Keeping Content from Becoming Chaos

Karen Korr
San Diego County Bar Association

Seriously, we have a lot of stuff.  No matter how unique all of our bars may be, I know that we share in the struggle to get a lot of information out to our members, our leadership, the public, and other key audiences all at the same time.  One of the biggest challenges the communications team at the San Diego County Bar Association (SDCBA) faces is that we are consistently competing with ourselves — marketing myriad programs and initiatives to the same groups, using the same channels, and trying to cut through our own clutter.  Message fatigue in our world is real, and we're never quite sure that our most critical messages are the ones that are the most visible. Does anyone else cringe when a member says "I didn't know we did that?"

In an attempt to organize all of our content, and provide a guide for our internal team of "what goes where," we created a content management framework, as a supplement to our three-year Communication Plan. For the purpose of our framework, we considered our content to be anything from run-of-the-mill CLE announcements to legal ethics opininons and substantive articles from our publications. Though there are formalized and mechanized content management systems, what we are using is incredibly rudimentary as in, it is a series of excel worksheets in one workbook. Seriously, that's it. But it works for us, for now.  

What Do We Have?

The first step in drafting the framework was listing and categorizing all of our content - creating an "inventory" to draw from for our different communications mediums.  Next, we worked to determine which content was most relevant and spoke to the association's bigger goals and objectives.  We're consistently aiming to position the SDCBA as San Diego's legal information "hub," but also position the organization as a thought-leader in different areas of the profession that are most meaningful to our members.  For our association, this means that the content that is the most critical falls into one of the following categories: Technology for Lawyers, Social Media for Lawyers, Basic Information on Different Areas of the Law (for members and the public), Law Practice Management, Legal Ethics, and Current News/Trends.

What Do We Need?

After reviewing our inventory, and the content categories where we were looking to be more vocal or demonstrate leadership, we made a list of the holes we need to fill and how to get the kind of content we are seeking.  While a lot of our content is generated by volunteer writers, there are some areas where we may ask freelance writers to take a deeper look at an important topic, or we may look to our 100% Club firms and/or member benefit partners to help create content.  There are also several bloggers, journalists, law professors, and others who are writing on these topics constantly, and who we often turn to for reprint permission when their content is in line with our goals and strategy. 

What Goes Where?

Our next step was to define which channels we were using for which messages.  For example, we determined that our Twitter feed would be used for "substantive articles both created by the SDCBA and culled from the internet. (With an) Emphasis on SDCBA serving as thought leaders, currators of important information, and a filter for highlighting content that might be meaningful to members, adding value whenever possible and logical." Whereas our Facebook feed would be used for "information best displayed visually. Events and pictures from events, member recognition and community service. (A) place to showcase the 'good' lawyers do and the diveristy and reach of various bar programs."  Thus, this is the venue where we show pictures from special member events, like our annual Shred/Recycle Day, our signature events, and Bar Center amenities, and a place where we most frequently thank our sponsors and highlight our member benefit partners. 

When Does It Go Where?

Finally, we created a "flow."  This shows where premium content (in each of our categories) first appears and where it goes after its debut.  For example, our technology column first appears in San Diego Lawyer, then is edited to become a blog post, which is then promoted on Twitter, and then used in our daily Lexology e-blast as our Tuesday "Tech Tip."  Another example: an "Ethics in Brief" article appears every other week in our weekly e-publication, This Week at the Bar, which is distributed every Monday.  The same article is then highlighted in our daily Lexology e-blast the following Thursday, and then posted to our blog the same day, and then finally makes its way to our online ethics article archive. 

Of course, as is the case with any bar association-related plan, flexibility is key, as priorities and programs are consistently changing.  When we created this framework, we had no doubt that we would be asked at times to promote a particular program "everywhere."  Our strategy isn't rigid it's meant to serve as a guide for our internal team, to provide some structure and lessen "clutter," and to give greater visibility to the initiatives that are most important to our Association at any given time.  No "cookie-cutter" content strategy will work for every bar association, but so far, this works for us and has given us greater control of our content overall.