Over the past few years, one of our clients has grown a thriving practice around a specialized, rapidly evolving area of law. During this time, we have promoted the practice through the usual communications channels—website videos and case studies, targeted marketing pieces, and an active social media presence. It wasn’t long before everyone involved discovered that there was no single place where the industry’s evolving history—much of which involved legislation, lawsuits and government investigations—could be found. It became obvious that the firm’s potential clients and referral sources would benefit from having a trusted resource to rely on for timely, accurate information. Our solution? Develop a white paper that would clearly demonstrate that the firm was the authoritative source for the emerging niche industry. That said, embarking on the development of a 30-page white paper shouldn’t be taken lightly. Here are some of the critical steps in moving the process along and maximizing the promotional opportunities such a document provides.
1. Who’s the Boss?
For this project, the practice group leader was the only decision-maker. He reviewed and approved the outline we developed for the paper and was responsible for approving the final document. While his colleagues provided valuable input and suggestions, he made quick and clear decisions. He also supported us in enforcing deadlines. For firms where the practice leader doesn’t have the time or inclination to be the point-person, the marketing team needs to take the lead once the project has gotten the green light. Pick a “chief” who will determine resources, tasks and deadlines. This person can communicate key milestones to the practice leader to streamline the project, keeping him involved as the “leader” not the “doer.”
2. Divide and Conquer
No single person was responsible for the entire project and we deployed members of Knapp’s marketing team to tackle the project, beginning with developing the initial outline. Our individual roles included researching and writing specific sections, editing the document for style, formatting the document and incorporating graphic design. Since actually getting the information down on paper was the biggest hurdle to completing the project, we used a variety of resources to avoid taxing any one person. Our breakdown looked something like this:
- Firm’s associate writing: 15%
- Our marketing team writing: 35%
- Our professional attorney-writer: 35%
- Firm’s partner writing (using outline provided by marketing team): 15%
You could also consider enlisting paralegals to help with the writing.
3. Maintenance Plan
At the outset of the project, we discussed the fact that the white paper would need to evolve as legislation changed and case law developed. Making periodic updates to the white paper will not be nearly as time intensive as its initial development, and will provide an excellent opportunity to promote fresh content through media relations, social media, newsletter and website updates.
4. Distribution Plan
The white paper was developed, in part, to be distributed in conjunction with a sponsorship the practice group secured at a major industry event. We were able to get the document in the hands of a large audience, all of whom had a need for the information being provided. Other promotional activities included:
- Industry Contacts: We used LinkedIn to research industry players who would find the white paper useful and who were potential clients or potential referral sources. We collected their addresses and sent them a hardcopy of the white paper with a personalized note.
- The attorneys helped create a list of the top 100 most important firm contacts (using their LinkedIn contacts) and distributed a printed copy of the white paper to those contacts.
- A download button was added to the firm’s website and blog and a landing page created for the white paper. All of the attorneys in the practice group shared the white paper on their LinkedIn and, where applicable, Twitter accounts.
- The white paper was advertised on industry-specific blogs.
- We undertook an extensive media outreach program and pitched articles that touched on current news related to topics addressed in the white paper.
- We identified legislators in eight states who were involved in pending legislation and sent them a printed white paper for reference; they could be key opinion leaders.
- This month, we are sending a New Year’s HTML email to a wide range of contacts, promoting the fact that the white paper has been updated for 2015 with a download link.
Results? Within 90 days of posting, the white paper landing page has become the sixth most visited page on the website. At the industry meeting where our client spoke on a panel and took 400 printed copies, every copy was taken and several attendees emailed the firm asking for a copy because they missed out at the conference. Beyond immediate interest, the practice group has a marketing piece with an unlimited shelf life that provides value to industry members. And more importantly over the long haul, the firm has been established as a leader in its niche and as an authoritative resource with such key audiences as legislators, regulators, financiers, other law firms and potential clients.