The Corporate Journalism Dilemma

The new buzzwords in legal marketing are “corporate journalism.”

This term was made famous by the latest findings of the Greentarget/ALM/Zeughauser’s 2014 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey and is defined as “a practice that combines an organization’s market intelligence and subject matter expertise with the credibility and narrative techniques of professional journalism.”

The challenges for law firms attempting to engage in corporate journalism are obvious: First, law firms generally aren’t very good at investing in market intelligence; And second, the majority of large law firm lawyers don’t know how to write like journalists. Each of of these problems strike at the core of what corporate journalism is, yet there is an even bigger problem, which I will call the corporate journalism dilemma.images

Let me describe it this way: At law firms you hopefully have three types of practices: Those that are growing; Those that are stagnant; And those that are on the decline. Which of these is most in need of corporate journalism? The answer might surprise you. Investing time and resources into content online makes sense with growing practices. Unless there is real potential for growth, the time and money expended by the lawyers and the firm in creating content just won’t be worth it. What if the lawyer with the stagnant practice wants to write in his free time? Fine, but it can’t be a priority of the firm.

I’ve written two books on social media & blogging and although I believe that these tools are effective, I don’t believe they are right for every lawyer and every practice area. Here is what is happening right now in law firms:

1. Law firm A has identified a huge growth area and decided it would be great to build a blog there to leverage the firm’s growing reputation in this expanding marketing.

2. Lawyers at firm A are far too busy to write or blog because they are doing billable work. As a result, the firm misses out on a major growth opportunity.

Even worse, I’ve seen the other extreme happen at law firms.

1. Law firms decide to start blogging, but they don’t base the blog strategy on market intelligence. Instead they encourage anybody that wants to create content at the firm to start a blog.

2. As a result, more content is being created by the firm, but none of it directed at the most productive practice or industry groups.

How do firms solve this dilemma? How do they get the right type of content from the busiest lawyers at the right time? There are two real solutions.

First, prioritize content creation and tie the success of good content creation into the compensation of lawyers, or…

Second, hire professional writers and journalists to create the content. Each law firm has key strategic initiatives every year, but far too often there is not a content strategy aligned with the firm’s key initiatives.

Social media, blogging and content creation are no longer shiny objects that can be relegated to the geeks and innovators within your law firm — They need to become essential tools that can pulled out and used to build the credibility of your firm and execute on the key market opportunities that your law firm identifies. Corporate journalism isn’t easy. It requires substantial resources and deliberate focus, but there is no more effective method of reaching potential clients. Every firm faces this same dilemma, but the most successful firms in the next decade will have found the solution.


2014 State of Digital Infographic


3 Responses to “The Corporate Journalism Dilemma”

  1. Adrian- enjoyed your article and agree that we (lawyers) and other business owners are, whether they want to be or not, all modern day digital publishers (or need to participate in “corporate journalism”). Farming out the production side of publishing is one option and maybe even the only option for some.

    Having said that, I do think the better option is to change the culture of law and business to accommodate this new dynamic. By this I mean to have each lawyer include in their daily activities an hour or so of interacting and publishing (blogs, podcasts, social…) on one or more platforms they’re comfortable and passionate with using. Just like you and I would personally interact and small talk with others at an evening function or cocktail party, these same lawyers can and probably should do the same on the digital platforms. Hiring and sending someone else to a bar function to build new relationships for you is probably not the best way to go.

    I truly believe the same dynamics work best online using social. The lawyers and companies that understand this new dynamic are positioning themselves for future success. Those who don’t may not have an office to go to in 5 years.

    • Thanks for the comment Mitch. Unfortunately, I think we are a long long way from the average lawyer, or 5% of lawyers for that matter, spending one hour per day interacting and publishing online. That’s the ideal that I’ve been fighting for these last few years, but we have a long way to go as a profession to get there.


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