The first step in starting a blog is choosing a topic to blog about. Unfortunately, for some aspiring bloggers, it is a step they never move beyond.
“But someone else already has a blog on what I want to write about,” they protest. “I’m too late to the game.”
It is the excuse I hear most often for why not to start a blog. But – as you might expect I’d say – it’s bunk.
It would be like a newspaper columnist saying, “Someone else is already writing about politics, so why should I?” Or like a poet saying, “Other poets have already written about nature, so there’s nothing left to say.”
In blogging as in elsewhere, we each have something to bring to the table, and the cream will always rise to the top.
You may not be the first lawyer to blog about family law or employment law or whatever, but if your writing is done well and provides value, you will find an audience. We each have unique perspectives and insights to share, even on topics where others are already writing.
The key is not in choosing a topic no one else covers. The key is in choosing a topic that matters to you and about which you have something of value to share.
With that as your goal, let me offer a few suggestions about choosing a topic.
Go with what you know. For legal professionals thinking about blogging, this is probably stating the obvious, as you are most likely already thinking about blogging in your area of practice. But if you have a particular specialty within that practice area, then all the better – focus on that.
Go with what you care about. There is not always alignment between the work you do every day and the work you wish you were doing. Maybe you are a corporate associate who dreams of starting your own practice to advise nonprofits. “Passion” is a word I use a lot with reference to blogging, because if your heart is not in it, you won’t keep at it. Given the choice between what you now do and what you hope to do, go with the hope. Your blog could well help you get there.
Research other blogs. No doubt, you want your blog to stand out from the field. But you’ll never do that if you don’t first know what makes up the field. Spend some time exploring other blogs related to your area of interest. Pay attention to the topics they cover and how they cover them. Think about what you like or do not like about them.
Look for a unique angle or niche. Having thought about the topic you want to cover, and having surveyed other blogs related to that topic, think about whether there is a unique angle you can provide or niche you can fill. It could be as simple as giving your blog a specific geographic or industry focus. It could be, as noted above, your particular specialty within a broader practice area.
Identify your audience. Identifying your audience is part and parcel of the last point about identifying your niche. If your goal in blogging is to help bring in more business to your practice, then you need to think through the potential sources of new business and orient your blog to the audience that best fits that profile. If you are a family lawyer, then you probably want to target people in your hometown. If you are a business lawyer, you may wish to target specific types of companies or industries. Maybe your target audience is other lawyers who can become sources of referrals.
Know your audience. It is one thing to identify your audience, it is another to know them. Once you identify who you want to reach with your blog, think about what matters to them. What are the problems they have that need answers or solutions? That will help you think about how to focus the theme of your blog, and it will also guide you later in writing posts.
Spell out your goals. In planning a blog, the most important step is to identify your goals for the blog – why are you starting a blog and what do you hope to achieve through blogging. For many legal professionals, a primary goal will be marketing. If so, then you want to choose a topic that speaks to the audience of your potential clients. But there are other reasons to blog, as I discussed in a prior post. The reasons that inspire you should also help you define your topic.
Your topic is not a cage. Understand that the topic you choose at the outset is a guide, not a restriction. Blogs can be fluid and evolve over time or in response to circumstances. It is OK to let your humanity show through in your blog and occasionally write about topics outside your primary focus. It is also OK to pivot in response to external changes, as many legal blogs have done recently in response to the pandemic.
If I had to sum up in a nutshell my advice for choosing a topic, it would be this: Choose a topic you know and love and for which there is an audience that you can enlighten, inform or entertain. In your gut, you probably already know what that is.