How to Craft Client Alerts That Keep Clients Alert
Updated: Mar 31, 2022
By Tania Zamorsky
The hard truth is that, much of the time, your clients won’t care about (or arguably even open) the alerts and other content that you, and numerous other professional services firms and vendors, will spend a great deal of time preparing and sending their way.
It isn’t personal. Think about the relentless assault taking place on your own inbox, daily.
Does this mean that you can stop creating such client-facing content—which includes newsletters, blog posts, articles and social media posts, all of which face a similar fate and open rate? Of course not. Your clients still expect it from you, and expect it to be there when they need it.
But by following these tips, you can increase your content’s odds of making it through that gauntlet, getting read and inspiring your readers to actually retain you—after all, the point:
Do More Than Think. It isn’t actually the thought, or mere “thought leadership,” that counts. Don’t be a part of the mindless content marketing churn, the goals of which sometimes seem to be simply showing how smart the author is and that they are keeping busy. Your clients are too smart and busy to read anything that doesn’t move the needle in the direction of actual solutions and strategies.
Provide something immediate and actionable. Answer the questions, “So what could this mean for me?” and “What should I consider doing or exploring further, right now?”
Law Firms: Don’t Let Your Fear of “Giving Legal Advice” Render You Mute/Moot. Of course, you must be careful not to establish anything, with your communication, that could reasonably be perceived as an attorney-client relationship. To that end:
Include a disclaimer stating that the information you are providing is general in nature, and is not intended to constitute legal advice
In addition, within your content itself, speak generally and hypothetically
Encourage your audience to discuss their specific issues with counsel
Tread carefully during more interactive discussions that may be inspired by and arise from your content (e.g., in comments or listservs, with individuals asking questions or sharing specific fact patterns with you)
But you still need to provide something more immediate and actionable, and to answer the questions, “So what could this mean for me?” and “What should I consider doing or exploring further, right now?”
Outside of law school, merely summarizing the fact pattern, issues presented and holding of an important legal decision doesn’t cut it—instead, provide analysis of why the decision matters and what it could potentially and practically mean to industries or entities
Without giving all of the answers or a complete roadmap, frame the issues and nudge your readers firmly in the right direction
Identify potential risks and alert your readers to strategies that could help prevent, identify and mitigate those risks, or at least limit their impact
Don't present these strategies in their entirety. (Think informational amuse bouche, making it clear that you can cook but leaving your readers hungry for more—i.e., more information and actual implementation, from and by you.)
Keep It Simple. Present your information in easily digestible bites, keeping it both utilitarian and user friendly.
Your title is your most valuable real estate; don’t waste it by being vague or overly intellectual. Tell your readers what goal this article will help them to meet, or what specific question or practical problem it will set them on the path to solving.
Client alerts (and blog posts) should ideally not be more than about 750 words long. If your content demands a longer discussion, break it up with category headings and/or bullets. (For bylines placed in external outlets, ask the editor about specific editorial guidelines as to length and other style requirements.)
If your material lends itself to this, readers and editors often respond positively to articles offering "Five Tips/Questions/Mistakes/Takeaways __________” or some similarly structured piece.
Lose the legalese and forget the footnotes. Unless this is a more scholarly piece (and arguably even then), speak plainly and practically. Source material is always helpful but, unless the editor requests otherwise, insert it via hyperlinks.
Write with Specific Business Development Goals in Mind. While of course there is value in intellectual exercise, for its own sake, most practicing attorneys have little time for such purely academic luxury. When creating client-facing content, think about the kind of work you are you looking to attract or maintain, and for what kind of clients. Write about those issues, for that audience.
Pass Up Perfection. While your content must be factually and legally accurate, you could conceivably rework it forever and no one's got time for that. With your competitors racing you to publish, speed will give you a chance to show your substance. If a client has already read numerous pieces on a topic, they may assume that yours is old news. If you are late to the game, make your content’s differentiators are clear.
Help Your Content Help You. Don’t assume that everyone saw a piece of content in its original form or even the first time you linked to it on social media. Promote the piece in as many places as possible, including on social media (you can do so multiple times, highlighting different aspects), your website, in your newsletters and as part of panel presentations and webinars. This gives it a chance to reach its intended targets and resonate. You’ve worked hard to create something both meaningful and practical. Now let it work for you.
The information herein is general in nature and is not intended to constitute legal advice. For advice on your on specific situation, please consult an attorney.