Are Your Blog Questions for Learning or Judging?


Questions open our minds, says executive coach Roz Savage, but we need to go from judging to learning. While old-style leaders ask questions to elicit facts, new-style leaders ask questions “to unlock the intelligence of the team”. In her book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, Marilee Adams compares judging questions with learning questions. When we leap to judgment, that prevents us from learning very much, she teaches.

At Say it For You, always on the hunt for ways to improve the way we go about business blog content writing, we wondered how questions can be used in blog content itself, in which the “conversation”, at least at the start of the encounter, is one-way! Neil Patel suggests asking questions on social media as a way of learning more about your target audience for the blog. The first and most important question you need to ask, Patel says, is What are my readers worried about? The answers will allow you to provide a better customer experience and blog reader experience.

A question in a blog post title is an invitation to participate in a conversation, Patrick Armitage of BlogMutt suggests in uplandKapost.com.  And, while in a blog post, Armitage says, you’re often providing answers to questions that your potential customer might ask, the very fact that it’s in the form of a question allows readers to feel you’re helping them form them form their own opinions.

Visitors are, without a doubt, judging your website. If it does not appear attractive, easy to navigate, or knowledgeable, you’ve lost your customer, cautions Webociti. Relevant information they should find includes questions and answers, Joe Mediate explains.

As Marilee Adams emphasizes, learner questions lead to discovery and understanding, while judger questions more often lead to blame and frustration. In keeping with that concept, blog content should focus on expansive and productive questions, such as “What’s possible?” “What are my choices?” “What’s useful here?” In the real blog marketing world, I’ve found, the content writers focus on appealing to consumers’ fear. My own thought has always been that, to appeal to a better kind of customer – the one who buys for the right reasons and remains loyal, the content must appeal to readers’ better nature – and to their ability to arrive at intelligent answers to “learning” questions.

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5 Ways to Create Delicious Omelets and Blog Posts


There are four types of omelets, Course Hero explains: American style, French Style, Frittata, and Souffle. Interesting information, I thought, but Upfront Magazine’s article “Good Eggs: 5 Ways With Omelets” is a better example for my blog content writers. Why?  The Upfront piece went beyond providing information to readers, offering ways they can put that info to use.  blog post illustrations

The five “ways” (each attributed to a particular chef) include:
  1. using pizza toppings
  2. trying sweetness (tucking banana slices into the omelet, with powdered sugar and chocolate sauce)
  3. adding richness with goat cheese, meet, and herbs
  4. adding yogurt
  5. going Midwestern by adding fried kielbasa
I found a number of things in the “5 Ways” article that illustrate good practices for blog content writers:
It’s a “listicle”. 
Lists spatially organize information, helping create an easy reading experience, and by most accounts, search engines like lists as well.
It uses “chunking”.
Chunking is a way for business bloggers to offer technical information in easily digestible form, tying different pieces of advice and information into a unifying theme. The “5 Ways” article combines cooking advice (“It shouldn’t be brown or crisp” with a variety of ideas.

It uses visuals.
Visuals are one of the three “legs” of the business blog “stool”, along with information and perspective, or “slant”. Whether you use actual original photos or “clip art, visuals add interest and evoke emotion, in addition to cementing concepts in the minds of readers. “5 Ways” is headed by pictures of the 5 types of omelets being discussed.

It has an effective title
“How long?” is one question I hear a lot at corporate blogging training sessions, referring to the blog post itself, but also to the title. While the most effective length for a title is whatever it takes to signal to online searchers that “right here” is the place they want to be, titles should not be overly complicated or cumbersome.

It curates and properly attributes to sources
Quoting others in your blog adds value – you’re aggregating resources for the benefit of your readers. Then, as business blogging service providers, we need to add our own “spin” to the material based on our own business wisdom and expertise. At the same time, it’s crucial to properly attribute quotes and ideas to their sources.

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Triggering Trivia in Business Blogs


Modern technology has made it possible to find and share fascinating information, explains Alex Palmer in the delightful little book Alternative Facts. Of the 200 entries in the collection, about one-third are “true-ish” rather than true, and readers are invited to guess which those are, with answers found at the back of the book.

