In a fight to stand out in a vast sea of digital content, it can be dangerously easy for lawyers to slide into an almost militant mentality when it comes to content marketing: publish often, collect followers, and increase website traffic. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The problem with this approach is twofold. First, it inevitably reduces the quality of your work. Second, and much more importantly, it erases a crucial human-centric element. When you focus on analytics and numbers alone, you are—necessarily—less concerned with engaging your audience.

Set yourself apart in a crowded digital world by using the power of compelling stories to inspire fresh content, build a loyal following, and stand out as a leader in your specialty.

Storytelling as Marketing

It’s no secret that the “keyword stuffing” approach to content creation has fallen by the wayside. As Google’s search engine algorithms have evolved to punish that unseemly (and unreadable) corpulence, brands have caught on. Instead of cramming their content with keywords (with an eye toward beating Google’s algorithm), some of the largest companies in the world have adjusted their marketing tactics to focus instead on crafting compelling, engaging stories to increase a global following and connect with their enthusiasts. Brands like National Geographic and John Deere, for example, have leveraged effective storytelling for generations to build deeply committed, connected, and engaged audiences of true fans. Quite simply, they’ve learned the art of creating content for people, not search engines.

Admittedly, these global brands are different from modern law firms looking to attract new clients. But the storytelling approach is equally effective for both.

Here’s why.

Stories help lawyers differentiate in crowded markets.

In a digital world that absolutely floods consumers with marketing messages, their attention is elusive. So instead of focusing on vanity metrics like your number of friends, followers, and likes, focus instead on what you communicate. When knowledge is available (literally) everywhere, your opportunity and your challenge will be to unlock the power of unique, human-centric stories to show how and why you are different from your competitors down the street.

For instance, imagine two firms that provide the exact same menu of legal services. One firm’s website shares a litany of practice areas. The other includes a short explanation about why the lawyer went to law school in the first place, chose her specific practice area, and why she loves what she does at work every day. Even when their service offerings are identical, prospective clients feel an emotional connection to the second lawyer. That’s particularly true when the client’s “why” intersects with the lawyer’s “why.”

Stories tie content to the basic human experience of trials and triumphs.

A story is a mooring. It anchors your audience—and their emotions—to your brand. And it does so in ways that facts, figures, and case law never will. Now, as ever, telling the right story—at the right time and to the right audience—captures attention (which is fleeting) and emotion (which is less so). In other words, storytelling is the emotional glue that binds us to our current and prospective clients and other professionals who follow us online. And our stories bind them to us, too.

You can tell your audience what you do. Anyone can. Sharing stories, on the other hand, lets you share your “why” and how your work has changed lives for the better. That emotional anchor, in turn, catalyzes powerful and lasting relationships. That’s because potential clients invested in your story develop a genuine interest in your work (and your content), which multiplies its impact.

A 2013 study at the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University explored how stories power connection through “emotional simulation.” That stimulation “allows us to rapidly form relationships with a wider set of members of our species than any other animal does.” The article goes on to note that “[t]he ability to quickly form relationships allows humans to engage in the kinds of large-scale cooperation that builds massive bridges and sends humans into space. By knowing someone’s story—where they came from, what they do, and who you might know in common—relationships with strangers are formed.”

Stories, then, are powerful drivers of community, connection, and relationship. Without those, no human enterprise would be possible.

Stories invite engagement among our followers.

Lawyers routinely handle their clients’ powerful, sensitive, expensive, emotionally-laden affairs. By design and necessity, lawyers occupy uniquely intimate space in their clients’ lives. And because intimacy begets intimacy, sharing your humanity with your audience is only natural. Show your prospective clients that you are a living, breathing person with passions, strengths, goals, and quirks. Your stories’ inherent capacity for emotional stimulation helps those who meet you online and read your content feel its resonance: “I can relate to that. I thought I was the only one who thought that way. I feel like this person sees me.”

Lawyers are Natural-Born Storytellers

From our earliest days as law students, we’ve been trained on the value of good storytelling. From parsing the dense factual narrative in Marbury v. Madison to crafting our opening statements for a mock trial, our legal training consists almost entirely of reading, sharing, analyzing, and creating stories.

Your marketing strategy is no different. Use your skill to engage your audience by incorporating storytelling for legal marketing. Sharing common human experiences, showing compassion, and connecting—truly and authentically—with our online audiences is a quality that technology cannot automate or replace.

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