Too Humorous or Too Informal – Some People May Mind

Sometimes in business email, Tony Rossiter advises in “Effective Business Writing”, a degree of informality and humor may be appropriate, but this should not be overdone. If you are too formal, the author observes, most people won’t mind. If you are too informal, on the other hand, some people may, in fact, mind.

What about humor in business blog content writing? Everyone likes to be entertained, Joshua Nite admits in, but our content needs to serve a business purpose. There are ways humor can be valuable in blogs, Nite suggests, including showing you understand your audience and teaching lessons.

A conversational tone in your blog has the effect of making you seem approachable, Ali Luke writes in Some hallmarks of that tone include

  • contractions such as “you’ll”
  • active voice
  • chatty phrases
  • short sentences and paragraphs
  • starting some sentences with “and”

    I often explain to clients and to newbie writers that that blogs (compared to, say, brochures, white papers, and newsletters) are casual and conversational. Humor, on the other hand, is a riskier proposition, and it’s best to focus it on your own weaknesses (that you’ve overcome) and on problems your company or practice can solve.

    Also, being personal in blog writing doesn’t necessarily mean being offensively over-casual, we teach at Say It For You. For us blog content writers, getting the tone exactly right for a new client is the big challenge. Then, as the blog writing continues over weeks, months, and eventually years, consistency is important.

    When it comes to blog content writing, I believe, there’s a very special purpose to be served by using first person pronouns and keeping it conversational in tone – even for very serious topics.  The blog is the place for readers to connect with the people behind the business or practice. Using first and second person pronouns helps keep the blog conversational rather than either academic-sounding or “sales-ey”.

    Tony Rossiter has it right, I have to conclude – when it comes to informality and especially humor – it’s best not to overdo.


Never Use 2 Words Where 1 Will Do

“However good a sentence is, you can often find a word or two, or a phrase, that can be deleted without any loss of meaning,” Tony Rossiter advises in “Effective Business Writing”. There are two specific ways to avoid this sort of duplication, he adds:

Dump qualifiers.
Qualifying adjectives and adverbs (like the first in each of these two-word expressions) should be dumped:

  • important essentials
  • past history
  • quite impossible
  • advance warning
  • usual habit
  • future prospects

Insert full stops.
By way of making content easier to read, use short sentences without extra subordinate clauses, Rossiter continues. In this case the arithmetic is reversed – better to use two direct, easy to understand, sentences rather than one that is overly complex and difficult to follow.

“Don’t get lost in long sentences,” warns business writing expert Lynn Gaertner-Johnston. “In business writing, readers want a short, clear path to understanding.” In place of the long sentence “I hope you will be able to attend, and if you need more information, please call or email me, and I will be glad to help you”, Gaertner-Johnston suggests using three short sentences. Don’t forget to “take a breath,” she advises bloggers, and give your reader one, too.

For any document to be easily understood, the writing style has to be clear, simple, and direct, we teach at Say It For You. Lyricist Sean Hartley says the same thing about song lyrics – they need to be original, yet succinct in a way that appears effortless. For blog content writers, simplicity involves sticking to the point, using largely familiar word combinations and sentence structure.

Ironically, Tony Rossiter ignores his own advice, summing up the matter of effective sentence writing by using a qualifier – Don’t write in impenetrable gobbledygook!


Achieving Eudaimonia in Business Blog Writing

The Stoics realized that there are things we control, and things we don’t. To get to the good life, we should focus on things we control, accepting the rest as it happens. When it comes to the things we can control, Stoics believe it’s not an external situation that makes us happy or miserable, but our interpretation of that situation. The idea is to achieve a supremely happy life, which Stoics call eudaimonia.

That ancient philosophy can help business entrepreneurs today, comments. As I read this article, it occurred to me that three business concepts based on Stoicism can serve as great guidelines for those of us involved in blog marketing:

  1.  “Before we try to control events, we have to control ourselves.”

Twelve years ago, in the process of explaining the way my company Say It For You came about, I talked about the “drill sergeant discipline” needed by blog content writers. What I meant was that, while all my business owner clients knew that writing blogs in their area of expertise was going to be a great idea for them, not very many of them felt they could take the time to compose and post content on a regular basis.  I also knew that the main key to business blogging success was going to be simply keeping on task. Meanwhile, our business owner clients can’t throw in the towel before success has been given the chance to develop. We can’t control the market or our customers – first we have to control our own activities.

2. “Stoicism means leveraging your uniqueness.” (Don’t let emulation turn into imitation.)

To have any hope of moving higher in search rankings and engage readers’ interest, blogs must provide fresh, relevant content. But, with the sheer volume of information on the Web on every topic under the sun, how do we keep providing new material in our blog posts week after week, month after month, even year after year? Two strategies include bringing in less well-known facts about familiar things and processes, and suggesting new ways of thinking about things readers already know.
But, besides offering unique tidbits of information, we must incorporate one important ingredient – opinion. Taking a stance, using blog content writing to express a firm opinion on issues, is how companies and practices can leverage their uniqueness.

   3.  “Stoicism turns problems into opportunities.”

I teach freelance blog writers in Indianapolis to include stories of their clients’ past mistakes and failures. Such stories have a humanizing effect, engaging readers and creating feelings of empathy and admiration for the business owners or professional practitioners who overcame not only adversity, but the effects of their own mistakes! When customers’ complaints and concerns are recognized and dealt with “in front of other people” (in blog posts), it gives the “apology” or the “remediation measure” more weight. In fact, in corporate blogging training sessions, I remind Indianapolis blog writers to “hunt” for stories of struggle and mistakes made in the early years of a business or practice!

Studying the Stoics gives us a chance at achieving blogging eudaimonia!


Bringing Fred Into Business Blog Writing

The most important job skill of the twenty-first century, Mark Sanborn posits in The Fred Factor, is the ability to create value for customers without spending more money to do it. “Freds” are people who either create new value or add value to the work they already do, the author explains.

In creating blog content, needless to say, the goal is demonstrating that this product provider or practitioner has better ideas, better products, and better service than the competitors. But rising above the noise in a crowded field is much easier said than done. “Do you think you have an utterly unique product? Here’s the truth; you probably don’t,” digital consultant John Boitnott says bluntly. But human beings like to buy from other human beings, not faceless companies, so you need to be as human as possible, Boitnott says, focusing on authenticity, trust, and passion.

“Freds” pay attention to appearances, not because they are more important than substance, but because they count, Sanborn warns. We increase the value of things when we make them aesthetically pleasing. Potential consumers should have a positive experience from minute #1 of encountering your brand through your blog, and the posts need to help readers put themselves into the scene, envisioning the savings, the satisfaction, the pride, the increased health and improved appearance they’ll enjoy after using your product or service.

Just ten years ago in this Say it For You blog, I described the two aspects involved in winning medals in a horse show – equitation and pleasure. “Pleasure” refers to the horse itself – its posture, its control, and its looks, while “equitation” refers to the skill and the posture of the rider. To be blog writing “Freds”, we need to be sure it’s a “pleasure” to come to our site.

Is your site colorful and appropriate in style for the brand? Organized rather than cluttered? Easy to navigate, with everything from images to typeface in modest proportion and in good taste?

Bring Fred into your business blog writing!


Turning Annoyance Into Advantage in Business Blog Writing


Earlier this week, my Say It For You blog focused on how-not-to tips when it comes to annoying blog readers. While as Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman point out in National Geographic, few scientists have explained the mild anger we call annoyance, we content writers know annoyance is not the reaction we’re seeking from our readers.

That very annoyance, though, can be turned to our advantage in business blog content writing. One way to form a bond with customers is by commiserating about their daily pain, identifying something that customers hate, empathizing with readers’ unhappy plight, and then offering solutions.

To be sure, our content itself has the potential of rubbing readers the wrong way. People generally don’t like to have their assertions and assumptions challenged, even when they came to a website seeking information on a particular subject. That’s because part of us resents being told that something we’d taken for granted is in fact a lie. Empathizing with prospects’ annoyance without putting them “in the wrong” is the sweet spot for which writers need to aim.

Searchers on the web may be frustrated by poor results they’ve experienced in the past or by a series of searches which turned out to be non-productive for them. Still they may not be ready to make a commitment.  If, in your business blog, you can convey the idea that there are different levels of involvement possible, and that “ultimate decisions” need not be made the moment a potential client or customer “steps into” your website, visitors can overcome any initial annoyance.

For a salesperson, an objection from a prospect means there is enough interest to engage with you (and share their annoyance), says Steli Efti in, meanwhile giving you the opportunity to demonstrate that you understand their concerns.

Certainly, on the content creation end, we’re aiming for annoyance minimization. On the other hand, readers’ frustration, dissatisfaction, and annoyance is precisely what drives them to seek the very solutions our blogging clients stand ready to provide.


Annoyance- Minimized Business Blog Writing

“Annoyance may well be the most widely experienced and least studied of all known human emotions,” writes Joe Palca in National Geographic. “Traffic. Mosquitoes. People who snap their gum. People who crack their knuckles. There are so many things in the world that are just downright annoying.” True, a vast literature exists on anger, aversion, and social anthropology, Palca and co-researcher Flora Lichtman admit, but few scientists have used those things to explain the mild anger we call annoyance.

Website content can be annoying, too, Patti Podnar points out. Don’t you hate it when you take the time to read a business’ home page, their about page, and a few blog posts, and you still have no idea what the heck they do, she asks? Sites that aren’t user-friendly are annoying as all get-out. Writing over your customers’ heads. Not addressing obvious questions and objections. Solving your own pain points rather than your customers’ pain points. Annoying. Annoying. Annoying, Podnar stresses.

You can blog about your business without annoying readers, Patrick Dodge advises.
In the awareness stage, a person has recognized he or she needs information for a specific challenge, and if your content is focused on helping them (not self-promotion), Dodge says, you might engage them on the next stage of the journey, which is the consideration stage..

“Inundating your audience with multiple messages at inconvenient times isn’t helpful,” cautions Neil Patel. People can easily recognize when your intentions aren’t authentic. It’s important to educate your customer, but don’t overload your audience with too much information at once. When people see lots of text, they wonder how long it’s going to take to read the post. And, Patel adds, visitors must know immediately how your product or service benefits them.

“”You’ve just clicked the ‘Publish’ button…Now what?” asks Publishing a blog post and quickly moving on to the next one is a waste of your efforts, minimizing the impact of your content and its true potential, the author explains. A number of to-dos can avoid that result:

  • Proofread, looking for spelling and grammar errors.
  • Insert a link to old posts.
  • Add a question to spark discussion.
  • Post on social media.
  • Send to email subscribers.
  • Comment on other blogs.

One thing that annoys readers is lack of readability, Neil Patel explains. Large chunks of text scare readers away, he says, while charts, images, and quotes from industry experts all help maintain interest. End with an actionable conclusion.

In blog content writing, aim for annoyance minimization!


How Not to Quote-Bomb in Your Blog


When you quote someone else’s remarks on a topic you’re covering in your blog, that can be a very good thing. Why?

  • you’re reinforcing your point
  • you’re showing you’re in touch with trends in your field
  • you’re adding value for readers by aggregating materials from different sources,
    adding variety in the way an idea is phrased

On the other hand, the “re-gifting” of content needs to be handled with restraint. “Set up a quote within a paragraph, leading readers to the quote so they are prepared for it and do not feel ‘quote-bombed”, C.M. Gill advises in Essential Writing Skills for College and Beyond.

Curating others’ work – bloggers, authors, speakers – is a wonderful technique for adding variety and reinforcement to your own content.  Remember, though, when it comes to writing marketing blogs, you’re trying to make your own cash register ring.  It’s your voice that has to be strong throughout the post, so readers will click through to your website or shopping cart.

Since, as a professional blog content writer, my “workspace” is the World Wide Web, I can’t help but be awed by the fact that the Internet has become the largest repository of information in human history.  Trillions of words are added to it daily, and literally anyone with access to a computer or cell phone can add content to the mix at any time.

True, blogs are more informal in general compared to most other marketing pieces.  The fact is, though, people read blogs to get information.  My college students are taught to use citations and reference pages to show where they got their information.  That way, they avoid plagiarism by properly attributing statements to their proper authors.  In your blogs, you can give credit to the sources of your information as well.  The blogging equivalent of citations is links.  So even if you’re putting your own unique twist on the topic, link to websites from which you got some of your original information or news.

Besides offering a broader spectrum of information to readers, bringing in other resources has practical benefits for you as well. Electronic links have the potential to enhance search engine rankings, as you create back-and-forth digital ties with other professionals.

But, as Gill reminds us, we need to lead readers to the quote.


Do “Huh-Oh” Titles Work for Marketing Blogs?


One important purpose of marketing blog titles is attracting online shoppers. So, catchy and engaging as a title might be, it won’t serve the purpose if the words in it don’t match up with those searchers used.

After all my “reading around” – magazines, books, blogs, textbooks – you name it, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two basic title categories: the “Huh?s” and the “Ohs”. The “Huh?s” need subtitles to make clear what the article is about; “Oh!’s” titles are self-explanatory.

“Huh?-Oh!” combo titles seem to be increasingly popular, I concluded after a recent visit to my local Barnes & Noble the other day. Here are just a few of the dozens of Huh?-Oh! titles I found on the shelves in the sections on business, psychology, and self-help:

  • Seeing Around Corners (Huh?): How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen (Oh!)
  • The Communication Clinic (Huh?) 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes (Oh!)
  • Getting to Yes (Huh?) Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Oh!)
  • When (Huh?) The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (Oh!)
  • The Storyteller’s Secret (Huh?) Why Some Ideas Catch On and Others Don’t (Oh!)

We blog content writers, of course, don’t have the luxury of using such long subtitles, as the search engines will use only a limited number of characters for ranking. Still, the beauty of the “Huh?” is that it’s a grabber, so the compromise might be to include category-based keyword phrases early in the subtitle.

The other way to “sneak” in the “Oh!” material is the meta-tag, the 160 character snippet of text that describes a page’s content. The meta tags don’t appear on the page itself, but readers can see them on the search engine page and they are scanned by search engines.

Huh? In writing engaging business blog content, it can pay to try two-tiered titles.


Words of Wisdom for Blog Content Writers – Part B

reading around for blog writing


This week, at the start of a new blogging year, I’m looking through my bookshelves at all the business writing-related books I’ve collected over the year 2019. What would I do without these “reading around” gems with their different sorts and shapes of advice and reflection?….

The audience is the hero.
“You are not the hero who will save the audience; the audience is the hero,” Nancy Duarte advises public speakers in the book Resonate. Audience insights and “resonance” can occur only when a presenter takes a stance of humility, the author and coach explains, placing the audience in the center of a story, so it becomes meaningful to them..

Since one important function of any marketing blog is converting lookers to buyers, and since I train Indianapolis blog content writers, this concept of resonance really piqued my interest. When readers arrive at your business blog, it’s because they already have an interest in your topic and are ready to receive the information, the services, and the products you have to offer. However, the focus of each blog post must be on the end results from the readers’ point of view. Help readers know how good they’ll feel in terms of security, savings, recognition, or basic need fulfillment – make them the heroes.

Don’t get steaming mad.
Blowing off steam may seem like a good idea for heart health, explains Mandy Oaklander in a special Time Magazine edition on living longer, but angry outbursts have been proven to result in increased heart risks.

In the real world, many blog content writers focus on appealing to consumers’ fear or greed, making them “angry enough” to take action. At Say It For You, our approach has been that blogging for business is just one aspect of any company’s overall marketing strategy.  The entire tone of the blog, therefore, needs to be consistent with the kind of positive image the company wants to project. Can and should a single blog post appeal to customers’ anger about the poor service, shoddy workmanship, or exorbitant charges they’ve experienced in the past? Definitely! Overall, though, a positive slant will win the day.

What we measure, we can improve.
Improvement in anything happens not all at once, but over time, Michael Hill explains in Measuring Ourselves. When Benjamin Franklin decided he wanted to become proficient at writing, he found examples of writing clearly superior to his own, then would do writing – and rewriting – daily, measuring himself against both others and against his own earlier efforts.

As a corporate blogging trainer and content writer, I find that it’s not always possible to associate a specific ROI measurement to blogging without regard to social media, traditional advertising, events, word of mouth marketing, and sales. Yet, what we’ve learned through working with Say It For You clients, is that the very process of continuously producing and making available quality content (either content they write themselves or content they co-author through interaction with a content writer) helps demonstrate that they care about effectively expressing to customers and colleagues their unique “slant” on their industry.

Writers, as the new year begins, make – and keep – the perfect New Year’s resolution: “Read around” to find gems like these and then – share those gems with your readers in the form of improved blog content!


Look-Ahead Words of Wisdom for Blog Content Writers – Part B

This week, with an eye to the year to come, I’m sharing more words of wisdom from ”my bookshelves”, along with the links to the authors and book descriptions…

Sketch out an outline of events leading to a typical client needing you.
Choose a client from a typical demographic you serve, suggests Paul Smith in The Ten Stories Great Leaders Tell. Your sales story, Smith explains, relates what you did for one of your customers that is so impressive, other people will want to buy what you’re selling as well.

Build a blog post or two around a customer success story. Say you’re a realtor, and today you’re blogging about how important “curb appeal” can be when you’re marketing a client’s home to potential buyers. Rather than just offering advice, you can tell the story of how you guided Sam and Susie towards a successful sale by encouraging them to plant colorful flowers and painting their front door an attractive red. As a final touch for your blog, you can link back to the full version of Sam and Susie’s testimonial which is already part of your website. Customer success stories boost your credibility with new prospects, helping them decide to do business with you.

Our core values are… We pride ourselves on… We commit to… We encourage and reward…
The right phrases have the power to engage and develop employees, Laura Poole explains in Perfect Phrases for Coaching Employee Performance. Language has the power to establish personal connections, develop and reinforce strengths, provide constructive feedback, and encourage commitment to the company’s goals.

The best website content and the best blogs give readers insight into a company’s core beliefs in addition to information about products and services that company offers, I teach at Say it For You. Just as it’s important to tell readers what you have, what you know, and what you know how to do, it’s even more important to explain what you believe. Why have you chose to pursue this field or industry? Why do you choose to do business or conduct your practice in certain ways?

Customers want personalized solutions for their unique needs and preferences.
Driven by tighter budgets and dwindling natural resources, companies are now seeking new ways to appeal to their customers, Navi Radjou, author of Frugal Innovation posits. Products and services can be “co-created”, he says, with empowered consumers and external partners.

Try this highly useful exercise – make a list of ways your business individualizes and personalizes services to customers and clients. Drill down, I’d say to everyone offering blog writing services, to actual cases of clients’ personalized customer service, recalling times when unusual problems got solved, and when standard procedures were put aside to get the job done for that one customer..

By now you should have become a convert to the “reading around” habit. Over the past two weeks we’ve sampled a dozen precious gems that can motivate content writers and infuse blog posts with sparkle and meaning. But these represent just a sampling – blogging gems are all around, just waiting for each of us to add our own unique twist!


Look-Ahead Words of Wisdom for Blog Content Writers – Part A

imagery in blogs


Last week, by way of kicking off a new blogging year, I’ looked through my bookshelves at all the business writing-related books I’ve collected over the year 2019. What would I do without these “reading around” gems with their different sorts and shapes of advice and reflection? . This week, with an eye to the year to come, I’ll be sharing even more words of wisdom from ”my shelves”, along with the links to the wonderful authors…

Paint a verbal picture for your followers.
“The successful articulation of a leader’s vision may rest on his or her ability to paint followers a verbal picture of what can be accomplished with their help,” says presentation coach Carmine Gallo.

