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!
.

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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!

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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!

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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 hubspot.com. “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!

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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, vappingo.com 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, Walsworth.com 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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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 impactbnd.com, 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!

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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 Problogger.com, 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 Tasklabels.com 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!

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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 Snapapp.com, you stand to make more impact and help your blog content stand out from the noise. Josh Haynam of copyblogger.com 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?

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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.

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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.

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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 writerstreasure.com, 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!

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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 Impactbnd.com 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”.

 

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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 mention.com. 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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

LocationRebel.com lists different approaches content writers can take in “naming” their posts, including:

Guides
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!

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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!

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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!

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Blogging to Bust Myths and Build Trust

mythbusting

“Was the oldest woman a fraud?” asks Smithsonian.com, 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 trustedadvisor.com, 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!

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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. 

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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!

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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. Blogtyrant.com 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!

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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.

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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 semrush.com 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.

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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,” Time4writing.com 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!
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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.”

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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 saleforcetraining.com, “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!

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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”.

(WordPress.com 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 BigCommerce.com. 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!

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Most People Want a Story in Their Blog

power of story

 

“Most people want a diamond ring for their 50th anniversary. I chose a titanium knee,” begins a Community Health Network advertorial, sharing the story of patient “Pat G.”, whose sole purpose in undergoing a total knee replacement was to dance with her husband at their 50th anniversary party. “At age 75” the story continues, “her next goal is to outlive the 20 years warranty on that new titanium knee.”

“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller,” says Matthew Luhn, author of The Best Story Wins. But, if the story is not about the hearer, he will not listen, as John Steinbeck famously said. As a blog content writer, I realize that not everyone who sees that Community Health Network piece will be “shopping” for a new knee, but the story about Pat G. makes readers think about what might help them fulfill their own dream for a healthy, active retirement.

Story is passion, Luhn teaches. “The emotional juice in a story all comes back to the fears and/or deeply rooted passions that drive a character. Using the anecdote, rather than just touting the advantages of Community Health Network, is what gives the advertorial its impact. “People read, watch, and tell stories not because they are enthralled with the story structure, but because they are invested in what will happen to the characters in the story.”

In blogging for business, what’s going to have the greater likelihood of converting searchers to buyers: writing about the product or service, or writing about the business owners and service providers? 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, highlighting the relationship aspects of your practice, plant, or shop.

Be sure your content includes not only HOW your product or service benefits users, but WHY. Tell the story behind the place, the products, and the people. Most people want a story with their blog!

 

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What If You Saw Only Half the Blog?


Ticket revenue covers just half of what it costs to produce world-class professional theatre at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, theatergoers learn while scanning the program booklet. So???

As John Pullinger puts it in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, “statistics provides a special kind of understanding that enables well-informed decisions. As citizens and consumers we are faced with an array of choices. Statistics can help us to choose well.” But the first choice that people make when presented with a statistic, is whether to take any action at all. From a blog marketing point of view, that IRT statistic in and of itself was a nonstarter. In other words, as a theatre patron, I didn’t feel moved to do anything relating to the funding shortfall. On the other hand, that question – “What if you saw only half the play?” Now, that had “punch” enough to make me reach into my pocket.

“Research shows that people are persuaded to take action or change their minds when you speak to both their heads and their hearts”, says Dr. Stephanie Evergreen, author of Presenting Data Effectively: Communicating Your Finds for Maximum Impact. Numbers give us quantifiable information, but when it comes to communicating how things will actually impact our real lives, some form of humanizing or grounding the data is often effective, Barnard Marr explains in Forbes.

Citing statistics is, without doubt, one tactic blog content writers can use to capture readers’ attention.  But my experience at Say It For You has shown me that statistics, even the startling sort, aren’t enough to create positive results for any marketing blog. What statistics can do is assure readers they are not alone in their need for solutions, plus assure them they’ve come to the right place for help. Still, the “so what? Will need to be addressed.X

It’s simply not good enough to just throw out a statistic demonstrating a need. In corporate blog writing, it needs to be about them, the readers. That means the “because” needs to be presented in terms of advantage to the reader for following any call to action. What if you only saw half the play?

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Stretching a Business Blog Just So Far

Lasting just over an hour, Dumbo is Disney’s shortest feature-length movie, Stacy Conradt writes in Mental Floss magazine. When Walt Disney was advised to extend the storyline, here’s what he said: “You can stretch a story just so far and after that it won’t hold together.” Interesting – the newest Dumbo movie, just released this yet, is an hour and 52 minutes long, and the story “stretches” beyond the original tale…

In blogging for business, just how far can you “stretch the story” and still have the content “hold together”? The Nielsen Norman Group examines that precise question in “Long vs. Short Articles as Content Strategy”. Jakob Nielsen explores the question in terms of cost/benefit ratios. Cost relates to the amount of time it takes to read an article, while benefits represent the value users stand to get from the online information.

One conclusion is clear, the author says: people prefer to read short articles – people tend to be ruthless in abandoning long-winded sites; they mainly want to skim highlights. But, when the assumptions change, Nielson explains, that changes the metrics. Readers who want to know everything about a problem will find value in longer, more detailed articles. Still, most of the time, short articles contain more value per word. Want many readers? Focus on short, scannable content. Want readers who really need targeted solutions to complicated problems? Focus on comprehensive coverage. The very best content strategy, Nielson concludes, is one that mirrors users’ mixed diet.

Whether it’s a Dumbo film of business blog content writing, it’s all about the value you bring to your target audience. “This is why it’s so important,” Nielson stresses, “to optimize your content strategy for your users’ needs.

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The Royal Order of Blogging


Just one of the binding rules in English that native speakers know but don’t know they know, BBC’s Matthew Anderson pointed out, is that adjectives preceding nouns must go in a specific order:

  1. quantity or number
  2. opinion
  3. size
  4. shape
  5. age
  6. color
  7. origin/nationality
  8. material
  9. purpose

That rule is the reason, for example, that green great dragons can’t exist, but great green ones can. Your friend does not have a new nice house, but a nice new one. Obviously, non-native speakers have a great deal of trouble straightening it all out. In fact, 60% of the world’s languages put adjectives after the noun!  English is actually pretty rigid when it comes to adjectives. Try describing your” lovely little rectangular French silver whittling knife” in any other order, Gassie Werber of Quartz says, and you’ll sound like a maniac.

What’s more, that “Royal Order of Adjectives” is illogical, to say the least, because the further an adjective is from the noun, the less intrinsic it becomes, Katy Morton writes in listenandlearnusa.com. What’s more, it’s unusual for someone in everyday speech and writing to use three or more adjectives to puff up one noun.

As a blog content writer, I find it extremely important that the first two items in the Royal Order are quantity and opinion:

When Hubspot colleagues analyzed all their own blog posts to see which titles had performed the best in terms of search results, the top eight each included a number. “Numbers are a great way to set expectations for a post, telling readers what they’re going to get and how much of it”. The point of using numbered lists, I often teach, is to demonstrate that there are many ways in which your product or service is different. Statistics are attention-grabbing, demonstrating the extent of a problem, and conveying a great deal of information with minimal verbiage

What about opinion, second on the adjective list? Whether it’s business-to-business blog writing or business to consumer blog writing, the blog content itself needs to use opinion. Bloggers must be influencers, I advise clients and blog content writers alike. Whether it’s business-to-business or business to consumer blog writing, the blog content itself needs to use opinion to clarify what differentiates that business, that professional practice, or that organization from its peers.

 

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Blogging Who You Are

Ahead of the launch of its inaugural flight from Indianapolis to Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago, Spirit Airlines announced two new year-round flights coming to market this November.  Since Spirit is new to our airport, John Kirby, vice president of network planning, delivered some introductory remarks at the press conference:“We are a leisure airline, so we look for opportunities to enhance our leisure position in the marketplace.”

In training Say It For You business blog content writers, I can use this one sentence to talk about niches. A niche is all about serving a particular group of clients with a particular need, applying a solution to that need.  After all, that’s what we do as blog content writers – serve niche markets.  As writers, we define a narrow target audience made up of people who are already looking for products, information, and services relating to a particular need they have.  For our part, rather than presenting ourselves (or the clients who’ve hired us to write for them), as knowing a little about a lot of things, we demonstrate that the owners are uniquely informed – and passionate – about just one or two.

“When approaching a new market niche, it’s imperative to speak their language.  In other words, you should understand that market’s ‘hot buttons’ and be prepared to communicate with the target group as an understanding member – not an outsider,” advises Kim T. Gordon, writing in Entrepreneur Magazine. That advice is particularly applicable to business blogging, and that principle is part of the “Power of One” concept on which Say It For You was founded. “The more focused a blog is, the more successful it will be in converting prospects to clients and customers.

Spirit’s “We are a leisure airline” is a great example of “blogging who you are.” It relates to what I call the “training benefit” of blogging.  When you create and maintain a blog, you’re verbalizing the positive aspects of your business in a way people can understand.  You’re putting your accomplishments down in words. You’re reviewing the benefits of your products and services, keeping those fresh in your mind.  You reveal some of the early struggles that helped you forge your business beliefs.  In other words, the very act of blogging provides constant training on how to talk effective about your own business or practice.

 

 

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Mythbusting? Don’t Forget to Throw the Camel a Coat!

mythbusting in blogs

“Was it daylight savings time this weekend?” Brett Molina asked a couple of weeks ago in USA Today. “Nope. But it was daylight saving time.” Molina goes on to explain (citing a post from the blog Grammar Errors), that “daylight savings time” is grammatically incorrect, and that, next time, we should lose the “s” along with that hour of sleep, because there are not multiple savings.  Grammar Cops is even more precise, explaining that we don’t really save daylight; the term Daylight Shifting Time would be more accurate.

Reading this little information-you-could-have-done-without essay, (with eyes simultaneously crossing and glazing over), I couldn’t help remembering a Say It For You blog post I composed almost ten years ago. In “Myth-Bust in Your Blogs, but Give the Camel a Coat”, the point was this: While mythbusting is a great use for corporate blogs, since addressing misinformation shines light on the owners’ special expertise, the technique must be used with caution.

You see, just prior to writing that original blog post, I’dread in the Book of General Ignorance that camels do not store water in their humps – they store fat. Far from appreciating the new insight, my reaction was a bit resentful – something I’d taken as true for all of my life, was, in fact, a lie. But then, authors Lloyd and Mitchelson “threw me a coat” in the form of interesting new information about camels: When a camel builds up resentment towards human beings, a handler can calm the animal by handing over his own coat to the beast, who “gives the garment hell”, biting it, jumping on it, and tearing it. After that pressure is relieved, the authors explained, “man and animal can live together in harmony again.”

Now ten years later, I felt an identical twinge of resentment about Brett Molina’s correcting the Daylight Savings Time misnomer. Business blog writing lesson relearned: When debunking myths, follow up by throwing readers a “coat” in the form of some intriguing, little-known information related to your industry.

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Saint Patrick’s Blue Blog Content Writing

Okay, so you wore that green tie or green jacket on St. Patty’s day and had yourself a good time, but now, almost two weeks later, I think you might be ready for the truth. Several truths, actually. Since at Say It For You, I teach that mythbusting is one very legitimate and important function of blog writing, I want to pass along a few super-busts straight out of one of my favorite sources – Mental Floss magazine.

For starters, St. Patrick wasn’t Irish. (He did introduce Christianity to Ireland back in the year 432, but the man himself was born in Scotland or Wales.) His real name wasn’t even Patrick – it was Maewyn (he changed it to Patricius after becoming a priest.) What’s more, though we’ve come to associate Kelly green with the holiday, the saint’s official color was St. Patricks blue. (The color green was linked to St. Patrick’s Day only later, during the late-18th century Irish independence movement.) Perhaps the most startling “bust” has to do with the fact that St. Patrick’s Day started out as a dry holiday; up until the 1970s, pubs were closed on that national holiday!

