Episode 16: Rev Up Your Newsletter with Janet Falk

Janet Falk is a communications professional with more than 25 years experience in-house and at public relations agencies. Prior to launching Falk Communications and Research in 2009, she served as Media Relations Counsel for more than 350 attorneys in the Corporate & Securities, Private Equity, Financial Industry, Bankruptcy, Securities Litigation and New York Commercial Litigation practice groups at Reed Smith LLP. Janet arranged for these attorneys to speak on timely legal and business issues with reporters at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Law Journal, CNBC and Time magazine, among other top-tier legal, business and trade media. These interviews led to quotes in front-page articles and other news stories, which generated new clients for the law firm, resulting in more than a million dollars in new business.

In this episode, Falk talks to Casey about getting the most of out a newsletter and making it your primary source of relaying information to your client base.

Prefer to read? Read The Transcript Below

Interview Transcript

Casey Meraz:

Perfect. Hi and welcome to the Lawyer Mastermind Podcast, where we learn from the experts how to make your law firm stronger, more profitable and easier to run. Today, I’m joined by Janet Falk, the chief strategist of Falk Communications and Research. Thanks for joining us today, Janet.

Janet Falk:

My pleasure, Casey. Happy to be here.

Casey Meraz:

Awesome. Today, we’re going to be talking about how to rev up your newsletter. I understand that you have quite a bit of experience with newsletters.

Janet Falk:

Yes. I’ve been writing my newsletter for too many years.

Casey Meraz:

Too many. Okay. That sounds like a long time and that’s great. You know what’s funny is I’ve worked with a lot of law firm firms over the past decade, but surprisingly few of them have either had an active newsletter or maybe they’ve started one and abandoned it. I find that not a ton of law firms that I’ve worked with have this. Is that your experience?

Janet Falk:

I agree with you, more people should have a newsletter because it is the best way to keep your name under the nose of the many people in your circles. It could be your current clients. It could be your lapsed clients. It could be your referral sources. It could be members of the community that you’re in touch with. It could be elected officials that you want to keep top of mind because you have a point of view that they ought to be taking into account. It could be people that you’ve been on the other side of, regarding a transaction or a litigation. Who knows when down the pike, they’re going to resurface in your life or they may refer you some business or you may refer some business to them. There are so many people that you have in your circles, Casey, that being in touch with them via a newsletter is a very simple and direct way, and it’s a way that you can passively keep your name in front of them.

Casey Meraz:

Yeah. That’s a good point. I think you touched on something that’s really important and that I see just commonly with how law firms market themselves is maybe they’re really heavy into TV advertising or SEO or whatever, but they get that initial lead or maybe they turn them into a client or they don’t, but then that’s kind of the end of that relationship and that can’t really help growing their brand. You know? I liked what you were saying about staying in front of them, that awareness. Since you’ve already touched about some of the benefits, what are the other benefits of having a newsletter?

Janet Falk:

I think one of the things that you can do with the newsletter is you can very easily drive someone to your website. You can have them pursue other ideas and information and resources on your website so you can direct them to best practices. You can direct them to an article. You can direct them to a recording of a webinar.

Casey Meraz:

Got it. Obviously, there’s a lot of different benefits there when it comes to a newsletter. When you were first starting to list the benefits, one of the things you mentioned was website content. Can you reuse website contents for a newsletter? How are people getting content for their newsletter?

Janet Falk:

Well, I like to do a variety of things. One is I like to talk about a client’s success and what were the lessons learned from that experience. That’s one idea that I have. If you take that and you expand upon it, then you give someone else the tips that they need so that they can be following these best practices. You certainly can repurpose the content of an article in which you were quoted and talk about how this is relevant and expand upon that. You can talk about a podcast or a webinar where you’ve been involved and expand upon that content. You can take anything that you’ve commented on on LinkedIn or on social media, and a newsletter has infinite space. People will read as long as they’re interested. There are many resources that you have at your disposal that can provide content for your newsletter whether it’s something that you’ve written about, something that you’ve spoken about, a news article where you’ve been quoted and so on.

Casey Meraz:

Got it. I mean, it sounds like there’s a lot of different content opportunities and that kind of begs the question, how often is too often to send out a newsletter? I know a lot of people are intimidated and they feel like they’re going to piss people off or whatnot. What’s your advice there?