Imagery helps make marketing blogs more engaging.  True, in business communications there may be times when technical, precise language is in order. Still, you want readers to visualize themselves successfully using your products and services. In a way, you want visitors to “see” as well as hear what you’re saying.

Claiming credit is adding insult to injury.
“Claiming credit is adding insult to the injury that comes with overlooked recognition. We’re not only depriving people of the credit they deserve, but we are hogging it for ourselves. It’s two crimes in one.”
Marshall Goldstein, who coaches global leaders, is referring to corporate employees in his book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, but the principle is the same for blog writers when it comes to properly attributing content to its original authors.

Is quoting others in your blog a good thing? As I’m fond of saying in corporate blogging training sessions – it depends! On the positive side, when you link to someone else’s remarks on a subject you’re covering, that can reinforce your point and add value for readers by aggregating different sources of information (just as I am doing in this very Say It For You blog post). On the other hand, as is true of all tools and tactics, “re-gifting” content needs to be handled with some restraint and using proper protocol by attributing each piece of content to its author.

Every negotiation has two kinds of interests: the substance and the relationship.
“The ability to see the situation as the other side sees it is one of the most important skills a negotiator can possess,” Roger Fisher and William Ury explain in the book Getting to Yes.

By offering more than one point of view, we blog writers can actually showcase our knowledge of the latest thinking in our field, while at the same time clarifying our own special expertise and slant.

No question – I’m a convert to “reading around”. Gems like these are all around, just waiting for you to add your unique twist before sharing with your blog readers.


Words of Wisdom for Blog Content Writers – Part A

sharing tidbits of content writing
It’s the beginning of a new blogging year, and I’m looking through my bookshelves, thumbing through all the new business writing-related books I’ve collected during 2019.What would I do without these “reading around” gems, with their different sorts and shapes of advice and reflection?…

Moments are the thing.
“The goal is the thing,” admit Chip and Dan Heath, authors of The Power of Moments, “but for an individual human being, moments are the thing. Moments are what we remember and what we cherish.” The three situations that deserve to be punctuated, the Heaths advise, are transitions, milestones, and pits.

As a businessperson, you have many stories to tell, we explain to new Say It For You clients, including the benefits of your products and services, successful case studies, news of importance to your customers, and your own perspective on trends in your industry. But perhaps even more important to share in your blog, we add, are those “moments” in the history of your business or practice that helped shape the person you are today.

True stories about mistakes and struggles are very humanizing, adding to the trust readers place in the people behind the text of the blog. What tends to happen is that stories of failure create feelings of empathy and admiration for the entrepreneurs or professional practitioners who overcame the effects of their own errors.

Follow thought leaders.
In addition to surveying customers, you can identify opportunities for your business and analyze choices by following thought leaders in your general business area, advises Jeanette McMurtry in Marketing for Dummies.

Readers found your blog in the first place, we explain to clients, because what they needed corresponded with what you sell, what you know, and what you know how to do. Now that those searchers are “meeting” you through your content, you have the chance to establish credibility and reliability. One way to come across as an expert is to share some of the valuable information you’ve learned by staying abreast of the latest developments in your field.

When we care, we share.
Products and ideas that are practically valuable and wrapped in stories are contagious, explains Jonah Berger, author of the book Contagious. We need to craft content which saves time, improves health, and saves money, he says.

Using anecdotes in your blog, rather than just touting the advantages of your company, practice, or product, is what gives your words the greatest impact. One of the reasons I recommend writing in first and second person (I-you) is that caring and sharing are very personal emotions.

Blog content writers, one of the best pieces of advice is to “read around”, finding gems like these and then sharing them!


Business Blogging May Not Take a Village, But it Does Take a Team

Even after playing together for more than fifty years (I learned from Steve & Jack’s Home News), the Rolling Stones musicians still understand the value of practicing together, committing to two months of rehearsal before every tour. Why? Practicing together helps them reconnect with each other’s rhythm and understand each member’s distinctive roles.

Running a business blog takes commitment and teamwork as well. In fact, as we Say It For You blog content writers embark on our 13th year, one thing continues to become clear: Whenever things do not work out as planned, it almost always has to do with lack of coordination among the team members:

  • the blog writer
  • the webmaster
  • the business owner or practitioner
  • the staff of the client’s business or practice

As blog content writers, we are interpreters. Effective blog posts must go from information-dispensing to offering the business owner’s (or the professional’s, or the organizational executive’s) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic.

What that means is that owners and professional practitioners have got to be involved in the process of producing content, even after they’ve engaged our services; they can’t “go to sleep” and cede control of the creative process to us. The webmaster has to work together with the blog writer to provide the optimization and analysis that make the content “work”. The front-line employees who deal with the customers daily must be involved.

Hiring professional bloggers is not a “wake me up when it’s over” proposition – just as is true of the Rolling Stones, reconnecting with each other’s knowledge and rhythm is what makes the material come to life. Not only should there be periodic team meetings to discuss content, it is not a good idea for me and my team to take on writing assignments without insisting the business also invest in properly designed landing pages and website optimization. When blog writing is not coordinated with email and social media the results are simply not likely to be what the business owner expects.

Business blogging may not take a village, but it certainly does take a team!


Blog Stuff I Can Be Proud of In 2019

blogging principles

There are 5 things Darren Rowse of ProBlogger wishes he’d known earlier about writing content for a blog. My list (of things I wish I’d known) would be much, much longer than that, I realize. Still, looking back at 2019, I’m proud to say that in this 12th year of writing this Say It For You blog, I did remember to incorporate some of those five blogging “axioms”.

The Power of Titles

“The title has the ability make or break a blog post. It impacts how (and if) it’s found….and is vital in whether people actually read what you have to say.” Of the 101 blog posts I created during the calendar year, each had a unique and original title.

The viral nature of Lists
“I find that when writing the same content as a list that you write as an essay, the list will almost always get more attention.” While I wrote few pure “listicles”, I incorporated numbered or bullet-pointed lists in fully half of the 2019 posts.

The importance of being original
“People are drawn to others who speak their mind, who have something unique to say.” One important way in which Say It For You stresses originality is by taking on one client per type per market, avoiding conflicts of interest and creating original content focused exclusively on that client’s business or profession.

The Value of Well Formatted Content
“Online readers tend to scan content, and visual clues in your posts draw the eye to important points.” Dividing the content into sections headed by bold titles (as I’ve done here) helps readers follow the logic of the blog, even if they do not fully read every word in every section.

The Impact of a Good Image
“Images have the power to communicate in ways that words cannot.” Every Say It For You post was headed by, or incorporated, an image.

For every writer, there’s room for improvement, and, in 2020, that’s what we aim to do. The mission hasn’t changed – create content that is accurate, current, consistent and dependable, based on understanding each client’s business, or practice.

Meanwhile, allow me my brief moment to look back and be proud. Happy NewYear!.


The Memo Meme for Blogging

Memos are usually written for one of the following reasons, explains Tony Rossiter, author of Effective Business Writing in Easy Steps:

  • to provide a written record
  • to give the reader background information for a specific visit or event
  • to make a suggestion or proposal
  • to give advice or make recommendations about a particular issue or problem

Interesting – I couldn’t help reflecting: the key characteristics of a good memo which Rossiter lists are remarkably similar to the key characteristics of good blog posts:

  • they’re short
  • they’re clear and concise
  • they’re reliable, with information that is 100% accurate
  • they’re reader-friendly
  • they’re easy to read

To be effective, both blog posts and memos must clarify the issue (explain the need for action), provide “arguments” in favor of taking that action, based on essential facts surrounding the issue or topic.

You might like to do several things in your memo, Rossiter suggests (every one of these, our Say It For You content writers know, can apply to effective blog posts):

  1. draw attention to a track record of successful involvement in similar actions or projects
  2. acknowledge the expertise of the people who will be heading up the project
  3. suggest next steps (perhaps a planning meeting or further information-gathering)

In the case of a marketing blog post, that next step might be signing up for a newsletter, subscribing to the blog, downloading a paper, or clicking on a link to a landing page showing various product or service options.

A printed or emailed memo typically begins with a “to” (“to: managing director”, “to: all technical staff”, “to: all regional managers”… While a blog post relies on incoming online traffic, it’s crucial for the content writers to direct their message to a specific target audience.

When composing a blog post, it helps to remember the memo “meme”!


Benchmark Blogging

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” legendary management consultant Peter Drucker was fond of saying. “How do we know if we’ve identified a result rather than an activity?” he asks. To achieve any goal, whether personal or business, explains local consultant Michael Hill, use the acronym SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Results-oriented
  • Time-phased

When blog content writers use SMART, that can greatly enhance the value of the information and advice they’re offering.

Start by asking yourself what you want the person to do as a result of reading this post.
Each business blog post should impart one new idea or call for a single action. Focused on one thing, your post has greater impact, since people are bombarded with many messages each day. Respecting readers’ time produces better results for your business.

Readers need to know how they will know that choosing a particular product or service has been a good idea. Offer tips on small, incremental positive changes they should begin to notice.

Describe realistic, achievable and easily identifiable signs that can signal that the client is on a trajectory leading towards the desired outcomes.

While time may have elapsed from the initial transaction, the content of the blog can serve as a reminder of the initial reason for beginning the regimen, purchasing the item, or continuing to take training.

Setting expectations based on time is a good idea for blog content writers. Imagine readers asking themselves “How will I use the product?  How much will I use? How often? Where? What will it look like?  How will I feel?”

Remember, if clients and customers can’t measure it, they will not even try to “manage it”.


Blog “As-Measured-By” Calls to Action

“Just Do It” worked for Nike. Let’s face it, though – readers of our marketing blogs aren’t going to convert to customers that easily.

True, as I stress in corporate blogging training sessions, blog content writing has an enormous advantage over traditional “push marketing” tactics, because, what blogging does best is deliver to corporate blog sites customers who are already interested in the product or service they’re providing!

In corporate blogging for business, the “ask” comes in the form of calls to action. Offering a reason for the requested action needless to say, greatly improves the chances of having your request fulfilled. At the City University of New York, I learned, experiment subjects were instructed to ask someone using a copy machine if they could go first.  When persons making that request offered a reason, they were given permission 94% of the time (versus only 60% of the time when they gave no explanation for why they deserved to go first).

There’s more, though, to improving the chances readers with fulfill your requests. Jason Buetler, who trains software design apprentices at Edusource, uses the “as-measured-by” principle. In doing what Buetler calls “predictive” planning, it’s crucial to establish sets of benchmarks by which progress towards the goal can be measured.

What-can-I-expect questions are implicit in every decision-making process:

  • “How will I know?”
  • “ How will I measure success?”
  • “ How can I tell it’s working?”

If our blogging Calls to Action are going to be effective, I realized, it’s up to us blog content writers to offer workable benchmarks, explaining the “as measured by”.

In “Say This, Not That”, Christine Georghiou advises salespeople to justify a request or statement with the word “because”.  That word immediately answers the question on every prospect’s (and every online reader’s) mind – “What’s in it for me?”

“As-measured-by” goes even further than that, setting up specific, time-based expectations. For reader/prospects to know what’s in it for them, they need the reassurance that certain signals will be there to tell them results are in the process of happening.

Use “as-measured-by” in your Calls to Action!


Triggering Trivia in Business Blogs

Modern technology has made it possible to find and share fascinating information, explains Alex Palmer in the delightful little book Alternative Facts. Of the 200 entries in the collection, about one-third are “true-ish” rather than true, and readers are invited to guess which those are, with answers found at the back of the book.

Trivia in general, I’ve long maintained, represent useful tools for blog content writers. In addition to adding some fun to the discussion of a topic, trivia can be used in business blogs in at least four different ways:

1. defining basic terminology
2. sparking curiosity about the subject
3. putting modern-day practices and beliefs into historical perspective
4. explaining why the business owner/practitioner chooses to operate in a certain way

Of course, stocking up on ideas for future blog posts isn’t all about trivia, as I explain to newbie blog content writers. The trivia tidbit is just the jump-off point for the message.

Here are eight facts, culled from Palmer’s book, that illustrate the value of “triggering” the discussion of a subject using a piece of trivia and relating it to the sponsor of the blog:

Who might use each of these tidbits in their blog?

1. Chewing your food longer can help you lose weight.
(weight loss advisor, spa, health provider, health food store) ,:

2. Of all creatures, moths have the strongest sense of hearing.
(audiologist, hearing aid company)

3. Americans are the only people who label pencils No. 2.
(private school, tutoring center, office supply store)

4. Warner Music Group owns the rights to the lyrics of “Happy Birthday”, and earns royalties on every use of the song on film, on TV, or in a public performance.
(patent attorney, birthday party organizer, party favor store, child care center)

5. William Shakespeare wore one gold earring.
(jeweler, fashion advisor, salon)

6. The bathroom scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” was the first time a toilet was flushed on screen.
(plumbing supply store, plumber, home builder, realtor)

7. The oldest preserved human body in the world was covered in tattoos.
(tattoo parlor, salon, spa)

8. Being double-jointed is something a person is born with.

(dance studio, exercise coach, dance equipment or exercise equipment provider)

For blog content writers, adding fun and interest to blog posts might be a “trivial” matter!


Tell-Me-How Blogs

Readers Digest is obviously aware of a certain not-so-secret secret: Useful, everyday advice hits the spot with readers. The Digest “tips” are meant to apply to a broad range of consumers and describe easy-to-implement “fixes” and processes, including:

  • Clever uses – for ammonia, vinegar, club soda, aluminum foil, apples, you name it…
  • Safety mistakes to avoid – ignoring a burning smell in your microwave, letting your dog drink water from the Christmas tree stand, blaming heart pain on indigestion…
  • Ways to be more eco-friendly: use recycled gift wrap and LED lighting….
  • Myths you need to stop believing: about cell phone batteries, thermostat settings, Google maps

One form of intelligent reader-attracting article is the technical how to, explains Neil Patel in an article on blog content writing. “This kind of article is very straightforward. You simply explain, step by step, how to do something. In every niche, there are certain activities, processes, or techniques that people do. When you explain how to do those things, you gain the attention of deliberate and smart people who want to learn.”

“Does your advice stick?” is a question Moira Somers asks financial planners, explaining that the field of adherence research explores why people follow – or often don’t follow – advice. Key advice-giving “sins”, the author explains, include:

  • using incomprehensible jargon
    disregarding the emotional side of the client experience
    take a judgment-laden stance towards clients

Of course, in the case of the to-dos offered in Readers Digest, “compliance” is not an issue – the advice is “down-home” and applicable to a broad range of readers. The lesson, though, for us blog content writing professionals, is that we should follow the KISS principle, breaking technical information into bite-sized pieces, while basing our content choices on an understanding of our target readership’s needs.

Useful, everyday advice has an excellent chance of hitting the spot with readers!



Using GOLO in Blog Marketing

I had never heard of GOLO, but once I’d seen the company’s TV commercial, I had a hard time getting it out of my mind. Sure, the name GOLO is catchy, but it was the clever memory hook that did the trick:

  • GO LOse weight
  • GO LOok great
  • GO LOve life

Around six years ago, I’d had a similar experience at a Financial Planning Association meeting. The speaker wanted to convey to us that spending is highest early in retirement and declines with age. He had catchy names for each of three age groups of retired people when it comes to spending needs:

  • Go-Go  (ages 55-64)
  •  Slo-Go (Age 65-74 )
  •  No Go (Age 75 and up )

Since business blog content writers like me are always searching for novel ways to present information to online readers, memory hooks are “a good thing”. The delightful little book, Brain-Boosting Challenges, confirms my instinct about the value of memory hooks.

“A useful technique when learning facts is to contrast them in some way.”  Compare-and-contrast is one of several structures we blog writers can use to help customers and prospects derive the greatest use out of the information we’re presenting. Use what they know, comparing your ”new” solution to traditional “old” solutions to the problem your company solves. Compare unfamiliar things to things with which readers are already comfortable.

“Chunking” is a memory device that binds sequential digits or words into groups. Chunking is one way business bloggers can offer technical information in “chewable tablet form”,  breaking down information into bite-sized pieces so readers’ brains can more easily digest it. The “reverse” form of chunking is to take individual pieces of information and show how they are related, perhaps in ways readers hadn’t considered.

Bullet points represent a graphic way to organize information, and it seems content writers either love or absolutely abhor them.  Myself, I’m kind of partial to those little black dots as a way to keep readers’ attention on track. Like anything else, of course, bullet points can be overused, but they’re certainly visually attractive.

The idea, of course, when it comes to marketing a business or practice through blogging, is not to have the readers memorize your content, but to have them find it – and by association – you, memorable. If the writing style is clear and simple, triggering familiar associations in the readers’ minds, those memorable business blogs can improve their memories, and, quite possibly, your own bottom line!
GO blog!


Frame Around What They Can DO

The term “framing” comes from behavioral science, which teaches that people decide on options based on whether an option is presented with positive or negative connotations. Certain features of a topic can be emphasized more than others through framing. For us business blog content writers, it’s important to remember that every choice of words we make involves framing. Our goal is positioning our story in a way that our audience can focus on and respect.

At a recent Financial Planning Association meeting, Victor Ricciardi, author of a book about the psychology of client communications, offered a piece of advice about framing for financial advisors, advice that we blog content writers can put to good use. When talking about retirement income, Ricciardi said, “link your discussion to what clients will be able to DO or BUY with that income”. Too many retirement planning discussions, he observed, center around number of dollars that will be needed to carry the client through retirement. Such discussions are merely arithmetic, the social scientist pointed out, and they do not carry enough emotional impact to compel action.

When you’re composing business blog content, I tell writers, imagine readers asking themselves – “How will I use the product (or service)?” “How will it work?” “How will I feel?” Our job as content writers: empathize with their pain or challenge, help them envision a good result. Rarely is it that readers find your blog based on a search for your brand. They think about what they want. The blog must do more than convey the fact that you can fulfill their need. You must give online searchers a “feel” for the desired outcomes of using your products and services.

“Customers are buying the experiences they get from the products and services they purchase, points out. That’s why framing is so important in blog content writing, we teach at Say It For YouHelp readers envision the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that awaits. Frame around what they will be able to DO!


Framing the Facts in Blog Marketing

For us business blog content writers, it’s important to remember that every choice of words we make involves framing. Our goal is positioning our story in a way that our audience can focus on and respect.

Blog readers need to perceive a business owner or professional practitioner as an expert, I teach at Say It For You.  For that to happen, I believe, the blog needs to deliver more than information (facts, statistics, features, and benefits) and even more than instruction and advice. It needs a firm perspective or “frame”.

The term “framing” comes from behavioral science, which teaches that people decide on options based on whether an option is presented with positive or negative connotations. Certain features of a topic can be emphasized more than others through framing. For example, is a choice presented as a loss or as a gain? (“Prospect theory” indicates that people are loss-averse, disliking losses even more than they like gains.)

Even a slight alteration to the way something is presented can result in a completely different response or decision, the authors of the blog explain. There are four main types of frames used in marketing, they add:

  1. Gain: This approach highlights all the potential benefits of using the product or service.
  2. Loss: This approach highlights all the benefits the reader “stands to “lose out on” by choosing not to use the product or service.
  3. Emotion: This approach stresses how using the product or service will make the reader feel.
  4. Statistical: This approach stresses the number of people using and endorsing the product or service.

