top 10s have proven to increase memory of a topic, bring order to chaos (which, if you’re dealing with entrepreneurs, you probably experience daily), provide focus by allowing readers to zero-in on important factors, and help reduce procrastination. The value of sharing knowledge is clear. Package it as a handy list and you’ve really delivered the benefits to your reader.

6) Qualify the client. Or, what have you done for YOU lately? A resourceful attorney at my firm recently published a list of 10 questions to answer before contacting a patent attorney. What a brilliant idea. It might not be a traditional Top 10, but the list does double duty. She put some of the power back in the prospective client’s hands while also ensuring that the client is truly ready for engagement by the time he picks up the phone to call her. (Bonus: This concept works well as a handout, too.)

7) Think outside the list. Maybe your expertise just can’t be molded into a hit list. No problem. How about some FAQs? What are those three questions every client asks? Or how about a how-to on saving time and money when filing a trademark application?

8) Short is the new black. Take your cue from shrinking attention spans by tailoring your content with shorter paragraphs and to-the-point sentences. A list is the perfect way to convey information under the guise of digestible bits; less truly is more in this case. And it wouldn’t be the end of the world if readers called you with questions or a yearning for more information, would it?

9) Nine? By now you must be wondering why I didn’t take my own advice and write a Top 10, instead opting for nine reasons. Turns out that readers are more likely to be intrigued by an unusually numbered list. Plus, who has time for filler fluff? If you’ve got seven gems, let it go. Put pen to paper and share your knowledge in an orderly fashion. You have my permission to drop No. 10.

Jaclyn Braga is the marketing manager at Morse, Barnes-Brown & Pendleton in Waltham, Massachusetts, and co-chair of the 2015 Legal Marketing Association New England Regional Conference. A version of this column originally appeared in Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly, sister publication to The Daily Record.



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