Blogging is a Conversation

Good morning from Seattle. Good afternoon to the rest of the country. We’re on day six of Common Sense Legal Blogging, which is 45 chapters long. It’s beginning as part of the Blog for Good campaign that lawyers, Bar associations, law firms and LexBlog is a part of to showcase the insight, commentary, and information that lawyers are sharing regarding a myriad of legal issues arising out of the pandemic that we’re facing as a nation.

The topic today is blogging as a conversation. It’s not blogging to broadcast information. I kind of upped this in the table of contents from the post that you could see on the net where I outline the chapters one by one. Because I think it’s that much more important than some of the other concepts. If you’re going to blog, you have to think of it that way. You can’t think of it as broadcasting. Think of blogging as a conversation.

I started blogging in 2003, and I was hearing that all over the place. Blogging is a conversation. It’s a new means of communicating and I really didn’t have a clue what people were talking about. Once I started to maybe even get some glimpse in what they might be talking about, I was sure it did not apply to the legal profession. It maybe applied to the media; maybe it applied to technology people. Just did not apply to legal. Then a couple of things happened.

One was, I got to know a gentleman by the name of Robert Scoble, a really fine person that was involved in really bringing the idea of engaging people in listening to the conversation out there on the net. He was at Microsoft, which was considered the evil empire at that point in time. By getting literally 1500 bloggers on all different types of blogs, it would scare the heck out of any law firm, as far as they all look like different platforms, whatever, sharing what they were doing. Then going in and videoing people and asking them, “Who are you, what do you do?” I just follow what he did in my own videoing. I started to pick up this idea of him talking about conversation and he and Shel Israel came out with the seminal book on corporate blogging and, look at the title, Naked Conversations. “Naked” meaning that people couldn’t see them. They weren’t in a coffee shop or that type of thing. So this book came out in 2006, so we’re 14 years later. So, what happens? We have this communication medium called the blog and we go 14 years backwards, so it’s like this was what was good in 2006 and we’re moving forward and everybody decided, “Well, not really. Let’s use the net for something else that we think serves us in the way that we have always done marketing for the last 50 years. Let’s go backwards.” Instead of that point in time, let’s go 14 years into the past. I think law firms have, by a margin. They were presented with the internet, they were presented blogging, they were presented with a communications medium and what they did was they said, “We’re not gonna use it; we’re going backwards. We’re going to dig in our heels and do what we always did and we’ll just put it on something called the internet that’s just cheaper than having to put it on paper and brochures and send it out by the mail or by the smaller firms buying billboards or radio ads or TV.”

We’ve really bastardized this thing that is a great medium to just turn it into a marketing communications piece that we measure in false waves. With blogging, think of it as a conversation. Conversation connotes communication. If you go to the Internet and look up or go to Wikipedia and look up the Internet, you’re not going to see it. It is a device for broadcasting, for putting up websites, for marketing for streaming TV shows, whatever. It’s a communications medium, that’s what you will see a communications medium. When you’re thinking about communications, you’re not thinking broadcast.

If I’m teaching blogging to a law firm, and they want to begin to blog, there’s different spectrums. They’re on one side, there is the broadcast. Shout out. Don’t listen. You frame the message. You’re not necessarily caring about the messages of the people on the other side… versus a conversation where you listen. You have empathy for what somebody is thinking. You’re thinking about how they’re going to respond, ask them how they feel about each side, which makes them feel more comfortable. They’re going to be on the conversation side. They’re going to be on the communication side, they’re not going to be on the side where you got a blow horn, and you’re screaming stuff at them. That’s what can make blogging so powerful. It can be on the communication and conversation side.

What do you do when you don’t broadcast? You have a conversation. You listen first, you don’t shout. In a conversation, I suppose– and I may be the biggest violator talking first before listening– but you should be listening. Who is on the other side? What is their pain? How can you help them? When you’re a lawyer, during any conversation, you’re listening to what the conversation is. Can you imagine picking up the phone to talk to prospective clients and just starting to scream? It’s what we do, it’s how we help people. You got a child custody issue, domestic abuse, all this type of stuff. Now, you have to listen or you will establish no trust. With the internet and blogging, it’s no different. You listen. We might be getting ahead of ourselves a little bit, but if you’re listening as a blogger, you’ve got different ways to listen today. A lot of people use news aggregators, something like Feedly.