Framing also means casting a potentially negative fact about your product or service into a positive light, Gerald Hanks teaches in Chron. At Say It For You, we know that “framing” responses to bad publicity is a valuable use for a blog. I call it “controlling your own journalistic slant”. Through putting their own “spin” on reports about their company, business owners can exercise control over the way the public perceives any negative developments. The blog can also correct any inaccurate press statements.

Does framing border on exaggeration and even dishonesty? Certainly it can, and those are effects we blog marketers must work hard to avoid. After all, we’re trying to build trust, and it’s crucial that we be factually correct in describing the extent to which our products and services can be of help.

At the same time, there is an ocean of information sources, and our blog readers are looking to us for a firm perspective or “framework” with which they can filter, understand and use the information for their own benefit.


Thanksgiving is a Good Time to Talk Turkey About Blog Posts

Despite the flair of those TV Chefs who seem to nonchalantly add “a dash” of this or that seasoning, as you’re preparing the Thanksgiving feast, it’s a good idea to measure the ingredients and the cooking time. Is it important to measure your time in blogging for business? Well…“It’s better to be roughly right than precisely wrong,” observed English economist John Maynard Keynes almost a hundred years ago.  I think that saying holds true when it comes to measuring the effects of SEO marketing blogs.

I realize that our Say It For You business owner and practitioner clients want to be able to measure the success of their blogging initiative. Still, I tell Indianapolis blog writers that Return on Investment is more than “analytics” and charts. Why is that so?

  1. Even using today’s analytics, it’s not always possible to associate a specific ROI measurement to blogging for business without regard to all the other initiatives the client is using to find and relate to customers.  All the parts have to mesh – social media, traditional advertising, events, word of mouth marketing, and sales.
  2. Blogging for business carries benefits in addition to helping increase sales, I’ve found. Continuously producing and making available quality content helps demonstrate that you care about quality in all dimensions of your business.

On the other hand, I teach content writers to measure, and the Thanksgiving turkey is a good metaphor to keep in mind. Just as in preparing the turkey, it is useful to measure where you business blogging time goes, I teach at Say It For You. Say you’ve allotted two-three hours of your time for each blog post. One fourth of that time might be devoted to finding, reading, and processing existing content published relating your topic. Then, the bulk of the blog creation time is taken up in thinking about the topic, and actually composing the post. Finding just the right photo or clip art to capture the theme of a blog post and inserting it into the post might take 10 minutes. Then, there’s formatting the text to make it more readable, editing, strategically employing keyword phrases – all that will take the reminder of the time involved in the gestation of a single blog post.

Measuring is important in blog marketing in another way. Blog posts should contain at least a third less content than a promotional brochure or a website page, and should focus on one idea having to do with the business – highlighting one product or service, debunking one myth, making one comparison, offering one testimonial from a customer or one true story. This is a case where increasing the amount or number of ingredients is going to take away from – not add to – the eating pleasure!

Thanksgiving is a good time to “talk turkey” about blog posts!


Does Blog Post Length Matter to Readers? Think Duration Neglect

Opinions have always differed on the optimal size for a blog post. Having composed blog posts (as both a Say It For You ghost writer and under my own name) numbering well into the tens of thousands, I’m still finding it difficult to fix on any rule other than “It depends!”. I think maybe Albert Einstein said it best: “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

A chapter in Chip and Dan Heath’s book The Power of Moments gave me a different perspective on that old long-short question. Research has found, the authors note, that “when people assess an experience, they tend to forget or ignore its length.” This phenomenon is called ‘duration neglect”. People tend to rate an experience based on two key factors:

  • the best or worst moment (“the peak”)
  • the ending

In business blog writing, Dave Taylor explains (and as we content writers in Indianapolis know), there are no editors, layout people, or government regulators to dictate the length of any marketing blog post. As a corporate blogging trainer, I felt my own approach to the subject was vindicated when Taylor cited a common piece of editorial advice about how long a book or article should be: “Write just enough to cover the material at the appropriate level of detail, then stop.” That dovetails nicely with the advice I offer when offering business blogging assistance.

The Heaths’ concept of the “peak”-and-ending, I realized, suggests a whole new way to come at the long-short question. A business blog post should be designed to elicit an “Aha!” response, that “peak” moment when readers find the advice or the offer of a product or service which seems to be the exact right thing for them. (Of course, in blogging, that realization had better happen sooner rather than later, or searchers will click away from the page!)

A big part of successful blog content writing involves getting the ”pow opening line” right. To sustain the “pow!” effect, present a question, a problem, a startling statistic, or a gutsy challenging statement. “Pow” endings, then, tie back to the openers, bringing the post full-circle.

Readers who’ve made their way to the end of a business blog post are going to remember only two things: the best moment and the ending. If they’ve had a positive experience, how long or short the post has been will have lost importance – all due to the duration neglect effect.


Blogging About Potatoes, Eggs, and Coffee Beans

The story “Adversity” in Steve & Jacks Home News reminded me how powerful stories can be in moving readers to action by appealing to their emotions. After his daughter had complained that, due to her dyslexia, she needed to work twice as hard as her classmates, a father brought three pots of water to a boil, placing a potato in one pot, an egg in the second, and some ground coffee in the third. Each of the ingredients, he explained, had faced the same adversity in terms of the boiling water. The potato, which had gone in strong, became soft, the father pointed out. The egg, originally fragile, had become hard. The coffee beans had created something entirely new.

“Consumers are used to telling stories to themselves and telling stories to each other, and it’s just natural to buy stuff from someone who’s telling us a story,” observes Seth Godin in his latest book, All Marketers Tell Stories. Essential elements of effective stories, he explains, include:

  • authenticity
  • an implied promise (of fun, money, safety, a shortcut, emotional satisfaction)
  • appeal to the senses rather than to logic

The story Steve and Jack Rupp chose for their newsletter is a very good example, I think, of the type of story we blog content writers can use in blog posts. The father-daughter relationship is one to which readers can relate; the message is inspirational and emotionally appealing. It uses trivia, pulling together facts we had probably not considered (the different effect boiling water has on eggs, potatoes, or coffee beans).

A big part of providing business blogging assistance is helping business owners and professional practitioners formulate stories about themselves and their own business or practice. The history of the company and the values of its leaders are story elements that create ties with blog readers. Online visitors to your blog, I teach at Say It For You, want to feel you understand them and their needs, but they want to understand you as well. The stories content writers in Indianapolis tell in their marketing blogs have the power to forge an emotional connection between the provider and the potential customer.

The “boiling water” represents both the environment in which that business or practice operates and the complex of problems for which they offer solutions. Every business or practice has wonderful stories just waiting to be told, describing how the “boiling water” made them stronger, more empathetic, and better able to bring something entirely new to their marketplace.


When an Ellipsis Is – and Isn’t – an Excuse for the Entire Quote

The ellipsis (consisting of three dots) may be the punctuation mark least used by blog content writers, but it certainly has an important function, showing that words are missing from a text, as Tony Rossiter explains in Effective Business Writing in Easy Steps.

For blog content writers, using an ellipsis can help avoid having the reader’s thought process being distracted from the point you want to make through using a quote. A series of three dots can be placed at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a sentence or clause, standing in for sections of text that do not change the overall meaning. You’re quoting someone in order to make or reinforce a point, and you want to use only those words that help you make that point.

Ellipses, points out, are also common in filmmaking, where the parts and scenes that are of no significance to the plot or character development are simply left out. In fact, this entire ellipsis discussion harks back to my Say It For You teachings about focus in blog posts and “the Power of One”. If your copy tells too many irrelevant stories, you will lose your prospects’ attention and interest. Each post can have a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of your business.

Incorporating a quote (from an expert in your field or from a historic figure) can certainly help reinforce that one idea on which you’ve chose to focus that day’s blog post. But you don’t necessarily want to use the entire quote, when the idea can be conveyed by using only a certain part of it, and that’s where the ellipsis punctuation mark can become useful. “To cite means to quote someone, or someone’s work, as a authoritative source to support an argument,” the editors of The Book of Random Oddities explain. But the fact is, people read blogs to get information and we, as content providers need to provide that information with honesty and respect towards the original creators of any materials we use to support the points we want to make.

That’s precisely why what isn’t “cricket”, as Mignon Fogarty of Grammar reminds writers, is using ellipses to change the meaning of a quotation. Don’t be lazy, she admonishes, allowing “the sweet lure of ellipses to muddle your ability to write a complete sentence”.

Blog posts that demonstrate a high degree of expertise backed by solid research, plus a very high degree of focus, have a good chance of gaining reader respect. For maintaining focus and brevity while bringing in outside expertise, those three little ellipsis dots can pack a might punch!


Blog Content Writing is Our Knowledge Test

Up until a year and a half ago, I had been unaware that, in order to become a certified taxi operator in London, drivers must study up for what is considered to be the world’s most challenging exam, involving detailed recall of tens of thousands of streets, along with the locations of clubs, hospitals, hotels, parks, theaters, schools, restaurants, government buildings and churches. The “10 Things About Britain” article in Mental Floss Magazine was making the point that “Cabbies are smarter than Google Maps.”

At the time, I remember reflecting that online visitors searching for a product or a service typically have no idea what it takes for you as a business owner or professional practitioner to do what you do until you make them aware through your blog content.  Without your blog, those readers won’t realize how much effort went into acquiring all the expertise you’re now offering to use for their benefit.

In today’s click-it-yourself, do-it-yourself world, I observed, your blog content needs to demonstrate to online searchers that, in your field, you are smarter than Google Maps, or eHow, or Wikipedia.  What’s more, your corporate blogging for business must make clear, you’re a lot more caring of your customers!

Now, more than a year later, I’ve come upon another article about the “Knowledge Schools” where the cabbies train,  usually for four years or more. Author Barclay Bram was interested in “why, in the age of Uber and Google Maps, people would still put themselves through this process, and what it’s like to do so.” In fact, Bram points out, the Knowledge has been getting harder, as new railways stations, hotels, and restaurants are being built.

As a blog content writer and trainer at Say It For You, the most interesting fact I gleaned from the Bram article is this: Researchers have used MRI scans to show that the hippocampus of people who pass the Knowledge grows by more than 25%! “Retired black cabbies have one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s on Earth!” Yes, there is an infinite amount of knowledge which exists apart from us in a device, Bram muses, but shouldn’t we value having knowledge we have earned and which has become inextricably a part of us?

When you blog, you verbalize the positive aspects of your business in a way that people can understand. You put your recent accomplishments down in words. You review the benefits of your products and services and keep them fresh in your mind. In other words, you are constantly providing yourself with training about how to talk effectively about your business.

For bloggers, content writing is like preparing for our own knowledge test!


Can “Blog-folding” Increase Engagement?

Proteins designed by humans competing at solving “foldit” puzzles turned out better than those from a design algorithm, it was found in studies chronicled in AARP Bulletin.

What does “foldit” involve? Foldit is a citizen science puzzler game. Since proteins are part of so many diseases, they can also be part of the cure. Players can experience intellectual challenges and have fun, while helping predict which new proteins might help prevent or treat important diseases such as HIV / AIDS, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. The term “foldit” comes from the fact that proteins are born as long-chain molecules, but then bunch up, or “fold” into complicated shapes.

Should we blog content writers be taking a lesson from the fact that the involving the brain power of people resulted in better outcomes than those produced by computer algorithms? If there is, it’s about engagement.

The term “engagement” describes how involved and “tuned in” readers are. Marketer Jason Amunwa thinks so: “At the end of the day, engagement is thinking less about ‘increasing traffic and instead learning how to do more with the traffic you already have!” he writes.

Indicators that readers are “engaging” with the content (in addition to converting to buyers) include reading all the way to the bottom of the post, subscribing to the blog, sharing the content on social media, and commenting. puzzlers have a powerful stake in the outcomes of their “games” (Who wouldn’t want to help prevent cancer and Altzheimers?) When it comes to blogs designed to develop buyers of products and services, it pays to remember that blog readers tend to be curious creatures.  What’s more, that curiosity factor is highest when readers are learning about themselves.  I’ve found that “self-tests” tend to engage readers and help them relate in a more personal way to the information presented in a marketing blog.

Readers, whether they are new clients, repeat customers, other companies’ clients, or potential clients, are always thinking: “So what?  So what’s in it for me?” Posing qualitative survey questions (questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”) in a blog post can help engage the reader through interaction. Reader engagement also results from an “I never knew that!” response to content that compares the way things were and the way they are today. What’s more, “folding” can consist of photos, graphs, clip art, and videos, all of which tend to boost reader engagement and response.


Blog Content Parhelions

parhelions in blogs
Earlier this week, we devoted a Say It For You blog post to a term from the field of psychology (Just Noticeable Difference); today’s post explores a term from meteorology…

You might say a “sun dog”, or parhelion, as it is known in meteorology, is an atmospheric optical illusion. The phenomenon consists of bright spots, or halos, that appear at one or both sides of the sun, when ice crystals in the atmosphere refract sunlight.

While as blog content writers, we’re hardly aiming for illusion, optical or otherwise, the work we do presents a number of important parallels with the parhelion effect:

  1. If you ask the question, most business owners and professional practitioners will tell you they have more than one target audience for their products and services. What can be done with a blog is to offer different kinds of information and advice in different blog posts. Just as the parhelions showcase, rather than obliterate the sun, blogging allows coming at the same topic in different ways, still highlighting the central message.

  2. Just as parhelions showcase, rather than distract from the central figure of the sun, doing so through a visual phenomenon, engaging blog posts need visual elements to enhance and showcase the the information, advice, and “slant” of the written content.
  3. Different consumers are going to process our content in different ways. In order to make clear that this business or professional practice has chosen to carry on in a certain way, but that there were other options, the “parhelion effect” can highlight the business owner’s or professional’s “slant” through contrasting that approach with other views.

  4. The parhelion effect can be achieved in groups of blog posts, not only within one article. Readers are different, with different “rules” and needs. We blog content writers need to keep on telling the story in its infinite variations, knowing that, to a certain extent, the blog content readers who end up as clients and customers action have self-selected.
  5. Sentence length can create a parhelion effect. Writers can weave in short sentences with longer ones. Surrounding one “naked” (extremely short) sentence between two longer ones creates, to create a parhelion-like contrast.

By varying the format, the images, the opinions, the sentence length, images and sentence length, writers can create blog content parhelions!


Blog to Become the JND

 blog marketing

It’s a term from the field of psychology, but the concept is one to which we blog content writers can certainly relate. The JND (just noticeable difference) is the minimum level of stimulation that is needed for a person to detect it, at least 50 percent of the time. For example, if you were asked to hold two objects of different weights, the just noticeable difference would be the minimum weight difference between the two that you could sense half of the time. The just noticeable difference applies to a wide variety of senses including touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight, explains Kendra Cherry in If an experimenter were to slowly add tiny amounts of sand to one of your hands, asking you to say when you notice that one hand feels heavier than the other, that would reveal your JND.

“It’s best to think about who your prospective leads are online and what they might want to read, before sitting down to write a blog post,” Campaign Creators advise. The JND will be the precise point will online readers notice that their needs are being addressed and that the information you’re offering is relevant to their search. According to Internet Live Stats, there are around 5.5 billion Google searches per day or more than 63,000 search queries per second. With such an ocean of material available on the internet on every conceivable topic, at what point will your prospect undergo that minimum level of stimulation need to command her attention?

Always on the alert for ways to convey marketing messages through corporate blog content writing, I couldn’t help recalling Jeffrey Hayzlett’s advice in Success Magazine about grabbing the attention of would-be customers: “Aim for speed and immediate relevance”. There can be no “relevance”, blog content writers need to understand, until and unless the reader experiences JND.

To help that process, I teach Indianapolis blog writers to address five “why’s”:

  1. why YOU (the reader)
  2. why ME (the blogger)
  3. why THIS (the offer)
  4. why now (the urgency)
  5. why this price (the value).

Blog to help the Just Noticeable Different happen!


Blog Testimonials Are That Valuable




“It’s hard to sing your own praises, and it rarely works when you do, “ is the sentiment Chris Garrett once so aptly expressed in If a customer ever tells you how much they value your service, Garrett advises, ask them for a testimonial. Even if they don’t ask, ask them for a testimonial, he says, because testimonials are that valuable.

Careful, though; good testimonials don’t gush, the Hotjar team warns. Too much praise is likely to engender skepticism, not belief. Good testimonials, on the other hand, give prospective customers peace of mind, providing proof that people have tried your products and services and approve of them. Really effective testimonials directly address doubts prospects have about price, learning curve, or functionality of a product or service.

Just why do customer testimonials work? They are a powerful form of social proof, a psychological concept based around the idea that we are more likely to follow the actions others have already taken, explains

But do testimonials, in fact, work? Shopify cites four studies exploring that very question:

  1. Econsultancy – sites showcasing testimonials experience an 18% increase in sales.
  2. Wikijob – sites with testimonials earned 34% more conversions.
  3. Reevoo – 50+ reviews converts to a 4.6% increase in conversion rates.
  4. Brightlocal – 88% of people trust online reviews as much as recommendations from personal contacts.

Is asking for testimonials a good idea? Maybe. Asking for feedback always is. After all, as Sujan Patel points out, your customers are the end users of your products and services, “so who better to tell you what you’re getting right and where you’re going wrong?”

There are better and not-so-good methods of gathering testimonials from customers, points out. First of all, never fabricate them. Amen to that, I teach at Say It For You. In fact, when a client says, “Sure, just tell me what you want me to say……” , my answer is always “No.” The testimonial has to be in the customer’s words (grammar errors and all).

Second, printwand authors caution, “Just because a customer said some nice things about your brand doesn’t mean you automatically have the right to reproduce those.” On the other hand, when you do receive good spontaneous feedback from a customer, it’s OK to ask if they would allow you to use that statement on your website.

As content for your business blog, customer testimonials are that important. No ad copy, no claims, no statistics can ever wield the power of “people just like them” praising the product or service.


She-Did-It-To-Work-For-You Blog Content Writing

targeted readers


The full page ad in Employee Benefit News is a grabber, containing a photo of a young woman wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the dollar figure $67,928. “Why did she borrow that money for tuition?” the ad asks, offering the response “She did it to work for you”.

“Every person who visits your site wants an experience worth their time. They want to know you understand their needs,” cautions Adobe Audience Manager. At Say It For You, we know. For readers of marketing blog content, each blog post must be created with a clear and very specific picture of the target readers in mind.

“Single your thoughts down to ONE specific person who’s experiencing ONE specific problem and you stand a better chance of capturing their attention,” writes Mo the Blog Coach. I agree. On my own website, I express the view that blogging has proven itself to have a distinct advantage over more static website copy, so long as each post is designed to have a razor-sharp focus on just one idea, one aspect of the business or practice, targeting one reader, with one desired outcome per post.

Apparently insurance sales consultant Mel Schlesinger has the same idea about the Power of One. Rather than a generic opening pitch, he suggests agents use idea-specific ones. In place of the old “I’d like to get together to learn a little bit about what you do to see if I can help you”, Schlesinger suggests the more specific approach “I have an idea that can help you reduce employees’ pressure for you to increase their wages.”

In addition to directly addressing the employers who are their readers, those Employee Benefit News ad writers got things right in another sense. “One of the simplest, yet most effective pitches comes in the form of a question,” as author Daniel Pink teaches. but you can also phrase questions that allow readers to independently speak to that pain point in their lives, Pink explains, giving the example “Do you feel safe in your home?”