So, what’s the point of all this? Well, mythbusting can be used to counteract counterproductive thinking, and I’m a firm believer that a big function of business blogs is doing just that. In the normal course of doing business, you’ve undoubtedly found, misunderstandings about your product or service might surface in the form of customer questions and comments.  (It’s even worse when those myths and misunderstandings don’t surface, but still have the power to interrupt the selling process!) By myth-busting, blog content writing can “clear the air”, replacing factoids with facts, so that buyers can see their way to making decisions.

Myth-busting is also a tactic content writers can use to grab online visitors’ attention. The technique is not without risk, because customers don’t like to be proven wrong or feel stupid.  The trick is to engage interest, but not in “Gotcha!” fashion. Business owners and professional practitioners can use their blogs to showcase their own expertise without “showing up” their readers’ lack of it.

‘Course you’re still going to wear green, not blue, next March, but at least that decision will be based on the facts!

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Of-the-People Blogging Content Writing

Brand positioning is still important, but ensuring you have the right people to deliver on your brand is, too, Advisa leadership consultant Mandy Haskett points out in a recent Indianapolis Business Journal article. All the ping pong tables in the world won’t be enough to keep people working in roles that don’t align with their own inherent motivating needs, Haskett cautions, talking about talent optimization, which is matching the “job personality” with that of the employee performing that job.

Scott Greggory of Forbes calls it “highlighting your humanity to help your brand stand out”. “If your company sells a certain brand of tires, cell phones, or frozen pizza, you are literally no different from every other establishment that sells the same item,” Greggory says. What differentiates your company and builds loyalty is only a more human experience, he asserts.

Every business class studies the “4 Ps of marketing”: product, price, place, and promotion. As a blog marketing professional, I like what marsdd.com had to say about changing the 4 Ps to four Cs, butting the customer’s interests ahead of those of the marketer:

  1. Customer solutions (not products)
  2. Customer cost (not price)
  3. Convenience (not place)
  4. Communication (not promotion)

Brian Tracy (one of my longtime heroes back from my National Speakers Association days) has it right, adding a seventh P to his marketing list. “The final P of the marketing mix is people. Develop the habit of thinking in terms of the people inside and outside of your business who are responsible for every element of your sales, marketing strategies, and activities.” Tracy says. “It’s amazing how many entrepreneurs and businesspeople will work extremely hard to think through every element of the marketing strategy and the marketing mix, and then pay little attention to the fact that every single decision and policy has to be carried out by a specific person, in a specific way. “

In Creating Buzz With Blogs, veteran business technology consultant Ted Demopoulos explains, “Blogs create buzz because people will feel like they know you, and people like to do business with people they know.”  After more than ten years of writing content for business owners and professional practitioners, I’m absolutely convinced that’s true. People shop for products and services, but when all is said and done, they buy with their hearts. What that means is that the best blogs give readers into a company’s core beliefs, and help readers meet the people inside that company. And, while blogging can help achieve quite a number of goals, including:

  • building good will
  • staying in touch with existing customers and clients
  • announcing changes in products and services
  • controlling damage done by negative PR or by complaints
  • recruiting employees,

the most important function of your blog is expressing your brand in terms of the people behind it!

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Best Days Blogging for Business

 

Want to know the best day in 2019 to begin a diet? Straighten hair? Lay shingles? The Old Farmer’s Almanac can tell you, based on the moon’s astrological signs. There’s a “best day”, according to astrologist Celeste Longacre, to:

  • buy a home
  • pick fruit
  • pour concrete
  • wean an animal
  • wash the floor
  • paint
  • lay shingles
  • get a perm
  • make jelly and jam
  • go camping
  • get married

Since chicks born under a waxing moon in Cancer, Scorpio, or Pisces are healthier and mature faster, eggs should be “set” (placed in an incubator or under a hen) 21 days before the desired hatching time, we learn.

Fascinating stuff. In fact, I thought, naming a “best time” for certain activities can be an effective “template” for serving up information to business blog readers. From the list above, for example, I can see:

  • a real estate company’s blog post about the best time to buy a home or paint
  • a home repair company’s blog about pouring concrete and laying shingles
  • a beauty products seller’s blog about perms
  • a caterer’s blog about the best time to plan a wedding

Is there a best time to publish blog posts?

Garrett Moon of CoSchedule.com reviews the results of a study by Kissmetrics:
The highest percentage of users read blogs in the morning.
The average blog gets the most traffic around 11AM on Mondays.

Blogtyrant.com came to a different conclusion: The most traffic is around on a Wednesday, between 9:30 and 11 USA East Coast time, he says.

Managing Editor Erin Balsa has a practical piece of advice: if the majority of your traffic lives in Los Angeles, distribute your content on weekday mornings at Pacific time; if they’re in New York or Boston, the mornings on Eastern time.

As a blog content writing trainer, my second favorite piece of advice comes from Karen Evans, founder of Start Blogging Online! Karen reveals “the surprising truth” – there IS NO universal best time to publish. What works for one blog might not work for yours.

My very favorite advice comes from Rob Steffens of blueadz.com. Ron tells bloggers: “Remember, riming isn’t everything; consistency is key.”

You may not need an astrologer to pinpoint your own best days for blogging for business!

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The Pros and Cons in Backyard Business Blogging

 

“The Pros and Cons of Backyard Livestock”, by Jack Savage (the piece appears in the 2019 Old Farmer’s Almanac) illustrates how serious stuff can be presented in a wickedly funny way. And, while not every business blog content writer could pull off the humor, that “Pros and Cons” format is very workable as a template for informational blog posts. Savage offers his advice in five sections: chickens, horses, goats, pigs, and cows. For each, the author gives some background information:

Chickens – the world has 3x as many of them as humans.
Pros: eggs
Cons: keeping them safe from foxes, coyotes, and weasels
.
Horses – you’ll be feeding your horse, but your horse will not be feeding you, and the horse will have final say over who rides whom.
Pros: You can ride a horse
Cons: Writing checks to the hay guy, the vet, the tack shop, the truck-and-trailer dealership.

Goats are highly social, curious, interactive, and smart ruminants (chew their cud).
Pros: Hilarious
Cons: Feet and horns have to be trimmed, you’ll need to keep milking.

Pigs are cute when they’re young, not as filthy as their reputation suggests, and put on weight fast.
Pros: Bacon, ham, sausage, port roast (and did we mention bacon?)
Cons: Destructive, sunburn easily, butchering is serious business

Cows (also ruminants) make you feel like a real farmer and are a lot easier to handle than elephants.
Pros: Unadulterated milk and cheese
Cons: Find a large animal vet, and give him all your money.

In training business blog content writers, I call the technique Savage is using here “templating”. When you have several pieces of information to impart, I explain, consider ways to “unify” them under one umbrella or list category. In fact, at Say It For You, I’m always on the lookout for different “templates”, not in the sense of platform graphics, but in terms of formats for presenting information about any business or professional practice. The format lends variety to the different posts, and also helps readers organize their own thoughts on the subject. Brandon Royal, author of The Little Red Writing Book, calls them “floor plans”. In a chronological structure, the writer discusses the earliest events first, then moves forward in time. In an evaluative structure (which is what Jack Savage used), you discuss the pros and cons of a concept. If a presentation is structured, it will be useful to the reader; otherwise, it will be confusing and of little value.

What if your products and services are nothing to joke about? Jack Savage obviously isn’t enamored of the idea of becoming a backyard livestock farmer – his hilariously amusing remarks are hardly designed to “sell” readers on embracing that kind of new enterprise. But just because your company is serious, doesn’t mean all marketing has to be,” Jason Miller of Social Media Examiner counters. Humor is a hook, grabbing the audience’s attention, as well as an icebreaker, but it’s important to focus the humor around a problem your company can solve.

If Jack Savage were a blog content writer for an animal feed company, could he have fairly presented the drawbacks and challenges, while still encouraging readers to explore animal farming?

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Serving Up Myths, Signs, Tips, and Facts in Business Blog Posts


To get started with what Neil Patel calls a “documented blogging strategy”, he says, you need to plan topic ideas. When he’s feeling light on those, Patel admits, he simply fires up Hubspot’s Blog Idea Generator.  When Patel wanted to write about link-building, for example the Generator suggested building blog posts around:

  • 20 Myths About Link Building
  • 10 Signs Your Should Invest in Link Building
  • 10 Quick Tips About Link Building
  • The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Link Building
  • The History of Link Building

In training business blog content writers, I call this kind of tactic “templating”. When you have several pieces of information to impart, consider ways to “unify” them under one umbrella or list category. In fact, at Say It For You, I’m always on the lookout for different “templates”, not in the sense of platform graphics, but in terms of formats for presenting information about any business or professional practice. The format lends variety to the different posts, and also helps readers organize their own thoughts on the subject.

Let’s take a closer look at each of those Generator templates:

Myths…Blog posts are the perfect medium for “mythbusting” to dispel counterproductive thinking about your industry or profession.

Signs you should….I like the subtlety of this implied Call to Action. It doesn’t order readers to take action, just creates an awareness of a possible reason to act.

Tips… When I’m helping new clients who are business owners or professional practitioners, I often find they feel some ambiguity about planning their blog post content.  In the beginning, many feel uneasy about giving away valuable information “for free”. But offering tips is a great way to selling yourself and your services to online searchers.

Worst advice…The fear of losing something, psychologists tell us, motivates people more than the prospect of gain something.  This template about “worst advice’ plays on that fear of losing out because of bad advice.

History of….History has an important place in blog content writing. History-of-our-company background stories have a humanizing effect, creating feeling of empathy and admiration for business owners or practitioners who overcame adversity to build successful careers and corporations.

A recent Reader’s Digest article sparked yet another “template” idea: 50 Health Facts Your Doctor Wants You to Know:

In a “stall” on your “documented blog strategy”? Try using templates to serve up myths, signs, tips, and facts.

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Learning from Leonardo in Blogging for Business

 

“Learning from Leonardo”, Walter Isaacson’s article in Time: The Science of Creativity, could serve as a checklist for blog content writers.  DaVinci’s work holds lessons for all of us, the author says; even if we can’t match DaVinci’s talents, we can try to be more like him. How can that apply to creating innovative and captivating blog content?

Be curious, relentlessly curious about everything around you.
I have a theory about human curiosity that I think tests out in corporate blogging:  Our curiosity is at its most intense when it concerns testing our own limits. Yes, readers like juicy gossip tidbits about sports and movie stars. Yes, readers have interest in how stuff works in the world and how things came to be. And, yes, (as I always stress in corporate blogging training sessions), by definition of their having found your blog, readers have an interest in your field. But (or so my theory goes, anyway), readers are most curious about themselves, how they “work” and the limits of their own knowledge and their own physical capabilities. I believe that’s why readers find arcane pieces of information and “quizzes” so hard to resist .

Observe, starting with the details.
Examples and details are the very things people remember long after reading a piece. Corporate websites provide basic information about a company’s products or a professional’s services, but the business blog content is there to attach a “face” and lend a “voice” to that information by filling in the finer details. Ask yourself what you want readers to know about your topic for that post and think of three details for each idea, Quick Study advises students.

Go down rabbit holes. (Leonardo “drilled down for the pure joy of geeking out,” Isaacon says.)
I find seeming “useless” tidbits of information highly useful when it comes to blog content writing. It’s interesting when business owners or practitioners present little-known facts about their own business or profession. History tidbits, for example, engage readers’ curiosity, evoking an “I didn’t know that!” response.

Respect facts.  “Be fearless about changing your mind based on new information.”
Whether it’s business-to-business blog writing or business to consumer blog writing, the blog content itself needs to use opinion to clarify what differentiates that business, that professional practice, or that organization from its peers. People are looking for more than information – they need perspective. On the other hand, nothing is more compelling than honesty. If the business owner or practitioner’s perspective has evolved, that change of mind should be powerfully clarified in the blog content.

Avoid silos.  At presentations, Isaacson relates, Steve Job would use one slide depicting the intersection between two roads: Liberal Arts and Technology, Isaacson notes. Besides coming across as more credible, when business owners or professional practitioners stay up to date in their own fields, they are in a better position to spot threats and opportunities early on. If readers can see evidence in your content of, not only your expertise, but your openness to insights gained from experts in other fields, that broadens their own understanding along with their trust in you!