What does Feedly do? Well, it’s like my radio. I can set the stations to bring me the information that it wants. What might that information be as a lawyer? Well, if I’m practicing a particular type of law, who are the most influential bloggers on the subject, down to a very niche? Maybe it’s mark rights in the art industry or something, it could be anything, in the clothing industry, it could be whatever. Who are the influential bloggers? The influential publications might be a magazine inside the law, outside the law. It could be words, because in addition to sources, which are blogs, magazines, news publications, or whatever, it could be words, it could be subjects.

I can listen to things like pandemic and legal technology, and see what’s written on that anywhere around the world. That’s interesting if I want to be able to share information on that subject or to blog on that subject. I talked to a woman just a short while ago that has a very good family law practice here in Seattle. We talked about the idea of rather than letting publications know about certain types of issues, why don’t you listen to those publications and reference what they’re saying so that then you’re in the conversation with them and you can talk with them.

I explained it could be on issues of child visitation during the pandemic. It’s shocking that a judge can order that somebody’s got to get in an airplane with a young child and fly a child halfway across the country during the pandemic at the same time while she’s pregnant. Those are huge issues. What is the conversation that could be taking place on that by virtue of listening?

When you’re blogging then, and you’ve seen these sources and you’ve seen these subjects, what you want to be doing is referencing them, because that’s the only way you’re going to be heard in the conversation. You don’t get heard by screaming an SEO in your site and paying people to take your content and distribute it around the Internet. Get heard by talking about other people.

If I referenced a source and it could be a New York Times reporter’s piece, or it could be a local Seattle Times, or it could be a blogger’s piece (and don’t discount bloggers, they’re some of the most important reporters in the world because they have deep insight and passion and on niche issues), if I reference them and I say that Patricia Smith has an interesting piece in the New York Times this morning about this, that, or the other thing. I take a block quote. I’ve cited her. I’ve cited the piece. I’ve taken a block quote, and I’ve gone, and she went on to say this and that, by that second, I’m going to feel the urgency to say something. Just like clipping that New York Times article, putting it in an envelope for friends. I’m not just going to stick it on the envelope and say nothing. I’m going to say why I shared it with them. You do the same thing with the blog post.

That’s a conversation. Then what you’re going to do is you’re going to share the blog post on Twitter, and you give a little hat tip to Patricia Smith, and she’s going to see it, and she’s going to thank you. You’ve just shaken the hands of somebody in New York City whether you are in Elko, Nevada, or Des Moines, or Seattle. It doesn’t matter. You’ve met somebody. That’s great blogging and that’s a conversation. The concept, I think of a room. If blogging is a giant room, you get to shape that room by who’s in that room. You decide who you have listened to, who you have seen coming through in that aggregator, they’re in the room. All of those people in the room. This room is just your topics. Maybe I’m a Workers Compensation who’s just blogging on COVID-19 claims of healthcare workers, nurses, doctors, EMTs, other healthcare professionals at the hospital. I’m listening to people talking about that issue. Whether it’s the newspapers or blogs or what have you. I have Twitter. I can follow certain people on Twitter. I can mention that. I might even do a search on something like that on Twitter, and see what’s coming up.

Those are the people in the room. You’ve assembled the room without those people even knowing they’re in the room. Now, you walk in the room, and now you’re going to have a conversation. The bloggers’ going to be listening to what this one person said. You now have, in effect, walked over here and told this person what she said. Interesting point she raised on what’s going on for healthcare workers and workers compensation claims in Trenton, New Jersey, and you’re in Seattle, but you referenced it, and shared what they said in a block quote.

Cited them, shared it with this person. Can you imagine how this person feels over here? She says, “Who is this person in Seattle, Washington that just shared something that I said?” You can’t avoid the urgency to walk across the room and see who they are. It’s a naked conversation. We can’t see this. The rest of the world, I can explain this to a group of lawyers with a hundred people. Nobody will be able to get the concept after I explain it, let alone get involved in the idea. This is what’s going on everyday all across the Internet.

It is a naked conversation that is taking place. Blogs are the deepest conversation because they’re providing the most insight and commentary on it and leave a memorial record back at your blog like you’re publishing a book or a journal.

At one time, when the Internet started, just parenthetically, it doesn’t happen today, it really clicked because what happened is as soon as I referenced her piece to this person by citing it, a trackback took place. It went back to her blog, and said, “Kevin just cited you.” Or she might’ve had what’s called a vanity feeds folder on a news aggregator. It basically just says, “Somebody cited you.” You can put your name in. I put in Kevin O’Keefe. The only person who was competing against me was a quarterback in Merrillville, Indiana. It was probably pretty good, so I would see things in the newspaper from Merrillville, Indiana where he was playing a game. Other than that, I didn’t see anybody else doing much on the internet that had the name Kevin O’Keefe even though there’s probably hundreds of thousands of Kevin O’Keefes. What happened is every time somebody mentioned my name down here in a conversation, and I was staying up here, I heard it. When I heard it, I looked them up. I Googled their name. I looked for them on LinkedIn. I looked to see if they use Twitter. I’m intrigued and I’m impressed. I’m impressed by the fact they slowed down enough rather than just shouting. Maybe just share something that somebody else said. In my case, it was me.