Janet Falk:

I think you should have a newsletter quarterly if you’re a small firm, because there isn’t enough going on that you can keep people up to date with something weekly or even monthly. Now, I’m a communications professional so I send my newsletter monthly, but I think the average small firm or solo practitioner quarterly is often enough.

Casey Meraz:

Okay. Is there a scale where you think too much, where you’re sending it too often? If so, what is that?

Janet Falk:

I think weekly as far too often. The most important thing that I want to share with your listeners today, Casey, is the reader’s attention is yours to lose. Now, you’ve worked very hard to get the person’s email address. You do not want to barrage them or annoy them by contacting them too often, because then they’re going to delete and eventually unsubscribe. You haven’t done yourself any favor by writing too often. That’s why I think monthly is fine if you can handle it. If you can’t, quarterly is often enough.

Casey Meraz:

Got it. For the attorneys that are still on the fence, or maybe too intimidated, or maybe don’t even know where to start, what’s your advice to them?

Janet Falk:

I like to think like a reporter. A reporter, as you know, talks about the five W’s. Casey, why don’t you remind us what the five W’s are?

Casey Meraz:

Who, what, when, where, why.

Janet Falk:

Exactly. Think about any situation. Who is it that’s going to be interested in hearing about this? Because you may have a diversified client base and not everyone is interested in the same topics. Right? That’s the who question. Then the what question is, what do you want them to think about? Then, what do you want them to do? Right? Who, what will they think about? What will they do next? Okay? Then, when. Is this specific to a certain time of the year? Is it tax related, or is it something that happens all year round? Then where. Where else can they find information on your website so that they have the resources to grapple with this issue? Then finally, why. Why should anyone care? How does your idea help another individual or a business or even a corporation so that they will save time, save money and make more money because they have followed Casey’s very sage advice. Right?

Janet Falk:

Think about it like a journalist, like a reporter. Who is going to read it, what will they be interested in and what will they do next, when are they going to find this insightful and helpful, where else can they find more information, and why should they care, because they will save time, save money and make more money because they have listened to your advice. If you use that as your template, then it just writes itself. Right?

Casey Meraz:

Sure.

Janet Falk:

Because you are answering those basic questions and providing someone with the resources and the additional links or tip sheets that they can follow and apply them to their personal life or to their business engagements and go on and prosper.

Casey Meraz:

Awesome. Okay. Well, let’s talk a little bit more about that who too, because I think sometimes one of the disconnects is that audience and how are attorneys supposed to get people to sign up for their newsletter? How do you get them on your list?

Janet Falk:

Okay. I’ve written a newsletter called Your Goldmine With 5,000 Contacts. You would not believe it, but all of us have so many contacts of people that we’ve been in touch with over the years. It may be our law school classmates. It may be people that we were at a previous job with, people who we clerked with, people who were on the other side of a business transaction, or a litigation, people who are members of the committee, of the bar association, people who you’ve met at conferences, people who you’ve spoken on panels with. I mean, this list just goes on, but you cannot automatically subscribe people to your news list.

Casey Meraz:

Nope.

Janet Falk:

Remember, the reader’s attention is yours to lose. Right? What I recommend you do is you send a note saying, “I’m announcing that I’m launching my newsletter and I look forward to keeping in touch with you on a more monthly or quarterly basis. You don’t have to do anything to receive my newsletter. If you’re not interested, then feel free to unsubscribe.” That’s how you start. Right? You start with the people that you know, and you let them know that you will be sending them a newsletter so that they expect it and they don’t get it entirely out of the blue. Now going forward, what are you going to do? I have a link in my email signature, which you may have noticed, Casey, where every month I put the latest issue of my newsletter so that you can click and read it. Then, I have the second link it says “And subscribe here.” Right there in my email signature, which goes out to a hundred people a day, I am promoting my newsletter content and making it easy for them to subscribe here on my newsletter, to my newsletter in my email signature.

Janet Falk:

When I have a conversation with someone, before I close, I say, “You know, I’ve really enjoyed talking with you and I’d like to continue to keep in touch. Please subscribe me to your newsletter.” Then they’d say, “I don’t have one.” I’d say, “Well, that’s an opportunity for us to talk further.” But usually they do. And I say, “Would you like to keep in touch with me? I’ll add you to my newsletter.” What are they going to say? Yes or no. Either they’ll say “Yes, please do.” Or, “No, I already get too many newsletters.” That’s fine. That’s how you continue going forward. Now, when you’re in a group meeting, whether it’s virtual or independently, we’re having conversations with people, and as you accept their card and say, I want to continue to be in touch with you. Then, you take that opportunity as well.