In striving for authenticity and creativity, we blog content writers have a lot to learn from Leonardo DaVinci!

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Who-Else-Is-Doing-It Blogging for Business

The mini-article “Hosts with the Most” in the Perspective section of the AARP magazine suggests an interesting way blog content writers can use statistics to sell. “Maybe more of us want to run bed-and-breakfasts when we retire than we thought…Americans over 60 are the fastest-growing group to become Airbnb hosts.”  In fact, we learn, there’s been an astounding 102% one-year growth in Airbnb hosts age 60 and up, with senior hosts capturing 13% of the total market.

If this little magazine were a blog post written to persuade retirees to become Airbnb hosts, it would tie back to the theory of social proof, meaning that, as humans, we are simply more willing to do something if we see that other people are doing it. In other words, people reference the behavior of others to guide their own behavior. When using statistics in business blog posts, we teach at Say It For You, it’s important to include the source, providing the answer to readers’ unspoken question: “Why should I accept these statistics as proof?”

To be persuasive, statistics must be combined with other kinds of evidence, Stephen Boyd cautions public speakers. You might state a statistic and then give an example reinforcing the number he says, or show what the statistic might mean by comparing it to something with which the audience is already familiar. In offering a dollar figure, for example, say “That amount would be like supporting your child through four years of college.”

The “Hosts with the Most” article does something even better – it paints a picture of results:  “Older Americans get more five-star ratings than any other demographic.” 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 other word, the focus of a bog post written to persuade readers to buy must be on the end result from the recipient’s point of view.

To be sure, opening your post with a startling statistic can be a way to grab visitors’ attention, and statistics can often serve as myth-busters. (If there’s some false impression people seem to have relating to your industry, or to a product or service you provide, you can bring in statistics to show how things really are). Statistics can also serve to demonstrate the extent of a problem.  Once readers realize the problem, the door is open for you to show how you help solve that very type of problem for your customers!

But my experience has shown me that statistics, even the startling sort, aren’t enough to create positive results for any marketing blog. Why not? The fact that a serious problem exists (even if the searcher suffers from that very problem) is not enough to make most readers take action. And in the final analysis, of course, the success of any blog marketing effort depends on that action. What blogging does best is deliver to corporate blog sites customers who are already interested in the product or service you’re providing! And while statistics may not galvanize prospects into action, they can be used to assure readers they are hardly “alone” in their need for solutions to their medical, financial, or personal challenges

Assuring readers that not only have they come to the right place for help, but that lots of other people have found your solution helpful, will bring who-else-is-doing-it, social proof business blogging success. 

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What-Are-We-About Blogging for Business

blog mission statement
Painted on a wall at the Cleveland airport, I discovered what could serve as the perfect model for introducing a blog. After all, when the owners of a business or professional practice have made the decision to include blogging as a key factor in their marketing plan, they need to tell their online visitors why. 

   Rock & roll is not an instrument. Rock & roll is not even a style of music; rock & roll is a spirit.   It’s been going since the blues, jazz, bebop, soul R&B, rock & roll, heavy metal, punk rock and yes, hip hop. And what connects us all is that spirit…rock & roll is not conforming to the people that came before you, but creating your own path in music and in life. That is rock & roll. And that is us.
                                                                              Ice Cube, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, 2016

At Say It For You, I provide business blogging assistance to business owners and their employees, and the Ice Cube piece reinforced my idea that blog content writers need to “introduce” themselves. Think about it – in business blogs, readers are often asked to subscribe to the blog, pose a question or comment, sign up for a mailing list or newsletter, or buy products or services. But readers need to be given a reason to do those things, and the “because” needs to explain what the principles are which will be reflected in the content of the blog.

Fellow blogger Rick Short, Indium Corporation’s Director of Marketing Communications, says that, before beginning a business blog, it’s important to have a goal and then work backwards. Short lists the four P’s of blogging:

Point
If your blog doesn’t have a specific point, don’t even start.
Passion
If you don’t have a burning passion about the topic, don’t even bother.
Personality
A blog needs opinion, likes and dislikes, not just a dry, dull review of the facts.
Perseverance
If you can’t keep up the discipline of posting frequently, find a new hobby!

The Ice Cube piece, while not a blog post, certainly covers the first three of those basics.  The writer’s passion is obvious, and Ice Cube’s clearly giving readers a taste for the animating “spirit” of Rock & roll. Now a blog would fill in different details and pieces of information, but all of that content would flow from the original “what-are-we-about” piece.

A personal injury attorney explains what his practice is “about:
“In my line of work, which includes helping victims of sexual assault and abuse, I’ve learned that life can be brutal, but the process of seeking legal remedy need not be. Being a guy who still values old-fashioned, face-to-face client service, but who still tries to keep up with modern technology, I decided a blog would be just one more way to get our message out to the people who need to hear it. I want the sexual abuse portion of our blog to reach folks who know they need to speak out about what happened to them or to someone they love. They need to know that victims may be entitled to financial compensation, which can help them rebuild their lives…”.

A tree trimming company explains why they are offering a blog:
Our goal here is to keep you informed about tree health, tree safety, tree trimming, tree and stump removal, other tree services, and Indiana Strong’s dedicated team of tree service professionals. But most of all, this blog will be about you, because we want to help you make informed choices for your home and family.

Before showing them what your business blog posts are going to be about, tell ‘em what you’re all about!

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Tell Business Blog Readers: Review. Check. Evaluate. Consider.

call to action

That entire two page spread in Crossroads, AAA Hoosier Motor Club’s magazine, I realized, constituted one big Do-It-Yourself Call to Action. There were actually seven CTAs in a row:

  1. Know your coverage.
  2. Think about what’s changed since your last checkup.
  3. Review your home inventory.
  4. Check your liability coverage.
  5. Consider natural disasters.
  6. Evaluate your auto coverage.
  7. Call your agent.

As a blog content writer, I was glad to see that the AAA magazine authors had remembered to answer the question “Why should I?” before it was asked: “Just as an annual physical is good for your health, taking time to regularly examine your insurance coverage can help ensure your financial well-being.”

Too obvious? Too pushy?  Just plain too many AAA Calls-to-Action?  Perhaps. “Your blog can be a powerhouse when it comes to lead generation and reconversion, but you have to know how to use it, Pamela Vaughan writes in Hubspot. “The CTA you choose can make or break the conversion potential of any given blog post you publish,” Vaughan adds. Consider the stage of the sales and marketing funnel your visitors are in and narrow down the list of CTAs to match.

Neil Patel of crazyegg.com talks about using end-of-content CTAs, which appear right at the end of the article.  The logic – “If a reader reaches the end of an article, they are engaged and ready to convert.”

Does directly asking for the customer’s business invalidate the good information you’ve provided in the piece? Not in the least. 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.

Content that provides value will indeed help readers:

  • review their own knowledge
  • check the information you’ve against what they already thought they knew
  • evaluate the current services and products they are using
  • (hopefully) consider what you have to offer.

But, for readers to follow seven different CTA’s is a bit much to ask, I’d advise. Better, in each blog post to focus on ONE message, ONE audience, and ONE outcome.  Business blogging, in fact, is ideal for using what I call the Power of One!

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Do-You-Know-the-Difference Blogging for Business

 

White tea is made from young leaves, green tea from more mature leaves, with the white  named after the silvery-white hairs on immature buds on the tea plant.

Does the difference matter? According to the Beverage Guidance Panel, which includes the chair of the nutrition department at Harvard University School of Public Health, white tea blocks more than 100% of DNA damage in vitro against cooked-meat carcinogens, while green tea blocks only about half.

Enhanced meat is fresh meat that has been injected with a solution of water and other ingredients such as salt, phosphates, and flavorings. According to the USDA, about 60% of all raw meat and poultry products have been injected with or soaked in a salty solution. If you’re trying to control the levels of sodium in your diet in order to reduce blood pressure, opt for labels such as “contains up to 4% retained water”

Helping online readers know the difference is certainly a core function of blog content writing. Exactly what factors distinguish your products and services from everyone else’s?  Even more important, why should those readers care?

Sometimes, to add variety to an informative blog post, you can “season it” with an interesting tidbit. Speaking of salt levels in meat, for example, you might mention that the number one use of salt in the United States isn’t related to food at all!  According to the U.S. Geological Survey, almost half of our salt goes towards de-icing roads.

In fact, corporate blogging training sessions, I often recommend including interesting information on topics only loosely related to the business or practice. If it’s information most readers wouldn’t be likely to know, so much the better, because that tidbit can help engage online readers’ interest.

The word salary, for example, comes from the word “salt”, because in ancient Rome, soldiers had to purchase their own food, including salt. We’ve all heard individuals described as “not worth their salt”.

“The toughest job selling value to customers is getting them to picture the full depth and breadth of everything your company has to offer,” Tim Donnelly writes in Inc. magazine. In other words, customers need to “know the difference” and then understand why that difference matters!

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Blogging for Business Outside Your Own

 

 

“Can authors write characters whose experiences are outside of their own?” That’s the very question posed by Diana M. Pho in her article “Through the Looking Glass” in Writer’s Digest.  Writing across difference is important, she says, since “the best fiction has the ability to transport readers into another’s shoes and make readers consider a new perspective.”

Pho identifies three different approaches to writing about matters which extend beyond one’s own identity:

  1. “Invaders” act without responsibility, focusing on the “exotic” and on stereotypes.
  2. “Tourists” are deeply interested in the subject and try not to impose their own biases.
  3. “Guests” strive for authenticity and strive to gain expertise and attribute knowledge to the proper authorities.

As head of a team of professional content writers, I have been thinking a lot about the outsourcing of business blog content writing. Companies are making great efforts to express their personal brand. Can a writer who is not educated in the client’s particular field produce copy that is an authentic expression of the client’s ideas, personality, and expertise?

In fact, I’m sometimes asked how we “do it”.  It takes two things, I respond:  research and good hearing.  A ghost blogger uses a ‘third ear” to understand what the client wants to say and to pick up on the client’s unique slant on his/her business or profession. Far from functioning as invaders or even tourists, we strive for authenticity.  What keeps us going is the learning.  For us, in order for us to create a valuable ongoing blog for your business, it’s going to take as much reading and research as writing.

On the other hand, while it’s true that the dominant trend in business blogging is outsourcing (the obvious reason being that few business owners or professional practitioners have the time to create and post blogs with enough frequency to attract the attention of search engines), different clients prefer different levels of help vs. DIY.

At one end of the spectrum, the business owner might want certain employees to receive corporate blogging training so that they can then take over the function of business blog writing. At the opposite extreme a company might turn over to a business blogging service the entire effort of crafting the message and maintaining the consistent posting of corporate blog content.

Authors of novels can, indeed, write characters whose experiences are outside of their own identities. Professional blog content writers can come “through the looking glass” to do the same.

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Seguidilla Blogging for Business

 

 

Poems often follow a particular set of rules.  The rules might be about:

  • the number of lines
  • the number of stanzas
  • the number of lines
  • the length of each stanza

For example, sonnets have 14 lines, and use line-ending rhymes. Limericks have five lines, with the third and fourth lines rhyming (an AABBA pattern). Haiku poems are three lines long, with a first line of 5 syllables, the second with 7 syllables, and the third 5 syllables. One less familiar form, which grew out of Spanish music, is called a seguidilla. Seguidillas have 7 lines, with a set number of syllables for each of the seven (a 7, 5, 5, 5, 5, 7, 5 pattern). Robert Lee Brewer explains in writersdigest.com.

Business blog posts should also follow a set of rules and include set elements:

  • Title – introduces the reader to your topic and create a sense of urgency to read the post
  • “Pow opening line” – arouses readers’ curiosity and interest
  • “Closer” – brings up the rear, restating your “thesis” or main point
  • Headings and subheadings – organize your content and make it more easily skimmable by readers.
  • Featured image at the top of your post – attracts attention, arouses interest, and helps explain the concepts to be discussed
  • Paragraphs – 1-4 sentences in length, with variation among paragraphs
  • White space – don’t crowd the blog with text and images

Whether the chosen poetic form is a seguidilla, a haiku, or a sonnet, the very regularity of the formatting allows the reader of the poem to “relax” in the familiarity of the presentation, while yet enjoying new and different approaches to the content of the poem itself. The poeta have all followed a very rigid pattern of syllables, but the content of each poem  presents a new and different point of view.