The EBN advertisers, of course, answer their own question – “She did it to work for you.”


Blog to Put New Twists on the Same Theme

variety in blog posts


While the entire September 23 issue of TIME magazine was devoted to a single theme, each of the eleven articles was different from all the others, illustrating a point I keep stressing to business owners and practitioners hesitant about launching a blog.

“I’ve already covered my products and services on my website – what else is left to say?”   True, the company or the practice has already covered information about the products and services, but what the blog is for, by contrast, is to provide relevant, useful, and timely content to your prospects and customers to help them solve problems, understand industry trends, and make sense of the news and how it relates to them.

Yes, effective business blogging is centered around a limited number of keyword phrases and key themes. Those keyword phrases need to be repeated in order to “win search”. More important, the very nature of blogging for business over long periods of time offers a “training benefit” to the owners themselves, even if they’ve engaged the services of a professional content writer. That’s because the very process of choosing themes, sharing strategies, and planning for content creation, (which of necessity involves both owner and writer) has a 2+2=5 synergy effect.

In terms of finding variety while writing about the same topic again and again, that issue of TIME proves my point. The magazine’s chosen topic – global warming. The overriding message – we need to pay attention to global warming if we are to save our planet. Still, every single one of the articles came at the topic from a different vantage point. Here are just five examples:

  1. Paper straws alone won’t save the planet. Focusing on individual choices…heightens the risk of reliance on fossil fuels.
  2. Can we innovate our way out of this mess? Message: Advances in technology have transformed the energy industry, and ongoing research and development in wind and solar power will help drive down costs and reduce pollution.
  3. Climate change is the global health emergency of the 21st century. Discusses public health risks in different areas of the world and in poor urban U.S. communities.
  4. Kid’s-Eye View. Young readers drew their view of the planet 30 years from now.
  5. In Africa, necessity is the mother of climate-change innovation. African cities and governments, having already experienced many of the worst impacts of climate change, are adopting innovations in water treatment and telephone communication.

Yes, there is sheer discipline required in maintaining a marketing blog week after week, month after month, and year after year, without becoming same-old, same-old. But, as TIME editors so effectively demonstrate, that is far from an impossible task. Finding interesting pieces of information on topics related to that business or practice. If you can provide information most readers would be unlikely to know, so much the better. “Startling statistics”, anecdotes relating to hardships business owners and clients have overcome, and information about community activities all help lend variety without departing from the core message.

Blog to put new twists on the same theme!


Blogging to Help Increase Positive Behaviors

blogging to encourage positive reactions


There’s a lot we blog content writers can take away from a very unusual experiment called “The Sentimental Savings Study”. This study, reviewed in the Journal of Financial Planning , is about using psychology to help increase positive behaviors (in that specific case, personal savings). And, isn’t that precisely what marketing blogs are designed to do – motivate readers to take positive action? Can psychology help readers envision the positive outcomes that our products and services can mean for them, in terms of improved health, wealth, status, comfort, knowledge, and skills?

At best, financial education efforts had achieved marginal success in improving savings behaviors of Americans, the researchers found. Based on the theory that invoking sentimentality would exert influence on behavior, they employed “emotion activism”, creating art therapy and linking memories of past experience with money to their present attitudes. Participants were each asked to bring in a sentimental item or a photograph of such an item. In the sessions, they were guided to recall in detail how and where they had received that item, and what values they associated with it. Overall, the results of the study appeared to be a strong endorsement of the way in which sentiment and emotional associations drive decision-making.

“Blogs are bricks in decision-making architecture,” I wrote five years ago in a Say It For You blog post. How can blogs, which are short, personal, and conversational, help potential clients and customers make complex decisions? I suggested three approaches:

  1. Suggest questions readers can ask themselves while choosing among options.
  2. “Map” consequences, showing what feeling the prospect might gain through the decision – relief, trust, pride, etc.
  3. Offer easy ways to make choices.

After reading the Sentimental Savings Study, I now think a fourth tactic might be to help readers “reminisce” about how proud or satisfied they felt after having made a decision on a purchase. An anecdote might be the best way to accomplish this type of introspection.

Incorporating emotion might be just the way to increase positive behaviors, converting browsers to buyers.


Blogging to Make the Reward Worth It

“Make the reward worth it,” Nancy Duarte advises business speakers in her book Resonate. “No matter how stimulating you make your plea, an audience will not act unless you describe a reward that makes it worthwhile.” The ultimate gain must be clear.”

Duarte lists 7 basic types of reward:

  1. Basic needs – include food, water, shelter, and rest. (Concern for others’ basic needs prompts generosity.)
  2. Security – includes physical, financial, technological, and psychological.
  3. Savings – includes savings in time, labor, and money.
  4. Prize – includes personal financial reward, privilege, market share.
  5. Recognition – People relish being honored for both individual and collective efforts.
  6. Relationship – a sense of community with a group of people who support each other and make a difference
  7. Destiny – includes fulfilling lifelong dreams and reaching one’s potential.

Since one important function of any marketing blog is converting lookers to buyers, and since I train Indianapolis blog content writers, this concept of perceived rewards really piqued my interest. The things that motivate people to buy are product or service features they want, of course, and, as I explain to new clients, when readers arrive at your business blog, it’s because they already have an interest in your topic and are ready to receive the information, the services, and the products you have to offer.

However, I caution the content writers, whether the blog leads to success in converting lookers to buyers will in large part depend on the rewards those readers perceive are in store for them. Remember, there’s so much information out there for searchers to use, so many bloggers telling what they have to offer, how it works, and how they can help. What needs to come across loud and clear is that the business owners or practitioners understand the readers and those readers’ specific needs and problems.

But more than that is required for success. The focus of each blog post must be on the end result from the recipients’ point of view. Help readers know how good they’ll feel (whether in terms of security, savings, recognition, or basic need fulfillment – after using your (or your business owner or professional practitioner client’s) product or service.

Blog to make the reward worth it!


Words That Command Attention in Blog Post Titles


Are there certain words, words that are quite common, yet which command a reader’s attention? Leafing through the July issue of TIME magazine, I found the answer to that question is a definite “yes”. Mind you, none of these attention-commanding, curiosity-stimulating words (or set of words) offers the slightest hint of the topic of the article to follow. Instead, these attention-commanding words hint of the tone of the content to come.

  • Finding….
  • How…
  • Could…
  • A new….
  • Singing….
  • Things just….
  • The best…
  • The impossible…
  • The hidden…
  • Is it O.K if….
  • Don’t…
  • Who is….

What these attention-commanders do so subtly and skillfully is to set expectations. The title words “finding”, “the hidden”, the “impossible” might engender the expectation of discovery or of gaining a new insight. “Things just”, “could”, and “the impossible” hint at an opinion piece, even a rant. “The best, “how”, and “don’t” imply that valuable advice and cautions will follow. “How” hints that information about the way a certain process works is to follow, while “Is it O.K if” suggests readers might be asked to weigh in on an ethical dilemma of some sort.

Between Shakespeare’s Juliet asking “What’s in a name?” and father-of-advertising David Ogilby’s emphasis on headlines, there’s simply no contest when it comes to blogging for business – titles matter! There are two basic reasons titles matter so much in blogs, we emphasize at Say It For You. First, key words and phrases, especially when used in blog post titles, help search engines make the match between online searchers’ needs and what your business or professional practice has to offer.

But after you’ve been “found”, you’ve still gotta “get read”, and that’s where these attention-commanding words can be so useful. TIME editors obviously understood this point when it comes to magazine readers. Blog content writers should follow suit, creating titles that are relevant, but which also set the tone and arouse curiosity.


Blog Boasting of the Right Kind


“High levels of confidence, even if unwarranted, can make people appear more attractive to potential collaborators,” A.M. Hammond writes in Psychology Today, explaining the importance of the way confidence is expressed. One tip about confidence offered by the American Marketing Association in Business Writing Tips for Professionals is relevant here: “Phrases like ‘We’re #1’, ‘We’re the leader in our field’, or ‘We provide the best service’ aren’t going to get you anywhere.”

Ironically, a concern many new clients of Say It For You express to me is that they don’t want to come across as boastful in their blog.  At the same time, they know they need to convey the reasons prospects ought to choose them over their competition.

Let the facts do the boasting, I explain. The whole idea behind blogging is that, rather than running traditional ads for your brand of hats, or vitamins, or travel, you provide lots of information on the history of hats, on why vitamins are good for you, and about exciting places to go on safari.  Consumers interested in your subject, but who never even knew your name, will come to see you as a resource.

When trying to make a compelling argument, besides putting thought into your choice of words, you may employ paralanguage, A.M. Hammond suggests, meaning modulations of volume, pitch, or speed in your speaking, which have been shown to add persuasiveness to an argument without eroding sincerity.

How can blog content writers add persuasiveness when they are communicating without sound??? Equivalents to “paralanguage” in written pieces include bolding, italics, and repetition of key phrases. Images also go a long way to help reinforce core concepts in each blog post.

Bullet points are mini-headlines, explains, and they help focus attention in the same way a speaker’s change in pitch and speed might. Italics in a written piece serve to draw attention to a word or an entire line, similar to a speaker’s slowing down and enunciating each word to stress a particular idea. “Your imagery should act as a further explainer of your main point,”advises Neil Patel.

With the right kind of “boasting”, business owners and practitioners can project the kind of confidence that inspires trust.


The Power of Similar Sounds in Blog Post Titles

The contributing authors in the Nature Conservancy Magazine must have collaborated to illustrate the power of similar sounds. As examples for blog content writers, I chose just four of the many titles in that issue:

Roots Rewind
This is an example of classic alliteration. Both words begin with the same consonant.

Keep Carbon
Although the two words begin with different letters, this is another example of alliteration, because the consonant sound is the same.

Orca Answers
Assonance refers to the repetition of vowel, rather than consonant sounds. These two words are not a precise match, but are similar enough to resonate with readers.

Grand Stand
These are rhyming words, where the initial letters are different, with the remaining sounds the same.

A couple of years ago at Say It For You, I began calling attention to the idea of using alliteration in business blog titles with an eye to making them more “catchy”. You see, it’s one thing to write great content, and quite another to get readers to click on it, and alliteration is just one of several creative writing techniques that can make your business correspondence – or your blog title – more engaging.

“It is important to note that alliteration is about the sounds of words, not letters; therefore, the letters “k” and “c” can be used alliteratively (as in the Keep Carbon title above) The letters “s” and “c” (as in sparkle and cycle) could also be used in alliteration. As explains, the words don’t need to be directly next to each other in the sentence or stanza to be considered alliterative, but a good guideline to follow is whether you can detect the repetition of sound when you read the line aloud. Meanwhile, “It beats as it sweeps as it cleans” (an advertisement for Hoover) is an example of vowel sound repetition in the form of assonance.

At Say It For You, where one of our core teachings is that blog posts are NOT ads, we know it’s important to keep a light touch in order to avoid overuse of similar-sound techniques such as rhyming, assonance and alliteration. The goal, after all, is to “season” the content without “over-salting” it.


Use First-Person Power in Business Blogs


Popular magazines, I find, are a great source of ideas for blog marketing. The publication needn’t be recent, I found, browsing through the Cook’s Illustrated 2016 Annual that I happened upon at a local café, thinking to get some new meal ideas.

One thing that really stood out about the intro to each recipe was the “we”:

  • We thought the classic American dinner roll couldn’t get any better. Then we tried a cutting-edge Asian baking technique….”
  • “Sticky buns look inviting, but most are dry and over-sweet. We wanted a version that fulfilled its promise….”
  • “Unless you’re a skilled pastry chef, wrapping delicate dough around a wet filling is a recipe for disaster. We wanted a strudel recipe for the rest of us…”

“The voice of a writer is usually easier to hear in first person,” says William Cane in Writer’s Digest, expressing the thought that third person narratives mimic the “beige voice” of a reporter. First person blog content writing (using the pronouns “I” and “we”) allows the writer to be intimate, unique, and conversational..

Different blog posts, of course, serve different purposes. Second person (“you”, “your”) is a good fit for how-to blog posts, while third person (“he”, “she”, “they”) may be a choice for news items.

Admittedly, nobody likes people who speak of nothing but themselves. Still, in corporate blogging, I stress first person business blog writing because of its one enormous advantage – it shows the people behind the posts, revealing the personality of the business owner, practitioner, or the team standing ready to serve customers.

Still, it’s important to remember that all content writing in blogs is actually “second person” in that every piece of information offered has to be about the readers. Generally speaking, I prefer first and second person writing in business blog posts over third person “reporting”. I think people tend to buy when they see themselves in the picture and when can they relate emotionally to the person bringing them the message.

Use first-person power in business blogs!


Pique-Your-Interest Blog Post Titles


Browsing through the August issue of Indianapolis Monthly, I noticed something interesting about the titles of many of the articles. It was literally impossible to tell from each title what the topic of the forthcoming article would be, yet my curiosity was aroused to the point that I wanted to find out.
Applied Knowledge, for example, offered advice about filling out effective college applications. Upon Further Review turned out to be about IU football and baseball team strategy. Belly Aching headed a humorous piece on physical illnesses, real and imagined, while Fully Loaded was about luxury boutique hotels. High and Mighty was the title of a piece on penthouse-style luxury furnishings, and Out-of-the-Gate, of all things, was about how Mayor Hudnut brought the Colts team to Indianapolis.

So, should blog post titles be designed to pique readers’ interest with the same sense of “mystery”? That’s a maybe. In blog marketing, the title itself constitutes a set of implied promises: If you click on this title, it will lead you to information about the topic you punched into the search bar, to an explanation of how to obtain something desirable or to avoid or reduce an undesirable effect. The title and the content, therefore, need to be congruent.

On the other hand, there are two, not just one, reasons titles matter so much in blogs, I teach at Say It For You. The key words and phrases in the title help search engines make the match between online searchers’ needs and what your business or practice has to offer. That’s not enough, though, because, after you’ve been “found”, you still have to “get read”, which means readers need to be engaged and their interest piqued.

The compromise solution might be titles that are two-tiered, combining curiosity-arousing Indianapolis Monthly-style titles with subtitles that make clear exactly what the blog post is about. Might that come across as a “bait-and switch” (an absolute no-no in content marketing)? No, I think it’s more like a bait-and-focus blog title technique.


Your Blog Helps ‘Em Go With What They Know

branding through blogs


“As a handyman, you will be driving a lot. It would be a shame to waste all of those miles when you could be promoting your company at the same time with almost zero long term effort,” Dan Perry, handyman business owner advises. “Customers are more likely to hire you if they are aware of your brand, Perry explains. “People like to go with what they know.”

“Branding” – we hear a lot of this popular marketing term, don’t we?  Business owners put a whole lot of their time and money into creating a brand name, complete with a logo and other graphics, sometimes adding a motto or slogan.  As blog content writers, we’re considered part of a company’s or a practice’s marketing team, always looking for ways to help reinforce each client’s brand. The creating of each blog post is part of the process of inventing – and reinventing- a business brand.

Reading Perry’s description of truck decal advertising, I recalled reading about an experiment with billboard advertising. The subjects of the study were people (several hundred of them) who drove the same route every day to work and back, passing a giant billboard advertising new cars.  When questioned, almost none of these people could remember even seeing a billboard, much less that it was about cars.  On the other hand, the moment any individual was in the market for a car, she’d notice the billboard immediately.

The point Perry makes to handyman entrepreneurs is that, while “that lady in the Lexus sitting behind you may not need a handyman today, but if she finds you online when she does, she will recognize you and probably call you.”

What does Perry suggest in terms of content for ads on vehicles? “The most important thing is to clearly say what you do and how to contact you.“ Your blog posts are out there on the Internet “super-highway”, available for anyone to see, but the only people who are going to notice your blog are those who are searching for the kinds of information, products, or services that relate to what you do.

The only difference is, of course, is that sustaining a long-term blog marketing initiative is hardly the “zero long term effort” affair Perry promises his handymen advisees. Eleven years ago, in the process of explaining the way my company Say It For You came about, I talked about the “drill sergeant discipline” needed by blog content writers. What I meant was that, while all my business owner clients knew that writing blogs in their area of expertise was going to be a great idea for them, not very many of them have the time to compose and post content on a regular basis.  I also knew that the main key to business blogging success was going to be simply keeping on task.

But Perry is on the right track when it comes to customers, who are more likely to hire you if they are aware your business or practice exists, and that you have solutions to offer them.


Find a Focus in Each Blog Post – So They Can

focus in blog“Sometimes a writer can go on and on for pages with examples that prove a point…only she hasn’t quite figured out what that point is,” a writing guide from so aptly points out. I thought about that he other day as I attended what started out to be a fascinating talk on how smart watches and tablets are being used to collect data for predicting illnesses.

Only problem – the speaker began to ramble, “getting into the weeds” and going far over the allotted time. The result – people lost interest and some even stood up to leave. Our presenter had obviously never read the book Brain Rules, in which educator Wilbert McKeachie demonstrates that “typically, attention increases from the beginning of the lecture to ten minutes into the lecture and decreases after that point.”

In a sense, focus is the point in blog content writing. At Say It For You, we firmly believe in the Power of One, which means one message per post, with a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of your business, geared towards one narrowly defined target audience.

Of course, in blog marketing, one purpose of the content is moving visitors along the spectrum from scanner to reader, to customer/client. One technique salespeople are taught is adding an “Oh, by the way…” to describe an add-on service or product that can go along with the primary purchase. In blog marketing, there are ways to do that kind of “oh-by-the-way” without losing focus: provide a link to a landing page, or simply tell readers to watch for information on that related concept, product, or service in your next blog post.

“The simple reason a lot of blogs struggle to succeed,” writes Jeff Goins, “is a lack of focus.”
Focus consists of three elements, Goins adds – the subject, the theme (specific angle), and the objective. “Focus is the feature of effective writing that answers the question ‘So what?’”, Academic Writing explains.”By establishing a clear focus, students can craft their writing into a coherent, unified whole.”


The Self-Help Checklist for Blog Content Writers


This week, as I begin my thirteenth year of part-time tutoring at the Ivy Tech Community College English Learning Lab, I’m culling information from the Study Power Leader’s Guide the school offers as a resource to my students. The “Report Evaluation Worksheet”, I thought, was particularly apropos for blog content writers….

Has your topic been focused as a question, issue, or thesis?
At Ivy Tech, I often find that students have difficulty knowing the difference between the topic of a paper and its thesis. Suppose they were instructed to write about graduation cap tassels.  That’s the topic.  But what about tassels?  Are they silly? Important? Should we hold on to that tradition? (The answer is the thesis, or the “slant” the paper will take.) The same set of decisions will determine the focus of a blog post.

Is your approach original and imaginative?
Your client’s business blog, I remind content writers, is part of their brand, and it needs to put the best aspects of their business or practice forward with fresh, relevant content that engages readers. Blogging requires applying a thinking process. When business owners or professional practitioners blog (or coordinate with a professional writer), they are verbalizing the positive aspects of their enterprises in a way that people can understand, putting recent accomplishments down in words, and reviewing the benefits of their products and services. The very process provides self-training in how to talk effectively about their business or practice.

Are your ideas supported with useful examples, quotations, etc.?
You can use quotations in blog posts to reinforce your point, show you’re in touch with trends in your field, and to add value for readers (by aggregating different sources of information in one business blog). Still, I remind both owners and their content writers that the idea is to make their own cash register ring, which means it’s their own voice that must come across strong throughout the post..

