If one of your resolutions for 2019 is to make your firm known as the leader in a particular practice niche, building a microsite may be the best way to comprehensively communicate your group’s expertise and service offerings to the marketplace.
A microsite is a hyper-targeted website designed to function separately from your firm’s main website and is dedicated to one specific practice area, legal subject matter, initiative, or type of service. By focusing on the specific needs of one audience, a microsite allows for more up-to-date communication and analysis. It might be dedicated to one superstar attorney known for her expertise in a unique type of case, or one practice group or set of groups that deliver a particular kind of service. Microsites often include blogs, podcasts, videos, and other forms of thought leadership. They also might house data sets and make them more accessible to the people who need them, or provide analysis of trends, upcoming regulation, and other issues that will affect this subset of clients. Here is a great example.
Microsites say something about the firm: that you are staking out territory in this particular subject area, that your attorneys have industry-leading expertise to offer. But, like all forms of external communication, the success of your microsite will depend on your firm’s dedication of time, resources, and strategy.
Establish a clear purpose. What do you hope to communicate to potential clients, and what kind of content will your attorneys, marketing department, or outside communications professionals need to create in order to back up the claims you hope to make about your expertise? Is your group asked (by clients, industry members, reporters) for the same documents again and again, and is there a way you could make them accessible through the site? What else could the site do for clients? Consider the life cycle. Will this site be useful to clients for a limited term (say, as new regulations come into effect and clients must make changes to processes in the near term to accommodate them)? Or does the expertise deal with a perennial issue that will evolve over time but remain relevant to clients indefinitely?
Assign a project manager. Think carefully about who will “own” this project and ensure that the content is continually updated and the microsite is a boon (and not a bruise) to your firm’s overall brand. Yes, the featured attorneys are the ones with the expertise, but will they really have time to write weekly commentary or create FAQs? Does someone in the marketing department have the bandwidth to take this on? How will you loop in IT? You might consider hiring an outside writer to be dedicated solely to this project. Via a quick weekly phone meeting with the featured attorney, a skilled writer can learn about new developments and digest them into readable prose for the blog. A microsite can also use aggregators to pull in relevant content from external sources—news stories, studies, and relevant cases—and update automatically.
Tailor the content. This should go without saying, but don’t simply repurpose content from the firm’s main website for the microsite. The whole point of creating a separate online destination for clients is that it will speak to their specific needs. That means everything on the microsite, from the description of services to the attorney bios, needs to be tailored to speak to this particular work, even if the attorney actually practices across multiple areas. Lawyers always want to include every last accomplishment on their CV, but when it comes to microsites, only the relevant information should make the cut.
A microsite allows a practice group to have answers ready on a fast-developing legal issue when clients are still trying to figure out what the questions are. That makes your expertise and leadership extremely valuable, and removes the barriers to access that exist on bloated firm websites. As long as everyone involved in the project has a clear understanding of their role and a concrete plan for carrying it out, a microsite is a great way to showcase what your firm does best and add value to your service to clients.