Part of the point of poetic form rules is minimizing clutter.  When it comes to business blog content writing, that doesn’t necessarily mean chopping the number of words. It’s more about making the posts more readable and easier to look at.

With a seguidilla blog post, it’s as if the reader can relax knowing what to expect out of a blog post and still be pleasantly surprised by the unique and original “slant” you’ve been able to give to the content!

 

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Powerful Paragraphs and Sentences in Blogging for Business


“Construct your paragraphs with a good eye as well as a good mind,” advises Richard Anderson in Powerful Writing Skills.  What does that mean? Consider how the paragraph looks on the page – would it be more appealing to the eye to divide it into two paragraphs?

Anderson’s reasoning includes the following considerations:

  • Enormous blocks of print implant an image of difficulty in readers’ minds.
  • Bunches of short paragraphs can be distracting.

The compromise: vary the length of your paragraphs without making the breaks seem forced. Generally speaking, Anderson points out, “the shorter the paragraphs and the fewer the number of ideas contained in them, the easier they are to read.

In writing good sentences, be yourself, using clear, honest, natural words on paper, Anderson tells writers. He recommends writers choose:

  • nouns over adjectives
  • verbs over adverbs
  • plain verbs over fancy ones
  • specific words over general ones
  • short sentences over long ones
  • personal over non-personal

But, if all your sentences are approximately the same length, Anderson warns, you’re putting    your reader to sleep; vary the length as a subtle way to keep readers awake.

Another way to bore readers is using clichés (overused phrases). They numb readers’ senses, he warns, and they are often too general and vague. “Allow the meaning of your message to choose your words rather than the other way around,” Anderson suggests.

Strunk and White sum up the concept in their own book, The Elements of Style: For the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts, a sentence should contain no unnecessary words.

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Blogging for Business With a Long Tail

 

Keyword phrases come in two “sizes” – short tail and long tail, verticalresponse.com explains to adword buyers. Short tails consist of one or two words and, because people are likely to search those terms more often, they bring in more online traffic. Long tails typically consist of 3-5 words, targeting more specific searches. The big advantage of long-tail keywords is that your ad is likely to be a lot more relevant to what people are actually searching for. Focusing on qualified buyers (who are “higher up on the sales funnel”) should boost conversion rates, verticalresponse advises.

  1. When researching keywords, Hittail.com explains, search engine optimizers consider three qualities:1. Search volume – the average number of times people have searched for a given keyword during a specified period
    2. Competition – how easy/hard it is to outrank competitors with a given keyword
    3. Relevance – how relevant the term is to your specific product, service, or website topic

Due to the increasing financial power wielded by large corporate advertisers, combined with the increasing efficiency of search engine algorithms, long tail keywords now comprise up to 70% of all search traffic, a survey by hittail revealed. That means it is far easier today to rank well for a multi-word keyword phrase, which is highly specific to your niche, than for a generic one or two word phrase. If you are fairly new to the marketplace, hittail advises, you need to outline the most relevant niche keywords and target them on your website by publishing blog posts, articles and landing pages.

No matter what else is “right” or “wrong” with your blog marketing efforts, Neil Patel says, (you will be ranked by site speed, mobile friendliness, engagement, etc.), “you’ve got to remember that on-page keyword phrase usage boosts the search volume performance of your content marketing efforts, by up to 15.04%”.

Patel is quick to remind readers that bottom line sales are not the only goal of blog marketing. “Remember that your content marketing goal must align with your organizational goal,” Patel says.  In addition to customer acquisition, goals might include

  • brand awareness
  • lead generation
  • customer retention and loyalty
  • building trust and rapport
  • exploring prospect pain
  • reputation-building
  • thought leadership

Achieving any or all of the above, as we teach as Say It For You, depends on getting found and getting read. On the positive side, as I assure business owners and practitioners just starting to do blog marketing, “The only people who are going to be reading your blog posts are those who are searching for precisely the kinds of information, products, and services that relate to what you do, what you have for sale, and what you know how to do.” The big advantage of incorporating long-tail keywords in the title and the body of your blog post is that is that those searchers are more likely to find you!

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Odds-of Comparison Blogging for Business

Odds of opioid death higher than car crash,” a recent Indianapolis Star headline read. Since, at Say It For You, I’m always alert for ways to approach creating original content for business owners’ and professional practitioners’ blogs, that headline caught my attention.

One way to make business blog content impactful, I teach at Say It For You, is to put information in perspective by using statistical comparisons. “Even when news stories, ads, or public service announcements do a good job of providing risk statistics, you still need more information to make the numbers meaningful,” explain the authors of Know Your Chances.

Whether a business owner is composing his/her own blog posts or collaborating with a professional ghost blogger, it’s simply not enough to provide even very valuable information to online searchers who’ve landed on a company’s page The facts need to be “translated” into relational, emotional terms to put things into perspective for readers and therefore compel reaction – and action. Statistical comparisons help do just that.

Online searchers may know what they want or even what they need.  They may not know what to call that need. They almost certainly lack expert knowledge in your field. Think about it. It’s difficult for potential customers to know if:

  • your prices are fair
  • how experienced you are relative to your peers
  • how large or small your business is compared to others
  • whether “small” better for this particular service or product
  • whether and how your approach to your field different from most others

Online searchers may have heard about a particular product or service that you offer, but not know what the odds are that they will have need of that product or service!  “Odds-of” comparison blogging for business provides that very sort of guidance.

Opening your post with a startling statistic can be a way to grab visitors’ attention. Statistics can actually serve as myth-busters in themselves.  If there’s some false impression people seem to have relating to your industry, or to a product or service you provide, you can bring in statistics to show how things really are. Statistics can also serve to demonstrate the extent of a problem.  Once readers realize the problem, the door is open for you to show how you help solve that very type of problem for your customers!

“Odds-of” blogging for business can increase the odds of online readers deciding to DO business – with you!

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Don’t-Bother-With….Blogging for Business

blog formats

 

At Say It For You, I’m always on the lookout for different “templates”, not in the sense of platform graphics, but in terms of formats for presenting information about any business or pro practice.  Possibilities include:

  • how-to posts
  • list posts
  • review posts
  • op ed opinion posts
  • interview posts

By varying the format or template, you can revisit topics related to your field over long periods of time without being repetitive.

The “nucleus” around which business blog posts are formed is their topic, showing the expertise and products that business offers. The key words and phrases around that topic are what brings readers to the blog posts. But, even though the overall topic is the same, there is endless variety that can be used to make each blog post special, and one way to differentiate blog posts is by using different templates.

Just the other day, for example, I ran across two new uses of a template, both in the February issue of Oprah Magazine:

  1. In “Finish Strong”, the author presents four rules for getting the most out of a workout.  Following each recommendation, there are two subsections: Do and Don’t Bother With. For example, under the rule “Heal Thyself”, the Do is to keep moving, which is “the only proven antidote” to delayed onset muscle soreness following a workout.  Under Don’t Bother With, the author lists products promising to flush out lactic acid, ice baths, and potions to reduce inflammation. Similarly, content writers, while advising blog readers on solutions, can add “what not to bother with”, in order to give the information a new twist.

2.  In “Fill Your Cup”, author Aleisha Fetters is giving advice about get-well teas, using the template “If    You Have…” If you have a tickle in your throat, use Echinacea tea.  Fetters than lists some of her recommended product choices. There are if-you-have recommendations for nausea, congestion, cough, and fever.

From a strategic standpoint, there are two different and compelling reasons for varying the template or format of your blog posts:

To create interest:
“You may find the information interesting, but unless you make it interesting to your readers, you won’t have any readers,” cautions Zhi Yuan in rankreview.com.

To use long tail keywords:
Long tail keywords tend to be more detailed, with a more narrow focus on one aspect of your product or service. Over long periods of time, your business blog content can become ever more focused and detailed, as you present the information using new and different “templates”.

Definitely DO bother with new templates in blogging for business!

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Are-Both-Sides-Right Blogging for Business

“Are both sides right?” asks veterinarian Carrie Donahue, writing in Good Health magazine, alluding to the debate about whether dogs should be on a raw diet or a conventional one. The raw camp emphasizes raw or lightly cooked meat, including organ meat and bones. The conventionalists are concerned about bacteria in raw meat and the threat of choking on bones.

The author concludes by saying that regardless which method is chosen, supplementation is important, going on to offer tips on which supplements help a dog have a healthy coat and skin, and which are beneficial for a pet’s brain, eyes, and heart..

Whether the topic of your blog marketing efforts is plumbing, pets, or pharma, the content itself needs to use opinion. It’s opinion, after all, that clarifies what differentiates your business, your professional practice, or your organization from its peers.  This Good Health article, takes a slightly different approach – airing both sides of a debate.

At Say It for You, I train content writers to reveal their unique “slant” or philosophy within their field.  That way, I explain, potential customers and clients feel they know who you are, not merely what you do,  and they are more likely to want to be associated with you.

For that very reason, one important facet of my job as a content writer is to “interview” business owner and professional practitioner clients, eliciting each one’s very individualized thoughts. The Carrie Donahue article about pet food suggests an alternate approach – present both sides of the story to readers.  When you clarify and put into perspective both sides of a thorny issue within your industry or profession, you’re performing a valuable service for readers.

On the other hand, I have observed, whether you’re blogging for a business, for a professional practice, or for a nonprofit organization, there needs to be a slant on the information you’re serving up for readers. In other words, blog posts, to be effective, can’t be just compilations; you can’t just “aggregate” other people’s stuff and make that be your entire blog presence.

There’s value in Are-Both-Sides-Right blog posts, no doubt, as Carrie Donahue so effectively demonstrates in this article. In the big picture, however, I have to conclude that, to achieve the status of “thought leader” and inspire action, business blog posts will need to involve taking one side of an issue, not both.

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Take an Occam’s Razor to Your Blog Content

Simplicity Score

 

Medieval philosopher William of Occam taught a logical problem-solving principle which came to be known as Occam’s Razor (forerunner of KISS – keep it simple, stupid). The concept:  simpler solutions are more likely to be correct than complex ones.

As blog content writers, we ought to get Occam’s message, learning to apply a “razor” to our own creations. “All writers should do a bit of counting words and sentences and revise their writing for the sake of their readers,” writes Nirmaldasan, explaining the Simplicity Score of business writing.
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The Simplicity Score is based on the idea that the average sentence length is the best indicator of text difficulty, and it is measured by the number of complete sentences is a sample of 35 words.  The SS may vary on a five-point scale, with 0 being very hard, and 4+ being very easy. If our writing measures up to this standard, in ten sentences there will be about 170 words.

In her blog post The Wild and Crazy Guide to Writing Sentences, Michele Russell posits that at the heart of the craft of blogging is one very basic ability: writing good sentences. Imagine your sentences as links in a chain, Russell advises. “The stronger you can make each one, and the more tightly you can connect it to the ones on either side, the more powerful your writing will be.”

The WordPress Readability Analysis measures both sentence length and paragraph length, while the Flesch reading-ease test is based on the ratio of total words to total sentences, plus total syllables to total words.

Too much counting and measuring? Not really, William Strunk says in The Elements of Style. “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts,” Strunk explains.

While the Occam’s Razor Simplicity Score can help us keep our blog writing simple, we must also keep it interesting, Michele Russell reminds us. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of making most of your sentences similar in length, but the steady rhythm can lull readers to sleep. Use short sentences, Russell suggests, to “add a percussive bite” and keep your audience on its toes.  You use the longer ones to explain things in more detail. Varying the rhythm keeps readers guessing, she says.

It seems we blog content writers must learn to count sentences, words, and even syllables, but to avoid becoming formulaic, we need to do it in “syncopated time”!