Are your punctuation, spelling, and capitalization accurate?
Whether you’re a college student or a blogger, anything that puzzles readers interferes with readers’ interest and engagement defeats the purpose of the writing. Proper spelling and punctuation helps readers know what you think, what you do, and what you’d like them to do about it (give you a good grade or click on your blog’s Call to Action).

Using the Study Power Leader’s Guide worksheet can help blog content writers become leaders in their field!


The All-Important Call to Action in Blog Content Writing


One of the resources Ivy Tech offers to students is the Study Power Leader’s Guide. The Guide suggests students keep a daily activities list containing three categories:

  1. Must Do!
  2. Should Do
  3. Could Do

“We live in a culture of information-saturation. Consumers today are highly-distracted, which is why you need to end your posts with a bang, by including enticing, well-written calls to action,” suggests. An effective call to action will act as a logical extension of your blog posts, the authors add. “Your calls to action should never seem abrupt, or you’ll struggle to get the reaction you’d hoped.”

Over the years of working with business owners and practitioners, I’ve encountered two very different attitudes towards blog marketing and specifically towards Calls to Action. At the one extreme are those who feel that any direct Call to Action is abrupt and obtrusive, believing that if the blog provides useful information, the reader will want, without being asked, to follow up with the company or practice. At the opposite end of the spectrum are owners who feel uneasy about giving away valuable information “for free”, even though they realize their blog will become a way of selling themselves and their services to online searchers.

In response to the first fear, I explain that a CTA does not at all invalidate the good information provided in the piece. When people go online to search for information and click on different blogs or on different websites, they’re aware of the fact that the providers of the information are out to do business. But as long as the material is valuable and relevant for the searchers, they’re perfectly fine with knowing there’s someone who wants them for a client or customer.

Similarly, I can reassure business owners getting ready to launch a marketing blog that the only people who are going to notice their blog are the ones already interested in that topic. “Giving away” knowledge showcases the owners’ experience and expertise rather than threatening it in any way. More often than not, readers want to get it done, not by themselves, but by the expert you’ve shown you are!

Using those three Study Power categories might be a good way to vary the Calls to Action in blog posts, was my thought.

  • Must-do!s can include safety and health checklists, along with an offer to download a white paper or brochure.
  • Should Dos might include links to landing pages with more information.
  • Could Dos include an invitation to chat or telephone for further information.

Using the three categories can help students keep track of their activities, and varying your calls to action can help you get the reaction you’d hoped for, I teach at Say It For You.


Using Skillful Surprise in Blog Content Writing

Blog post titles have a multifaceted job to do, arousing readers’ curiosity while still assuring them they’ve come to the right place. One compromise I often suggest to blog content writers is using a two-tiered title, combining a “Huh?” (to get attention) with an “Oh!” (to make clear what the post is actually going to be about).

In the body of a blog post, surprise can be used in a different way. I remember, several years back, listening to Jeff Fleming of the National Speakers Association of Indiana meeting, talking about misdirection as a way of adding humor to a presentation. Fleming explained the “Rule of Three”, in which the first two statements serve as a “set-up”. The third statement is not what the listeners are expecting, he added. That “misdirection”, Fleming said, causes a surprise, which tickles listeners’ funny bones.

I thought about that Fleming demo the other day when browsing through Coffee House News Indiana:


What has four legs, is big, green, and fuzzy, and, if it fell out of a tree would
hurt you? Answer: a pool table.

Now, as blog content writers offering information about a product or service, we’re not necessarily “into” tickling readers’ funny bones. What we are “into”, of course, is engaging readers and sustaining interest.

To be sure, using humor is an effective way to connect with your audience and humanize your brand or company, as Jason Miller of Social Media Examiner observes. All marketing doesn’t have to be serious, he adds, along with the caveat that “being funny is a risk…Some people might not appreciate your company’s brand of humor!”

So what do I think the bottom line is for using humor and surprise in blogging for business? Well,…barring politics (including company, city, state, national, and international), religion, ethnic groups, physical appearance, food preferences, insider information, and anything anyone might conceive as risque – go right ahead.  But keep the humor centered around your own weaknesses and around the consumers’ problem you’re offering to solve.

As for surprise, it can be highly useful in business blogs. At least some of our readers already know quite a bit about our subject.  What they’re looking for is new perspective on the subject, new ways to connect the dots. People are going to want to do business with people who have something different to say. There’s great power in offering strong recommendations and opinions in a blog.

Surprise them with the strength of your convictions, the depth of your knowledge, and the courage to map out a unique approach to doing business!


Eating the Blog Frog


A saying attributed to Mark Twain is a good rule for blog content writers:

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Productivity coaches Stefano & Sabine of explain the Twain saying as follows: “The frog is that one thing you have on your to-do list that you have absolutely no motivation to do and that you’re most likely to procrastinate on. Eating the frog means to just do it, otherwise the frog will eat you meaning that you’ll end up procrastinating it the whole day.”

Since the success of business blogging is so very dependent on the sheer discipline of continually posting new content, I was especially interested in some advice for writers I found in The Autobiographer’s Handbook. Author Anthony Swofford tells writers:  “Wake up.  Drink coffee. Write.  Ignore phone, ignore email, ignore world. Write.”

One of my own favorite marketing gurus, Seth Godin explains that “writing long-form content on popular topics in your niche will put your thinking on display and give your readers an opportunity to evaluate your expertise.”

The problem with that very good advice from both Swofford and Godin – maintaining a business blog requires what I call “drill-sergeant discipline.” From the very early years of Say It For You, it became clear that the key to business blogging success was going to be simply staying on task.

Psychology professor K. Anders Ericsson, who has spent twenty-five years analyzing high-flying professionals,says that elite performers in any field, he says, engage in deliberate practice, an “effortful activity designed to improve performance”. Momentum in the online rankings race comes from frequency of posting blogs and from building up longevity by consistently posting relevant content over long periods of time.

Content writers soon learn – successful blog marketing requires “eating the frog”!


How-To Blog Content is Harder to Write Than First Appears

giving directions


Giving directions is a lot harder than first appears. That point was brought home to us at a recent tutor training I attended at Ivy Tech Community College. An instructor may believe he’s given clear instructions to his class for completing a particular assignment, but different students interpret those directions… well, differently. Working together in informal study groups, students can help each other arrive at the correct interpretation, was the point.

We tutors were divided into small groups (3-4 people each) and given the following set of directions:

  1. Draw a circle about an inch in diameter.
  2. Draw a square so that each side of the square touches the circumference of the circle.
  3. Draw an equilateral triangle, making sure that one of the triangle’s sides is touching one half of one of the sides of the square.

Sounds fairly simple, doesn’t it? (After all, every one of us in that room has several college degrees!) Well, it wasn’t – it took much discussion and interpretation to comply with those “clear” directions.

There is no end to the technical information available to consumers on the internet. Therefore, as business blog content writers, our job is to help readers understand, absorb, buy into, and use that information. At Say it For You, I’m fond of saying that in blogging for business, teaching is the new selling. One way to empower customers to make a decision is to help them understand the differences between various industry terms, as well as the differences between the products and services of one business compared to those offered by another.

As bloggers, we’re giving readers the raw materials to think about, and even the how-to instructions. We need to go one step further, demonstrating ways different customers and clients have “figured out” how to interpret and use the “instructions” and “directions” we’ve offered for their own benefit.


Is Your Business Blog Content TNAS?

directions in blogs


As part of my work in the tutoring lab at Ivy Tech Community College, it often falls to me to help students revise essay papers. Students may have submitted first drafts, then received their papers back from their instructor with notations and corrections. The student then has the opportunity to “fix” things and re-submit the assignment.

At first, I didn’t understand the meaning of the notation “TNAS” that frequently appeared on these papers. I was soon informed that those initials stand for “That’s Not a Sentence”.

In fact, sentence fragments seem to be a common mistake among blog content writers. Often the problem is clauses. A sentence can have any number of clauses, but needs at least one main or independent clause, with a subject and a verb, as explains, and any dependent clauses need to be attached to an independent clause.

In business blog content writing, there’s another common problem related to sentences – run-ons. Run-ons have more than one independent clause. The effect, I tell students and content writers, is comparable to squeezing two bodies into one seat!

But, isn’t it OK to be more relaxed about grammar rules when writing for blogs? Yes….blogs are supposed to be less formal and more conversational than a company’s (or a practice’s) main website. As puts it, there are times when it is more effective to sound like a relatable human and not your sixth grade English teacher who never seemed to be able to connect with her audience.”

Along with several other grammar rules that Spot Marketing says are OK to break in blogs (such as ending a sentence with a preposition, using slang and contractions, or beginning a sentence with “and” or “but”) it might even be OK to use sentence fragments!

As a corporate blogging trainer, my favorite recommendation (to both business owners and the freelance blog content writers they hire to bring their message to customers) has been this: Prevent blog content writing “wardrobe malfunctions”, including grammar errors, run-on sentences, and spelling errors.

At the same time, the real question writers need to ask themselves about any one blog post is this: Have I done what I set out to do? Is the marketing message clear?

After all, readers who “get the idea” you were trying to convey are unlikely to reject your content on the grounds that it’s TNAS!


Acing Your Next Blog “Interview”

blog posts as interviews
“Want to ace your next interview and land that open job you’ve been seeking? experisjobsus asks job seekers. Go in prepared with five key selling points, along with examples of how you used those skills in real world situations.

At Say It For You, I’ve often remarked that business blogs are nothing more than extended interviews. Searchers are evaluating your content to judge whether your know-how, products, and services are a good fit for their needs.

The overriding message a successful interviewee wants to convey to a prospective employer has three elements:

  1. I understand the challenges of the job.
  2. I have the experience and expertise to take those on.
  3. I would like to start doing this important work.

While all the “data” about the candidate is to be found on the resume, what interviewers are trying do is understand what makes that person “tick” and decide if he or she will “fit in’ with the company culture. Often interviewers will ask candidates to “describe themselves”. Behavioral interviewers don’t focus on facts about the candidates at all. Instead, the purpose is to reveal the person behind the resume.

For that very reason, we encourage Say It For You clients to include “Who’s Who in our business/our office/our industry” blog posts. Apart from the typical “Our Team” landing page on your website, which introduces people by name with a brief bio, the blog might offer close-up views of the functions each person serves. And, if you’ve kept in touch with your “alumni”, I advise content writers, it would be a great thing to let your readers know you’ve kept in touch with them and their doings.

One important thing to remember is that, while a website presents the company’s or the practice’s “big picture”, in business blogging, each post is like one question at an interview. With many blog readers tending to be scanners, they need to find very targeted content showing they’re come to the right place to get precisely the information, products, and services they were seeking.

“Acing” your next blog interview can depend on showing you’re ready, willing, and able to start doing “this important work!”


You May Not Have Breaking News, but You Can Use Breaking News for Your Blog

using news in blogs


The word “news”, when it comes to blog marketing, can mean several different things.

Your “own” news:
One type of news is centered around you and your business or practice. Perhaps you’re introducing a new employee or partner. You may be introducing a new service you’re beginning to offer, or a new product line. The purpose is not to brag, but to present the “news” in such a way that readers will consider it important and relevant to their needs.

Community news:
A second type of news piece might relate to your community, your city, your country, even worldwide events, with you providing an update on “what’s-going-on-and-how-do-we-fit-in”. (In fact, as I teach at Say It For You, reading daily newspapers is just one of many strategies for blog content development. The idea is not to regurgitate what’s already been said by a magazine or news source writer, but to demonstrate that you’re staying on top of the latest happenings. Ideally, you’re offering a different “slant” on those current happenings.

News from your industry or profession:
Showing that you are keeping abreast of the latest thinking in your field is the key to earning “expert power”, showing readers that you are in a good position to spot both threats and opportunities, which you will, of course, be sharing with them.

Trending topics:
Even though today’s most searched-for topic may not be what is most often talked about tomorrow, you can benefit readers by tying your blog content to popular topics. While the focus of your business blog will be on the business owners and the services, advice, and products they offer, the content can reflect current happenings and concerns.

The distinguishing feature of “news” (as opposed to information in general) is that it is recently updated information. And one of the realities of the digital age is that it’s only recently updated information that is likely to have an impact on our marketing results. “Building equity” through repeated use of keyword phrases – and evergreen content – is part of blog marketing, but “news” plays a key role in keeping content “fresh”.

You may not have “breaking news”, but you can use breaking news for your blog!


Give ‘Em a Glimpse of the Guiding Principle

guiding principle in blogs

The opening speaker at a recent Financial Planning Association Study Day was talking about recession. Are we “due” for a recession, given that we’ve been experiencing the longest period of economic growth in our country’s history?

Seated in the audience, I was listening with “two ears”. Now retired from my financial planning career, I continue to keep up with the educational requirements for my CFP® designation, and very much enjoy the lectures and the discussions with former colleagues.

My other “ear”, though, caught something very important for blog content writers. Brandon Zureick of Johnson Asset Management was there to “bust a myth”, contradicting widespread financial media “hype” about the recession lurking around the corner. “Some believe the Federal Reserve will save the day through cutting interest rates, while some think additional stimulus cannot combat the looming downturn,” writes Yun Li of CNBC.

Every one of the financial planners in the audience had clients reading, listening, and watching talking heads repeating the same so-called “rule” – a recession is “overdue”. Telling their clients they are “wrong” to believe that so-called rule isn’t going to work. Zureick knew what would work – arming the planners with a “guiding principle” to share with their clients in order to replace the framework within which many investors have been operating.

Here’s the new guiding principle Zureick offered: Economic recessions aren’t time-driven; they are factor-driven. Recession isn’t “due” or “overdue”. When and if we experience the next recession will relate to employment, consumption, and trade levels, not to timing.

Business blogs are wonderful tools around facts.  That’s why business owners and professional practitioners can use corporate blog writing as a way to dispense information, but, even more important, to address misinformation.

Why is that important to do? False beliefs about products and services often stand in the way of customers taking action. You might say that the de-bunking function of business blog writing is owners’ way of taking up arms against a sea of customers’ unfounded fears and biases.  Blog content writing is a way of “cleaning the air”, replacing factoids with facts, so that buyers can see their way to making decisions.

To do that, however, requires introducing guiding principles that offer readers a way to organize the barrage of information. Guiding principles allow readers only to move forward with buying decisions, but to explain those buying decisions to others.

Give ‘em a glimpse of the guiding principle!


Blog With the Rendezvous Search Problem in Mind

A famous logistics exercise, called the Rendezvous Search Problem, involves two people who lose each other while wandering through the aisles of a large supermarket. If they want to find each other, should one decide to stop moving while the other continues to search, or will they meet up sooner if both move through the aisles?

This problem has been debated in many a college classroom on logistics, and published in many a magazine as an amusing mental exercise. For us blog content writers, though, this is serious stuff.  One of the purposes of our work is to help our clients’ businesses and professional practices “get found”, and get found as quickly as possible. When business blogging works, in fact, they call it “winning search”.

Only problem is, the people in the ”other aisles” of the Internet not only don’t know where our clients are;  they don’t even know the business’ or the practice’s name!  They don’t know that our clients have exactly the information, the products, and the services they’re looking for, and they won’t know that until they’re “introduced” by the search engine through the blog.

Years ago, NewScientist Magazine offered advice to the lost supermarket shoppers: “Walk along the edge of the supermarket where the cash registers are, looking down the aisles for the person you seek.”

For blog marketers, that advice might translate as follows:

1.  The more relevant content you can post on the blog, the quicker the “find time” is likely to be. You can’t get to the “front of the store” without consistent content creation.

2.  Just as in the supermarket story, you need to know what you’re looking for. The blog content must be perfectly focused on your target market.

3.  The blog content must humanize both “shoppers” and providers. Content writers should imagine one specific person who’s experiencing one specific problem, suggests “Mo the Blog Coach”.

One thing we know for sure at Say It For You – whether at the supermarket or the blogosphere, you can’t just stand in place and hope to get found!


Blog Reader Encounters of the Right Kind


client encounters

When it comes to blog marketing, there’s a lot of talk (too much talk, in my opinion) about traffic. Yes, blogging is part of business owners’ or professional practitioners’ “pull marketing” strategy, designed to attract readers’ eyeballs. At least a percentage of these readers, the hope is, will become customers and clients.

In a sense, however, fewer might well prove better when it comes to the numbers of online searchers who find your blog, then click through to the website. Remember the 1977 movie about aliens called “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”? I like to remind both the blog content writers at Say It For You and the clients who hire us that the goal of a business blog is to bring in customers “of the right kind”. These are customers who have a need for and who will appreciate the services, products, and expertise being showcased in the blog.

Long-time friend and fellow blogger Thaddeus Rex had it right, I believe, when he said: “If your marketing is not getting enough people into the pool, you’ll find the problem is in one of three places.  You’ve either got the wrong story, the wrong stuff, or the wrong audience”. Rex recommends filtering: the audience by differentiating your own business or practice in some way:

  • Your product or service can do something your competitors can’t .
  • Your product/service is more easily available relative to your competitors’.
  • You offer a better buying experience.
  • You’re less expensive.

Years ago, I remember a speaker at a wine-tasting event explaining that, when a customer finds a product or service that appears to be the exact right thing, it’s as if a light pops on. By offering a “content-tasting” on your blog, and doing that regularly and frequently, I tell business owners and professionals, you’ll have put yourself in a position to attract those “encounters of the right kind”.

Getting it “right” takes planning and thought, to be sure. Are you selecting the “right” keyword phrases? Are you establishing the “right” clear navigation path from the blog to landing pages on your website? Are you blogging for the right reasons and with the right expectations?

Remember, the goal is not lots of blog reader encounters; it’s blog reader encounters of the right kind!


No Need for Charts and Graphs – Just Connect!

connecting with readers


On occasion, I find the need to remind business owners and professional practitioners of the differences between their print ads and brochures and their blogs. Business blogs exist to promote your expertise, products, and services, true, but in a manner much briefer and less formal than brochures, and a lot “softer” in approach than ads. The word “advertorial” is the closest description for blogs.

At Say It For You, I explain the following to clients: The people who are going to come upon your blog are those searching for information, products, or services that relate to what you do.  In other words, your blog visitors are already in the market for what you have to offer. Help them get to know you and your company.  No hard sell.  No formality.  No elaborate charts and graphs.  Just “talk”!  Just connect.

Easier said than done? Not if you humanize your brand, says Corey Wainwright of “When your audience is reminded there are real-life humans behind the scenes,” it becomes easier for them to trust your product or service.”

We agree. One interesting perspective on the work we do as professional blog content writers is to translate clients’ corporate messages into human, people-to-people terms.  People tend to buy when they see themselves in the picture and relate emotionally to the person bringing them the message.

Another way of infusing blog content with a personal touch is by using first and second person writing (rather than third person “reporting”). In fact, a crucially important function of our blog content writing is assuring readers that our business owner or practitioner clients are “listening”, that they understand the issues and stand ready to help readers deal with those issues and needs.

Sure, blogging is “pull marketing”, designed to attract searchers who have already identified their own needs. But through blogging, readers can be introduced to solutions they hadn’t known were available to them. A business blog (as compared with the more static content on traditional websites) offers the chance to introduce your unique approach to satisfying customers’ needs.

No need for charts and graphs – just connect!


Blog to Punctuate, Not Bewilder


It’s not hard to find websites listing funny examples of misleading punctuation – or lack thereof.

