Practice Group Publishing Strategies: A Book Excerpt

You may have heard that Steve Matthews and I recently published our first book, Content Marketing and Publishing Strategies for Law Firms, with The Ark Group. Our mission was to help law firms place a strategic framework around their content marketing efforts — to identify and implement the “Why” of publishing, rather than just the “How.”

Today, we’d like to offer an excerpt from our book that deals with an important and underrated aspect of law firm publishing: the practice or industry group. Without further ado, here are our analyses and insights on practice group publishing:

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As the dwindling number of daily newspapers and weekly newsmagazines demonstrates, publishers that “bundle” myriad types of information into a general-interest format are struggling to succeed in an “unbundled,” highly segmented media world. In a similar way, larger law firms often struggle to effectively create and distribute legal content, because they too are full-service “bundlers” of specific legal expertise that is actually based in their individual practice or industry groups.

This is why practice and industry groups are critical to the success of a law firm’s publishing strategy. If your firm is a sole practice or a highly specialized boutique, then effectively, you might have only one “practice group.” But even modest full-service firms have several such groups, and the largest law firms in the world have dozens. You cannot discuss law firm publishing strategies without addressing the role of these groups.

Practice and industry groups are, of course, the engines of law firm productivity. They are the business units that drive client development and revenue by identifying and executing the tactics that fulfill the firm’s strategies. In many firms, each practice group has its own tactical business development plan, aligned with and supporting the firm’s overall business development strategy.

Similarly, each practice group within a firm also needs to create its own tactical publishing strategy, based upon and integrated with the firm’s publishing strategy. It should specify:

  • The group’s strategic content marketing goals;
  • The group’s chosen tactics;
  • The group’s preferred vehicles;
  • The group’s anticipated resource needs; and
  • The group’s expected results.

Once the practice group’s strategy has been determined, then comes the tricky part: ensuring that its strategy is sensible, realistic, and fully aligned with other groups’ plans and with the firm’s overall efforts. Suppose the firm’s most important industry group, responsible for 40% of revenue, throws together a lackadaisical and unambitious content plan; simultaneously, a tiny startup niche within the firm creates an industrial-grade content production machine that would effectively rebrand the entire firm in its image. What to do?

These are the situations in which leadership is required to provide a firm hand. Just as practice group business plans can be reworked and reconfigured to ensure the firm’s overall goals are achieved, so too should publishing plans be re-examined and reconceived to better ensure the success of the larger publishing strategy. Perhaps the two groups in the preceding hypothetical could combine forces, marrying the expertise and market dominance of one group with the enthusiasm and creativity of the other.

You might have noticed that smaller firms and boutiques frequently produce some of the best law firm content. This is in part because they must adopt a narrow focus to the work they offer and the markets to which they offer it; accordingly, they need to dig deeper and deliver richer content to a smaller and more specific audience. Once upon a time, that narrow focus and small audience might have been impediments to effective marketing, which required extensive resources for advertising efforts. Today, however, in a million-channel, long-tail market in which people can find precisely what they’re looking for, a deep and narrow subject focus has become a strength.

Full-service firms can replicate this boutique advantage by supporting multiple niche divisions within their overall “publishing houses,” each with its own publishing strategy. Firms that give their practice and industry groups the opportunity to develop their own narratives and readerships, to dive deep into a subject, and to engage readers on the specific issues that concern them, will reap the benefits.

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You can purchase your copy of Content Marketing and Publishing Strategies for Law Firms at The Ark Group’s website today.

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