Judging legal contentIf you’re a legal professional new to marketing, I’d like to let you into a little secret: not everyone is eager to read your content. It’s hard to fathom, I know. Some people will click on your blog page, cast a cursory eye over what’s on offer and – unforgivably – bounce off onto another site.

Headlines with a kick

So how can you make your content work harder? The key is to focus on your headline as much as your main text. You’re going to need to step outside of the measured, controlled legal tone for a moment and speak in a way that will grab people’s attention.

The hard truth is that only around 20% of people get past the headline. You can write the most incisive and ground-breaking article, but four-fifths of people will pass up on reading it.

Concentrate your message

Advertising pioneer David Ogilvy was a devotee of the headline. He re-wrote a 1960 car ad headline no fewer than 104 times, before opting for “At 60 miles an hour, the only thing you hear in the new Rolls Royce is the ticking of the dashboard clock…”

Nowadays successful platforms such as Upworthy.com also know it makes sense to pay attention to headlines; every Upworthy writer must draft a full 25 different headlines for each story to make sure they hit on the right one.

Legal marketing is still marketing

Of course, you’re a law firm writing a blog, not a car salesman or a news site. Nonetheless, what you’re doing is marketing and your purpose is, presumably, to get people to actually read what you have written. Careful consideration of your headline will be crucial.

Top copywriters claim that to get the best results, you should spend around half the time allocated for an article on the headline. It may be fiddly and frustrating, but it will pay off if more people read your article. Don’t leave metadata out, either – the first three lines accompanying a web search should be an irresistible call to read more.

Writing punchy legal headlines

How do you actually go about this? Let’s look at a recent case, Joy v Joy-Morancho & Ors. Imagine you wish to write a blog post about this divorce case in which a husband who behaved badly and sought to conceal assets was penalised with a £334k costs order by the judge, Sir Peter Singer.

The Law Gazette, writing for a legal audience, has entitled the story “Divorce party hit for £334k costs after ‘blatant dishonesty’.” How should a corporate blog writing for an audience of potential divorce petitioners handle it differently?

Well, this may depend on your particular brand values and audience. Are they high net worth individuals who may have major asset disputes themselves? Are they fixed-fee clients for whom the conduct issue will be the main focus?

Identify what you want your clients to take from the story, then package it for them accordingly. Compare ‘Hiding vintage cars from divorce judge costs man £300k’ with ‘Costly conduct: bad behaviour in divorce trial costs man £300k.’ Make your title speak to the concerns of your clients.

Ben Hollom

September 7, 2015