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Serving Up Incredible Information in Your Business Blog

 

For years now, as a blog content writing trainer, I’ve been preaching the use of seemingly “useless” tidbits of information to spice up business blogs, engaging readers’ curiosity, and evoking an “I didn’t know that!” response.
Tidbits can be used to:

  • describe your way of doing business
  • clarify the way one of your products works
  • explain why one of the services you provide is particularly effective in solving a problem.

While one goal of any marketing blog is to help your business “get found”, once that’s happened, the goal changes to helping the online readers get comfortable with the way you do business. Blog content writing is the perfect vehicle for conveying a corporate message starting with a piece of trivia.

Owners of a grocery store or a food delivery service company, for example, might include trivia about food spoilage in their blog, highlighting their own food safety procedures.

Myth: Food should be defrosted on the kitchen counter.
Truth: When a whole chicken, is left to defrost on the kitchen counter, the surface will defrost first, allowing bacteria to multiply while the inside is still frozen.

 Owners of a health food store might blog about a widespread misunderstanding about spinach, highlighting the body’s need for iron and other nutrients.

Myth: Spinach is a superior source of iron, with ten times the iron content of other green leafy veggies.
Truth: Despite Popeye’s claims, the oxalic acid in spinach prevents the body from absorbing more than 90 percent of the vegetable’s iron.

A realtor’s blog might discuss the perception that a 30-year mortgage is the least expensive option.

Myth: The longer the payment period, the cheaper the payments will be.
Truth: You could end up paying more during the life of the loan if you pick the 30-year option instead of the 15-year mortgage. 

Common myths surround every business and profession.  If you notice a “factoid” circulating about your industry, a common misunderstanding by the public about the way things really work in your field, you can use a little-known tidbit of information that reveals the truth behind the myth.

Serve up “incredibly” credible information in the form of mythbusting tidbits in your blog.

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Blog Content Writers help Readers Dodge Dangers

  • readers' fear of missing out

Redbook‘s holiday issue has a page blog content writers should see, titled “Dodge Common Dangers”.  There’s a “Trim With Care” section cautioning readers to:

  • keep lit menorahs at least three feet away from flammable items
  • avoid overloading the Christmas tree with strings of incandescent lights
  • avoid running electrical cords under carpets or rugs
  • put glass ornaments low on the tree where they can be bumped
  • let the tree stay in the house more than a month

As a blog content writer, I felt, the magazine’s editors had managed to offer these serious fire-avoidance warnings with a light touch, resulting in very readable copy.

“Great copywriting compels action, so it’s no surprise fear is used in marketing,” writes Amy Harrison of Copyblogger.  Marketing messages, she says, may be based on readers’:

  • fear of missing out
  • fear of losing something
  • fear of future threat

For a message to be successfully persuasive, Harrison explains, the threat needs to be moderate to high, with the reader feeling he’s personally at risk, and that preventative action is simple.

Heavy-handed scare tactics, on the other hand, simply don’t work, as a study done by the National Institute of Health Science Panel back in 2004 clearly demonstrated.

All human behavior, at its root, is driven by the need to avoid pain and gain pleasure, Neil Patel of Kissmetrics points out.  Of the two, we do more to avoid pain.  Show your prospects all the dangers on the road from A to Z, and how your product or service is the weapon they need to defeat those dangers and discomforts, Patel advises.

In other words, as effective blog content writers, we can demonstrate to our readers how to dodge dangers.

 

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The 11 Characteristics of Master Business Blog Post Writers


There are eleven characteristics often considered to be women’s strengths, Nancy D. O’Reilly writes in her book In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other in Work and Life.

Interesting… was my reaction to that statement. In a content writer of either gender, I couldn’t help thinking, those very eleven strengths would result in a great business blog marketing effort.

1.  Emotional intelligence – the capacity to notice, manage, and express emotions.
Exhibiting emotion in content marketing is a good thing, increasing connection and impact.

2.  Empathy – the ability to understand other people’s feelings.
Corporate blog writing needs to aim for copy that proves the writer understands the problems customers have.

3.  Compassion – sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress and a desire to alleviate it
A skillful blogger creates a connection of understanding and sympathy with the audience that allows readers to be receptive to the message.

4.  Good communication skill – delivering and exchanging information
Bloggers are interpreters, translating clients’ corporate message into people-to-people terms, trying to find exactly the right tone.

5.  An ability to build relationships – connecting with others
Consumers want social currency, visible symbols of “insider” status and special understanding that they can show off to others.

6.  Multitasking skills – increasing productivity and getting ahead of the competition
Blog content writers spend time “reading around”, writing, illustrating posts with images, and formatting – the combination of skills is what makes for a great end product.

7.  A tendency to collaborate – working with others to produce a result
Business blog writing is a product of interaction – among the owner or practitioner and the writer, the webmaster, and even the employees.

8.  A desire to mentor – assisting someone less skilled
Reinforcing the familiar, then progressing to new information is an effective tactic for business blogging. Introducing your own specialized knowledge and “how-to” tips, positions you as a mentor to readers.

9.  Passion – feeling enthusiasm and excitement
Real enthusiasm  means believing in your industry, your company, your product, and your ability to serve your customers, and conveying that in the blog posts.

10.  Vulnerability – revealing one’s own weaknesses
True stories about mistakes and struggles are very humanizing, adding to the trust readers place in the people behind the business or practice.

11.  Endurance – persisting in the face of challenges
Sustaining the writing effort over months and years takes persistence.  By adding a few new items, rearranging some old ones, and staying alert to changing vocabulary and trends, writers can keep the blogs fresh. and new, never running out of things we just can’t wait to say!

O’Reilly’s eleven characteristics, I believe, describe not only women, but blog content writer “greats” of every ilk! 

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Surprise-Laden Blog Post Titles

two part blog post titles

 

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’ve suggested 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).

The latest business book covers use this “compromise solution” all the time. Here are some samples of recently published titles (The main or “Huh?) title is shown in bold, with the “Oh!” subtitle below it):

When to Jump
If the Job you have isn’t the Job You Want

Do  Nothing
Discover the Power of Hands-Off Leadership

The Persuasion Code
How Neuromarketing Can Help You Persuade Anyone, Anywhere, Any Time

When
The Scientific Secret of Perfect Timing

Originals
How Non-conformists Move the World

The Culture Code
The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

The Energy Bus
10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy

In This Together
How Successful Women Support Each Other in Work and Life

Unlike book publishers, we business blog content writers simply don’t have the option of using “mysterious” titles, since search engines will be will be matching the phrases used in our titles with the terms typed into readers’ search bars. So, just how can we get those keyword phrases in while still being enticingly enigmatic?

One possible way is including the “Oh!” part of our title in the meta tag description (the blurb of information that shows up beneath your clickable website address on search engine results pages).

Worth a try, anyway, with the idea being to pique readers’ curiosity and maintain the surprise, but meanwhile, giving the search engines the “advance scoop”.

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Can Your Blog Pass the Emotive & Information Power Response Tests?


(There’s a test for those, didn’t you know?)

Since emotional response towards advertising plays an important part in building a strong brand, researchers at the University of Bath, working with Nielson, came up with two ways to score ads.

  1. Information Power Score – measures what the consumer perceives as the value of the message
  2. Emotive Power Score – measures if the emotion is going to change feelings about the brand

So why am I interested in this research? Well, at Say It For You, our business is blog marketing, which means connecting professional practitioners and business owners with prospective clients and customers. And, while I continually preach and teach that blog posts are not ads, but more like advertorials, establishing connections is the name of the game for both advertisers and content marketers

Broadly speaking, the Bath studies showed, there are two types of emotive responses: those based on empathy and those that respond to creativity. In an empathetic response, people feel emotionally closer to the brand; in a creative response, the people feel the brand is imaginative and ahead of the game. “It’s always best if can get both empathy and creative,” Dr. David Brandt writes.

The way that information is communicated has an important influence on how likely people are to believe that information. And for certain advertiser categories, Brandt points out, empathy is more important (food and toiletries, for example), while for other categories (electrical goods or computers, for example), creativity is more important.

Readers of business blog posts fall into two categories, according to Morgan Steward of Media Post Publications:

  1. Deal seekers go online in search of bargains and discounts on products and services they already know and use. The effectiveness of the blog content writing, therefore, would be measured through the “information score”; the content would focus on the cost-effectiveness of your product or service and on any special deals or offers.
  2. Enthusiasts seek information to support their hobbies, interests, and beliefs.
    Blogs aimed at this audience might focus on the “emotive score”. On the other hand, creative packaging, color and shape appeal to these customers, so the “creativity score” can be important as well.

    Can your blog pass the emotive and information power response tests?

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They-Know-Why, You-Know-How Blog Marketing


Even if you’ve never smoked, there’s a lot to learn about blog marketing from the “Josh and Kayla know quitting is hard” TV commercial for NicoDerm CQ®, I was thinking just the other day.

Story power:
You may or may not ever have been addicted to nicotine, but as humans, we’ve always been addicted to stories, Alex Limberg writes in SmartBlogger.com. Stories, he explains, engage a deeper part of our brains than any logical explanation ever could. In the NicoDerm CQ® video, Kayla, leaving her dad’s hospital bedside to grab a smoke with Josh, realizes she needs to quit – she’s found her “why”.

People:
People-based marketing is driving change across the U.S. advertising industry, reports viantic.com. Even if your blog is devoted to marketing product, focus the content on how people will experience using it. The NicoDerm CQ® commercial shows “real” smokers experiencing the “real” challenge of quitting in a “real” human hospital setting. In blogging for business, where face-to-screen is the closest blog content writers come to their prospects,  introducing people (both people working for the company and users of the product or service) can ignite the kind of personal connection that gets readers emotionally involved.

Empathetic:
The “You know why, we know how” slogan is catchy, to be sure. More importantly, the tag line creates an emotional response. While advertising communicates a message about what a brand does, the way the message is conveyed has a greater influence on how likely consumers are to buy, David Brandt of Nielsen explains.  Ads that make people feel closer to a brand have a positive empathetic score.

Targeted:
Obviously, the Nicoderm CQ® ad is focused on a target market – viewers who are smokers, and smokers who know they need to quit.   In the same manner, business blogs must be targeted towards the specific type of customers you want and who will want to do business with you.  Everything about your blog should be tailor-made for that customer – the words you use, how technical you get, how sophisticated your approach, the title of each blog entry – all of it.

Advertising is “push marketing, while blogging is “pull marketing”, designed to attract searchers who have already identified their own need for a particular product or service. Those searchers already know why.What your blog content needs to demonstrate is this: you’ve done your homework and understand their “why”.  Your function is to furnish the “how”!

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How Committed and How Motivated Are Your Business Blog Readers?


“To me, when people talk about the fact that employees are not engaged, that means they’re missing what’s in it for them,” Margarida Correia writes in Employee Benefit News. “Employers need to help their employees understand how their lives are better because they are employed at the company.”

“Employee engagement represents the levels of enthusiasm and connection employees have with their organization,” Alexis Croswell of Culture Amp adds. It’s a measure of:

  • how motivated people are to put in extra effort.
  • how committed they are to stay there.

Notice the order, if you please, in which I presented these comments from two benefits experts.
If employees don’t first understand how their own lives are better because they are working at the company and how their own interests are being served, they are unlikely to commit to stay with that company and to put in that extra measure of effort.

Exactly that same order of priority will be operative when it comes to readers engaging with the content in a company’s – or a professional practice’s blog. 

Blog content marketing based solely on the features of products and services is simply not likely to work. Certainly, for blogs to be effective, they must serve as positioning statements and describe a value proposition. But blogs must do more, far more. Just why, exactly, should all those features and benefits you’ve spent paragraphs describing make any real difference to them?

At Say It For You, I’m fond of saying that in writing content for business blogs, the “what” needs to come before the “who”.  The opening sentences of each post must make a clear connection between “what” the searcher needs and the “what” your business or practice can offer to fulfill that need. The first order of business is writing about them and their needs. Only after that’s accomplished should you be writing about what you do, what you know, and about what you know how to do.

