Blogging Wisdom in a Puzzle Book

I’ve always been a puzzle book junkie, and one of my favorite puzzle types is the Quotefall. The other day, after solving one of the puzzles, I realized the puzzle creator must know something about business blogging…

The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way
or a new thing in an old way.

(The adage, I later learned, has been attributed to Richard Harding Davis.)

Saying “old things, is, in fact, a concern of many business owners and professional practitioners when it comes to their blog. Even if they understand the overall marketing value of having a blog, their concern is that, sooner or later, they (or their blog content writer) will run out of things to say. In blogging training sessions, I need to explain that it’s more than OK – in fact it’s a good idea – to repeat themes already covered in former posts. The trick is to adding a layer of new information or a new insight each time.

To us blog content writers, “saying old things in a new way” means that each time we’re preparing to compose content for a bog, rather than asking ourselves whether we’ve already covered that material and how long ago, we ought to plan content around key themes. That way, we can be using the same theme while filling in new details and illustrations.

What about writing new things in an old way? In the process of introducing new information or suggesting a new attitude towards certain features and benefits of a product or service, behavioral science tells us that we must create a perspective or “frame”. The “new” concept needs to be presented in a way that relates to the ”old” and familiar, so that readers can envision an improved result for themselves.

So, what happens when you realize that information you’d put in a blog post months or even years ago isn’t true any longer (or at least isn’t the best information now available in your industry or profession?) Maybe the rules have changed, or perhaps there’s now a solution that didn’t even exist at the time the original content was written.

This is the perfect example of saying old things in a new way. Armed with your new understanding or with a better solution to a problem of which you’ve now become aware, explain what you used to think, (linking back to the old blog posts), then share the new, better information you have today.

That Quotefall puzzle was a good reminder that the secret of good blog content writing is saying old things in new ways and new things in old ways!


Trivia Scores Points in Blogging for Business


With all this staying at home dictated by the COVID-19 situation, I’m particularly grateful for the TV game show Master Minds. Of course, at Say It For You, I’ve long touted the advantages of using trivia in blogging for business. Trivia can help spark curiosity and interest in readers, at the same time helping business owners and professionals explain what they do and how they believe it should best be done.

I know I’m not alone in enjoying trivia. In fact, I have a theory about quizzes in general, which is that our curiosity is most intense when we’re testing our own knowledge. That’s why tests, games, and quizzes are hard to resist, including those incorporated into blog marketing.

I’m going to use some actual questions from the show to suggest different types of businesses or professional practices which might use those questions as a jumping-off point for their blog post message, but challenge you to find your own connections (you’re invited to share your best ideas in the comments)…

Housed in the Smithsonian, what color is the Hope Diamond?
A natural for a jeweler’s blog, this material might be used for a post about the importance of estate planning or to promote company that installs burglar alarms.

The inhabitants of which U.S. territory drive on the left side of the road? (Virgin Islands)
Just for starters, this piece of trivia could be used to promote driving lessons or auto sales.

When putting on your shoes, where are you most likely to see an aglet? (laces)
This one’s a natural for a shoe merchant or designer, but could be used for a sports equipment company as well.

If you pour a handful of salt into a glass of water, what happens to the water level? (stays the same)
This tidbit might be used to promote cookbooks or cooking equipment.

What national park contains the tallest peak in North America? (Denali in Alaska)
A car company or travel agency could definitely use that one for a blog Q&A.

Which poisonous plant was, in the Middle Ages, thought to utter a shriek when pulled from the ground? (mandrake)
This would be perfect for a garden shop blog, but could be used by a landscaper or grounds maintenance company.

For me, watching those episodes of Master Mind has reinforced the importance of trivia in blog content writing. Trivia allows readers to have the fun testing their own knowledge, while showcasing the expertise of the business owner or practitioner.

When it comes to using trivia to spice up blog content, as Ben Bailey (host of another of my favorite trivia quiz shows) might ask – “You in?”


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 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!