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Is Your Thought Leadership Chasing
Eyeballs or Hearts and Minds?

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It’s tempting to craft thought leadership that racks up large numbers of followers and subscribers. But if your content isn’t winning over your target audience’s hearts and minds, it won’t help you build your legal practice or prominence.

When you conceive of and draft your thought leadership content, are you aiming for your target audience’s eyeballs or are you aiming for their hearts and minds?

As you attempt to establish yourself as a thought leader, are you aiming for awareness—eyeballs—or affinity and preference—hearts and minds?

To become an authority within the area of law you practice or the industry you serve, you will need to aim for the latter.

Sure, it’s tempting to accumulate thousands of email subscribers, blog readers, or LinkedIn followers. But those numbers are vanity numbers. Your number of social media followers or email subscribers, along with $5, will get you a cup of coffee (with your name likely misspelled on the cup).

Instead of aiming for high numbers of subscribers, etc., focus on winning over the hearts and minds of your target audience. This will help separate you from the pack of other attorneys using their thought leadership to get on the radar of the same clients and referral sources you’re targeting with your thought leadership.

In the crowded marketplace that is most legal practices these days, you want to stand out from the crowd like that cousin of yours who wears sport coats in colors you didn’t know existed. You want to be remembered as THE attorney who practices the law you practice or who serves the industry you serve.

The way you do that is through a robust thought-leadership campaign that includes writing, speaking, videos and podcasts.

But you don’t want to just be known.

Of course, being known is better than not being known. But it’s not enough. You want to be thought of first. You want to be in the hearts and minds of your target audience.

How do you accomplish this through thought leadership? Well, you’ve got to do more than consistently publish thought leadership. Strive to do one or both of the following on top of your publishing efforts.

Adopt a View of the World Held by Your Target Audience

One way to win your target audience’s hearts and minds is to adopt a particular view of the world that is close to, if not the same as, the way your target audience, including past, current, and prospective clients and referral sources, sees the world.

Whether you’re a white-collar criminal defense attorney, an M&A corporate attorney, or an IP attorney, you want to align your worldview with that of your target audience’s. Make your worldview clear and reaffirm it through the commentary you put into your thought leadership blog posts, email newsletters, videos, podcasts, and the like.

Are your white-collar criminal clients telling you, based on their firsthand experience, that today’s prosecutors are overzealous, overreaching, and overly interested in securing publicity for their cases? Do you agree? Say so.

Are your M&A clients telling you they think antitrust regulators and judges hearing antitrust cases have swung too far toward a liberal view of the Sherman Act? Do you agree? Say so. Are your IP clients telling you patent trolls too easily escape meaningful penalties for their actions Do you agree? Say so.

You want your target audience to think of you as that attorney who has an interesting and noble view of the world as it relates to the area of law you practice or the industry you serve—which, naturally, they find comforting and attractive because it mirrors their view of the world. When they do, they will come back to you and your content because it resonates with them, which helps elevate you above and beyond the attorneys you’re competing with for clients and referrals.


Own a Style That Is Uniquely Yours


Another way to win the hearts and minds of your target audience is to develop your unique writing or speaking style that reels your audience in. This isn’t as hard as you may think.


Maybe you have natural charisma that emanates from how you communicate—and comes across in print and/or on videos and podcasts.


Maybe, given your background, you have interesting perspectives on topics that are relevant to your target audience.


Maybe you are adept at being sarcastic without rubbing people the wrong way.


Maybe you can inject wit or humor into your writing or speaking in a way that people aren’t used to seeing in legal-related content, and you can do so without putting people off.


Whatever form your unique style comes in, when you develop one that stands out from other attorneys and draws in members of your target audience, you become memorable to them. If they see you delivering quality content over time, they will become naturally attracted to a combination of your unique voice and your relevant, valuable, and compelling substantive content. They will then follow you on social media, regularly consume your content, and subscribe to your email newsletter or podcast because they’re looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

Chase Hearts and Minds With Your Thought Leadership, Not Just Eyeballs


Many of us want to be liked by the most people possible. But that shouldn’t be your focus with thought leadership.


You’re not an Instagram influencer. Don’t focus on eyeballs. Focus on winning hearts and minds.


Yes, it’s great to get your thought-leadership content out in front of loads of people and rack up gaudy numbers of email subscribers and social media followers.


But unless you’re resonating with those people, unless they are remembering you and thinking you are someone who’s qualified to help them with their legal or business issues, then the thought leadership you’re putting out will not achieve the goals you want it to achieve. Your target audience won’t think of you first and see you as an authority.


That’s what thought leadership is all about: building a relationship with your target audience through which they’re convinced you are knowledgeable and wise about the areas of law you practice or the industry you serve. As a result, when they’re ready to hire someone to help them with the kinds of legal or business problems you can help them with, they will reach out to you. When that relationship exists, you haven’t just captured their eyeballs and attention. You’ve won over their hearts and minds.


Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of the Law Firm Editorial Service, a thought leadership ghostwriting service for Big Law and boutique law firm partners. The service helps these partners grow their practice and prominence by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building thought leadership marketing and business development content. Contact him at


Reprinted with permission from the May 9, 2023, edition of The Legal Intelligencer © 2023 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited, contact 877–257–3382 or

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