Design Thinking for Blog Content Writers

Design thinking is a process that helps companies and organizations solve problems, address challenges, and develop products,” a fascinating article in a recent issue of the Indianapolis Business Journal begins. Eureka!  At Say It For You, our blog marketing efforts are designed to demonstrate that our client companies and organizations can do those very same three things, I thought…

There are several different steps in design thinking, IBJ authors explain, and it’s best to move among the steps as needed. Meanwhile, I asked myself, how can we as content writers, use the first design-thinking step (Empathize) as a guide?

“See the problem you’re trying to solve through the eyes of the people facing it,” the authors suggest, exploring what the potential users of your product or service are saying, thinking, and feeling about the problem. 
I’ve written before about the concept of framing, meaning positioning a story in such a way that readers will focus on it and respect our blogging client’s expertise. In the course of delivering information (facts, statistics, features, and benefits, instruction and advice), we must create a perspective or “frame”.

Framing, a term that comes from behavioral science, is all about the Empathize step in design thinking. It’s about understanding in as much detail as possible what the target audience of readers is thinking, doing, and feeling about the problem our client is proposing to help solve.

While design thinking involves understanding what prospects are saying, thinking, and feeling about a problem, as content writers we need follow the advice client communications consultant Victor Ricciardi offers to financial planners: “Link your discussion to what clients will be able to DO or BUY with that (investment) income.”

When you’re composing business blog content, I teach at Say It For You, imagine readers asking themselves – “How will I use the product (or service)?” “How will it work?” “How will I feel?”  In other words, besides empathizing with prospects (where they are now), our job as content writers is to move them forward by helping them envision a good result. Readers found your blog in the first place, I remind writers, not because they were in search of your brand, but because of their own need. Needless to say, the blog must convey the fact that you can fulfill that need and that they have come to the right place. You must give online searchers a “feel” for the desired outcomes of using your products and services.
Blog by design – design thinking!

Best Communication Practices for Business Blogging

blog communication
No surprise – a special research study conducted for the Journal of Financial Planning on ways planners communicate with clients showed that, in most categories, more communication is better.  But exactly what kinds of communication matter most?

As Evan Beach, CFP® reports in the article, several different types of communication were examined:

1.  Educational pieces about investments: These had a high positive association with satisfaction and trust, but the difference was marginal when sent more than once per month.

2.  Non-investment-related educational pieces: These seemed to result in the most referrals, particularly when sent digitally.

3.  Interest and hobby-based pieces:
These are best sent quarterly, and should be focused on clients’ interests, not planners’.
Just as financial planners are trying to offer information, encouragement, and thought leadership to clients, we blog content writers are using different methods of reaching out to readers.

If we substitute the product or service being marketed for “investments”, we can use all three of these communication categories in blogging for business, seeking to increase reader engagement and trust:


1. Educational blog posts –
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. Blog content writing is a way of “cleaning the air”, replacing factoids with facts, so that buyers can see their way to making decisions.
2.  Non product or service-related blog posts –
One company that made the list of Forrester’s Top 15 Corporate Blogs was 37 Why were they chosen? The company “rarely blogs about their products, instead devoting their blog content writing to sharing advice about business and other topics.”

3. Interest-based pieces –
One of the realities about corporate blogs that is toughest for newbie Indianapolis writers of blog content to accept is that other people, specifically online searchers, are interested, first and foremost, in themselves and their own needs, wants, and interests. Their curiosity about what you do – or about what you have to say or sell, I explain in corporate blogging training sessions, will be at its most intense when it concerns testing their own limits or their own knowledge.

Remember, Evan Beach told those financial planners, ”marketing events are just a conduit to get people in the door when the time is right for them.”  For us blog content writers, we use blog posts of different types to get readers “in the door”, so they can act when the time is right for them.

Who-Helps-the-Helper Blogging for Business

compassion in blogging

How you communicate can serve to eliminate, decrease, or exacerbate panic experienced within yourself, your family, your team, and your clients,” asserts financial psychologist William Marty Martin, writing in the Journal of Financial Planning“Words have the power of providing comfort, or generating panic, or even helplessness,” Martin adds.

Just as financial planners use words to offer information, encouragement, and thought leadership to their clients, we blog content writers use words to reach out to readers.  And, just as financial planners must help themselves before they can offer help to others writers must prioritize the safety and welfare of ourselves, careful to prioritize our own thinking while serving our business owner and practitioner clients helping them bring the right kinds of messages to their customers and clients.

