Bird holding worm to signify early bird thought leadership.

Early bird thought leadership is a positioning cheat code

When an attorney previews an upcoming legal or industry development, they position themselves as a go-to resource regarding it.

Most attorneys and law firms use thought leadership to establish their knowledge and authority by discussing, after they occur, legal or industry developments within their practice areas or the industries they serve.

But “early bird” thought leadership can help attorneys establish their authority and show off their knowledge and wisdom before a development occurs, while positioning them as a go-to source for insights and analysis after it occurs.

What is early bird thought leadership?

Early bird thought leadership is when an attorney produces thought leadership covering an expected legal or industry development.

For example, perhaps a legislature is about to hold hearings regarding a particular issue or is about to vote on a proposed piece of legislation.

Or, perhaps a regulatory agency is about to take some kind of action.

Or, perhaps there’s a large industry conference, or a large industry player is holding a press conference or giving a high-profile presentation, from which an attorney can expect there to be news of interest to their target audiences (which is why the attorney thinks creating content regarding that conference or presentation could also be of interest to them).

When an attorney engages in early bird thought leadership and previews a potential legal or industry development, they plant their flag early as an authority regarding the development’s subject matter because they’re showing through their thought leadership that they’re knowledgeable and wise about it.

They also position themselves as one of the first places their target audiences should turn to after the development actually happens. They’re previewing it, so it makes sense that those audiences should turn to them after the development has occurred for further guidance and insights.

(If an attorney decides to engage in early bird thought leadership, they must close the loop in order to reinforce their authority regarding the subject matter. They do so by covering the development after it occurs and providing analysis about what happened.)

The many benefits to early bird thought leadership

There are a number of benefits to producing early bird thought leadership.

First, as I mentioned already, early bird thought leadership helps attorneys plant their flags. With early bird thought leadership, attorneys plant a flag early in the eyes of their target audiences that they are a go-to authority regarding the development and its subject matter.

Second, it’s easier to stand out from the crowd. There tends to be fewer attorneys and law firms producing previews of developments compared to analyses of those developments after they’ve occurred. That means there’s less competition for eyeballs before the development occurs, which allows attorneys and firms to stand out from their competitors easier.

Third, it’s easier to be found by media. Early bird thought leadership helps get the attention of media outlets and individuals who are searching for subject matter experts regarding a legal or industry development to provide guidance and insights as soon as it happens.

Because an attorney published a preview piece before the development happened, they’ve placed themselves in pole position to receive media inquiries about the development after it happens because they’ve positioned themselves as an authority regarding the development and its subject matter.

Reporters, editors, bloggers, and anyone else searching for guidance or insights regarding a breaking or trending legal or industry development are going to go to the people who have already published something regarding that development.

Other attorneys, even if they are considered more authoritative by some people regarding the development based on their prior work and media appearances, will be playing “catch up” by producing thought leadership concerning the development after it happened. Thus, their thought leadership content is unlikely to be found in the first few hours or days after the development occurs, giving those attorneys who published early bird thought leadership an advantage.

Early bird thought leadership must provide value

Of course, early bird thought leadership isn’t just about showing up early and producing a half-baked preview of a development. An attorney should put some meat on the preview bone.

It’s not enough for them to say that something is happening. Preview pieces aren’t calendar entries; they’re thought leadership pieces. Attorneys writing preview pieces should provide insights, guidance, and ultimately, value.

The attorney can discuss what’s at stake with the potential development. They can address the possible outcomes and the impact of those outcomes.

Giving the audience something to take away from the preview piece solidifies the attorney as an authority on the subject matter of the development and not just someone who is simply noting the fact that this potential development might happen.

Early bird thought leadership catches the authority worm

Opportunities for early bird thought leadership won’t always be available. It’s hard to anticipate most trial and appellate courts’ rulings or notable industry developments.

But in the right situations, early bird thought leadership is a cheat code attorneys can use to position themselves as authorities regarding developments in the areas of law they practice or the industries they serve.

Thinking about bringing on an outside writer to help your law firm strategize and create compelling thought-leadership marketing and business development content? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your firm.

Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm, and the Law Firm Editorial Service, a content strategy and ghostwriting service for lawyers and their law firms. The Law Firm Editorial Service helps Big Law and boutique law firm partners, and their firms, grow their practices and prominence by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building marketing and business development content.

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