Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Ed Tillotson

The legal profession could learn some business development tips from The Lawyer's Ed Tillotson. I spoke to Ed this week about a new service line offered by The Lawyer. No, it's not just the opportunity to buy more advertising space; not about firms/sets being able to publish their Client Guides to a wider audience using a Lawyer platform (although this is increasingly popular amongst their advertorial packages). So what is it? This might surprise you but The Lawyer team is now offering "article writing training" for would-be contributing authors of Lawyer content. 

"But The Lawyer magazine and its parent Centaur are in the business of publishing aren't they?" I hear you ask. "Not education and training..." I'm baffled by this new direction, so I took the opportunity to quiz Ed this week. 

"Receiving so much content from lawyers as we do at The Lawyer, it's been clear for a long time that there is a need for article writing support. Not least because the rise in social media usage and the proliferation of blogs has brought a new informality to professional and business writing and it's not easy for people to grasp where the line now is between being too stuffy on the one hand and too casual on the other, also how this applies across the blogosphere and in traditional print. Also, some of the most brilliant legal experts out there have real difficulty in putting their expertise across, or explaining complex legal points to less specialist/sophisticated audiences. And the in-house marketing people who act as go-betweens don't feel able to step in and improve the writing, for fear of misunderstanding the law and garbling important legal points. So we saw an opportunity to develop a new thread to our tapestry of business lines for law firms."

This is a subject close to Kysen team members' hearts: we spend hours each week finnessing material our clients give us so it is in perfect shape (on a good day) by the time it reaches our press contacts. Being legal PR specialists, and trading in legal topics on a daily basis, we have the confidence to tamper with technical text, change it where necessary to ensure it is specifically tailored to a given readership; that it is perfectly judged in terms of the level of knowledge and sophistication it assumes of the audience; and is written to engage, inform and sometimes entertain. In contrast, most in-house business development managers will simply not have the time, nor the right skill-set to do this, because their job descriptions are much much wider than just PR so they are not as immersed in legal topics as we are.  

"We deliver training through Econsultancy and it's proved extremely popular so far. I have to admit we have an ulterior motive too; the more confident a firm is that its lawyers can prepare strong content, the more they'll be tempted to take advantage of the new array of options to promote their content on our various platforms." 

Smart thinking: helping lawyers learn how to package their expertise in a form easily digested by target audiences is an essential part of them learning to market their expertise. But did you see what Ed did there? In selling this idea to the profession, he's demonstrating that his own business development skills are of the highest order. What he's doing here is repackaging The Lawyer's intellectual capital. Clearly not content to be restricted by such trifles as the fact Centaur is a news and publishing business, why not just dream up completely different ways to make money from all that wisdom and knowledge at the magazine.

That's what I call thinking outside the (text) box.
I've said in this blog before that Evening Standard court reporter Paul Cheston is one of journalism’s best story-tellers. Anyone keen to learn how to write to engage readers better would do well to study Paul's opening lines. I always say, Paul illustrates "text-book story-telling" at its very best, getting right to the heart of the most tantalising aspects of a story right away.  And this week we were treated to what might be his career best. Honestly. Writing up an interview we had arranged for him with Middle East "fixer" Daad Sharab, reflecting on her court win last summer when her opponent Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal became the first member of the Saudi royal family to be held to account and cross-examined in a British court, he crafted the most impactful opening line to a news story I have ever read, anywhere, ever. I'm not exaggerating: just count how many punches he packs in this one single sentence:

"The woman who  humiliated one of the richest men in the world has told for the first time how she delayed a brain operation to make legal history."

Masterful Paul.  Honoured to know you.
Guest blog by Adele Baxby

Being so used to following Supreme Court’s cases and judgments for our clients, it was great to step past the security and see the court itself this week, brought to life at night at a superb event: Court adjourned! Twilight hours at the Supreme Court

First up for the Kysen team was a talk in the white expanse of Court Two from the architect Hugh Feilden from Feilden + Mawson. Explaining the challenges his team faced when renovating the building, Hugh’s talk was a real eye-opener. As were his explanations of the significance and symbolism behind everything from the words used as art throughout the building, to the jazzy carpet designed by Sir Peter Blake (which certainly has echoes of his Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover).

Next we heard from court blogger and artist Isobel Williams. She told stories about moving from sketching Occupy protesters outside Saint Paul’s to judges and barristers in the Supreme Court. It is impressive that with just ink and an A4-ish sized piece of paper she manages to capture so much of the tension and emotion that often runs high in these court rooms, all while sat at the back of the room (occasionally perched precariously on a bench at busy trials).

Our visit ended in Court Room Three - an impressive room which is used to hear appeals from all over the world. Sitting in one of the green leather chairs it really brought home the importance of the decisions made in these rooms – especially in Court Three where, at times, lives can be on the line. 

1 comment:

  1. Glad you enjoyed the evening. Just for the record, the paper I use is generally A3-ish and I draw with mixed media, from felt-tips to lipstick. I leave the dreadlocks, feathers, coffee-stirrers and rope at home though as they need to be dipped in ink, which doesn't match that beautiful carpet.