Martin’s advice to financial planners includes three communication guidelines for use during this time of pandemic-induced uncertainty and fear.  Each of these suggestions, I believe, is relevant to the messages we craft for business blogs:

  1. Communicate armed with facts from reliable, trusted sources. As a freelance blog writer, I’ve always known that linking to outside sources is a good tactic for adding breadth and depth to my blog content.  Linking to a news source or journal article, for instance, adds credibility to the ideas I’m expressing.  I encourage content writers and business owners alike to curate, meaning to gather OPW (Other People’s Wisdom) and share that with readers, commenting on that material and relating it to their own topic.
  2. Communicate seeking to inform, comfort, and connect with compassion. Soft skills such as relationship-building and interpersonal communication are going t be as important in coming years as technical skills.  Your content helps visitors judge whether you have their best interests at heart.  Even if you’ve come across as the most competent of product or service providers, you still need to pass the “warmth” test.
  3. Communicate with clarity and leverage multiple ways of connecting. Mp dpibt about it, the words you use to tell the story are the most important part of blogging for business. Visuals, whether they’re in the form of ‘clip art”, photos, grpahs, charts, or even videos, add “leverage”, connecting in a different, but supporive way.  Yet another way t offer multiple ways of connecting is having guest bloggers explain their point of view on an issues.

Ultimately, as Dr. Martin points out, service providers cannot deliver on their brand promist or fully meet their professional duties until they’ve “taken care of themselves”, clarifying their own opinions and constantly re-examining their own ideas in light of changing realities.

Be the helper in helping-the-helper blogging for business, using this time of crisis to gain new insights for the future!


Blog Hunter-Gatherers Tell Stories to Ignite

Anybody can become a better communicator, a better storyteller, says Carmine Gallo, author of “the Storyteller’s Secret.”.  Tell more personal stories, he advises.  Unfortunately, he laments, most of what we read and hear is 99% facts and 1% story. “I say, turn it around”, Gallo urges.


In the 1960’s, a Canadian anthropologist studying hunter-gatherer Bushmen in the Kalahari desert, a society that had existed in southern Africa for more than 150,000 years, found that  the Bushmen were hunter-gatherers by day and storytellers by night. In a place of frequent droughts, floods, and famine, the Bushmen used storytelling to boost their social relationships and create bonds.


“No matter who you are, you are a storyteller, says Karen Friedman of the Public Relations Society of America. Research shows that people are more likely to remember a story than a statistic. In a program at Stanford University, students were asked to give one-minute speeches that contained three statistics and one story. Only 5 percent of the listeners remembered a single statistic, while 63 percent remembered the stories.


Friedman’s message has direct applicability to blog content writers, and it comes in the form of a warning: …”Using digital content will not increase brand loyalty or enhance your marketing efforts. It takes an old-fashioned story that keeps listeners on the edge of their seats to help you shape your outcome.”


But, like every worthwhile endeavor, storytelling takes some skill and demands practice. True, as Elizabeth Bernstein said last year in the Life & Arts section of the Wall Street Journal, “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, and many of us aren’t.”


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. Done well, the stories will show why you are passionate about delivering your service or products to customers and clients.

Blogging About Your Five

Most businesses are good at 95% of what they do, says billionaire restaurateur and hotelier Tilman Fertitta in his newest book Shut Up and Listen. It’s the remaining 5%, he says, that determines whether the business excels or not. That 5% is the difference driver or tipping point, the author explains, offering examples from restaurant settings. 

On the negative side, that 5% difference can be made by a server bringing a drink without a napkin or a four-person table with one mismatched chair. A positive “fiver” could be knowing the names of repeat customers and where they prefer to be seated
Fertitta’s firm message for success: “Aim for a culture that puts the five percent at the forefront of your thoughts, decisions, and acts.” 

Blog titles and content, we emphasize at Say It For You, need to focus on the positive aspects of your business or practice, and primarily on the positive results customers can expect from selecting to work with you. Fellow blogger Michael Fortin agrees.  “Leave out the ‘buts”, he advises, and substitute ‘ands”.


And, while one approach in blogging is to compare what you have to offer with competitors, avoid devaluing other companies’ products and services. Focus on demonstrating what you value and the way you like to deliver services.


Behavioral science introduced a term that can be very useful for blog content creators: framing. Even a slight alteration to the way something is presented can result in a completely different response or decision, the authors of the blog explain.


It’s interesting that when customers have a bad experience, they are four times more likely to dump your brand, as ZCNet reminds us. What’s so ironic is that the bad experience almost always relates to the 5%, not to the usually satisfactory performance that results in customer loyalty to providers whose overall performance is just OK. Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as “negativity bias”, which explains our tendency to make judgments based on negative far more than positive information.


In your business or practice, you’re probably on top of your 95%. The 5% tipping point is what you need to clearly convey in your blog!