This is the last in a series of posts on distributed publishing opportunities for lawyers and law firms. If you haven’t done so already, please do check out the intro post and previous entries on blogging, social media, and microsites. Now, to wrap up, let’s talk about…
Frequently Asked Questions, or FAQs, have been around almost as long as the internet itself. They’ve been used by many different types of businesses, and can fill an important support role for the user-base of either a product or service. Done well, FAQ collections will aggregate most of the common problems or known issues into a single online location. Collections are often searchable, can include dedicated social media publishing, sharing capability, and keyword tagging for finer topic arrangement.
It’s also worth noting that many FAQ collections are not directly tied to the official manufacturer or service provider. These collections are often created by outside parties, motivated to publish for varying reasons, and who can differ greatly in their degree of support or critique.
The legal industry is obviously tied to selling services, and I would argue that FAQs are a great fit for fleshing out the nuances of service delivery. Lawyers benefit from the intangible elements of credibility and demonstrated expertise — without ever having calling themselves “an expert” — and can provide generalized guidance to the most basic and routine questions.
The fact that most complex questions can’t be fully articulated in an FAQ item, or a blog post for that matter, helps make these FAQs a formidable style of content marketing — almost a loss leader, because they only typically include part of the answer. And like other forms of content, there is a challenge: you must deliver enough quality information within the FAQ items to draw follow-up email questions, inbound links, or derive some sort of marketing value. Failing to do so, by the same measure, won’t have the marketing impact that most desire.
Some best practices for developing legal FAQ collections include:
- Asking lawyers to put themselves in the potential client’s shoes. What issues keep them up at night? What key industry changes are on the horizon?
- Having lawyers think about what questions they find themselves answering again and again
- Having lawyers keep a running list of questions to spur ideas for future updates to the collection
- Finding non-lawyer experts to help formulate potential questions. These individuals are often available either in-house (especially with boutique firms), or by tapping into the lawyer’s industry-oriented business relationships.
- Execute keyword and other web-based research to find out what topics are being searched for by the target audience. We tend to run keyword volume reports for any online publishing initiative.
Ultimately, we encourage lawyers to give away their knowledge on the topics they could never justify billing for. Even the most basic questions (coming from the right client) can require a time investment. Similar to forwarding an ‘introductory article’ on a topic, an on-point legal FAQ entry can describe an issue in short order. The fact it serves as online marketing collateral means your content is multitasking.
FAQ collections do require maintenance, and ideally, authors are adding new Q&A sets as part of their publishing routine. Especially for those who just can’t see themselves as committed bloggers, FAQs can be a viable alternative. The overall time commitment is about the same, but FAQs can be less opinion-driven, and frequently don’t have the constant issue of currency.
So that rounds out my series on distributed publishing. Please chime in with your own thoughts on what works and what doesn’t in the comments!