How to Stop Running out of Things to Say
As lawyers, we're not just advocates - we're also educators.
And that means that people look to us for answers to their most burning legal questions. They expect us to know things. They expect us to inform them. They trust our opinions, our advice, our expertise.
But when that comes to the content we publish online, well, that can be a little intimidating. After all, if we know a lot of eyeballs will make their way to our content, we want to say something worth listening to, right?
Breaking up with Perfectionism
First and foremost, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in wanting our online presences to be highly professional and authoritative that we don’t actually put anything out there. We know there are so many topics to discuss, but at the same time, we have no idea what we should be talking about. And if we ARE going to publish a blog post or start an Instagram account or publish a whitepaper, we want it to be good. But sometimes we get so caught up in these concerns that we never actually pass GO.
I know. I’ve been there – not only as a practicing attorney who was given carte blanche to start blogging and marketing the firm through my words, but also as a brand new small business owner with an idea, a Wordpress template, and a blinking cursor. I was caught up in a whirlwind of checking in on what OTHER legal entrepreneurs and small business owners were doing, what they were saying, how they were saying it, and immediately started to feel like I couldn’t possibly contribute meaningfully to the dialogue.
What this led to was a pernicious paralysis: I was too afraid to get started because 1) I was overwhelmed and busy, 2) I didn’t know what to say, and 3) I didn’t think that what I wanted and needed to say was good enough, useful enough, helpful enough, interesting enough.
How, then, did I eventually push past this?
I just started.
And when it comes to YOUR content, it’s all about hitting “publish” on that first post, writing that first Instagram caption, sending that first email to your subscriber list. You have to start somewhere, and you can’t improve if you don’t have anything to actually work with.
Tracking Your Ideas
Once you get started, you need to maintain a steady stream of engaging content – and this alone can be overwhelming enough to make you want to quit. But it doesn’t have to be.
Our practices, our businesses, and our lives are bursting with story fodder, but the key is to find a way to catalog it so those ideas don’t zoom right out of our heads the minute we get pulled back into the current of our daily lives.
There are numerous ways to track your ideas. My personal favorites are Evernote and Trello.
Evernote is an extremely versatile Microsoft app that allows you to create “notebooks” based on the category of your notes. So, you can create a category called “blog post topics” or “social media inspiration.” You can also share it with your colleagues so they can contribute ideas, and you can include internal notes and highlights.
Trello is a web-based, list-making application that allows you to create drag-and-drop items and organize them like you would a traditional calendar – but it is much more versatile and as with Evernote, it allows you to share ideas and collaborate with colleagues.
I keep a running list of blog topic ideas in Evernote and organize my content calendar in Trello so I can keep track of my writing and publishing schedule.
You can also use Google Sheets or even a simple Word document – just something to help you catalog your great ideas!
You will likely find that once you start cataloging your ideas, they will beget more and more and more ideas, but a great way to keep the creative juices flowing is to story-mine. This means establishing a practice of deep-diving into a variety of sources to pull out content inspiration. Here are a few of my favorite ways to story-mine:
Review your day. At the end of your workday, record (in Evernote, Trello, or your tool of choice!) at least one story-worthy event. This may be a client who thanked you for your work, a funny encounter from your morning in court, something wise someone said to you, something new you learned from a novel case, or an interaction that made you think deeply about life.
Comb competitor blogs. Mine blogs and websites of professionals you deeply admire to see what they are discussing. Fresh ideas might germinate in your mind once you see what topics are inspiring dialogue in your industry. You don’t even have to read the entire blog post or article you come across – even headlines and titles can spark ideas!
Accumulate client FAQs. Collect and track your most common client questions, whether they surface in face-to-face encounters, through your website, via email, or even in comments to your blog posts. Voila! The answers to those questions are blog posts.
Sort Your Stories into Categories
Once you have a bevy of content ideas, sort them into categories. For instance, if you write about both the substantive law and, say, business advice for new entrepreneurs, make a “law” category and a “business tips” category. When you mine for content ideas, be sure to feed both lists!
Finally, the best antidote to writers' block is writing, so get started and you will gain positive momentum - I guarantee it!
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