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Want your thought leadership to endure? Make it nonperishable.

If you want your thought leadership to continue to be relevant, valuable, and compelling for years after you first publish it, draft it in a way that keeps it from going stale quickly.

If you’re interested in creating thought leadership content that endures and is relevant to your target audience today, tomorrow, and next year, you’ve got to make your content nonperishable.

How, exactly, do you do that?

You avoid tying it to a timely legal development or a timely news story that has a legal angle you want to cover. 

When you tie your thought leadership to a timely legal development or news story, you automatically put an expiration date on that piece of content. Even if it has interesting analysis and guidance that could be relevant and valuable down the road, would-be consumers of that content will see it as stale because the article is tied to a once-timely legal development or news event that, in the future, happened a while ago.

This occurs frequently in legal practices where current events raise significant legal issues. Examples include insurance lawyers discussing insurance issues stemming from recent or upcoming hurricanes, cybersecurity lawyers discussing data breaches in the news or new data privacy laws, and employment lawyers discussing proposed or newly enacted employment laws.

To be clear, this kind of content tied to current events can be useful to prospective and current clients. It can be relevant and valuable to them. 

But it’s also the kind of content that goes stale, which means its shelf life is relatively short, which means the creators of that content are unlikely to get a significant bang for their buck because the content is unlikely to be consumed by many people after the news event it is tied to fades away into our memories.

Prefer to watch a video about this topic instead? Here you go!

Here’s how to create nonperishable thought leadership content

Luckily, creating nonperishable thought leadership content is easy to do. More importantly, following the process for creating nonperishable content allows lawyers to transform thought leadership that would have otherwise been tied to current events and thus saddled with an imminent expiration date into content that has no foreseeable expiration date.

So what, you might be wondering, is the process for creating nonperishable thought leadership content?

You simply look at the issues you want to discuss that are raised by a timely legal development or a news event and detach them from the development or news event.

For example, if you want to talk about the expected issues insurance companies or other kinds of companies will deal with in the wake of Hurricane [insert name here], don’t talk about that hurricane in particular. Instead, take a step back and talk generally about what these companies should do in the case of a hurricane. Or, take another step back and discuss what these companies should do in the case of severe weather or natural disasters.

To tie that article, video, or other form of content to current events in the future, a law firm could send out an email newsletter or publish a blog post that talks about the incoming hurricane or recent disaster and then links to that piece of content. When a firm does this, it gets the best of both worlds. It provides a timely reason for its target audience to consume a piece of content, but the content can stand on its own without referencing that timely reason.

The same process would apply to articles regarding data breaches in the news or proposed or enacted cybersecurity or employment laws. Instead of talking about legal issues arising out of a particular company’s recent data breach, or how to comply with a particular state’s new law, you can craft content that discusses certain legal issues in connection with data breaches generally, or how to comply with typical provisions of a certain kind of statute—which just so happens to be the kind recently enacted by that particular state.

Timely content isn’t a bad thing—if it is designed to be perishable

Generally speaking, I would not advise law firms to create timely content because it doesn’t have a long shelf life, which means it is unlikely to endure and reach as many members of a firm’s target audience as a longer-lasting piece of content could.

But that doesn’t mean timely content is innately bad or a waste of a law firm’s time.

If your firm writes short blog posts regarding new court decisions, laws being proposed or passed, and/or regulatory agencies taking action, we’re talking about a different purpose for that content.

That content is designed to alert your firm’s target audience that a legal development happened or an important news event happened. The value isn’t so much the depth that this content goes into; it is that the target audience is alerted about a legal development or news event that could be of relevance.

If a law firm is creating 400-, 500-, or 600-word blog posts or email blasts about legal developments or news events that are meant to simply inform, there shouldn’t be a concern about those posts or blasts being nonperishable. They are designed to go stale and fade away.

Nonperishable doesn’t mean never touching it again

Of course, just because you’ve created nonperishable thought leadership content doesn’t mean that you can leave it alone and never tweak it. Even though you’ve detached your thought leadership from current events, you’ll need to update it from time to time.

The law changes. Best practices change. Technology changes. The considerations individuals and organizations may need to factor in when dealing with a legal issue changes. The red flags they’ll need to be on the lookout for in connection with other legal issues change.

Your nonperishable thought leadership should reflect those changes. Otherwise, your firm is going to have bigger problems than outdated articles. Your law firm should have a program where older pieces of thought leadership content designed to be nonperishable are reviewed at least annually to ensure the principles underpinning them are still accurate given the laws and regulations that apply presently.

Resist the urge to create timely—but perishable—content

It is tempting to create thought leadership content pegged to current legal developments or news events. If a law firm’s target audience has a particular timely legal issue top of mind, it makes sense that the firm would want to join the conversation its audience is already having inside its collective head about that issue.

But when law firms create timely thought leadership, they are putting an expiration date on that content. Future would-be consumers of that content will probably not even bother skimming an article or briefly watching a video that references a legal development or news event that is firmly in the rearview mirror. 

Why would they? They’d likely think that because the event is no longer timely, neither are the guidance and insights provided by the accompanying content.

Creating nonperishable thought leadership content allows law firms to maximize the efficiency of their content creation process by creating content that endures. A single piece of content, updated over time as needed, could become a significant driver of potential and current clients’ inquiries because they will perceive the content as still being relevant, valuable, and compelling well after it was first published, and then reach out to the creators of that content because it is clear they are authorities regarding the issues covered in that content.

By crafting thought leadership that focuses on (relatively) timeless legal issues and presents those issues in a way that is not tied to current events, law firms will end up crafting thought leadership that is itself (relatively) timeless.

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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