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!


In Blog Content Writing, Be a Mensch With Mentions

Since a “mensch” is the type of person we’d all like to think we are, how does that play out in blogging for business? Guy and Peg Fitzpatrick weigh in on that very subject in The Art of Social Media, first explaining the difference between a “mention” and a “hashtag”.

Hashtags help people share a topic, the authors explain. If you wanted to discuss blog marketing with a group of other blog marketers, you’d use #blogmarketing. On the other hand, if you’re blogging about a certain topic, mentioning the name of a person or company (hoping they will see that mention), you’d refer to them as @name on Facebook or Twitter. Of course, if you want to attribute ideas you’re discussing in a blog post to their original authors, you’d link your text to the source, just as I did after naming the Fitzpatrick book above.

The Fitzpatricks remind us of a super-important fact: While with email, the recipient’s response is the only one that matters, in social media, the audience is everyone who reads your comment or your post and who might react to it either positively or critically. Inevitably, some people are going to disagree with you. The authors’ advice to us is to take the high road and maintain a positive attitude throughout.
“Blogging and social media not only amicably coexist; they complement each other,” the authors aver. The trick? Use your blog to enrich your social media with longer form content; use social media to promote your blog.

Being – and staying – a mensch is the key to successful “re-gifting” of others’ content to your own marketing blog readers, I teach at Say It For You.  In fact, quoting someone else’s remarks on a topic you’re covering in a blog post can be a very good thing, because, you’re:

  • reinforcing your point
  • showing you’re in touch with trends in your field
  • adding value for readers by adding variety in the way an idea is phrased

On the other side of the coin, content writers need to remember that we’re trying to make our own cash register (or the cash register of the business owner or practitioner who hired us) ring. In the final analysis, therefore, the voice that has to be strongest through the post is the one represented by the url on the blog site.

In blog content writing, be a mensch with mentions, taking care of business while “taking care” to give credit where credit is due.


Blogging the What-Do-I-Do

In creating content – whether for blogs or newsletter, we’re sometimes so close to our own project that we forget to look at it from the reader’s point of view. Humor speaker Todd Hunt must have been reading a recent Say It For You blog post about the three questions prospects ask themselves: What is it? Is it for me? What do I do? No matter what, you can’t leave that third question unanswered. “Always remember where our customer is coming from,” Hunt cautions, showing a copy of an ad from the Twin Cities Pioneer Press touting the Doyle & Debbie Show.

The show is advertised in glowing terms: Brilliant! Drop dead funny! Fall-off-the-barstool fun!
Clever, Hilarious, Wacky & Brilliant! Extended Due to Overwhelming Demand! The only problem? Nowhere is the reader told either where the show is taking place or how to buy tickets! In other words, the what-do-I-do question goes frustratingly unanswered.

“If you find that your leads and prospects aren’t taking the next step in your sales process—whether that’s buying or simply requesting more information—the problem could be a faulty or non-existent call to action,” writes Mindy Lilyquist in It seems obvious to let people know the next step in doing business with you, but the truth is, many business owners don’t have calls to action in their marketing. Lilyquist thinks there are two possible reasons for this omission:

  1. a belief that the prospect already knows what to do if they’re interested in buying or learning more
  2. concerns that calls to action are obnoxious and will annoy the potential customer

Calls to action don’t need to be “calls to buy – now!”. In fact, the what-do-I-do question can be answered by suggesting the reader:

  • subscribe (to the blog via an RSS feed or to a newsletter)
  • share (via social media)
  • follow (on social media)
  • download (a white paper or book)
  • click to learn more (leading to more information-intensive landing page)

    The what-do-I-do can be in short form (a link or an icon to click on) or a sentence or two, explains. “Love learning about…… and want to learn more? Subscribe now for weekly updates….”):

While Todd Hunt reminds us to remember where our customer is coming from, “What-do-I-dos” and Calls to Action offer blog readers options for “Where do I go from here?”!


