Lately, in my professional and personal-professional online life, I’ve run into some significant barriers. Like most of the world, at this point, I believe, I get a lot of my news from social media. Admittedly, I am the person who is click-baited into reading a lot of very useful and also completely useless internet content. While I’m never locked out of finding out which of the Bachelors would be my best match or which season of Love Island is the most iconic (obviously, season 3), I feel like I can never get to the “good” stuff.
Perhaps it is because I am that person who has to reset my password for multiple sites multiple times a day, virtually every time I come across a paywall.
The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, San Diego Union Tribune and many other news outlets only offer access to a certain number of free articles a month. The Daily Journal, a paper that covers the legal profession in California, doesn’t let anyone in without a subscription.
As I believe many of my bar associations colleagues can corroborate, a lot of a bar’s website discussion centers on what content should be offered after members log in as a privilege of membership, and which content should be made available to the public.
Serious question: have you ever come across a paywall and really felt like it was a privilege to have to dig up your password?
As a PR professional, I believe the “privilege” of getting behind the paywall can be a total pain, and putting too much behind the wall might actually impede your public relations efforts. Bars are (and want to be perceived as) forward-thinking thought-leaders, providing relevant information at the right time. From a PR perspective, this works best if information is easy to find and access.
While a lot of bar content naturally tends to serve as a megaphone to promote all that the organization is doing, bars are also working really hard to create killer content. By allowing everyone to access it, they can not only provide great guidance, but also perpetuate their importance
Here’s a great example. The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) recently released a comprehensive guide to social media and ethics for lawyers. This isn’t behind a paywall, it’s here: https://nysba.org/2019guidelines/. This is an awesome resources – one that other bar associations might even want to share with their own memberships. By making it accessible to all, NYSBA gets to be a bar that is seen as a leader in this area across the country.
The Boston Bar Association publishes a Parents’ How-To Guide to Children’s Mental Health Services in Massachusetts, intended to assist in navigating and understanding the mental health system and “help parents in Massachusetts find the child mental health services and resources their children need.” This too, is an incredible resource that is accessible for all.
A U.S. News & World Report story on “The Perks of Professional Organizations” highlights much of what the American Society of Association Executives focuses on when it comes to the true reasons people join associations -community, education, networking and job opportunities. In other words, nobody claims to be joining an association for the privilege of reading the articles.
Another paywall approach I like is one employed by the Association of Legal Administrators, which recently released the results of its Annual Compensation and Benefits Survey. While you need to pay in order to get the full survey results, their Executive Summary, which provides a lot of important survey highlights, is completely free.
There are a lot of things that do belong behind a wall for obvious reasons – documents, committee contact lists, pictures of the dodge ball tournament at the board retreat – but if your articles and other content can create a buzz for your association, why would you want to keep them behind the wall?