Turns of Phrase Catch Readers By the Curiosity

Blog post titles have two seemingly contradicting jobs to do – arousing readers’ curiosity while still assuring them they’ve come to the right place, I’ve often explained to blog content writers at Say It For You.
Sometimes, in either the title or the body of a post, “misdirection” adds humor. I remember Jeff Fleming of the National Speakers Association of Indiana teaching us that speakers and magicians use misdirection to cause a surprise, which tickles listeners’ funny bones.

Just the other day (Employee Benefit News is just one example of the “reading around” I do to keep content fresh),  I came across two examples: “Not-So-Sweet-Dreams” was the title of an article about lack of sleep on the part of workers. (We’re used to the expression “sweet dreams”, so the title sort of brings readers up short.) A second article in the same issue was called “Thank God It’s Thursday”, discussing the merits of a four-day workweek.  Since the expression “Thank God It’s Friday” is so ubiquitous, the insertion of “Thursday” arouses curiosity.

Using unlikely comparisons is another technique content writers can use to engage readers. Putting ingredients together that don’t seem to match is not only an excellent tool for creating engaging business blog content, but also a good teaching tool. Going from what is familiar to readers to the unfamiliar area of your own expertise, allows your potential customers to feel smart as well as understood.

One point I keep stressing to business owners and practitioners hesitant about launching a blog
on the grounds that “I’ve already covered my products and services on my website – what else is left to say?” is that the blog is there to provide relevant, useful, and timely content to your prospects and customers to help them solve problems, understand industry trends, and make sense of the news and how it relates to them.

One caution about surprising readers – far-fetched can come across as “bait ‘n switch” if the unlikely comparison doesn’t clarify and help readers get the answers they came to find. You might say that, when it comes to blog content writing, misdirection needs to end up by offering direction!

Blog “As-Measured-By” Calls to Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tell-Me-How Blogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Using GOLO in Blog Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Blog Boasting of the Right Kind


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

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

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

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

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

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

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