Internet legal marketing has progressed substantially in recent years. Law firms are experiencing remarkable success delivering their message to clients and prospects by means of the Web, subscription email, and Internet applications. While these tried and true methods are unquestionably effective, most of us have discovered that they are not a foolproof way to reach all of our target audience.
Common E-Marketing Problems
If you maintain an email subscription list you've probably noticed that your newsletters and articles don't always reach all of your subscribers. Spam-blocking software will often block the email carrying your newsletters and legal publications, even though your subscribers have voluntarily signed up to receive such information. Or, maybe you've heard your subscribers say that they can't read your HTML formatted email, or that your messages do not display correctly in their email programs.
Web sites are not a foolproof delivery method either. Although delivering news and publications on a Web site helps to ensure that your message will be properly displayed and easily readable, your subscribers might not remember to regularly check your Web site for legal updates or the latest publications. If subscribers don't check your site on a regular schedule, they might miss the one message they really need.
Finally, delivering information to a broad base of clients means that you have to be prepared to accommodate a broad range of preferences. Offering every delivery option that your clients want helps ensure reliable delivery to the greatest possible part of your target audience.
RSS is a method of delivering news and publications that will avoid service interruptions caused by overzealous spam filters or the incompatible software configuration. It enables you to keep subscribers informed on a regular basis. And you can find new subscribers and potential clients.
RSS is way to describe information to people who might be interested in reading it. In this way it is similar to Web pages or email newsletters. RSS differs however, in other key ways.
- To read RSS content people use software called an RSS reader
- RSS circumvents email marketing completely
- RSS content can be delivered only to people who ask for it (no spam)
The Concept Behind RSS
Imagine that you have a 'Personal Information Assistant'. It is this person's full time job to know what kind of information is important to you, to visit all the Web sites that offer that information, gather the information, and report back to you with articles, stories, and news. You decide when reports are delivered to your desk each day. You can change your interests at will. Or, you can push a button at any time and your assistant will appear with an updated report of available articles and news.
This is the idea behind RSS, but instead of a person doing this work the RSS Reader software does it for you.
Many RSS readers are available for computers and mobile phones. Most browsers and many email software programs can also be used to receive RSS feeds. If you are using a recent version of Microsoft Outlook you can use it as an RSS reader.
What's So Great About RSS?
For subscribers, there are many advantages to RSS. Because I can subscribe to as many RSS channels as I want, I can get all my news from many different Web sites in one single, simple interface. I can skip the ad-saturated home pages of major news sites and go straight to the news I want to read.
It is also great that my email inbox isn't cluttered with a bunch of newsletters — even though I want to read many of them, I don't need them in my inbox.
What else is great? I control which information arrives, and when the information arrives by setting my reader to update at specific times. It is easy to see why RSS has grown in popularity.
Why Should Law Firm's Use RSS?
Why not? RSS is another way to deliver your message. Law firms can use RSS to deliver legal alerts, news, and attorney-authored publications. Firms can offer RSS to clients as a reliable way to receive this information, which allows the client to decide when they will receive it.
There are millions of RSS users out there, and more are adopting it every day. What is striking is the relative lack of legal content available for RSS readers. That's right — very few firms are using it at all.
Should Your Firm Offer RSS?
RSS can work for your firm if you meet a few criteria. First, your firm needs to publish information often enough to make an RSS feed meaningful to the subscriber. This doesn't have to be constant, but should be relatively frequent and on a regular basis. Second, your current Web publishing system needs to be able to publish RSS feeds, or it needs to be flexible enough that this capability can be added. Alternatively, you might try a 3rd party desktop publishing tool.
Cooley Godward Kronish offers RSS feeds of their legal publications, newsletters, and alerts at http://cooley.com/feeds.aspx. These feeds are managed using the Saturno WebBack CMS.
How to Get Started
The best way to become familiar with RSS is to try it. There are quite a few free RSS Readers. Awasu is a good one to start with. You can download Awasu at www.awasu.com.
After you become acquainted with your RSS reader, you can look for your own publishing solutions. The best solutions will be those that can be integrated with your content management system.
There are many sites offering tutorials, introductions, links to readers, and other relevant information. Here are a few:
WebReference.com - www.webreference.com/authoring/languages/xml/rss/
OasisOpen.com - www.oasis-open.org/cover/rss.html
IBM.com - www-106.ibm.com/developerworks/library/w-rss.html