  • A woman without her man is nothing.
    A woman: without her, man is nothing.
  • Let’s eat Grandma.
    Let’s eat, Grandma!
  • I have only twenty-five dollar bills.
    I have only twenty five-dollar bills.
  • I’m sorry I love you.
    I’m sorry; I love you.
  • The author finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog.
    The author finds inspiration in cooking, her family, and her dog.

“Failing to use a punctuation mark, using it in the wrong place, or failing to proofread, points out, is one of the most effective methods of transforming a great piece of writing into something that sucks.”

From a practical point of view, reminds writers, “Utilizing correct punctuation won’t help you make friends or boost your business, but using punctuation incorrectly will make your book, magazine or catalog copy stand out like a sore thumb.”

As a content writer and business blogging trainer, I cannot tell you how often I hear the argument about blogs being more informal and more conversational in tone than websites.  The conclusion drawn is that punctuation and spelling don’t matter in blogging. Big mistake – anything that puzzles readers interferes with their interest and engagement, defeating the purpose of the blog content.

A business writer’s basic tools, Tony Rossiter says in Effective Business Writing in Easy Steps, include:

  • Plain English
  • Vocabulary
  • Spelling
  • Punctuation
  • Grammar
  • Preparing and checking the presentation

    Punctuation helps your blog do what it was meant to do, namely tell readers what you do and what you’d like them to “do about it”. Blog to punctuate, not bewilder!


Blog to Express, Not Impress


“Write to express, not impress,” advises Mary Cullen in 87 Advanced Business Writing Tips That Actually Work. “Your goal is to easily transmit ideas and information, not to flaunt a big vocabulary,” she says.

Blog content writers should find these three tips particularly apropos:

1.    “Be certain your paragraphs aren’t longer than seven lines (lines, not sentences). Any longer than that and readability studies show that your readers just see a big block of text and jump over it,” Cullen warns. At Say It For You, I call that a “wall of text” – off-putting to searchers, who tend to be content scanners with little patience for “wall-scaling”. At the same time, bunches of short paragraphs can be distracting. What’s more, if all the sentences and paragraphs in a blog post are approximately the same length, you run the risk of boring your readers.

2.  “Use clear words rather than emphasis punctuation, Cullen cautions. “ Exclamation points are often used in business writing to generate enthusiasm when the real problem is imprecise information,” she observes. Maybe. In blog posts, I’ve found, it can be important to “exclaim”, given the tendency for online searchers to only briefly eyeball the blog content. Punctuation, italics, and bold type are some of the ways to draw attention to the central point(s) in each post.

3.  “Don’t smother verbs,” Cullen warns. When verbs are changed into nouns, that muddles the meaning while increasing sentence length. The word “decide” is far more impactful than “decision”, Cullen explains, and “unsmothering verbs is a very powerful clarity technique”. Adverbs sometimes “smother” verbs, I tell content writers. Use stronger verbs, Writers’ Digest says, and you won’t need the help of adverbs.

These are just three tips out of the 87, but, at Say It For You, we know that the basics of blogging for business remain the same – building trust and offering valuable information. In fact, you might say, when we write to express, not impress, it’s about two things – creating customers and keeping them engaged.


Blogging the Lure and What They Say


At Say It For You, I’m always on the lookout for different “templates” for presenting information about any business or professional practice. The “nucleus” around which business blog posts are formed is their topic (issues, products, services and advice related to their field). Although the general topic remains the same over time, there is endless variety that can be used to make each blog post special, with one way being the use of different templates.

Browsing through a magazine called Where to Retire, I found an interesting template in a long article naming the 50 Best Master-Planned Communities in the United States. For each community, the report consisted of two longer sections: the Lure (special features of that community) and “What Residents Say” (testimonials), followed by facts and statistics (the name of the developer, the price, the monthly homeowner fee, and whether the community is age-restricted).

Whenever you have several pieces of information to impart, consider different “templates” that can unify them under one umbrella. The “template” is the glue that ties the different pieces of information together and makes the information more usable for readers.

Collating and curating are two ways blog content writers deliver value to readers:

In collating, we gather content from our own former blog posts, newsletters, or even emails, adding material from other people’s blogs and articles, and from magazine content or books. We then organize that material into categories, summarizing the main ideas we think our readers will find useful. The Where to Retire article is a perfect example of collation.

Curating goes one important step further, progressing from information-dispensing to offering the business owner’s (or the professional’s, or the organizational executive’s) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic. When curation is really successful, two things happen:

  1. Readers relate to the “curator” – you, the author of the blog post – as an involved person who is personally engaged with the subject.
  2. Readers realize there’s something here that’s important and useful for them.

Blogging “the lure” is a perfect example of collation combined with testimonials!


The Thesis or “One-Sentence Speech” Can Come Anywhere in the Blog

one sentence speech in blogs

Years ago, at a National Speakers Association meeting, I remember being taught to create a “one-sentence speech”. The idea was that anyone who’d been in the audience should come away being able to summarize in one line what I’d said; otherwise, my speech would not have been well-constructed.

I believe the same rule holds true for blog content writing. The “thesis statement” consists of the words that summarize the whole idea of the post. The “thesis statement” doesn’t need to be at the beginning of the piece, I teach at Say It For You, but there needs to be little doubt as to which sentence it is.

To illustrate that point, I found an article in a journal called BioTechniques (a professional journal left inadvertently on the table at my favorite coffee house the other morning). Not being a physicist, I understood very little of the technical information in the article titled “High-throughput Quant-iT Pico-Green assay using an automated liquid handling system”. Still, the structure perfectly illustrates the idea that a topic statement does not need to appear at the beginning of your essay or blog.

The article begins with a 122-word paragraph introducing the work of the NGS service that processes and tests DNA samples. Then, and only then, is the thesis statement presented: “A novel approach based on fluorescence assays is more appropriate and accurate for DNA input quantification for any applications in molecular biology.”

At Say It For You, I’m fond of saying to blog content writers that their task is to keep the reader engaged with valuable, personal, and relevant information, beginning with the “downbeat”, which is what I call the first sentence of each post. But that first sentence can be used to capture attention and make an impact without actually stating the “thesis” or conclusion of the piece.

Whether your blog is about food, bedding, pet care, or biotechnology processes, you need a one-sentence speech, but it needn’t come at the beginning of the post.


Master Lists Can Call Blog Readers to Action

master lists in blogging


This month’s issue of the Journal of Financial Planning included a description of two experiments designed to explore the way consumers make investment decisions. Simple lists, researchers found can overcome “cognitive blind spots”, speeding up the decision making process…

(Now retired from my career as a CFP®, I stay interested in behavioral finance, which is using science to move individuals in the direction of better decision-making. I view my present work as content writer for business blogs as very similar – helping my clients’ readers make good buying decisions.)

“Identifying investment goals is a critical step in developing a sound financial plan that helps investors reach their objectives,” but the success of goals-based planning hinges on two important steps, behavioral scientists at Morningstar realized. Investors had to find what goals are important to them, and then prioritize those goals. The reality, however, was that behavioral biases too often undermined the process, and investors found themselves unable to take action that truly matched their own goals.

Dual process theory suggests that our minds use two different processes to make decisions:

  1. System One is fast and intuitive
  2. System Two is slow and deliberative

Because of a lack of pertinent information, a failure to pay attention to key information, and time constraints, science has found, we often rely on System 1 when it comes to decision-making

In this experiment, the researchers created a “master list” containing 12 typical financial and non-financial retirement goals (financial independence, health care, housing, travel and leisure, etc.). Study participants were asked to complete two sequential tasks through an online survey:

Step One: Each participant was asked to list and rank their top three investment goals. (The program then added those self-generated goals for each participant, in random order, to the master list of common investment goals.)

Step Two: Each participant was asked to look at the master list of goals and, if they wanted to, change their list of top three goals.

Results – 26% of respondents changed their top goal after seeing the master list. Almost twice as many changed either one or both of their top two goals, and 73% changed one or more of their top three goals.

Conclusions – The provision of a master list helped clarify a person’s previously ambiguous self-reported goals. “When asked to prioritize a list of goals that are important to them, people may not know what their preferences are and therefore elect to prioritize short-term goals over long-term ones or emphasize minor objectives while neglecting major aspirations because of the desire for instant gratification.”

How does all this information about investor behavior translate into blog content writing? Hasn’t the technique of using lists in blog posts been overdone? Perhaps, but I think using lists in blog posts is less about grabbing attention and more about demonstrating ways in which the company’s (or the practitioner’s) products, services and expertise are useful, perhaps in unexpected ways.

Since buyers often use System One thinking, relying on brand awareness or past purchases to make buying decisions, providing a “master list” showing other options is designed to stimulate more thoughtful purchasing choices. At Say It For You, an important goal is opening up readers’ minds and “calling them to action”. The research I read about in the Journal of Financial Planning suggests that master lists might help in the process!


Things About Consumer Behavior Blog Content Writers Need to Know

consumer behavior
This month’s issue of the Journal of Financial Planning included a description of two experiments designed to explore the way consumers make investment decisions. Since success in blog marketing is designed to assist in consumer decision making, I’m devoting this week’s Say It For You blog posts to discussing the insights those researchers share with Journal readers…

Who is investing in ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds)? Using an investor survey, researchers investigated the relationship between financial knowledge of an investment product and consumers’ choice to actually invest in that product. Their hypotheses going ingiven that ETFs are still a relatively new product with benefits still not fully understood by the full investment community, increasing investor knowledge would be a significant variable when predicting ETF ownership.

Interestingly, the authors divided “knowledge” into two categories:

  1. Subjective knowledge (how much an investor SAYS they know on the subject)
  2. Objective knowledge (how successful that investor is answering knowledge questions on the subject)

Their hypotheses going into the experiment was that both subjective and objective investor knowledge are positively associated with ownership of the product itself. The findings? Both subjective and objective investor knowledge do have a positive association with ETF ownership.

Researchers’ advice to financial advisors? To increase ETF adoption among clients, engage in education efforts to pave the way for greater acceptance. Significantly, the authors stressed that “supporting investors’ confidence in their own financial knowledge may be as important as educating those investors.”

Now retired from my career as a CFP®, I stay interested in behavioral finance, which is using science to move individuals in the direction of better decision-making. In fact, I see my present work as content writer for business blogs as very similar – helping readers gain access to – and process – the information they need to make good buying decisions.

In blogging for business, teaching is the new selling. Since customers have access to so much information, they want to know that you and your organization have something new to teach them. Even more important, you need to help readers absorb, buy into, and use the information you provide through your blog.

At the same time, (recalling the Journal researchers’ advice about supporting consumers’ confidence in their own financial knowledge), even when it comes to myth debunking in blogs, our content has the potential of rubbing readers the wrong way. People generally don’t like to have their assertions and assumptions challenged, even when they came to a website seeking information on a particular subject.
As a blog content writer, then, you want the provider (vendor or practitioner) to be perceived as a subject matter expert who is offering usable information and insights in addition to readers’ own knowledge level…

To the extent you’re successful, the blog content itself constitutes a Call to Action!  Once readers feel assured that you’re “meeting them where they are”, they might be ready to take action before they even read all the way into the blog post!


Inviting Blog Readers to Learn What You Live By

blogs reveal corporate culture

Of the 17 best examples of business blog design cited by Carolyn Edgecomb of, the one I think best embodies a point I emphasize to blog content writers is the Zappos website. “If you thought their blog was only going to talk about shoes, you’re sorely mistaken,” Edgecomb points out, because Zappos transitioned their blog to an “outlet for inspiration and everyday life.”

What we live by
Readers are invited to discover the ten core values central to the way the company does business, including building open and honest relationships, doing more with less, and being passionate and determined, and pursuing growth and learning.

Tony Hsieh Unlaced
Readers are invited to “walk a mile in the CEO’s shoes, discovering downtown Vegas from his point of view.

The Zappos blog is really a wonderful example of the fact that, in business blog posts, as compared to brochures, ads, or even the website itself, it’s easier to communicate the unique personality and core beliefs of the business owners.  Over time, in fact, a business blog becomes the “voice” of the corporate culture, whether the “corporation” (or partnership or LLC) consists of one person or many. In fact, when I’m “meeting” a business through its blog, I like to get a sense that the owners are tuned in to the bigger picture of what’s going on in their industry and to what’s happening the everyday world around them. I want to know what they “make of it all” from their little corner.

True, every online content writer must focus on what’s relevant to the searcher’s query. Yet, the more revealing the blog is of the owner’s slant on what’s going on – and what should be going on and how – the more engaging and interesting I’m likely to find that business’ blog posts.

The lesson I “preach” at Say It For You is that the content has to show searchers they’ve come to the right place to get what they’re after, and also show those searchers that the information, services, and products you have to offer are a good fit. But, as the old sales mantra goes,– “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!”

Invite blog readers to learn what you live by!


There’s More Than One Way to “Skin” a Blog Post

skinning a blog post
The proverb “There’s more than one way to skin a cat” certainly applies to blog content marketing.

Darren Rouse of, for example, lists no fewer than twenty types of posts, including instructional and informational posts, reviews, interviews, and case studies. Interestingly, Rouse mentions collation posts; the term describes many entries in this Say It For You blog, in which I gather content creation advice from others, presenting that helpful information to my readers.

Maurice of offers a combination of review and collation posts, in “The Essential List of 8 Productivity Blogs with Different Approaches to Efficiency”, compiling a list of experts in the time management field, explaining each author’s approach, and commenting on who might find that author a good source of advice.

I found two types of posts included on the Problogger list especially interesting and worth a try:

Prediction posts
The blog writer looks ahead, predicting what new developments in their niche might occur over the next year.

Hypothetical posts
These are ‘what-ifs”, about something that might happen in your field and what the implications would be if it did.

Some eight years ago, I examined the blogs of five companies that had been recognized on Forrester’s Top 15 Corporate Blogs list, noting the reasons reviewers had liked the way these companies presented their information. Favorable comments included these:

  • “rarely blogs about their products, instead devoting their blog content writing t sharing advice about business….”
  • “…blogs with a personal touch….”
  • “…employees share insights on technology,, hiring, and consulting…”
  • “…writes fun posts…”
  • “…posts advice on understanding the market…”

Rex London singles out the Awkward Situations for Girls blog, calling it a “masterpiece” because the author “catalogues disasters, embarrassments, and truly awkward situations that she finds herself in on a fairly regular basis”. London’s choice brings out a point I believe every business owner and content writer ought to keep in mind: writing about past failures is important. True stories about mistakes and struggles are very humanizing, adding to the trust readers place in the people behind the business.

There’s certainly more than one way to “skin” a blog post!


How Much Do Your Blog Readers Actually Know About Your Company?


which of the two


Yet another great blog content idea sparked by the latest issue of Mental Floss magazine is a “Which of the Two….” quiz. Which product or brand has locations in more countries worldwide – a) McDonald’s or b) Burger King? Which is known for its brown delivery trucks and uniforms – FedEx or UPS? Which is licensed to the Hershey Company by Nestle – a) Kit Kat or b) Milky Way?

By adding interactive content to your blog, advises Kaleigh Moore of, you stand to make more impact and help your blog content stand out from the noise. Josh Haynam of goes a step further, telling marketers that the word “actually” is very compelling, posing a challenge from which readers won’t want to back down: How much do you actually know about….?” Interactive quizzes are huge lead magnets and have high conversion rates, Simply Amanda agrees.

At Say It For You, we look at trivia as components of a “toolbox” for blog content writers. Continually coming up with fresh content to inform, educate, and entertain readers is a pretty tall order for not only busy entrepreneurs and employees, but even for professional content writers. That’s exactly why I’m constantly on the prowl for blogging “foodstuff”, trivia that can be used to explain concepts, sharing with readers each of our clients’ unique point of view within their own profession or industry and within the community. The interactive quiz serves as a lead-in to sharing that kind of discussion.

“Which of the Two” quizzes can be used in business blogs to:

  • define basic terminology
  • compare one company or practice to others
  • demonstrate unique problem solutions
  • put matters into perspective, explaining why this business owner or practitioner has chosen to operate in a certain way

“Which-of-the-two” can be one way to challenge and engage blog visitors and to find out – just how much DO your readers know about your company and industry?


In Your Blog, Give Them Hints They Weren’t Hunting


Political speak’s in season, for sure. One of the many terms you might hear bandied about is gerrymandering, which is what happens when politicians manipulate the redrawing of district lines to help their own party win more seats. And, while this Say it For You blog is about content writing, not politics, the Mental Floss magazine article on the origin of the term gerrymandering illustrates one way we can capture blog visitors’ interest. Two features of the article worth noting:

  1. The title is in the form of a question – “Who was the ‘Gerry’ of Gerrymandering?” Where, What, Why” titles work, Location Rebel posits, because they promise that by reading the article you’ll learn something new along with finding a solution to your problem.
  2. The topic offers a jumping-off point or “trigger” for blog content. (Most readers will not have known the origin of the term gerrymandering or imagined that it was named for a person named Gerry; I know I didn’t!). Demystifying an arcane piece of information, I teach at Say It For You, allows business owners or practitioners to clarify how some technical terms used in their own field came into use.

After the initial few paragraphs, I must admit, I found that the Mental Floss article wasn’t a great example for business blog content writers, after all. Why not? The writer shares a rather long narrative without ever giving readers a reason to act. Even the author’s observation that Elbridge Gerry might have gone down in history as Father of the Bill of Rights, but instead “is remembered first and foremost for another, less admirable claim to fame” is buried in the middle of the content rather than being used as either a “pow” opener or to sum up the story at the end.

“A salesman wonders how to get his next sale. A mentor cares about his students. He wants to help them get ahead and live a more fulfilled life,” business writing coach Henneke Duistermaat advises. In your blog, she says, you’re starting a conversation, not asking people to buy.

Offering fascinating information – things readers weren’t even hunting – is a great way to start a conversation.


The Power of Blogging on Paper

notes on paper
Paper can be our valuable ally when our mission is learning something, the authors of Mental Floss magazine explain – in fact, we “get empowered by taking notes on paper,” as many scientific studies prove.

Interestingly, while the blog posts that I and my Say It For You writers create are meant to be read online, there are some valuable tips in this article about note-taking that can be used to organize business blog content.

Mental Floss describes three basic methods for taking handwritten notes – the Outline Method, the Cornell Note-taking System, and the Mapping Method. Each can be used in formatting informative blog posts to make them more engaging and easier for readers to understand.

The Outline Method
This method uses topic titles, followed by indented subtopics (either numbered or with bullet points.

The Cornell Method
This method uses a chart-like method, with each page divided into two columns with one row at the bottom. Students would use the larger right-hand area to record notes, then later add questions and comments of their own in the left-hand column, with an overall summary in the bottom section.

The Mapping Method
This system is nonlinear, with the main topic inside a bubble, and spider legs that lead to secondary thoughts or sources.

As a business blogger, I’m kind of partial to bullet points, and from what I’ve been told, Google and other search engines like them, too. Online searchers who have found our blog posts, remember, aren’t getting the information out of our mouths; we have only our written words, with perhaps some charts or pictures, to engage their attention. The fact that lists and bullet points are generally a good fit for blogs is something I have always stressed in corporate blogging training sessions. What I’ve found over the years is that lists help keep both readers and writers on track.

