Horror writer, Stephen King, epitomizes a 30-year-old blogging lesson for lawyers #writinglegally

Posted on 11-07-2014 by
Tags: How-Tos & Guidance , social media , writinglegally , blogging , #writinglegally

Circa late 1980s (pre-Barnes and Noble, back in the day of shopping mall bookstores like B. Dalton and Waldenbooks), I bought Stephen King’s short story collection, Skeleton Crew. While I knew the name Stephen King (he did this creepy Am Ex commercial), the book was a mystery to me. Pretty much, I bought Skeleton Crew for two reasons: 1) the scary cover …

… and 2) the engaging blurb:

A supermarket becomes the place where humanity makes its last stand against unholy destruction* … a trip to the attic turns into a journey to hell … a woman driver finds a very scary shortcut to paradise … an idyllic lake that could be the home of bottomless evil … and a desert island is the scene of the most terrifying struggle for survival ever waged.

I recently found my copy of Skeleton Crew. It’s now an old, yellowing paperback, and yes, I’m that weirdo – the guy who refuses to throw out ancient, unread books. I reread Skeleton Crew, and after turning the last page (pg. 573), I found this:

Your grandfather’s blog … in 36 words or less.

This order form is old-school inbound marketing, with content marketing mixed in. It’s inbound for several reasons:

  1. it’s not intrusive (no page number and literally the last page in the book);
  2. it’s meant to be found by those dedicated enough to buy the book and read through all 573 pages; and
  3. Signet, the publisher, wasn't necessarily trying to find new customers; it was more focused on “getting found” by interested, Stephen King readers.

In terms of content marketing, Skeleton Crew’s order page resembles a modern-day blog, with the vertical alignment, the titles, and the text/summary. They’re short blogs – approx. 20-50 words – but they’re still engaging because they tell a good story, like this one for The Shining (not pictured):

The penetrating cold terror of an old hotel, a place of seductive evil with a malevolent will of its own – and a five-year-old boy of innocent beauty whose mind mirrors the nightmarish secrets of its past.

Thirty-six words of content, written almost 30 years ago. And here’s the thing: those 36 words are engaging and interesting. Fast forward to today, and you’ll find a lot of blog posts that are neither engaging nor interesting – they “feel like” 36 words, sparse and rushed. Just fluff.

Blog fluff: You’re wasting your time

Blog fluff, blog filler, blog stuffing … whatever you want to call it, it’s the skeletal effort of writing a blog for the sole purpose of “getting something up.”  I recently stepped in a big pile of blog fluff written by a digital marketing agency. Their how-to blog on brand success had this great title referencing The Beatles. However, once past the title, the advice was barebones. Basically, to have brand success, you’re advised (in about 200 words) to:

  1. Keep trying; and
  2. Advertise.

Not much there – just fluff.

I’m not trying to pick on the blog’s author – I’ve got plenty of fluff and filler floating around the Internet. But for the sake of your law firm blog (or any blog for that matter), be conservative with this stuff. More than likely, nobody’s going to read it, and if you post too much:

  • you’ll never build an audience;
  • you’ll erode your thought leadership; and
  • you’ll destroy any goodwill you’ve built with your readers.

Thirty years ago, Stephen King** and his publisher, Signet, understood the value of good content. It’s why they put time, thought and effort into those book blurbs, telling good stories and undeterred by those 20-50 word limitations.  As a legal blogger, you need to aim for a good story or a quality post, even when you’re restricted by time and work. It’s doable, not always in 20-50 words, but if you’re creative, you can be engaging while still being brief. Here’s a few examples:

  • Morrison & Foerster’s blog, Socially Aware, is full of in-depth legal analysis, but there’s the “short and sweet” too. Look at Status Updates, a compilation of social media law “link roundups.”
  • I’m a big fan of Lawyerist’s Sam Glover. His recent post, How to Improve Your Passwords, is 47 words of text, along with an embedded TED talk video.
  • In his blog, Young on Trials, attorney Steve Young crafts a 28 word intro and then uses a reader’s email to create the rest of this post, Internal Conflict: Obstacles Are Opportunities(Steve also tells great stories, like this one about going to jail for a client)
  • Attorney Jon Hyman’s probably sick of me. I’m always referencing him, but that’s because he “gets” blogging. He also gets that engagement has zilch to do with word count. It took Jon just 4 paragraphs, 170 words, to write this colorful blog on SpongeBob and employment law.

*King’s “supermarket” story? The Mist. Read it. It’ll scare your pants off.  But don’t see the movie … not ever the movie (awful ending). 

**A little more Stephen King? Check out this list of King's most thrilling books. 

Your comment has been posted.   Close
Thank you, your comment requires moderation so it may take a while to appear.   Close