Just as those employee benefits experts talked about getting employees to commit to staying at the company, a blog has a “retention” function as well.  Engaged readers might decide at any point that they:

  • are ready to learn more
  • have a question to ask
  • are ready to sign up
  • are ready to buy

That would be a wonderful result, of course, so long as the navigation path on your website isn’t a nuisance.  Like unmotivated employees, unmotivated readers will not be willing to put in extra effort to satisfy their needs. Both the content itself and the navigation path on the website had better be easy to digest.

Don’t let your readers miss “ the What’s-in-it-for-them” in your business blog!

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Bloggers – Broken Plates are Good News, Broken Links, Not So Much

 

The Danish have a very old tradition of breaking dishes on the doorsteps of family and friends on New Year’s Eve.  The more dishes that are broken and piled up at your door on January 1st, the more friends and good fortune you have, Wescott writes in Tradish.

Unfortunately for blog content writers, broken links are definitely not signs of good fortune. A broken link connects the reader to an error message, rather than to more information, perhaps because:

  • The destination web page may no longer exist.
  • The user has software that blocks access to certain websites.
  • The destination website does not allow outside access.

Sites that haven’t been updated or checked for a long time may suffer from “link rot”, explains Quora.com. Broken links are bad news, no two ways about it, cautions technopedia.com.

At Say It For You, I offer advice that is a play on the Hippocratic Oath for healthcare providers (“Above all, do no harm”): Above all, I teach newbie blog content writers, do not annoy your readers with poor navigation, poor grammar, plagiarism, or just plain poor marketing tactics.

Broken and dead links make for a poor user experience, translating into missed opportunities to maximize the value of a company’s or practitioner’s website, as Geonetric points out. “How  many broken links does a visitor need to encounter on your website before they begin to associate your brand with difficulty, error, and failure?”

There are two types of links, Geonetric explains – internal (leading to other pages on your own website) and external (leading to pages on another website).  Internal links are most easily fixed.  But if an outside destination no longer exists, you’ll want to remove the hyperlink altogether, revising the content so that it no longer suggests a link at all.

Broken plates may be a sign of friendship and good fortune in Denmark, but nowhere in the blogosphere can broken links be considered good news!

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Boxing Day Mythbusting for Bloggers


Discovered a mild case – or an epidemic – of counterproductive thinking when it comes to your industry or profession? Blog posts are the perfect medium for “mythbusting” to dispel that counterproductive thinking.

Since our last Say It For You post (dealing with Santa’s red outfit and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer), Boxing Day was celebrated in the UK and Australia.  Many think Boxing Day is for boxing up and returning gifts you don’t want, but that’s not the case at all. It was on Boxing Day that, in the Middle Ages, churches would open their alms boxes and dole out the money to the poor.

One very simple format blog content writers can use when mythbusting is to simply list common myths surrounding a particular business, debunking each one. Oxygen Magazine does exactly that in the article “Sacking Sleep Myths” lists 5 myths. Each myth is followed by a paragraph full of debunking facts. It’s a myth, for example, your relationship will suffer if you don’t sleep with your partner. “Night divorce” can actually improve sleep patterns and in turn improve the relationship.

In a second mythbusting article in Oxygen. writer Jenna Aytyiru Dedic takes a different tack, using a claim/verdict format. Claim: Joint pain is exacerbated by cold weather. Verdict: False. There is no evidence that cold itself is at all culpable.

The debunking function of business blog writing is very important.  Blog content writing has the power to clear the air, replacing factoids with facts, allowing readers to see their way to clear to making decisions.

Offering little-known explanations that explode common myths is one way to engage readers’ interest, to be sure.  The next step, however, has to be leading into myths and little known details related to our own products, services, and company history, and providing a value-packed “verdict” for each false claim or misunderstanding.

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Christmas Marketing Mythbusting for Blog Content Writers

 

What is it about the color red for Christmas? Well, Toppen af Danmark’s website lets us know…

That song about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?  Rudolph was actually the marketing brainchild of American advertising exec Robert May, who added a ninth reindeer to the front of Santa’s sleigh as part of a promotion for a shopping mall. Furthermore, Santa may have gotten his red wardrobe as part of a marketing campaign by the Coca-Cola Company!

Meanwhile, in Five myths about the Nativity, University of Notre Dame New Testament professor Candida Moss explains that, contrary to popular belief, the word “manger” refers not to a barn, but a trough to feed animals. In first century Judean houses, mangers (from the French verb “manger”, meaning “to eat”) were found both outside and inside homes.

Myth-busting is a tactic blog content writers can use to grab online visitors’ attention.  In corporate blogging training sessions, I explain to newbie content writers in Indianapolis that citing statistics to disprove popular myths gives business owners the chance to showcase their own knowledge and expertise.

In the natural course of doing business, misunderstandings about a product or service often surface, and demystifying matters can make your blog the place to go for facts. The caution to keep in mind, however, is that readers don’t like to be “wrong”. It makes a lot of sense to use a business blog to address misinformation along with dispensing valuable information. Just don’t do it a way that makes readers “wrong”.

Ten years ago, when this Say It For You blog was just getting started, I shared a tidbit about camels from a website called Zoo Vet.  Camels may build up a pressure cooker of resentment towards humans, David Taylor explained, and camel handlers can calm the animals by handing over a coat to the beast, who will jump on it, and tear it to pieces, letting our all their frustration on the coat rather than on the human.

The parallel I drew was this: When debunking myths, follow up by throwing readers “a coat” in the form of a tidbit of little-known information that makes them feel “in the know”.

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Business Blogging – Don’t Forget What It Means


“To me, when people talk about the fact that employees are not engaged, that means they’re missing what’s in it for them…how their lives are better because they are employed by the company,” observes Dana Polyak in a recent issue of Employee Benefit News

Back to Radio Station WIIFM, that old sales training rule that all employers – and all of us writers of marketing blogs had better remember: employees want to know What’s In It for Me; buyers care about benefits, not features.

A number of years ago, in a brochure marketing professional Al Trestrail shared with me, he taught that after each feature  of the products and services your business or practice offers, you need to add the words “which means that…” What I took out of that discussion with Trestrail was that there are millions of blog posts out there making claims of one sort or another.  But what do those claims mean to the customers and clients reading the blog???

When people switch jobs, Polyak comments, they are ultimately seeking something more. “More” might mean better compensation, better benefits, better hours, shorter commutes, or more praise and recognition. At Say it For You content writing training sessions, I remind attendees that there has to be a “reason why” readers would follow the Calls to Action in a blog: Does your company or practice do things faster? Operate at a lower cost? Make fewer errors? Offer greater comfort? Provide a more engaging experience? In other words, What’s In It For Them?

In the current job market, Dana Polyak concedes, “there are a lot more jobs available than there are people available to fill those jobs.” In marketing, with both our existing customers and clients and the new ones we’re seeking to win over, it’s the same way.  “If you want to start beating your competitors, you will need to have a very good strategy in place, Smarta.com advises. But being cheaper may not be enough. What might well be enough is demonstrating that your product is:

  • of better quality
  • rarer
  • easier to use
  • safer
  • more efficient
  • more compact
  • more retro
  • more water-resistant
  • more beautiful
  • greener
  • fresher

As blog content writers, we need to understand the features of the products and services we promote, but we must never forget to explain What’s In It For Them!

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Who Did What? Clarifying pronoun References in Your Business Blog

pronoun references“Your readers will appreciate it, even if they aren’t conscious of why,” says Laura Yates, introducing the Grammar Cheatsheet for Bloggers with the comment that getting grammar right will make you a better writer. In fact, Yates asserts, “the purpose of grammar is not to be 100%, absolutely correct.  It’s to make your writing easier to understand.”

 

Even in the more informal style bloggers use, unclear pronoun references leave readers wondering who, exactly, did what. Whenever you use a pronoun, make sure it’s clear what the antecedent is for that pronoun The antecedent, the York University website explains, is the noun to which that pronoun refers. “Jane told Helen that no one would take her away.” (Who is “her”?  Who won’t be taken away – Jane or Helen?)

Towson Education observes that “Unfortunately, it is very easy to create a sentence that uses a pronoun WITHOUT a clear unmistakable noun antecedent”, and offers the following example: “After putting the disk in the cabinet, Mabel sold it.”  (What was sold – the disk? the cabinet?).“
“The supervisors told the workers they would receive a bonus.” (Who will be getting the bonus – the supervisors or the workers?) A pronoun should have only one, clear and unmistakable, antecedent, Towson teaches.

Try your hand at rewriting the following two sentences:  (The first two examples come from the Writing Commons website, the others from blogs I actually read today.) Remember you’re your purpose is to make clear to readers just who did what to whom:

  1. “President George Washington and his vice president, John Adams, had a difficult relationship, which he wrote about in letters to friends.”  (Who wrote the letters?)
  2. “American students differ from European students in that they expect more personalized attention.” (Who expects personalized attention?)
  3. “The answers were a bit comical to me, not to downplay their situations, but the fact they actually used the written form communication and ultimately it was enough evidence to have a restraining order against them.” (The answers? The people?)
  4. “Whereas Microsoft restricts access to files and locks users out, multiple people can collaborate and work on a Google Doc, Sheet, or Slide at the same time. And it automatically saves your work! “  (What saves – Microsoft? Google Doc?)

Who did what to whom? Clarify the references in your business blog!

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Keeping Sentences Short and Active in Your Business Blog

“Long sentences are for Charles Dickens,” says the Jimdo blog for entrepreneurs – “The short attention span of today’s reader demands sentences of 35 words or less.” To achieve that abbreviated effect, Jimdo advises using adverbs and adjectives sparingly, focusing on nouns and verbs, sticking to active voice.

That rule that is of particular help in business blogging, I teach at Say It For You. Why is short better?

  • Short sentences have “pow!”.
  • Short sentences, particularly in titles, can easily be shared on social media sites.
  • Focused sentences keep readers’ attention on the message.

That does not mean, though, as Brandon Royal reminds us in The Little Red Writing Book, that every sentence needs to be as short as every other. “The writer must judge how to weave short sentences with longer ones.” There’s a trade-off involved in writing copy, Royal is quick to add – sufficient detail will make a piece of writing longer, yet examples and details are the very things people remember.

Translating that into more powerful business blog content writing, I emphasize using specific and descriptive wording to “fill in the details” of the message.  Don’t be indiscriminate when scrapping modifiers. After all, it’s those adjectives and adverbs that add the emphasis, explanation, and detail to your writing, as grammarly.com says.

As a general rule, we bloggers need to keep our  sentences not only short, but active.  Sentences in the active voice have energy and directness, both of which will keep your reader turning the pages”, is the advice from dailywritingtips.com.

A few short-and-active disclaimers are in order:

While in this Say It For You blog I spend a lot of time discussing good writing, there’s a lot more to effective blogging than just the writing.  (Bloggers need marketing expertise and at least some degree of technical expertise around a computer.)

My remarks here are not about the length of a blog post, (a whole ‘nuther topic), but about optimal sentence length.

Short is not easy.  “Brevity hones thinking and forces clarity, as one Georgetown University  linguistics professor points out in USA Today, “but it can also mean losing subtlety and nuance.”

Adding my own reminder to business blog content writers, I’d say: Blog content writing needs to be personal and conversational, not terse. Don’t just be short; be sweet.

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Blogger Resources for Grammar Guidance

“Content writers in Indianapolis – take courage!” I wrote back in 2012. “ If your marketing blog posts are filled with valuable, relevant, and engaging material, your use of ‘a lot’ when you should have said ‘many’,” substituting ‘your’ for ‘you’re’, or inserting an apostrophe in the pronoun ‘its’ aren’t going to constitute deal breakers.”

But could they? In corporate blogging training sessions, in which the business owner and professional practitioner attendees largely serve as their own editors, I urge no-error erring on the side of caution. 