Janet Falk:

This is how it’s very simple to make your newsletter available to new subscribers by simply introducing it through your email signature and through a topic of conversation, of course, on your website you’ll have all your newsletters posted. Right? So that anyone can see them on your website. What I do not like is for people to use the Carly Rae Jepsen approach, which is, “Hey, I just met you and this is crazy, but here’s my newsletter, subscribe maybe?” Because if I just got on your website, which I found out from some other reason, and I’m looking for your content, whatever it is that you have to say about yourself, and then I get that pop-up window that says “Subscribe to my newsletter.” Well, I want to read your newsletter before I decide to give you my very valuable email address.

Janet Falk:

Don’t make me subscribe to your newsletter without first showing me what it is that you have written in your newsletter. That’s something that I really don’t like, and I wish that people would avoid. What I suggest you do is put all your newsletters on your website because we’re talking now in January, but maybe you wrote a newsletter back in October that would be very helpful to me. If it’s not on your website, then I can’t see it. It’s not my fault that I didn’t meet you in October and so I missed out on that opportunity.

Casey Meraz:

Yeah, good point.

Janet Falk:

It’s very important if you’re going to have a newsletter to make all the issues of your newsletter available by putting them on your website, because otherwise you’re treating me like a second class citizen because I can’t see all the wonderful things that you’ve been writing about.

Casey Meraz:

That’s awesome, Janet. I like how you’re really talking about too, you really remove that friction through your approach, and you’re making it easy for people to follow you and you’re making it a part of your process. I can see how that just continues to grow over time. Then, yeah, I mean, I agree with you too, obviously having that information on your website and for anybody that has SEO concerns about that, there is a good way to do that where it doesn’t look as duplicate content if it’s somewhere else on your website. That really shouldn’t be a concern either.

Casey Meraz:

One thing I didn’t mention, I said that a lot of the attorneys that I’ve spoken with over the years don’t have a newsletter. Well, I didn’t mention is some of the attorneys that I know that do do this and do it actively, it is like they usually have the stronger brands in their market. They have more of that top of mind awareness it seems because they are staying in touch with people who maybe they worked with or met or whatever one year ago or five years ago. I see the value through it. I think you explained that very clearly. With that, I think the other-

Casey Meraz:

Go ahead.

Janet Falk:

Is that a newsletter is not one and done. Right?

Casey Meraz:

No.

Janet Falk:

I’ve already said my newsletter is on my website. My newsletter is in my email signature. I promote it in other ways. I can share it on my LinkedIn posts. I can share it on my LinkedIn company page. I can share it on my Facebook company page. I can put it on Twitter. I can put it on Instagram. It’s not one and done. You can make your newsletter content available through any other social media platforms. Think about that. That’s an opportunity that you keep the content flowing.

Casey Meraz:

Yeah, no, I mean, that’s great advice. You have one piece of content, you can reuse that 10 different times in 10 different ways. No, that’s amazing advice. What kind of content should be in there? I know we talked a little bit about some of the aspects of content that can be in there and you gave some suggestions. Is there any specific content that people should focus on or should it be diversified?

Janet Falk:

I like to give content that is action oriented that the person will think, “Wow, I haven’t thought about this in this way before. I really should take whatever step that is.” Right? For example, I’ve written about how to get on a podcast and how to answer questions on a podcast, how to introduce yourself to a reporter, how to promote the fact that you’re going to speak at an event. Then, after you speak at the event, promote what you said about the event. I have a newsletter coming up called Give and Take, which is about it’s not take and give, it’s give and take. You’ll want to be sharing different ideas, introducing people, partnering with your referral sources or with your clients on an article, on a webinar, on a podcast. I like to use something that is action oriented and that will help you to advance your business.

Janet Falk:

Now, I know there are people who like to take examples from their personal life and I don’t care how talented your children and your pets are, I’m really not interested. It may work for you, but that’s not something for me. I want to remind you the reader’s attention is yours to lose. If you’re not delivering content that’s going to make the interest and the needs of your reader, then they’re going to delete and they’re going to unsubscribe and that defeats the purpose.