The “mapping method”, I think, can be adapted for blog series, where you’re exploring different aspects of the same topic in a group of three to four posts. A recent series for a hospital supply corporation blog, for example, offered four different blog posts about bariatric surgery, each of which emphasized one aspect of the topic, The first discussed all the preparation needed on the part of both the patient and the family members leading up to the surgery. Another post compared different methods being used in bariatrics; a third post discussed the psychological aspects of this type of life-changing surgery.

Each blog post, of course, is meant to be shared online. But for us blog content writers, we can get empowered as we plan by taking notes on paper.


Writing Blogs in the Shower

creative blogging
Everybody knows it – our best ideas come to us in the shower. But why is that? Mental Floss explains that “you’re more likely to have a creative epiphany when you’re doing something monotonous like showering”. Since monotonous daily routines don’t require much thought, the authors explain, your brain flips to autopilot and the prefrontal cortex is activated; you’re able to make creative connections that your conscious mind would have dismissed. What’s more, since most of us shower in the morning or at night when we’re most tired, we’re at our creative peak, the journal Thinking and Reasoning tells us.

But is business blog writing supposed to be creative? Yes, indeed. Creative writing is any form of writing which is written with the creativity of mind. Nonfiction writing can be creative says, says, if the purpose is to express something, whether it be feelings, thoughts, or emotions.

The question author Malcolm Gladwell gets asked most often just happens to be the same I’m most often asked when offering corporate blogging training sessions: “Where do you get your ideas?” the trick, Gladwell explains, is to “convince yourself that everyone and everything has a story to tell.”

Continually coming up with fresh content to inform, educate, and entertain readers – well, that’s a pretty tall order for busy business owners and employees, and it’s a pretty tall order even for us professional content writers. 

At Say It For You, I’m constantly on the prowl for blogging ideas that I and my team of content writers can “store up” in preparation for those days when ideas just don’t seem to present themselves. In fact, I’ve found over the last ten years of working with business owners and professional practitioners, just about all of them can think of quite a number of things they want to convey about their products, their professional services, their industry, and their customer service standards. Yet, their biggest fear seems to be running out of blog content writing ideas.

Actually, I realized early on, it’s not that business owners (or the freelance blog writers they employ) don’t have enough ideas – it’s that those ideas need to be developed!  Where the creativity comes in is that in writing about the same few central themes, those themes need to be developed into fresh, interesting, and engaging content.

Next time your creativity seems to have hit the proverbial brick wall – just try blog writing in the shower!


Start a Blog Conversation About Soda

small companies


If you’re a big brand like Coke or SunChips, your brand is being talked about and you need to address the topic head-on, and only then spread out to more general conversation, says Gary Vaynerchuk in his book The Thank You Economy. On the other hand, he points out, if you’re Sally’s Orange Soda and no one’s talking about you, you need to do the reverse, meaning that you create a general soda conversation first.

Since most of the business owners and professional practitioners for whom we Say it For You writers are creating content fall closer to the Sally’s Orange Soda end of the spectrum, I found this Vaynerchuk observation particularly apropos.

Kevin Phillips of has some good ideas for business blog topics that fall into the “general conversation” category, including:

  • comparisons and pros and cons
  • how-tos and tutorials
  • classifications
  • laws and regulations
  • myths and misconceptions

What starting general conversation topics for blogs does not mean, Phillips is quick to explain, is providing amusing, interesting material that has nothing to do with your company’s field of expertise. The important things, he learned, are 1 .answering the questions the audience is asking and 2. asking yourself what the root problem is that your products and services help solve.

An interesting tidbit of information can form the nucleus for a “general conversation” provided that

a) the new information relates to something with which readers are already familiar

b) your reason for including that information in your past is readily apparent.

Suggesting new ways of thinking about things with which readers are already familiar makes for good general conversation fodder as well.

At some point, content writers must remember, all that “general conversation” about soda needs to lead back to Sally’s Orange Soda, positioning that small company as the “go-to” place for information and services.

If you’re a giant, you can start the blog conversation with you, is Vaynerchuk’s message. If you’re Sally, start a more general, informational conversation, but bring the readers “back home”.



Your Blog is the Lobby to Where You Live

At California’s Joie de Vivre Hotels, they care about the big and the little stuff, Gary Vaynerchuk explains in The Thank You Economy. That hotel company, the author explains is “doing its damndest to perfect the art of customization”. The message, from the moment travelers arrive at the front desk is this: “We love where we live and want you to love it, too.”

The home page of your website is like the lobby of a hotel, Enchanting Marketing observes. A simple headline should tell web visitors where they’ve arrived and what to expect. A photo helps humanize your business. In “How to welcome new visitors to your blog, Melissa Culberson names three things you must accomplish in welcoming first-time online searchers:

  1. Acknowledging the visitor (an About Blurb lets newcomers get a sense of who you are)
  2. Showing the visitor around with a Welcome or Start Here page
  3. Giving them something to do before they leave (liking you on social media, signing up for a newsletter, etc.)

The intent of most business tactics and advertising campaigns, Vaynerchuk asserts, is to entertain, inform, or scare the consumer into paying attention. The best tactics, though, benefit people who have already expressed an affinity for the brand, and are also designed to get those who work for the company “to think with their hearts as well as their heads.”

Blog content writers need to think with their hearts as well as their heads, as well. “In order to make people really like you, and really pay attention to your content, you need to give some of yourself – your emotions,” Kenneth Waldman writes in Build the story, he advises, and only then add the product or service, not the other way around.

Online visitors to your blog want to feel you understand them and their needs, of course, but they want to understand you as well, I teach at Say It For You. The stories you tell in your marketing blog have the power to forge an emotional connection between readers and you as a provider of products, services, and experiences.

Your blog is the lobby to where you live!


Blogging to Differ

differences between two thing

Some people think graveyards and cemeteries are the same thing, but they’re not, Jakub Marian, author of the book One Hundred Most Commonly Mispronounced English Words points out. Graveyards are on church property; cemeteries are not.

With July Fourth around the corner, Writing Explained wants readers to appreciate the difference between “half-mast” and “half-staff”. When a flag near civilian structures or homes on land is flown low on its pole, at ”half-staff”, that signifies a mournful salute, often for fallen soldiers, police officers, or politicians. The phrase “half-mast” means the same thing for flags on a ship or on a naval base..

“Companies all over the world regularly struggle with explaining the benefits of their products, William Craig observes in Forbes. One way to empower customers to make a decision, he says, is to help them understand the differences between various terms. As an example, Craig discusses two terms that tend to be used interchangeably and wrongly in the field of nutrition: probiotics and prebiotics. The first term has a “sizeable head start” in terms of marketing, he observes, but the scientific consensus is shifting towards the second. It’s important for companies competing in the nutritional supplement arena to double down on efforts to better educate the public.

As blog content writers, we’re part of that same struggle to educate both prospects on clients on the differences between various terms – and between one business’ products and services and those of its competitors. Demonstrating the differences, and, even more important, why those distinctions matter, becomes a core function of our content writing.

A couple of years ago, the AARP magazine featured a piece called “Knowledge is Power”. The author’s idea was that we should “put words in readers’ mouths” so that they can feel confident about protecting themselves from fraudsters. At Say it For You, we believe the same principle can be applied when it comes to empowering readers by teaching them the correct use of the terms that apply in that field of interest.

As I work with clients, whatever the nature of their business or professional practice, I always advise that we use the blog to provide information – especially new information – related to their field. Buyers feel empowered to make a decision when they feel they understand the terminology. Blogging to differ is a good idea!


Start By Being on Their Side

being on the side of the reader

In his 30-second “elevator speech” introducing himself at our InfoConnect2 networking meeting, fellow member Cody Lents shared something I think blog content writers need to hear.

Most sales processes, Cody said, go as follows:

  1. Here’s what we have to offer….
  2. Here’s how it works…..
  3. Here’s how it can help you……
  4. What do you think?…..

In contrast to that features/benefits model, Cody’s message to a prospect runs more like this: “I understand you have some problems with ……. Let’s figure it out together.”

Cody’s words reminded me of a post I published six years ago, called “Business Blog Readers Need Content Writers to Get One Thing Straight”. Recommending anything, I reminded blog content writers, before you’ve demonstrated you’ve done your homework and that you understand the readers’ needs, well that is not likely to have them following any of your calls to action.

There’s just so much information out there for searchers to use, so many bloggers telling  what they have to offer, how it works, and how they can help. What needs to come across loud and clear is that the business owners or practitioners understand the readers and those readers’ specific needs and problems.

Another aspect of putting ourselves in prospects’ shoes comes into play when our blog post is sharing industry and company or practice news and announcements. Readers must buy into the idea that this news is going to be important to them. In a way, the blog content writer is playing the role of an advisor, and people look to advisors for more than just information, even if the topic is highly relevant to their needs. Readers will be saying to themselves, “OK, I get it, but how does that news affect me?”

When it comes right down to it, the whole blog marketing thing is not really about search engine optimization, although that may be one motivating factor for starting a blog. What I believe it IS really about is providing those who find your site with a taste of what it would be like to have you working alongside them to help with their challenges and issues. (That’s true whether the business owner or practitioner is writing his or her own blog posts or working with professional content writers at Say It For You.)

You’ve gotta start on their side!


Blog to Show Both Sides of an Issue

  • two sides of an issue
    Are the oldest fossils really rocks?
    Is insomnia always dangerous?
    Is nervousness natural and healthy?
    Is eating potatoes as bad for teens as digital technology?

These are just a few of the debatable topics covered in recent issues of both Psychology Today and Prevention Guide. But whether the topic of your own blog marketing efforts is health or geology, the blog content itself, I teach at Say It For You, needs to use opinion to clarify what differentiates your business, your organization or professional practice from its peers.

Often, when I’m tutoring students at the Ivy Tech Learning Center, they will have been assigned
an “argument essay”. After selecting and researching a topic, the idea is that the students must present differing viewpoints, selecting the one they are out to “prove” is correct. Still, the finished essay must reflect both sides of the “argument”.

The same model holds true for business blog posts, I believe. It’s a good idea to offer perspective on different points of view when it comes to an issue within your industry or profession, explaining why you support one of the different possible approaches.

Last year, in fact, I titled one of my own blog posts “New Blogging Means Being Controversial”. The concept is that you can increase traffic and build engagement with controversial content, so long as your point of view is backed up with data – and, so long as you present arguments for both sides.

Of course, a big part of the “both sides” thing has to do with your target audience, I explain to blog content writers. More than ten years ago, I wrote about an article I’d read about the Alice Cooper rock music group, which (at least for back then) was sort of “over the top”, with electric chairs, fake blood, and a boa constrictor all part of the act. The author made the point that Alice Copper was focusing on the kids, using the principle “if the parents hate it, the kids will love it.”

So, yes, in your marketing blog, speak to both sides of an issue. Having done that, however, do all you can to speak to “your” side, and “your” target readers.


Blogging to Reveal the Reason

reason why
Readers usually arrive at business blogs because they need something. Then, as they progress through a post, they are asked to do something – subscribe, comment, take a survey, or buy products or services. All too often, though, the blog doesn’t provide compelling WHYs:

  • why this provider has chosen to be in this particular business or profession
  • why this product or service is delivered in this particular manner way
  • why the problem the reader may be experiencing is common
  • why understanding the origin of the problem can help solve it
  • why the solution the business owner or practitioner will work

As business blog content writers, I teach at Say It For You, we’re engaged in helping readers reason their way to doing business with the business owners and professional practitioners who’ve hired us to tell their story. It’s not that there’s a lack of information sources; if anything, there’s a glut of data available to online searchers! What readers need from us, then, is not more information, but help in reasoning through all that information so that problem-solving choices can be made.

The most recent issues of two magazines help illustrate my point. The July 2019 issue of Consumer Reports lists several useful why tidbits (each of which might be used in the marketing blogs of quite a number of different businesses and professional practices):

  • why deep dents or bulges in cans means they need to be tossed (bacteria may have been let in)
  • why drinking water is good for a headache (dehydration often is the cause of the pain)
  • why eating berries is good for you (they contain anti-inflammatory anthocyanins)

Meanwhile, the June 2019 issue of Discover magazine has two especially useful whys:

1. why the human foot was the key to humans dominating the animal kingdom (with locomotion on two legs, the upper limbs were freed to make and use tools, including weapons). Think podiatrists, shoe company, health provider blogs….
2.  why smart phones are so addictive (the human brain craves instant gratification and unpredictability). Think parental advice blogs, phone companies, tutorial services…..

One company, WageWorks, a provider of Health Savings Accounts for employees get the why idea: “We won’t tell you which HAS to pick. We’ll just tell you why it should be us.”

For every piece of information you provide in your blog content, tell them why that is so. Most important, tell ‘em why it should be you!


The Short Tale of Long-Tailing it in Blogging for Business

  1. long tail keywords

In the animal world, fellow Mensan Bob Truett pointed out, there are several purposes for tails, including:

  • balance (as the animal climbs)
  • temperature control (for cover in the cold, for fanning in the heat)
  • defense (to swat enemies o
  • social purposes (dogs wagging their tails)

In the internet world, the concept of the “long tail” is based on the fact that when searchers type in very specific, three-to-four word phrases to describe what they want, those searchers are more likely to convert (to become buyers). The term “long tail keyword” itself comes from the 2006 book The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, which talks about niche marketing. The author explains that in brick and mortar stores, there is only so much shelf space, so marketers need to focus on their most popular products. On the internet, in contrast, where there is unlimited “space”, selling in relatively small quantities to people who want specific products, becomes eminently feasible. In fact, Neil Patel (one of my own go-to authorities) asserts, “The longer the keyword, the easier it is for you to rank well with that keyword.”

Winning search should not be the only goal. Business owners and practitioners who make the commitment to give blog marketing a spot in their overall business strategy stand to reap three types of benefits:

  1. The promotional benefit (the blog helps get customers excited enough to choose you over the competition).
  2. The credibility benefit (the blog demonstrates that you’re interested in using the latest tools to communicate with customers – you’re “in the game”).
  3. The training benefit (as you review the benefits of your own products and services and develop new ideas, you’re constantly learning to talk effectively about your business).

Long-tailing it is no shortcut to success, a thought I often share with blog content writers in this Say It For You blog. But, just as tails serve many functions in the animal world, blogging for business can add balance, grasp, defense, and social purpose in the world of the internet.


A Business Blog By Any Other Name

Shakespeare’s Juliet asked “What’s in a name?”, and the playwright supplied an answer -“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But would it? Do names matter?

Each year, the Social Security Administration publishes a list of the most popular baby names. Ten years ago, for example, parents were naming their boys Aiden, Jayden, and Ethan. (As of last year, the favorites were Liam, Noah, and William.) A decade ago, girls were being called Emma, Olivia, Ava, and Isabelle (Today the favorites still include Emma.)

One objective in business blogging is winning search, so what you “name” your post, in terms of both its title and the meta description (the 160-character snippets that appear on the search engine page), can matter a lot. lists different approaches content writers can take in “naming” their posts, including:

Start to finish guide….
Advanced guide to….
An in-depth guide to….

Where, What, Why
Here’s why….
What you can learn from…

The simple…
A simple strategy for….
…ing made simple…

At Say It for You, I often speak about “Huh?” and “Oh!” names for blog posts. The “Huh?s” need subtitles to make clear what the post is about. “Oh!s” titles are self-explanatory. The “Huh?s” are there to startle and arouse curiosity. The subtitle than clarifies what the focus of the piece will actually be. Ideally, the name of the product or service is inserted into the “Oh!” part of the title.

A blog post by any other name might “read as sweet”, but the function of the title is to get them reading in the first place!


Language That Leaves Foreigners Puzzled Can Be Perfect for Business Blogs

“If you grow up hearing certain expressions or phrases all the time, it can be easy to overlook how weird they actually are,” Alex Palmer writes in my favorite online mag, Mental Floss. “Americanisms” are sayings we take for granted, but often don’t realize they make no sense to foreigners.

Just a few of the phrases so far removed from their original meanings, (but which we Americans understand perfectly) include:

  • “Scoot over!”
  • “Break a leg!”
  • “Not a big fan…”
  • “Break this bill for me”
  • “Don’t be such a wet blanket!”
  • “He’s a keeper!”
  • “That’s right up my alley.”
  • “Spill the beans!”

Foreigners don’t share Americans’ cultural memories and understandings. Hearing that Michael had been assigned the graveyard shift, a foreigner might think he had gotten a job at the cemetery. And, since American football is barely followed outside this country, a foreigner would have no idea what the expression “Monday morning quarterback” means.

As a blog content writer, though, I have a different take on this very “outsider puzzlement”. I think it can be turned to our advantage, letting readers feel they have “insider” status with our products and with our company or professional practice. How so? By using an allusion to something people already know, we can clarify our own message while letting those readers feel like “members of our inner circle”. Even if only some of that audience understands some “cultural allusion” we’ve made, that can help those readers bond with us.

My own broader observation, based on working with Say It For You blogging clients from many different industries and professions, is that it’s a challenge to find the precise style of communication that will best connect with target readers. Yes, you want to avoid anything that is a barrier to understanding. At the same time, in blogging for business, language that leaves foreigners puzzled can leave readers feel right at home!


Educating Wasps and Readers

Not only are wasps smart, but they might also be even better at deducing logic than some humans, recent research at the University of Michigan reveals. The intriguing experiment involved educating wasps on the sequence of five colors assigned an alphabetical hierarchy by the researchers, and to avoid an electric shock, the wasps needed to learn which of two colors was “better”.

The kind of “reasoning” required of the insects is known as “transitive inference”, in which the insect need to take two separate pieces of information and draw conclusions. How did that work? One the wasps understood that colors higher up in the letter ranking were associated with the shock (choosing B over D or A over E avoided a shock), they needed to extrapolate that knowledge and apply it to other pairs of letters.

As a blog content writer, I was very interested in this quirky piece of Mental Floss content on several counts. At Say It For You, I often remark that in blogging for business, teaching is the new selling. Since customers have access to so much information, they want to know that you and your organization have something new to teach them. Even more important, you need to help readers absorb, buy into, and use the information you provide through your blog. Given the lack of time and the enormous competition for eyeballs, business bloggers need to help readers do that “transitive inference” bit, showing them ways in which individual pieces of information are related, perhaps in ways they hadn’t considered.

The report on the wasp-teaching experiment triggered a memory I have about a visit ten years ago to an indoor golf training center. Computer simulation technology was used to allow a player to consistently hit the ball straight. In contrast with traditional golf instruction’s focus on correcting a player’s faults and weaknesses, this training focused on having the student experience success. Compared to setting the learner up to learn through “transitive inference”, this style of teaching focused on offering a glimpse of a successful end result. When you’re composing business blog content, I tell writers, imagine readers asking themselves “How will I use the product (or service)?” “How will it work?” “How will I feel?” In your content, I teach, empathize with readers’ pain or problem, but give them a vision of a feel-better result.

There’s a lot to be gleaned from the teaching of wasps in teaching blog readers!


Blogging to Bust Myths and Build Trust


“Was the oldest woman a fraud?” asks, referring to French socialite Jeanne Calment, who appeared to be making history when she died in 1997 at the age of 122. (Later investigation revealed that Jeanne had actually died at the age of 59 in 1934. Her daughter had actually assumed Jeanne’s identity, later dying at the age of 99.) Valery Novoselov, assistant professor of the Department of Gerontology and Geriatrics of RUDN University, known for studying medical documents to investigate the deaths of famous Russians, was actually the mythbuster, revealing that the reason for the hoax had been to avoid the payment of inheritance taxes on Jeanne’s estate.