Yes, I know the online crowd likes to be informal, and yes, blogs are supposed to be less formal and more personal in tone than traditional websites. But when a sample of corporate blog writing is posted in the name of your business (or in the case of Say It For You writers, in the name of a client’s business), the business brand is being “put out there” for all to see. True, most readers will merely scan your content and won’t pay very close attention to details like those. Some might, though, and you cannot afford to have potential customers noticing your lack of care.

“Every time you make a typo, Richard Lederer writes, “the errorists win.” Lederer’s the author of the audiobook Grammar for Success, and just one of the resources I use for help in the GD (grammar disfuction) department.  Here are some others:

  1. “If you’re running a blog, getting grammar right is really helpful. For one thing, it will protect you from roaming gangs of Grammar Nazis patrolling the internet. But more important, it’ll make you a better writer. Your readers will appreciate it, even if they aren’t conscious of why,” explains the Grammar Cheatsheet for Bloggers (offered by GrammarBook.com).   
  2. “English has borrowed from many other languages and as a result, it is very complex. There are numerous rules concerning English grammar, and many exceptions to those rules,” observes the Grammarist, which includes an especially useful list of easily confused words – do you know the difference between “pending” and “impending”?
  3.  “However, there is one type of verb that doesn’t mix well with adverbs. Linking verbs, such as feel, smell, sound, seem, and appear, typically need adjectives, not adverbs. A very common example of this type of mixup is “I feel badly about what happened,” cautions Grammarly, where you can “find answers to all your writing conundrums with our simple guide to English grammar rules”.

Professional blog content writers of the world, unite! Are you going to stand there and let those errorists win??

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Two-Tiered Business Blog Titles


What’s “Into the Endgame” about? (How Parliament should weigh up the Brexit deal, of course.)
What about “Click to Download Teacher”? (Technology can help solve the problem of bad, absent teachers in poor-country schools.) “The New Abnormal”? (California faces the most destructive fire in its history). And “Drop It!”? (An argument about firearms will help to shape next year’s election.)

These and other two-tiered titles from this month’s issue of The Economist magazine can serve as a master tutorial for blog content writers. There are two types of titles, I’ve taught in workshops on business blog content writing. The “Huh?s” need sub-titles to make clear what the article is about, while the “Oh!’s” are self-explanatory. With one important purpose of marketing blogs being to  attract online shoppers, blog post titles are a crucial element in the process. That means that catchy and engaging as a title might be, it won’t serve the purpose if the words in the title don’t match up with the ones searchers used.

That’s the reason two-tiered titles use two layers. The first-tier “Huh?” startles and arouses curiosity.  The “Oh!” sub-title then serves to clarify what the focus of the content will be.  (No, this is not a bait-and-switch play, but more like a bait-and-focus one)

Which brings me to meta-tags, which are 160 character snippets of text that describe a page’s content; the meta tags don’t appear on the page itself, as wordstream.com explains, but readers can see them on the search engine page. In addition to being scanned by search engines, those little content descriptors help readers decide whether they want to click to read the content. The snippet serves as a preview of the “Oh!” portion of your blog post title.

For example, underneath the actual link
https://www.economist.com/leaders/2018/11/15/into-the-brexit-endgame, a searcher would see this snippet: “6 days ago – Britain and the European Union Into the Brexit endgame. How Parliament should weigh up the Brexit deal. Print edition | Leaders. Nov 15th”.

“The New Abnormal” – Huh? “Oh!” It’s about the California fire. In writing engaging business blog content, try using two-tiered titles.

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Business Blog Title Question Words


Ideas and Discoveries Magazine had a very good idea in terms of titles (which we blog content writers can make good use of) – using question words.

The tactic of question titles is one I’ve often suggested to new Indianapolis blog content writers. Keeping in mind that people are online searching for answers to questions they have and solutions for dilemmas they’re facing, sometimes we can help searchers who searchers haven’t specifically formulated a question by presenting a question in the blog post title itself.

The question serves to arouse readers’ curiosity about which side of the issue your opinion is going to represent, and about the answers you’re going to provide in the content of the post itself. And, of course, the title question can include keyword phrases to help Google index the blog.

ID Magazine, I found, used question titles that clearly indicated what kinds of information would be “served up” in the article to come:

  • Why Wolves Hunt Differently From Big Cats
  • What happens When an Avalanche Stops Moving?
  • How Reliable is the Rorschach Test?

But the majority of the ID titles, I found, contained an extra, curiosity-stimulating, element into their question word titles. You simply need to read the article to find out what the “clue” means:

  • How a Feeling of Empathy Led to 60 Million Deaths
  • How Seven Dollars Set the Middle East Aflame
  • How 156 Nails Defeated Napoleon
  • How a Lab Accident Decided the Second World War
  • How a Meteorite Made Christianity a Worldwide Religious Power
  • How a Sandwich Triggered World War
  • How a Refugee Made George W. Bush President

Curiosity is hard to get right, Amy Harrison points out in copyblogger.com. You have to deliver on the promise. Don’t’ assume readers’ will cause them to power on through your copy looking for the answer that was promised to them, she says. Your blog post must include compelling benefits, rich imagery, and strong storytelling if you are to keep readers’ attention and encourage them to take action.

ID also demonstrates another useful strategy blog content writers can use: covering one topic, but coming at it in different ways. On the topic of wolves, for example:

  1. “How Wolves Shape Our Forests” offers insights on how reintroducing wolves into German forests impacts ecosystems.
  2. “Who’s the Boss Here?” explores the “family dynamics” of a wolf pack.
  3. “How Do You Save a National Park?” chronicles the Yellowstone Wolf Study, in which reintroducing wolves into the environment reduced the deer population in turn allowing more trees to grow, which in turn attracted birds, beavers, and fish.

Just as these articles each explore a different aspect of a single subject, the blog for any company, professional practice, or organization can be planned around key themes.  Then, in each post, the blog content writer can fill in new details, examples, and illustrations.

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Naming Your Niche in Blogging for Business

What advice can you offer that they won’t find anywhere else? That’s the question we tossed around earlier this week.  Michael Kitces, known for giving advice to financial advisors, thinks it’s about “naming your niche.”

More than ever, niches and mini-specializations are effective differentiation tools, Kitces claims. The two are not the same.

1. A specialization is about some kind of subject matter expertise.
2. A niche is about serving a particular group of clients with a particular need and applying a service or solution to that need.

As specialists, blog content writers want to address a critical need and be perceived as subject matter experts or SMEs. A SME has valuable, usable – and specialized – information and insights to share. At the same time, the SME adds value by going beyond the conventional wisdom and identifying new opinions – and new approaches – to the subject.

As niche servers, blog content writers define a narrow target audience made up of people who are already looking for products, information, and services relating to a particular need they have. Rather than presenting yourself and your business or practice as knowing a little about a lot of things, be uniquely informed – and passionate – about just one or two.

In the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Success as a Professional Speaker, Dr. Thomas Lisk
uses four questions to help speakers define their niche market:

  •  Can you list all markets or industry types that could purchase your kinds of expertise?
  •  Which of those markets needs your expertise most?
  •  Which markets are most likely to purchase your services?
  • Which organizations in these markets have enough funding to afford your ongoing
    services?

    Even if someone hears about your specialization and is duly impressed, they are not going to hand over their life savings to you, Kitces cautions new advisors.  They’re going to check you out.  And in that critical moment, he says “Your website has to be ready for them.”

    In Say It For You corporate blogging training sessions, I stress, the first step is to define your business niche and then focus blog content writing on the needs of that niche target market.

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Business Blog Content Writing – a Different Kind of Advice

 

You won’t find this holiday travel advice anywhere else,” asserts Christopher Elliott in the Indianapolis Star.  You’ve heard it hundred times: book early, prepare for bad weather, on and on. Elliott’s on a different wave length with his advice on how to behave and how to book, and how to travel.

First, he says, “Be kind to others.” In this time of road rage and in-flight altercations, that’s not common, but you should try to be that way, Elliott advises. “Look before you book”, doing your due diligence on tickets and accommodations “Be careful out there…understand where you are going, the population, the manners, the dress.”  “Stay a little longer” and “Treat your stress before it ruins your trip” are two other pieces of unconventional advice.

Good advice, Mr. Elliott. The whole concept of offering advice that’s out of the ordinary – that’s great advice for business blog content writers, to be sure. And the way he offers advice in this article – I like that, too.  It’s advice readers can use, right now. More than that, the author’s explaining the reasons behind each piece of advice and backing up the information with statistics.

A few years ago, in a Harvard Business Review article on advice-giving, the authors made the point that “those who give advice effectively wield soft influence—they shape important decisions while empowering others to act.” But the advice-givers, they must be engaged listeners, learning from the problems that people bring them.

I’ve often mused that, out of all the possible advertising and marketing tactics a business or professional practice might use, blogging’s way ahead of the pack – because it attracts customers who want to be sold. In fact, it’s the close match between the type of advice the searcher wants and what you know about that accounts for your meeting them in the first place!

I remember business coach and author Jim Ackerman saying that “Any business owner needs to be able to start a sentence with “I am the only ___________ in ___________ who _________”.  One of the principles of blog writing that we teach at Say It For You is differentiating yourself.  Does this company or practice do things faster? Operate at a lower cost? Make fewer errors? Offer greater comfort? Provide a more engaging experience?.

What advice can business blog content writing offer that “you won’t find anywhere else”?

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What’s in a Name When Blogging For Business

 

Richard Lederer, author of the book the Joy of Names, has a vested interest in his subject: his own name, he reveals means “powerful estate ruler leather worker”. But, “Must a name mean something?” (as Alice asks Humpty Dumpty).”Of course it must!” is Dumpty’s reply.

In writing to promote a business or practice, using stories about names and nicknames makes for engaging content. In fact, it’s an excellent idea to share anecdotes about people on the team who have earned a complimentary sobriquet.

Just this week, paging through a special edition of People Magazine devoted to The stars of Food Network, I noticed several examples:

  • Bobby Flay is “the elder statsman of Food Network”.
  • Ina Garten is “the ultimate hostess”.
  • Valerie Bernelli is “hot in the kitchen”.
  • Duff Goldman is “the designated baker”.
  • Guy Fiere is “mayor of Flavortown”
  • Alton Brown is “the geek of gastronomy”

As fellow blogger Michael Fortin reminds content writers, getting personal is a huge element in the success of business blogs. Sharing this type of fond moniker, along with an anecdote, adds interest to blog posts. Did you know that Alton Brown once invented a turkey derrick with ropes, pulleys, and a ladder, to facilitate safe and accurate fryer of a Thanksgiving bird?

Storytelling has the power to move from lifeless to life-filled copy, Luana Spinetti writes in webhostingsecreatreveals.net.

The following poem by Charles Delint (included on page 11 of the Lederer book) sums up the astounding power of names and the stories behind those names:

A name can’t begin to encompass the sum of all of her parts,
But that’s the magic of names, isn’t it?
That the complex, contradictory individuals we are
can be called up complete and whole
In another mind through the simple sorcery of a name.

As the People Magazine Food Network issue demonstrates, blending 6 cups of the power of names with 6 cups of intriguing anecdotes and – you’ve got some very delicious business blog content!

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Monikers and Sobriquets in Business Blog Content Writing

“The key trait of nicknames is that they are bestowed upon a person by others,” Richard Lederer points out in The Joy of Names, and for three main motivations:

  • affection
    ridicule
    group identity

Nicknames may be related to:

  • physical characteristics (Blondie, Red)
  • mental characteristics (Brainak, Noodlehead)
  • personality (Grumpy, Nerd, Nervous Nellie)
  • shortening of a proper name (Dave, Fran, Rich)

It can be important to us as business blog content writers, for variety’s sake, to use different monikers for both products and people (whenever the connotation is flattering, of course!). “Learn to love your thesaurus,” advises Tracy Gold of the Content Marketing Institute, especially when it comes to composing titles. There aren’t many words in blog titles, she says, so it’s important to choose exactly the right words.

Getting personal is a huge element in the success of any marketing blog, fellow blogger Michael Fortin reminds us. Sharing anecdotes about the guy or gal on your team who is the “codemaster”, computer genius, the “energizer,” the “fashionista, or the “financial wizard” helps humanize promotional content…

“Hollywood’s star-makers capitalize on the fact that people react emotionally to names,” Lederer explains. A name with box-office appeal projects the kind of image a star wants to radiate.