Casey Meraz:

Absolutely. Well, no, I mean, that’s good advice. Thank you for covering that. It’s easy to lose people’s attention these days. That’s for sure. What is your advice to attorneys that don’t have a newsletter right now? Should they attempt this on their own? Should they talk to a professional like you? How do you get started?

Janet Falk:

I think there’s a few ways to go about it. You can certainly do it on your own. I’ve given a lot of instruction about how I think a newsletter should be written. I think you can work with a professional like myself who will help you with developing content, designing an appropriate and attractive format and pushing it out there. There are some specialists who do nothing but write newsletters for attorneys. They happen to be, I think, relatively canned so that they are always giving certain advice to personal injury or trust in estates or different kinds of employee relations and what have you. I think it all depends on the time commitment that you have and the budget that you have. That’s what it always comes down to in marketing terms, being able to come up with ideas. I don’t think it’s that difficult. Having the time to do it and having the budget to allocate it, that’s really what the attorneys should be thinking about.

Casey Meraz:

Got it. No, that makes sense. I think that’s one of the reasons that I’ve seen so many attorneys start it and maybe like fail because it’s nobody’s job. They’re like, “Hey, I have this idea. I want to do it.” They get started. Then lawyering comes up, real work I guess. I hear you there.

Janet Falk:

Yeah, well there is one thing that I do recommend, and that is to always have an extra newsletter on the shelf because there will be that time when you’re too busy and you’re coming up to deadline for your quarterly or monthly, and then you think, “Oh my god, how am I going to get this done?” Having an extra newsletter on the shelf will give you that comfort level and that breathing room.

Casey Meraz:

That’s awesome. That’s good advice. Speaking of good advice and kind of top tips, are there any top tips or things that you want to tell the audience that I haven’t asked you that you want to communicate?

Janet Falk:

Okay. When you’re sending an email newsletter, it gets to your subscribers 90% of the time, and you control the distribution of when it goes out and who it’s going to. If you think about the social media platforms, LinkedIn and Facebook, on LinkedIn only 9% of your contacts are going to see what you post and on Facebook, only 2% of your fans are going to see what you post there. That means that more than 90% of the people who you know on Facebook and LinkedIn are not going to see what it is that you’re posting.

Janet Falk:

If you think about it, there is a very well-known firm whose name rhymes with sadden, and they have 7,000 followers on their Facebook page. That means that only 1,400 are going to see what they post there. They have 60,000 followers on their LinkedIn page. That means that only 5,400 are going to see what they’re posting there. Now, if they have the same content that they’re sending out through their email newsletter, I am sure that their list is much bigger than 60,000. Think about that. When you have a newsletter, you control who sees it and when they see it, and it’s not determined by the algorithm of the social media platform. I think that’s very important.

Casey Meraz:

Got it. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Janet. You had so much information to share today and I really appreciate you taking the time. Is there any last piece of closing advice you have for our listeners?

Janet Falk:

Well, besides the reader’s attention is yours to lose, I want to point out that it is very easy to create an email newsletter. There are a lot platforms that make it accessible. I personally use MailChimp, which is free for the first 2,000 subscribers. If you have more than 2,000 subscribers, Casey, you can afford to pay for another higher level of that service. There are other services available too. There’s Constant Contact and MyEmma and Kajabi. There are many platforms out there and they make it easy for the do-it-yourselfer or the public relations professional consultant to work with your law firm and get the news out there to your subscribers so that whether they are your current contacts, your lapsed clients, people that you know from other bar association activities, people who were on the other side of transaction and litigation, the many contacts that you have would be interested in getting your perspective on what it is that they should be doing to save time, save money, and make more money in their business.

Casey Meraz:

Awesome. Well, thank you again so much, Janet. If somebody wants to get in touch with you, obviously we see that information behind you, but if you just want to repeat the best ways to get in touch with you, I think that’d be great.

Janet Falk:

Sure. I’m in New York City. My email address is Janet J-A-N-E-T at Janet, J-A-N-E-T L, for law, F for France, alk.com Janet@JanetLFalk.com. I’m happy to speak further about newsletters. I offer a free 30 minute consultation.

Casey Meraz:

Great. Well thank you again for joining us today. You make sure to have a great day and I look forward to talking to you soon.

Janet Falk:

Absolutely. Thank you, Casey.

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