Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Legal Web Blog That Got Noticed informs us,
Ford & Harrison, a national labor and employment law firm, was interested in a creative way to communicate with current and prospective clients about the difficult and complex legal issues facing employers in today's workplace. The firm has always been aggressive when it comes to marketing, and is constantly looking for ways to stand out. Launching a blog seemed to be one way, but without a clever idea to break through the clutter, blogging seemed to present too many significant challenges.

* * *

The firm considered these challenges and decided it would move forward with a blog only if they were overcome. The first, and most important, step was to develop a focus unique to the HR sector, one that hopefully would enable the blog to generate a following. With this and Ford & Harrison's other concerns in mind, the idea to use NBC's hit comedy "The Office" as a backdrop seemed like the perfect fit.
The blog itself can be found here. So, what's not perfect about a blog which develops a decent readership, gets media attention, and covers human resources issues in an amusing manner? Probably nothing if you're the author of the blog, Julie Elgar. But from a law firm online marketing standpoint, there are some aspects which coud be improved.

First, the blog is dependent upon a TV show, and moreso upon new episodes of a TV show. This shows in the blog's popularity, as measured by Alexa, which appears to show a big influx of traffic corresponding with the media attention the blog received, and subsequent smaller peaks of traffic corresponding with new episodes of the show. That raises the question, are people visiting the blog to learn about human resources law, or to see the latest amusing legal take on the show's antics?

Also, given that this blog is more popular than the law firm's website itself, why was the firm apparently advised to create the blog on a separate URL rather than integrating it into their firm website?

Had I been advising the firm I would have had them include this as what would essentially be a "channel" of their HR law weblog(s), as presented on their website. People could read or subscribe via RSS to the blog as a whole, or to particular channels or subjects based on their interest. Those who wanted to read only the HR Hero blog could do so through a specific URL (perhaps a subdomain - which could look like the standalone site - one of the joys of database-driven websites is that you can easily present the same content in more than one manner. But I would design the blog such that readers would be encouraged to visit the firm's other blog content, to sign up for email newsletters, or to otherwise interact with other firm content and website features.

In my conception, a significant goal of the blog would be to lead readers to subscribe to a greater RSS feed - the amusing "HR Hero" anecdotes plus other content, such as more traditional HR legal advice, articles or legal updates. And that should keep them involved with the firm's expertise and services even after the novelty wears off, or (as always eventually happens) the show which inspires the blog gets cancelled. (Does anybody remember the "Titanic Virtual Trial" site created by Anderson Kill, which capitalized on the popularity of the 1997 movie?) The HR Hero blog is great bait - both for getting new people to look at the firm's services an in terms of generating links - but without much additional work they could do a lot more to "set the hook and reel 'em in."

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