Stories about names and nicknames make for very engaging content, whether for history books or business blogs.  Harry S Truman decided his middle initial would have no period, because it wasn’t an initial for a particular name, but a compromise between the names of his two grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young.

Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, Theodore Roosevelt, the Rough Rider, and Ronald Reagan the Gipper. Mark Twain became such a well-known nickname that few remember the real name, Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

What stories of nicknames, monikers, and sobriquets are just waiting to be told in your business blog?

 

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We’ll-Just-Tell-You-Why-It-Should-Be-Us blogging for Business

introducing you in your blog

At first glance, the WageWorks ad (the company provides Health Savings Accounts for employees) seems incredibly boastful:

“We won’t tell you which HSA to pick.  We’ll just tell you why it should be us.”

On second glance, this ad reminds me of two points I made about thought leadership in recent posts on this Say It For You blog. One refers to a Wall Street Journal Magazine story about Kasper Egelund, the Danish kitchen company CEO. Egelund tells customers they can have his kitchen in any color,” so long as it’s black”. The very arrogance and self-assuredness embodied in that statement makes customers want to follow his recommendations.

When it comes to blogging for business, positioning ourselves (or our business owner/professional practitioner clients) as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) is obviously a worthy goal. We might be able to go one better, however, by presenting ourselves as thought leaders, willing to strike out in a direction that is a little different from the common wisdom – and being definitive about our opinions.

The WageWorks ad may be boastful, but it offers reasons employers should choose their HSAs over others available in the marketplace. In my “There’s-a-Reason-and-What’s-the-Reason Blogging for Business” post earlier this week, I explained that readers need to be offered a “because”, presented in terms of advantages to the reader of reading further and then following the Calls to Action in the blog post.

“When it’s your turn to speak, start with a bang, not the white noise of housekeeping,” Laurie Guest, CSP advises emerging public speakers. Opening strong, Guest explains, means being purposeful about your opening, with no quotes from famous people, or “Nice to be here…”, or humorous “ice breakers”.

In blog marketing, the idea is to powerfully position what you do and what your company does. Like CEO Egelund and WageWorks, be strong and bold – let them know why it should be YOU!

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There’s-a-Reason and What’s-the-Reason Blogging for Business

reason why

“There’s a reason why The Northside Social in Broad Ripple feels so comfortable,” Seth Johnson writes in Broad Ripple Magazine. (Great opening line. Bold assertion. Makes the reader want to know the why of it.)

In the same magazine issue, Jon Shoulders starts a review of Taylor’s Bakery (shown above) with another good opening: “How does a relatively small, family-owned bakery not only stay in business but also flourish for more than a century?”

At Say It For You, I’ve always stressed the fact that opening lines have a big job to do. As blog content writers, we have to assure readers they’ve come to the right place to find the information that satisfies their need for answers. On the other hand, a “pow” opening line that arouses curiosity may be just what’s needed to keep a reader progressing through the page. Think of beginning a blog post with the words “There’s a reason” or the question beginning “What’s the reason that…?”.

After his opening statement, rather than a lot of ad-like “sales-ey” text, Johnson’s write-up goes on to illustrate the “reason why” behind Northside Social’s success with a specific example:

We treat the chicken three different ways, Nicole says. “We brine it in pickle brine,
we marinate it, and then we confit it.  So we roast it in duck fat and then we bread it
and fry it to order.  It’s delicious”.

Shoulders, whose write-up of Taylor’s Bakery focuses more on business history and strategy,
offers a mouth-watering reason-why as well:

“If it’s baked and it’s sweet, you’ll likely find it at Taylor’s – cookies, cakes, doughnuts, Danish, breads and dinner rolls and flavored popcorn are all offered.  Everything is made fresh daily down to the ice cream…which is churned from scratch using special in-house machinery.”

In an article in Self magazine, the author urges readers to stop pussyfooting around and ask for what they need, but advises providing a reason for that need. Because at Say It For You, I provide business blogging assistance to business owners and their employees, I thought this Self article was “spot on“. After all, in business blogs, readers are often asked to subscribe to the blog, pose a question or comment, sign up for a mailing list or newsletter, or buy products or services.

But, as the Broad Ripple Magazine articles so aptly demonstrate, readers need to be given a reason to do those things. The “because” needs to be presented in terms of advantage to the reader.

Beginning a blog post with the words “There’s a reason why” or the question “Why” (is getting to know this company/product/service going to be a very good idea for the reader) might turn out to be a very good idea for the company offering the blog!

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Blogging as Long as It’s Black

Blog readers need to perceive you as an expert in your field, I teach at Say It For You.  And for that to happen, I believe, you need to clearly state a firm perspective on your subject. There’s no lack of information sources – and no lack of “experts” (purported or real) on any topic and that is the reason we need to go beyond presenting facts, statistics, features, and benefits, and get authentic and yes, even opinionated.

Around six months ago, I came across a wonderful feature story in the Wall Street Journal Magazine, featuring the Danish kitchen design company Vipp.  Explaining ”How a Salon Trash Can Turned a Design Brand Into a Phenomenon”, reporter Natalia Rachlin discussed CEO Kasper Egelund’s take-it-or-leave-it-approach:

“The first thing I always tell someone about the kitchen is that they can have it
in whatever color they want, as long as it’s black.”

 Vipp’s success is not in spite of, but precisely because of this firm posture. In the “lucrative and highly competitive kitchen market, which tends to be all about customization”, Rachlin posits,  being opinionated presents a picture of self confidence and expertise.

Expertise and exaggeration, of course, are two different things, and exaggeration is something blog marketers need to handle very, very carefully.  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. “Claiming to have expertise you don’t have can create customer dissatisfaction and complaints, ultimately eroding your reputation,” cautions the Ethics Center.

No, it’s not exaggeration we’re after in crafting blog posts, but influence. As blog content writers, our goal is framing our story in a way that this audience will focus on and respect. Chris Anderson, head of TED Talks, would remind speakers: Argue the rarer point or elucidate as only you can.”

Readers are looking to us for expertise and a firm perspective. It appears Vipp kitchen buyers, knowing  there is a rainbow of cabinet and backsplash finishes available to them, still love having Egelund tell them “as long as it’s black”. Shouldn’t we be “blogging as long as it’s black”?

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Appearing Professional Means Minding the S and G in Your Blog

grammar in blogs

“The English language sticks to its spelling rules, such as i before e except after c, about as strictly as we follow the no cell phones while driving rule,” jokes Jenny Baranick in the book Kiss My Asterisk. Society hasn’t exactly promoted healthy spelling, she says – we were raised with SpellCheck. However, we must learn how to do it; otherwise we will appear unprofessional, Baranick warns.

A few of us are old enough to remember the song lyrics, ”Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage” (OK, so I’m a grandmother..) However, there are certain words that simply should never join, Baranick states emphatically. (Well, certain ones can, she adds, but the meaning is totally different.)

Alright  is never all right.

Altogether and all together are two different things. We are all together at the coffee shop, and we are altogether (completely) happy about that.

Every day and everyday are also two different things. Every day you may write a blog, and every day you may take a 30-minute power walk.  But when blog writing and power walking begin to seem boring and everyday for you instead of exciting, that’s not a good thing.

When  A and part are apart,  they miss each other. Together, they are a part of a writer’s group. (“A part” means a piece of something that forms a whole.)

Of the two types of people who make up the English-speaking world, I find myself among the  minority who believe proper grammar and spelling matter on business websites and in business blogs. After many discussions of the subject at networking meetings, I concluded that the mainstream mindset is that, in our digital world, nobody notices grammar and spelling errors, and if they did, they wouldn’t care that much. Maybe Baranick’s Kiss My Asterisk will change some minds.

As a blog content writer and trainer, my thought is this: you always want to be sure poor usage and misspelled words aren’t distracting any of your readers. Minding the S and G in your blog can mean keeping your readers’ minds focused on the message!

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Top Ten How-To Titles in Blogging for Business


There’s a reason “how-to” blog post titles work, marketing gurus Guy Kawaski and Peg Fitzpatrick show in their user guide on social media. How-to titles might start out with those very words, or take forms such as:

  • Quick Guide to…..
  • Complete Guide to….
  • Questions to Ask Before…
  • Rules for….
  • Essential Steps to….
  • Most Popular Ways to…..
  • Tips for Busy……..
  • Tactics to….
  • What No One Tells You About……..

There’s a “biology” to selecting effective business blog post titles, I wrote in a blog post some five years ago. (Since, as blog content writers, one big challenge we face is selecting the best title for each post, I had found an exercise in an Ivy Tech Community College textbook in which students were to select the best out of four possible titles for an article about humpback whales.)

In composing business blogs, I reminded my Say It For You readers, we need to keep several goals in mind:

  • write engaging titles
  • include keyword phrases to help with search
  • be short and to the point
  • use power words

The overriding goal, though, in composing a title, I pointed out, has to be making promises we are going to be able to keep in the body of the blog post itself.

The correct answer in that student textbook was #3: “The Digestive System of the Humpback Whale”. That’s the one, the writer explained, that includes the writer’s focus in the paragraph.  The other titles were either too broad, too specific, or limited to only a portion of the paragraph’s content.

The best “How-to”s are neither too broad nor too limited. They have a “news-you-can-use” feel. The response you’re after from readers is, “Aha! “I have found the right place to get the information I need.

There are lots more How-to titles where those Top Ten came from, Kawaski promises. In fact, he’s got a chart of no fewer than “74 Compelling Fill-in-the-Blank Blog Post Titles” on a Twitter infographic. Try these on for size:

  • Key benefits of….
  • Essential things for….
  • Examples of things to inspire you…
  • Key benefits of….

How-to titles are the perfect tool in blogging for business!

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New Blogging Means Being Controversial

Be controversial, is the advice Ryan Deiss and Russ Henneberry, authors of Digital Marketing for Dummies. give writers. The idea – making yourself stand out by bringing up controversial topics even if you worry some of your readers won’t agree.

Whatever the topic, you have to answer four questions that will be in readers’ minds, Deiss and Hennberry stress:

  1. Why now? (Why is the information you’re offering timely?)
  2. Who cares? (Who in the target audience is likely to be affected by having or not having what you’re selling?)
  3. Why should they care?) How will their lives be different with your product or service?)
  4. Can you prove it?  (Here’s where case studies, testimonials, and news stories come in.)

Daniel of Freerange Communications agrees. “One way to increase organic traffic and build engagement is by writing controversial content while backing up your opinions”.  But, he cautions, “You cannot simply contradict what everyone else is saying…You need to support your arguments with accurate sources and data.

Daniel lists three possible approaches to writing controversial blog posts:

  • Riding coattails:
    Using an already popular subject to prove your point. For example, “Why Steve Jobs Constantly Ignored His Customers”
  • This versus that:
    “5 reasons email marketing is better than social media marketing”.
  • Being the messenger:
    “The  ——-  Myth Debunked”

If you decide to write about a heated topic, tackle the topic boldly, using clear sentences. You can even present arguments for both sides while making sure that the side you pick is clear, Daniel advises.

In blog content writing training sessions, I’ve always emphasized to content writers that blogs must have a strong, “opinionated” voice. Posts must go far beyond Wikipedia-page-information-dispensing and offer the business owner’s (or the professional’s, or the organization executive’s) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic.

In any field, there will always be controversy – about best business practices, about the best approach to providing professional services, about acceptable levels of risk, even about business-related ethical choices. Rather than ignoring the controversy, bloggers need to comment on the different views and “weigh in”.  New Blogging will consider controversy a tool for thought leadership.

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Should Blog Posts Be Op Eds?

opinions in business blogs

 

“Opinionated editorial essays are often the most fun, fast and furious pieces to get into print – especially for nonfamous  witers with strong opinions and day jobs in other fields,” opines Susan Shapiro in Writer’s Digest.

What about business blog content marketing? Should posts do more than describe the products and services being offered and inc