To show you the powerful impact of that, there were students at Michigan State University. Rather than teach the old way of doing things to build a name for yourself as a student with resumes and have people come in and meet employers, or here’s how you set the table and use your fork here in this, I was at a place where they actually taught students dinner etiquette thinking that could lose a job if you didn’t hold your fork the right way. Students at Michigan State started to reference what I was writing. I saw it. I was in my family room. I was impressed.

I was impressed that they were referencing it on Twitter. I was impressed that they were referencing it on blogging. We literally struck up a conversation through Twitter and through blogging. Those students invited me to come back to Michigan State without talking to the faculty about it. The students did. It was only a week before I was supposed to be back there that I got a call from Professor Dan Lena. He said, “Kevin, I understand you’re coming back.” I said, “Yes, I understand that, too. I really don’t understand everything that’s going on. I really appreciate you giving me a call.” Then he put something together.

What those students did by blogging and tweeting on something called Sparty Legal, one student did, who’s got a phenomenal job at General Motors today working with robotic cars, or another woman that is over in the East side of Washington doing great stuff. They entered the conversation by listening to what I was writing, and then engaging me. Not by saying, “Hi, Kevin. You’re a great guy. We follow your stuff,” (nothing can be more shallow than that), but by referencing what I said and bringing it into what they were writing and what they saying.

They entered the room where they thought that they could learn from people that were out using the internet and what they thought were productive in powerful ways. When Robert Scoble was blogging, he didn’t use the reference naked conversations at that time, but what he did do was he said, “There’s so many people trying to reach me.” They were because Robert was very influential whether it was technology products and whatnot. Now, visual reality and augmented. Robert says, “I can’t hear you unless you talk about me.” When I first read the line, I think a lot of people would’ve said, “That’s very egotistical.” I didn’t think that way at all. What I realized was that it was the naked conversation. If people would talk about what Robert was talking about, he could hear them. If he could hear them, he would look at who they are. If he could look at who they are and they were a person of substance, he might begin to follow them.

He might begin to cite them. He might begin to reference what they had to say. Imagine how powerful that was to get cited on Scobleizer and be written about in Scobleizer, so people would see you across the technology field. It didn’t happen because somebody said, “Do you know Scoble? Can you reach out to Scoble? I’m going to write Scoble with a press release. We got some communications people that are really smart. I hired a smart communications person.” They just entered the room. They entered the conversation that was taking place.

Does it take some time to get used to this type of blogging? Yes, it totally does. It might take a year, but that’s okay. If you learn how to use the Internet as a communications medium and engagement medium, and it’s conversation versus broadcast medium that you start to get a comfort of, that’s okay. That’s a huge step. If you’re 40 years old, you learn that in a year, you’re going to be using that for another 30 years.

It takes some time. The easy way to do it or think about it is to be a little bit of a clipping service. Everybody thinks that you have to blog to demonstrate your brilliance. The problem is that brilliance is a commodity, especially among lawyers. There’s great lawyers in particular niches that really know how to get it done, but a lot of people don’t know how to really get it done. They are very smart, but to write a piece and say, “We need a piece that explains this. Here’s the introduction. Here’s the analysis. Here’s the conclusion,” and it’s a thousand or 1500 words long. There could be a lot of pieces out on that subject. Then to say, “Okay, we shipped it off to Tom Dick and Harry’s distribution service and that these 15 people read it, I guess it’s okay. Some of them may turn into clients, but you haven’t entered the room. You didn’t get into the conversation.

So, why don’t you look at it this way? You have a news aggregator, you use Feedly, and you see relevant information. It doesn’t take a lot of time. I have it on my iPad and I could scroll through it in a few minutes and see what’s of interest. I share it first on Twitter when I’m in a roll and I’ve been a little bit off my variants the last year and a half. Then I take that information and I reference it and I blog it and that’s it.

