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With thought leadership, size matters, but not the way you might think

Keeping your thought leadership short gives you more opportunities to get in front of your target audiences while still allowing you to show off your knowledge and wisdom.

Lawyers and other professional services providers who understand the value of thought leadership in their marketing and business development efforts (hopefully, that’s you!) often like to give as much knowledge and wisdom as they can through their thought leadership content.

That often means covering as much territory regarding a topic as their word limit will allow.

But when we’re talking about blog posts, client alerts, and other digital-first content where there’s practically an unlimited word count, employing this philosophy when creating content can cause that content to become L-O-N-G.

Yes, it is noble to be a giver with your thought leadership. But today, it is advantageous for lawyers to write more content of less length than to write less content of longer length.

Shorter thought leadership can give you more bang for your buck in less time

When you compare the work involved in one 2000-word article versus four 500-word articles, and you realize that the odds someone will read an article of yours increase with the number of articles you publish, you realize it makes sense to consider how to create less content more often.

Despite what you may think — and what you might have been told — length is not required to demonstrate expertise regarding a topic.

If anything, the fewer words you use to explain a topic and to convey its relevance to the reader, the more knowledgeable and wise you appear because you don’t need to add fluff or rattle on and on about various aspects of that topic. You can say everything you need to say to educate your audience without going on tangents or covering related-but-ultimately-unimportant concepts.

Most importantly, it will likely take you the same amount of time to write one 2,000- or 2,500-word article as it would for you to write four or five 500-word articles that cover the same aspects of the topic you covered in your longer piece.

In the time it took you to shoot a single flare into the thought leadership sky, letting the marketplace know that you have the goods to help people and organizations with their legal or business issues, you could have shot four or five.

Keep only what you need; Cut everything else

There’s no shortage of tips you can employ to shorten your thought leadership writing and make it more compact. But the most important tip is to only keep the words that are necessary to convey substantive information to the reader or that are necessary to convey your knowledge, wisdom, and overall expertise. Remove superfluous words and concepts.

Sure, it’s nice to include pop culture references or introductory or concluding paragraphs that set the table or tie things up with a bow. But be careful not to weigh your content down with extraneous words and information. It will make the content seem difficult to read and might even drive away readers who glance at the content in full before reading it and think to themselves, “This is going to be a long slog. I’m out of here.”

Slice and dice your content

Even when you have a topic that you are certain demands 1250, 1750, or—gasp—2250 words because there’s a lot to say about it, think about how you can slice and dice your approach to that topic so that you will have a series of smaller pieces of content regarding it, allowing you to share knowledge and wisdom about it more frequently.

A nice bonus of short-form content is that it is relatively easy to piece together to create long-form content down the road. A short article can cross-link to another one when they’re posted online. Or, you can compile a series of related short articles and create either an email blast around them or a standalone online article that introduces each article and links to them or includes the full text of them.

Give the people what they want

Today, your current and prospective clients and referral sources are spoiled by the quick dopamine hits they receive from content posted on X/Twitter, TikTok, and other social media platforms. In comparison, consuming a 1500- or 2000-word thought leadership article shared on social media or delivered to their email inbox can seem daunting.

Now, of course, plenty of your current and prospective clients and referral sources will gladly at least skim a 1500- or 2000-word article, especially when they’re reading legal industry publications or publications serving their industries. In those contexts, 1500 words might be the average length of an article appearing in those publications.

But when we’re talking about thought leadership content outside that context, such as client alerts and blog posts, as well as digital marketing content generally, you may want to reconsider how you approach the length of that content and whether it’s better to tackle a topic through one single long piece of content versus a series of shorter pieces of content.

Short thought leadership, however, doesn’t mean “dumb” thought leadership. Articles, client alerts, blog posts, and other content that’s less than 1000 words still provide opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge, wisdom, and expertise.

When you do so through shorter pieces of thought leadership content, you increase the chances that the content will be consumed by your target audiences, hopefully leading to new client matters, new referrals, or at the very least, your target audiences viewing you as a thought leader because you frequently publish content that is relevant, valuable, and compelling to them.

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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