Respect the Medium


When you enter the theater, the lights have already been dimmed. The final trailer is showing. You wait a few seconds for your eyes to adjust to the darkness before you spot a pair of open seats. “Excuse me, pardon me,” you mumble repeatedly as you wend your way down the crowded row. Once you’ve reached your padded stadium-style seats, you savor a quick sip of cola before settling down and turning towards the screen.

You’ve already read the novel. Now, you’re wondering whether the director has honored the original text—which you’ve held as practically sacred. Then, to your horror, you realize that while the director had left nothing out, he also didn’t add anything in. For the next two hours, you stare in boredom as a close-up of each page from the novel flies across the screen. What’s good enough for book lovers is not good enough for movie viewers.

To transform a novel into a movie, you need an attractive cast, a gorgeous set, engaging dialogue, a luscious soundtrack and stunning special effects. You cannot treat a movie as a novel, and you cannot treat a web site as a brochure. In other words, you have to respect the medium.

For law firms making their first foray onto the Internet, a common mistake is to just post content online that has come from prior marketing efforts. You may see some of the following when browsing the web:

  • Scanned copies of yellow pages or magazine advertisements.
  • Scanned copies of client newsletters.

Repurposing existing marketing collateral is a great time-saver. However, it must be adapted for the web. First, let’s take a step back to see why. In all likelihood, a potential client will come to your site through one of the search engines. And, what are search engines good at? Reading text, categorizing text and matching text patterns.

This dependence on text highlights the problem with displaying scanned images on your web site. If Google cannot understand the text contained within your scanned image, then it cannot match it to user queries. So where will Google send your potential client? To another law firm’s web site. The second problem is that even if a potential client comes across your scanned newsletter, she will find it frustrating to use. Unless it’s a high resolution scanned copy that has been OCR’d, your potential client cannot search through it for particular keywords or phrases.

So, if you are going to reuse your existing offline marketing collateral, make sure that the text is readable both by the search engines and your potential clients. Furthermore, whenever you develop offline marketing collateral, remember to preserve an electronic copy of the underlying text so that you can easily adapt it for your online readers.