What you’re doing is a little bit of a clipping service, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Because as a lawyer, if you demonstrate to other people that you stay up to speed in a very open way, people start to believe that you’re a good lawyer. You go search for a doctor and the doctor’s demonstrating that he’s regularly monitoring certain medical literature, and he’s sharing it with you and he’s sharing his insight and commentary on an ongoing basis. You will use that doctor, because I’d rather have a doctor they’re staying up to speed that has particular passion in the area that I need medical assistance in than somebody that I can’t tell. And a lot of lawyers take all this information, and in the old days when it was paper, stacked it on our credenza and we threw it away. At Christmas time, we had to clear out of the office, but nobody could tell that we were staying up to speed by post-it notes on the side of information we brought back from the CLEs.

A blog is very transparent. It could be one thing a week. That’d be 52 things in a year. If you did it every other week, that would be 26 things in a year. If it’s twice a month, and you build up to doing it once a week, “Here’s what I saw. Here’s who brought it. Here’s the block quote. Here’s what they went on to say, here’s my take.” That’s a great blog post. Then to let the source know that you did it. What are you, maybe you are a clipping service. Maybe you are an aggregation source.

When a couple of people saw me after I blogged for a relatively short period of time, they said, “I really liked your blog. It was in Chicago with the ABA tech show.” I said, “What do you like about my blog? I’m doing nothing but just trying to figure out what the heck blogging is. Because I don’t understand it,” and they said, “No, you’re sharing things that you’re learning, as an aggregation source.” But what was happening is that I was aggregating, and what they liked was the fact that I added a comment, and what was happening was that I was meeting people that I was citing.

I had no clue that I was already in the conversation via citing people. Think of a blog as a conversation. Think of how you listen first and the tools that you use to listen, how you shape that room, how you now engage in the conversation by referencing what other people are talking about. Think about how I’m going to let them know that I did mention them. It can be as simple as “the interesting thing that you wrote, I shared it with my readers on my blog this morning and, keep up the good work.” You can say that to your– New York Times, reporters from the Wall Street Journal; reporters all want to be told that they are doing a good job. That’s as easy as just letting people know about what is going on and then start to feel how you’re in the conversation and at that point, you’re building your network, you’re building your influence.

That is it for today. The thing that I do want to remind you about is Blog For Good, and the Blog For Good campaign is law firms, associations, individual lawyers, LexBlog. LexBlog empowering the blogging that is being done already and bringing more blogs on board. An example is New York City Bar Association, they just launched a publication that aggregated and curated all the blog posts coming from New York City bar members. It’s all about COVID, right now. Then my guys would be all around you if you were in New York. Look at how there’s lawyers in New York that are rising to the occasion and sharing insight, commentary, and passion about things. Then the lawyers, the bar is a benefit to those lawyers, giving the lawyers the benefit to blog for free on the LexBlog platform on a mobile-ready, nice blog with all the support, basically, the same blog that I use every day. They’ll have that free till the end of the year.

Even after that, it’s only going to cost them $39 a month to continue their blogging. We’re telling them to do it on niches, cover niches to make it valuable to people. You’ll be seen, you’ll be part of a database for the New York City Bar and people looking for that information. Then individual lawyers can jump on board before their States. So in the case of Washington, talking to a family law lawyer today, she’s going to jump on board for COVID-19 issues relating to family law that are rising. She said getting lots of phone calls about things that would never come up before. She’ll beat the Washington bar, and then every day, it could be the virtual factory, if that much, we’re building the aggregation platforms, state by state. I think we had six built last week, and seven built this week.

There’s a map up that shows you all the States that we’re covering and the States that are already on board- Illinois, Wisconsin, Arizona, Texas. States are becoming part of this giant family, of our giant community of people that are helping more and more people through Blog For Good, because there’s no single place that is creating as much insight and commentary in the law that people need and making it freely accessible than lawyer blogs. We want to showcase the lawyers that have that deep care, their expertise, their passion for helping people. We want to work with associations that always are looking for ways to empower lawyers, to help lawyers, to make their association more relevant to lawyers by doing that, and thank God I guess we have the technology to be able to help folks today.

So, stay tuned. I think this subject, this blogging is a conversation is about as important as anything you can begin to appreciate. If you have questions, you can ping me, email kevin@lexblog.com. You can go on Twitter and ask me. I’m on Facebook and LinkedIn, I’m on everything. If you Google Kevin O’Keefe cell phone, you’ll find that too. You can call me. I would begin to learn what that is. I would begin to learn what a news aggregator is, what it means to blog in a way that I can share information insight. You will find out that your blog is more effective, but you’ll find that your blogging is taking about half the time, a quarter of the time and that you’re getting more out of it, both personally learning and business development-wise. Thanks so much. Have a good day.