Solos & Small Firms
Ghostwriters: Virtual Bloggers Can Help Scare Up New Business
Posted Jan 1, 2011 1:30 AM CST
By Deborah L. Cohen
Gary Nitzkin, a Southfield, Mich.-based collections attorney, is not superstitious. But in recent months he’s been channeling some rather unusual ghosts to help build visibility for his practice. Nitzkin, an early proponent of blogging, has been writing about issues such as fair debt collection and fraud prevention at his Michigan Collection Law Blog since 2006. But last year, overwhelmed by the amount of work that the blog required, he began employing the services of behind-the-scenes ghost bloggers to handle a growing responsibility that was competing with his billable time.
“It’s a marketing tool, a way to get my reputation out,” says Nitzkin, who also has a blog about credit issues affecting consumer rights called Michigan Consumer Credit Law Blog. “My blog is a feeder to my web site. Blogs have the latest content. Google looks for the blogs first.”
To find qualified bloggers, Nitzkin placed ads on Craigslist. Within 24 hours he was overwhelmed with responses. Ultimately, he selected two anonymous bloggers: one in Michigan and the other in India.
“There are a lot of people out there that hold themselves out as having credentials, and they just don’t,” cautions Nitzkin. “It’s important to get references, to interview them, to find out what their real experience is.”
IT PAYS TO POST
Nitzkin gives his bloggers topics and recent news developments of likely interest to potential clients in the collections law arena, and then he lets the writers put a legal spin on them. He pays $15 to $25 a pop for a short post. He personally edits every item before it goes live, checking for accuracy and adjusting the overall tone to match his personal swagger.
“My name is associated with it,” says Nitzkin, who credits a consistent blog presence with broadening his reach to new clients as far away as New Zealand and China. “It’s a chance for me to express my individual voice.”
Around the country, a host of other resourceful solo and small-firm lawyers are turning to professional writers to create contributions for the blogosphere—content they credit with boosting their online profiles. Some, like Nitzkin, are sourcing from relatively low-cost providers, while others, like Washington, D.C., white-collar criminal defense attorney Jeff Ifrah, are spending a bit more for the ability to offload more complex tasks.
Ifrah hired the professional writing and editing services of former journalist Jonathan Groner after realizing he didn’t have the time to supervise his blog or perform certain marketing tasks.
Ifrah pays Groner a flat monthly fee of $1,200 to help write, edit and produce the blog and handle other marketing activities for his boutique firm, which opened in 2009.
The role of ghost blogger can include a broad mix of strategic and editorial tasks: keeping abreast of hot-button legal issues, developing editorial calendars, penning original posts, and also acquiring raw copy from lawyers and transforming their legalese into compelling content for lay readers.
Gina Girardot Melton, a Tampa, Fla., government lawyer, has taken on the role of ghost blogger in her spare time, working primarily on behalf of personal injury and criminal defense lawyers. Melton, who typically charges $35 to $50 per post, believes blogging has a valuable place in attorneys’ overall marketing spectrum, as long as they avoid promotional content.
“To have a self agenda about getting people to your website isn’t going to work,” she says. “You have to provide a service to your readers.”