Connecting the Dots in Your Blog

A persuasive bio has to ”connect the dots” between your employment history and the reason you’ve chosen to do what you do, Diane Wingerter, the Career Strategist™, explains in her book, Hunting2Hired. Most professional bios don’t do anything of the sort, she points out, instead offering a long bullet-pointed list of employers followed by a “loves-tennis-and-walking-her-dog” shallow glimpse of the person behind the bio. Answer the question, Diane advises, “If you were no longer in this career, what would you miss about it?”

At Say it For You, there’s a similar question we ask business or practice owners whom we are helping start a blog: “If you had only ten words to explain why you have chosen to do what you do, what would those ten words be?” When you blog, you verbalize the positive aspects of your business in a way that people can understand. But, just as when you’re creating a bio, you’re explaining “who you are” and what kind of mark you’re trying to make in your industry or profession.

Prospective employers are “buyers”, Diane wants job candidates to understand, and connecting the dots for employers means using the narrative of your bio to connect your experience with the value you have to bring to the new company. A Persuasive Bio is based on the understanding that people are driven by desire first, and only later by knowledge. Similarly, blog content writers must never forget that buyers care about benefits, not features. Each “claim” a content writer puts into a corporate blog needs to be followed with a “which means that…” narrative.

The Career Strategist™ offers another tip to job seekers that is something blog content writers need to keep in mind: Don’t use tentative language, she advises, such as “could”, “might”, or “perhaps”. (If you’re not sure, why would you expect a prospective employer – or prospective customer – to be?) For us as content writers, one big goal of the writing we do for our business owner and professional practitioner clients is positioning them as experts in the eyes of their clients and of online searchers. As Renee Quinn advises in, “Be confident in your knowledge”.

Whether composing a bio or blogging for business, it’s important to connect the dots. For each point you make, imagine the employer – or the blog visitor – asking “So what? What’s in it for me?”


Valuable Blog Marketing Lesson in a Solo Cup

target market
You know those red plastic SOLO drinking cups? Maybe you’re heard that the lines wrapped around the outside are actually measuring guides, observes Todd Hunt in his latest Hunt’s Headlines email. The line closest to the bottom measures 1 ounce of liquor, the next one 5 ounces of wine, with the line close to the top measuring 12 ounces of beer. Forget that, says parent company Dart Container Corporation, stating in no uncertain terms that the lines are designed for function only and are not measurements.

“Advertising can….introduce emotions, images, and symbols that stimulate desire, and it can show how a product or brand compares favorably to competitors,” explains.
“Reminder advertising reminds people about the need for a product or service, or the features and benefits it will provide when purchased.”

According to the Cleveland State University Writing Center, “Critical readers seek knowledge; they do not “rewrite” a work to suit their own personalities”. But are blog readers “critical” in that sense? Not likely. Sure, as stresses, “Simply put, your blog’s target audience is the group of readers who your blog can help the most.” And, when you target that very specific audience, you have a better idea about what they need and want.

Still, content writers need to be aware that readers bring their own biases to the page. Without even realizing it, blog visitors are going to be thinking about how they might use those lines on the red plastic cup to measure beer or wine (whether that was our intention or not!). And, we’ve come to realize at Say It For You, that’s OK. Blog posts are not meant to be ads, instead functioning like “advertorials”.

When you first begin blogging, admits, “there is only ‘the middle’, entailing what you do, what you offer, and what problems you solve”. Surrounding this “middle” is your potential audience and what they care about. Identifying your audience is a process that never stops, cautions Queryz founder Sean Si.

As a blog marketer, suggests, you have different ways to differentiate your product from competitors, including:

  • by size
  • by origin
  • by branding or decoration
  • by packaging
  • by adding a feature or ingredient
  • by offering a bonus

One way to engage blog readers is to share the history of your company. (The Solo Cup company, was founded in Chicago during the Great Depression, and is now 84 years old!) “How-we-did-it” stories make for very effective blog content for both business owners and professional practitioners, I’ve learned.

The lesson in the solo cup? To the blog writer, the product or service might represent one thing; to individual readers, it might represent another! It’s all good….