One of the bigger myths about trust, says Charles Green in, is that trust takes a long time to create, but only a moment to destroy. That in itself is a dangerous myth, Green contends. Human emotions take roughly as long to get over as they take to develop in the first place. Trust formed quickly, Green agrees, can be lost quickly; trust formed at a shallow level can be lost at the same level.  But trust formed deeply, or over time, takes deeper violations, or a longer time, to be lost. Thinking of trust as something you can lose in a minute makes you cautious and unlikely to take risks. But the absence of risk is what starves trust, is the point Charles Green wants to make. There simply is no trust without risk – that’s why they call it trust.

Business blog posts are actually the perfect medium for “mythbusting”, I teach at Say It For You. Blog content writing has the power to clear the air, replacing factoids with facts, allowing readers to see their way clear to making decisions. Offering little-known explanations that explode common myths is a good way to engage readers’ interest. Done right, blogging about myths related to our own products, services, and company history can provide value-packed “verdicts” on each false claim or misunderstanding. Citing statistics that disprove popular myths gives business owners and practitioners the chance to showcase their own knowledge and expertise.

There’s a proverbial fly in the ointment here, though. People don’t really like being proven wrong. And, since one of the purposes of any marketing blog is to attract potential customers to the business’ website, it would be a tactical mistake for blog writers to prove those online visitors wrong.  The skill lies in engaging interest, but not in “Gotcha! – I’m-the-expert-and-you’re-not” fashion. (Anyone might reasonably have come to the conclusion you did, should be the message, without knowing the facts I’ve researched and which am providing here.)

Many misunderstandings about a product or service present themselves in the natural order of business, in the form of questions and comments from readers and customers. Shining the light of day on that misinformation is one function of blogging, and, provided your blog post is well written, perhaps with a bit of tongue in cheek, it can offer enlightenment in a way that engages searchers and keeps them coming back.

The goal – blog to bust myths while building trust!


Please Stop Blogging the Same Story

storytelling in blogs
“Please stop telling that same story,” Elizabeth Bernstein begs in the Life & Arts section of the Wall Street Journal. Storytelling is supposed to be a bonding experience, she says, because, when we share our personal narratives, we disclose something about our values, our history, and our outlook on life. But the bonding benefits of storytelling only work if you’re good at it, she warns, and many of us aren’t. We simply tell tales we’re told before, tales that don’t have a point.

Bernstein offers some valuable “advice from the experts”:

  1. Have a point (the details of the story must convey the reason you’re sharing this story).
  2. Flesh out the characters in the story.
  3. Disclose something about yourself.
  4. Build tension.
  5. If you’ve told the story before, explain why you’re repeating it now.

As a professional blog content creator and trainer in corporate writing, I think storytelling is a perfect vehicle for blogging. While blog marketing can be designed to “win search”, once the searchers have arrived, what needs winning is their hearts, and that is precisely what content writers can achieve best through storytelling. The point? Showing why you are passionate about delivering your service or products to customers and clients.

The characters in the stories? They can be the people delivering the product and service, or they can be customers – what problems did they have that you helped solve? What funny things happened to them, to their kids, to their pets that relate to your product or service? Creating compelling business blog content can – and should – incorporate both people storytelling and product storytelling. In terms of disclosing, I recommend including anecdotes about customers, employees, or friends who accomplished things against all odds. That shifts the focus to the people side of your business, highlights the relationship aspects of your practice, plant, or shop.

To reach the point of building trust, there must first be some sort of “tension” or issue. Talking about industry issues and your strong opinion about those is a good path towards building trust through your business blog. Sharing your own failures helps others, Beccy Freebody writes. In business blogs, true stories about mistakes and struggles overcome are very humanizing, creating feelings of empathy and admiration for the entrepreneurs or practitioners who overcame the effects of their own errors. Award-winning sales training expert Tim Roberts agrees, saying there are two skills needed for an effective inquiry conversation with prospects: vulnerability and transparency.

Good business blogs, of course, offer valuable information to online readers. But, the fact is, people want to do business with real people. Blog stories, not the same old, same old story, but the ongoing story of you, your people, and the people you serve. 


Humor is a Gift to Be Opened Carefully When Blogging for Business

humor in blogs“Humor in business can be a remarkable gift,” Cheryl Snapp Conner writes. Skilled use of humor gets a point across, lightens the mood, and makes business owners appear more approachable, she says. Laughter is a great tool, Emily Roycraft of the ImpressionsBlog agrees, if you’re looking to build rapport with your customers. By pinpointing what is funny to your target audience, you can use humorous messages to connect with them. Stay away from controversial topics, though, Roycraft cautions, and never make a joke at a customer’s expense.

Bill Faeth, writing in the Inbound Marketing Blog, agrees with that warning. The reason comedies are typically outnumbered by dramas, he explains, is that being funny enough to make hundreds of people laugh without offending anyone is actually really tough. You can poke fun at yourself, Faeth suggests. Almost anything else, especially competitors or where they live – probably a no-no.

At the same time, I’ve come to realize over the past ten years with Say It For You, I’ve taught business owners and professional practitioners that one of the functions of a business blog is to offer different views on an issue before going on to explain why they are on one side or the other of that very issue. So long as the humor isn’t a put-down of your competitors or of those who might disagree with your take, it can serve as an icebreaker.

A number of years ago, I found material on some research done at the Saimaa University of Applied Sciences on the impact of humor in advertising. The researchers concluded that, while humor is an effective method of attracting attention to advertisements, it does not offer an advantage over non- humor at increasing persuasion.

At a National Speakers Association of Indiana meeting I attended years ago, I remember some information provided by humor speaker Jeff Fleming. One technique often used in comedy, Fleming said, is an exaggeration. Done right, he explained, exaggeration can relax the audience while emphasizing points you want them to remember. (Well…I don’t know about that, I recall thinking. Exaggeration may be OK for speakers, but we blog content writers need to be very, very careful with it, because we’re trying to build trust with readers.) The only way to adapt the technique to business blogs, I concluded, was to use an exaggerated question about the readers’ current dilemma “hooking into” readers’ concerns, then following with serious, usable information about the relief and comfort they’ll experience using your products or services.

And, while Fleming reminded speakers that the stories they tell must be “spiritually accurate” (not necessarily factually accurate), when it comes to blogging for business, it’s crucial that we content writers be factually correct about the way our company or practice can be of help.

Humor is a gift, as both Conner and Fleming point out. But it’s a gift to be opened very carefully when blogging for business!


Stay Big or Go Small in Blogging for Business

long vs. short content in blogs
Your chances of being attacked by a shark aren’t great – about one in 11 million, Jen McCaffrey reassures readers of Readers’ Digest. That said, to avoid being “that one”, McCaffrey advises, “Stay big…or go small”. In other words, if the shark looks aggressive, try to maintain a strong presence; if it appears to be merely “swimming by”, avoid causing a commotion.

When it comes to blog marketing, there is an ongoing debate about the relative benefits of longer vs. shorter articles for blog post content. does a good job, I think, of presenting factors to consider:

Reasons to go small:

  1. Readers’ attention spans are shorter than in previous years and shorter articles are easier to digest. Copyhackers quotes a Forbes article that says, “Write short, pithy posts. After 750 words – or sometimes after only half that – you risk losing your reader’s attention.”
  2. It is easier to produce content regularly with shorter posts. “Successful short content is posted consistently, copyhackers remarks.

Reasons to go big:

  1. Longer posts cover a topic more deeply and may be more valuable to readers. Long form content of over 1,000 words consistently receives more shares and links than shorter form content, a study of more than a million posts revealed.
  2. Search engines have been favoring longer content. That same study showed that among the most compelling drivers of high rankings was longer content.

As a blog content writer and trainer at Say It For You, I was happy to read the  added BlogTyrant comment: “It’s not all about size.” What IS it about, then?

  • Uniqueness and usefulness. “Google wants a variety of solutions for readers.”
  • Accuracy and citations. Articles with links to authority articles are favored by Google.

Still, the long vs. short remains one of the “holy wars” of blogging for business. As a professional providing blog writing services, to what side of that “holy war” do I lean?  Both!  It’s definitely important, in each post, to offer enough information to convincingly cover the key theme of that post. Including links to other commentaries on the subject allows the reader the option to “go deeper”. “One message per post” is a mantra I pass on to every newbie blog content writer, with each post having a razor-sharp focus on one story, one idea, or one aspect of the theme.

No need to make one overriding decision when it comes to your blog. Similar to the judgment call required when a shark is approaching you, with each blog post you can choose to stay big or go small!


Attract, Don’t Demand Attention with Stick Blog Content

Making messages deliver impact is, of course, “our thing” as business blog content writers, and this week’s Say It For You blog posts are devoted to sharing wisdom from Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick. 

We can’t succeed if our messages don’t break through the clutter to get people’s attention, the authors point out, and surprise gets our attention, Chip and Dan Heaths agree. Opening your blog post with a startling statistic can be a way to grab visitor’s attention, I often point out to writers, adding power and focus to posts, and showcasing your own knowledge and expertise.

“If you want your ideas to be stickier, you’ve got to break someone’s guessing machine and then fix it.” Gimmicky surprises can’t do that job; you must target an aspect of your audience’s thinking that relates to your own core message, the Heaths emphasize. To be satisfying, the surprise must be “post-dictable”, so that the next step becomes obvious to readers.

But we also can’t succeed if we can’t keep people’s attention, the authors caution. I agree. My experience as a blogger and as a blogging trainer – has shown me that statistics, even the startling sort, aren’t enough to create positive results for any business or practice. We need to search for sticky ideas that have the power to maintain our interest over time – and to propel action.

The authors offer specific steps to follow in crafting a message:

  1. Identify the central message you want to communicate.
  2. Figure out what is counterintuitive about the message. Why isn’t the result already happening naturally?
  3. Communicate the message in a way that “breaks the audience’s guessing machine”.
  4. Help them refine their “machine” with a solution.

    Item #1 on this list is the foundation. It’s advice writers too often forget; their blog content is often the worse for it. Each article, each blog post, I teach, should have a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of a business or practice.

Using the counterintuitive is an excellent tool for engaging interest. But in creating blog content, I add, look beyond the surprise. The risk content writers face is being perceived as “bait and switch” advertisers. The unlikely comparison must clarify issues, helping readers get the answers they came to find.

Attract attention with sticky blog content that gets and keeps people’s attention by offering solutions.


The Pomelo Schema for Business Blogs

To make a profound idea compact, you’ve got to pack a lot of meaning into a little bit of messaging. Chip and Dan Heath wrote the book Made to Stick to help readers who have ideas to convey and who want to make sure their messages are understood and remembered (that they “stick”). Since, for us business blog content writers, messaging is a core mission, what the Heaths call “the pomelo schema” is a concept well worth our attention.

A schema helps create a complex message from simple material, and the authors illustrate the point by presenting two ways of explaining what a pomelo is:

Explanation #1: A pomelo is the largest citrus fruit with a thick, soft, easy-to-peel rind. The fruit has light yellow to coral pink flesh and may be juicy to slightly dry, with a taste ranging from spicy-sweet to tangy and tart.

Explanation #2: A pomelo is a supersized grapefruit with a thick, soft rind.

(The second explanation “sticks a flag” on a concept the audience already knows, making it easier for them to learn new material.)

In business blog posts, I teach at Say It For You, don’t try to give searchers information about everything you have to offer. Instead, in each post, stress just one major aspect of your company or practice. And, since you want the blog to stand out and be unusually interesting, one tactic to try is putting two things together that don’t seem to match. But, in my view, making the right unusual comparison can actually accomplish even more than teaching a complex concept using the “pomelo schema” method.

One big challenge in business blogs, newbie content writers soon learn, is sustaining the writing over long periods of time without losing reader excitement. Similes and metaphors (“pomelos”, if you will), help readers “appreciate information picturesquely”, as 19th century newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer once put it. Unlikely comparisons evoke pictures in readers’ minds:

“Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.”

“The challenge many blog writers face is that they want to write a blog that their clients will love and that also markets their company. The problem is that clients are worn out by constant advertising,” Martin Woods of writes. If you advertise your product or service in your blog, odds are you’ll alienate your readers, he cautions. On the other hand, since the blog is part of the overall marketing plan, Woods says, it must remain relevant to the actual business. Pomelo schemas are just one tactic content writers can use to combine teaching with selling.


Blog Content Writers: To Vary Your Vocabulary, Learn From the Scots!

varying vocabulary in blogs
The Scots have no fewer than 421 words for snow, I learned just the other day. (This amazing discovery was made, I found out, as part of a study at the University of Glasgow, in preparation for publishing an online Historical Thesaurus.)

There are, for example, flindrikins (slight snow showers), snaw-pouthers (fine driving snow), and spitters (small drops or flakes of wind-driven rain or snow). What’s the big deal? Weather has been a vital part of people’s lives in Scotland for centuries, and the number and variety of words show how important it was for Scottish ancestors to communicate precisely about the weather affecting their livelihoods, one lecturer at the University explained.

Having devoted the last ten years of my life to wordsmithing of blogs, I know firsthand that variety can be the spice, not only of life in general, but of business blog content. And, while I’d be hardpressed to find 421 different ways to express any one concept, I know it’s absolutely important to build up a substantial “bank” of words ready for “withdrawing” at any time.
“Just as really good mechanics can pull out the right tools to make a good engine even more powerful, good writers power up their writing with a strong vocabulary,” says..

Gray Matter, the Elevate blog, explains that the larger your vocabulary, the easier it becomes to break away from old thought patterns. We view our thoughts as shaping our words, but our words shape our thoughts, too. A large vocabulary isn’t for showing off – it should be used to expand your thinking – and that of your readers. There’s just so much content out there – being boring is a certain path to the bottom of the heap when it comes to engaging readers and converting them to buyers. And with English, we have such a rich, rich language to work with, I tell writers.

One core “commandment” for us blog content writers is that everything we write must be about “them”, meaning the target readers. That means adjusting our communication style to appeal to different types of recipients. Changing communication styles in a blog gives us the chance to reach different types of readers, and that means varying our vocabulary.

While our personal “thesaurus” may not approach 421 different ways to describe snow, there’s a valuable lesson blog content writers can learn from the Scots – vary our vocabulary!


O.K., You’re Biased. Your Content is There to Tell ‘Em Why

opinion in blogging
Is coming across as biased a bad thing? Not when it comes to blog marketing, I concluded, after reading in the Guardian about a great lecture by writer Neil Gaiman. Gaiman started out the lecture he was giving on the importance of libraries by saying “It’s important for people to tell you what side they are on and why.” As an author of fiction over the last thirty years, Gaiman has been earning his living through his words, so it’s obviously in his interest, he admits, for people to read.

Journalists often feel compelled to try to prove they are “unbiased,” Walter Dean admits in a piece for the American Press Institute . “But what if they took a different approach, acknowledging that bias is built into the choices they make when deciding what to leave in or leave out? Draining a story of all bias can drain it of its humanity,” he says.

Serving as head of the Say It For You team of blog content writers, I’ve had a lot of time to ponder the notion. Our mission is to help business owners and professional practitioners frame their stories, letting readers know what they know how to do and what they offer. But in addition, they need to show what they stand for and what they stand against. One of the gurus I follow is Seth Godin. In the book, All Marketers Tell Stories, Godin says something really powerful: “Your opportunity lies in finding a neglected worldview, framing your story in a way that this audience will focus on.” That “worldview” is a bias.

As content creators, we are influencers. We have to be. The content itself needs to use opinion – call it bias if you wish – to clarify what differentiates that business, that professional practice, or that organization from its peers. Just why have you chosen this particular model for your business or practice? I loved this sentence from the University of Sussex Department of Communications and External Affairs about opinion pieces in general:

“The most important thing to remember is that “readers are not necessarily interested in what you do; they are interested in what you have to say.”


Content Writing With No Need to Doubt

buyers' doubts in blogs

During the winter months, look to the frozen food aisle. Says the Daily Meal. And for those doubtful concerning the loss of nutritional value through freezing, no worries. A research team at the University of California, Davis tested blueberries, broccoli, carrots, corn, green beans, peas, spinach, and strawberries, finding that “good frozen produce is essentially a head-to-head toss-up with good fresh produce.”

Anxiety and doubt about any decision is an autonomic nervous system response hard-wired into every human being, the Real Estate Realist reminds us, part of our instinctive reaction to sensing danger or threat in the wild. Salespeople must recognize that, in the final moment of indecision, their customers are likely to experience what’s known as “buyers’ doubt”, and you need to eliminate, or at least minimize the risk factor, advises Shaqir Hussyin of Wealth Academy. Two of the silent questions floating around the prospect’s mind, explains, “Can you prove it?” and “Who else says so?”.

“When you’re writing to attract customers, what you’re really doing is persuading them to choose you over someone else. People tend to take action when they’re presented with facts, not assertions,” Amy Pennza of the Content Factory asserts. At Say It For You, we absolutely agree. Searchers arrive at your blog already interested in your subject, but to move them to the next step, you need to prove your case by offering:

  •  statistics about the problem your product or service helps solve
  • “reverse proof”, comparing what you are proposing with alternatives on the market
  • “credential proof “, sharing your experience, degrees, and articles you’ve written

The Daily Meal article about frozen veggies was using a fourth type of proof, “evidential proof”, by citing the research done at the University of California. Just last month, in Who-Else-is-Doing-It Blogging for Business, I suggested yet another way to remove doubt and move readers to take action is using “who-else-is-doing-it” proof. According to the theory of social proof, as humans we are more willing to do something if we see other people doing it.

Answering those “silent questions” can prove to be one of blog content writing’s biggest strengths. Yes, we can prove it, and yes, there is somebody else who says so!


Content Meant for Mature Palates

blog content for mature palates


Decades ago, USA Today columnist Tammy Algood remembers, olives were always placed on the relish tray that only adults enjoyed, and no self-respecting kid ventured anywhere near the dish. Now, however, olives are a regular part of meals during the week. Algood goes on to explain that the olive is technically a fruit and, because it is remarkably bitter when it comes straight from the tree, it must be “cured”.

( defines “mature content” as content containing text, images and videos  contaiing nudity, offensive language and mature subject material, and marks that material Mature in its system.) Algood’s use of the term “mature” had no such connotation; her discussion of olives implied that they might appeal to the more sophisticated palates of people who have progressed beyond the basics of culinary information.

The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn describes ways to help content appeal to readers with more “mature palates”:

  • Choose a topic that is at the intersection of your knowledge and your customers’ needs.
  • Be thorough and definitive, covering all the angles and corollary topics as well.
  • Use outside experts to add credibility.

“Niche is a poor substitute for a defined audience,” writes Pratick Dholakiya in If you’re a landscaper, he says, your target audience isn’t a bunch of landscapers, he says, but people from all walks of life: engineers, managers, marketers, and homemakers. You don’t teach people about landscaping he says, but talk about whatever it is they care about. Once you’ve defined your audience, you’re free to mix and match ideas from a wide variety of subjects and apply them to the problems your target audience cares about, Dholakiya says, helping readers see something in a new way.

To be perceived as not only a provider, but an influencer, I teach at Say It For You, you need to formulate – and clearly state – your opinions. Sophisticated consumers may already know a lot about the subject that drew them to your website, which means that content meant for those “mature palates” must offer direction, even when that direction goes against conventional thinking.

Even true olive lovers will find the fruit remarkably bitter and in need of ‘curing” in the form of guidance. Content meant for mature palates goes beyond the relish tray!