In our book Content Rules, C.C. Chapman and I talk a lot about "speaking human"—in fact, it's our Rule No. 4:
Speak human: Communicate your brand mission, values, and philosophy in simple terms, using the language of your customers. Speak in a conversational tone, with personality, empathy, and true emotion. Kill corporate-speak, buzzwords, and other language that makes you sound like a tool.
You know how you love one of your kids more than the others? No, me neither (how is it even possible to do that?). Well, I feel a similar democratic affection for all of our content "rules": It's hard to choose which is my favorite. But I do have special affection for "speak human" (in part because it came under attack early on in the editing process), so I'm especially gratified when I see it in play, especially in unexpected places.
In fact, humanizing professional services marketing has been taken to a whole new level by Chicago law firm Levenfeld Pearlstein—the first law firm (that I know of) to have developed attorney website profiles that incorporate video vignettes of lawyers speaking candidly about their professional philosophies and personal viewpoints—showing off their personalities in a creative and wholly unexpected way.
In one vignette, Steven Bright, a partner in the Banking & Finance Service and the Real Estate & Finance Practice groups, talks about what he was like as a child. In another, Lisa Vandesteeg, an associate in the firm's Litigation, Bankruptcy, and Restructuring and Insolvency Practice Groups, gives a tour of her office. Visitors sometimes tease her for her stockpile of diplomas and awards on the wall, Lisa says before she shows off her proudest professional accomplishment: Her trophy earned for spanking her colleagues in the firm's annual chili cookoff.
In all, about half of the firm's 70 lawyers talk about what their hobbies are, what inspires them, what mistakes attorneys make, what they'd be doing if they didn't go to law school, what their favorite time of year is, where they would go if they could travel in time, and so on.
The firm used an outside production company and spent, in total, roughly $9,500 to create several super-short vignettes (most are around a minute) for each featured attorney. It plans to add video to all of its attorneys' profiles by the end of this year.
"Video isn't exactly groundbreaking, but the way we used it is," Andrea Crews, the firm's director of marketing and business development, told me last week.
Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules. Ann co-founded ClickZ.com, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.