The Business of Blogging

Mary Kay Price
Indianapolis Bar Association

Blogs might seem like “old news” when it comes to digital marketing, but even today, they remain an essential tool in effective content marketing. Not only do blogs help to drive content to your website, but they also position your association as a trusted source of information, assist in search engine optimization (SEO) and provide valuable content for building a powerful social media strategy.

In order for blogs to be effective, though, there’s one obvious trick: engagement with your members and the positive benefits to SEO come only when blogs are consistently updated with relevant, interesting content. With myriad demands competing for our attention each day, drafting a blog post can seem burdensome and unimportant, but it truly is critical to an effective content marketing strategy.

The Indianapolis Bar Association has been maintaining more than 20 separate blogs online since a member workgroup underwent a comprehensive review of the bar’s communication efforts and the needs of our members in 2012. This workgroup identified that positioning the bar as a trusted source of information in the legal community was a key factor in guaranteeing relevance in a changing legal marketplace.

Through some simple strategies to gain buy-in from members and plan regular content, our blogs have proven successful in creating a hub of information from members and in fueling our social media activity, with blog posts consistently serving as the greatest driver of engagement and traffic to our website.

Get Everyone on Board

Early on in our communications review, we identified that our members are the best source of content for blogs. Because we feature a blog for each of our substantive sections and demographically-based divisions, we further identified that the executive committees of each of these groups would be the logical key stakeholders in gathering content for their groups’ blogs.

It was important, however, to clearly communicate the value and benefit of blogs before asking our members to take time out of their busy days just to do one more thing for the bar association. Both at the onset of our new communications plan and each year thereafter, the bar’s content strategy is clearly explained at leadership retreats and section/division executive committee meetings. We further incentivize members by emphasizing the benefit to their practice, as their participation on the association’s blogs results in positive SEO for their firm/organization, positions them as an authoritative source in their practice area and provides them with an avenue for communicating with thousands of attorneys in the community.

Make it Routine

By setting realistic expectations, we’re able to maintain each blog and avoid stale content. Our goal for each blog is two posts per month. Many end up with more posts than this minimum requirement, but by having a tangible goal, it is much easier to gather content from members and generate content by staff when we lack member submissions.

Many of our groups have tackled the two posts per month goal by delegating the responsibility to their executive committee members. This ranges from creating a dedicated position on the committee to assigning each committee member a month out of the year during which they either draft blog posts or collect posts from other group members.

We’ve also publicized the opportunity to contribute content to the general membership of each group as a benefit of section/division membership. Committee members then review and approve any contributions from members of their group.

Another simple way to ensure consistent content is to build regular features into your content marketing strategy. The IndyBar maintains several regular features on our general association blog. These include weekly blog posts sharing upcoming bar events and best of the week/best of the month posts where we highlight blog posts that have been included on other section/division blogs on the site.

Make it Easy

It can be intimidating to be tasked with identifying content for your blog or blogs. However, most associations are rich with content opportunities that actually take very little effort to adapt into blog posts.

First, consider content that resides elsewhere. If you have a print publication, why not re-post print articles on your blog? You can enhance a print article for online publication by adding additional photos and links to related websites. Repurposing content from old publications is also an easy way to almost instantly create a new blog post. Find an article from years ago and highlight it as “a look back.” Add a quick intro that reflects on changes from then to now and you’re all set!

Second, consider everything in your association as a source of information. One of the biggest sources of information that almost all bar associations have at their disposal is continuing legal education. There are a variety of ways to take an average CLE program and turn it into a number of potential blog posts: highlight a speaker, provide a sneak peak of the upcoming program, prime attendees with “what you need to know” before the program, recap the CLE, post the top five takeaways, share snippets of the printed material and photos of the attendees and speaker(s).

Third, be aware of the content that your members are already creating and sharing online. If you have members who blog regularly or routinely post information on sites like LinkedIn, simply ask them if they are interested in sharing this content with your association. Often, the request from the member is to include a byline with their firm information and a link back to their website or blog.