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Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?

Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?

Before I followed my passion and made content marketing my career, I took time off after college. I had to get my head together and mature a bit. Many of my friends did the same. Their activities included backpacking in Asia and working on a fishing boat in Alaska. In contrast, I went to law school and spent 16 years as a trial lawyer. I didn’t own a decent backpack and I got seasick easily, so it seemed like a good call at the time.

During my brief sojourn in the law, I saw a problem with content marketing. It’s a problem that I see in a wide range of industries and professions. Often, writing that’s designed to convey expertise and thought leadership fails to do either. Why? It doesn’t take the reader’s perspective and priorities into account.

It’s said that law school teaches you how to “think like a lawyer.” Sadly, thinking like a lawyer when writing can be ineffective and pointless. Just ask my wife.

This problem manifested itself in interactions with clients and prospects. They were looking for lawyers because they faced complicated legal matters. Moreover, they didn’t understand the applicable issues or laws. It wouldn’t do those folks much good if I regurgitated these complexities, as brilliant as my regurgitation may have been.

The desire to impress and justify our six-figure student loans resulted in content marketing that was worthless to those who had no law background. The fundamental issue was the failure to modify substance, language and tone for the target audience. What works in a legal brief for a judge isn’t ideal for a lay audience. Winning a legal argument isn’t the same art as converting a prospect into a client.

No matter what your business is, you want folks to know that you know your stuff. You want to provide thought leadership and relevant, actionable information. But remember that your expertise must be accessible for it to be effective. That doesn’t mean “dumbing down” your content or being condescending. It requires you to step out of your own mind and think like your readers do.

Ask yourself these questions when you’re writing client-facing content:

  • Who is this content for?
  • Why would someone want to read this content?
  • What do readers likely know about the subject or your company?
  • If you knew nothing about the subject, would you understand what you wrote and why it was important?

As Atticus Finch told Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “You never really understand a person until you consider things from their point of view … until you climb inside it and walk around in it.” When crafting your content, try to think like that lawyer.