“Eliminate the negative an’ latch on to the affirmative” was Johnny Mercer’s musical advice back in 1945. Playing to one’s strengths has, in fact, been a popular fad in management development circles. As a blog content writer, though, sometimes I wonder.
The latest issue of Modern Dog magazine features eight article titles on its cover:
- How Not to Train Your Puppy
- Gift ideas galore
- Big Dogs and their Puppy Counterparts
- Winter Survival Tips
- Great Gear
- I’m Adoptable
- Find a New Best Friend
- “Why is My Dog Staring at Me?”
Guess which one attracted my attention the most? Yeah, gotta admit… it was the negative one telling me how NOT to train my puppy. And guess what? It’s not just me. People are drawn to articles with negative titles, my friend and fellow blogger Lorraine Ball pointed out a year ago. Posts with negative titles stand out in a blog roll, on a Twitter feed or LinkedIn page, and the negative posts are more likely to be shared, retweeted and read.
What’s with us? Well, “Edgy language draws attention”, Lorraine explains. (Lorraine’s title “Why Your Blog Titles Suck” is one too edgy for me, but I get the idea. I do.) Fact is, I would’ve picked “Why is My Dog Staring at Me?” before “How to Train Your Puppy”. It was that How-NOT-to that drew my attention.
But that doesn’t jibe at all with Rich Brook’s advice on socialmediaexaminer: “The how-to is the most powerful of all the blogging archetpyes.” Your prospects and customers have a problem and you can help them solve it by creating a step-by-step post that walks them through a solution, he says. That may be true, counters Lorraine Ball, but fear of failure is core to who we are as people, and it’s hard to resist reading material about how to avoid it.
Could it be that first accentuating the negative, and only then latching on to the affirmative is the best advice for us business blog content writers?