Trivia in general, I’ve long maintained, represent useful tools for blog content writers. In addition to adding some fun to the discussion of a topic, trivia can be used in business blogs in at least four different ways:

1. defining basic terminology
2. sparking curiosity about the subject
3. putting modern-day practices and beliefs into historical perspective
4. explaining why the business owner/practitioner chooses to operate in a certain way

Of course, stocking up on ideas for future blog posts isn’t all about trivia, as I explain to newbie blog content writers. The trivia tidbit is just the jump-off point for the message.

Here are eight facts, culled from Palmer’s book, that illustrate the value of “triggering” the discussion of a subject using a piece of trivia and relating it to the sponsor of the blog:

Who might use each of these tidbits in their blog?

1. Chewing your food longer can help you lose weight.
(weight loss advisor, spa, health provider, health food store) ,:

2. Of all creatures, moths have the strongest sense of hearing.
(audiologist, hearing aid company)

3. Americans are the only people who label pencils No. 2.
(private school, tutoring center, office supply store)

4. Warner Music Group owns the rights to the lyrics of “Happy Birthday”, and earns royalties on every use of the song on film, on TV, or in a public performance.
(patent attorney, birthday party organizer, party favor store, child care center)

5. William Shakespeare wore one gold earring.
(jeweler, fashion advisor, salon)

6. The bathroom scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” was the first time a toilet was flushed on screen.
(plumbing supply store, plumber, home builder, realtor)

7. The oldest preserved human body in the world was covered in tattoos.
(tattoo parlor, salon, spa)

8. Being double-jointed is something a person is born with.

(dance studio, exercise coach, dance equipment or exercise equipment provider)

For blog content writers, adding fun and interest to blog posts might be a “trivial” matter!

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Attract, Don’t Demand Attention with Stick Blog Content

Making messages deliver impact is, of course, “our thing” as business blog content writers, and this week’s Say It For You blog posts are devoted to sharing wisdom from Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick. 

We can’t succeed if our messages don’t break through the clutter to get people’s attention, the authors point out, and surprise gets our attention, Chip and Dan Heaths agree. Opening your blog post with a startling statistic can be a way to grab visitor’s attention, I often point out to writers, adding power and focus to posts, and showcasing your own knowledge and expertise.

“If you want your ideas to be stickier, you’ve got to break someone’s guessing machine and then fix it.” Gimmicky surprises can’t do that job; you must target an aspect of your audience’s thinking that relates to your own core message, the Heaths emphasize. To be satisfying, the surprise must be “post-dictable”, so that the next step becomes obvious to readers.

But we also can’t succeed if we can’t keep people’s attention, the authors caution. I agree. My experience as a blogger and as a blogging trainer – has shown me that statistics, even the startling sort, aren’t enough to create positive results for any business or practice. We need to search for sticky ideas that have the power to maintain our interest over time – and to propel action.

The authors offer specific steps to follow in crafting a message:

  1. Identify the central message you want to communicate.
  2. Figure out what is counterintuitive about the message. Why isn’t the result already happening naturally?
  3. Communicate the message in a way that “breaks the audience’s guessing machine”.
  4. Help them refine their “machine” with a solution.

    Item #1 on this list is the foundation. It’s advice writers too often forget; their blog content is often the worse for it. Each article, each blog post, I teach, should have a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of a business or practice.

Using the counterintuitive is an excellent tool for engaging interest. But in creating blog content, I add, look beyond the surprise. The risk content writers face is being perceived as “bait and switch” advertisers. The unlikely comparison must clarify issues, helping readers get the answers they came to find.

Attract attention with sticky blog content that gets and keeps people’s attention by offering solutions.

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Of-the-People Blogging Content Writing

Brand positioning is still important, but ensuring you have the right people to deliver on your brand is, too, Advisa leadership consultant Mandy Haskett points out in a recent Indianapolis Business Journal article. All the ping pong tables in the world won’t be enough to keep people working in roles that don’t align with their own inherent motivating needs, Haskett cautions, talking about talent optimization, which is matching the “job personality” with that of the employee performing that job.

Scott Greggory of Forbes calls it “highlighting your humanity to help your brand stand out”. “If your company sells a certain brand of tires, cell phones, or frozen pizza, you are literally no different from every other establishment that sells the same item,” Greggory says. What differentiates your company and builds loyalty is only a more human experience, he asserts.

Every business class studies the “4 Ps of marketing”: product, price, place, and promotion. As a blog marketing professional, I like what marsdd.com had to say about changing the 4 Ps to four Cs, butting the customer’s interests ahead of those of the marketer:

  1. Customer solutions (not products)
  2. Customer cost (not price)
  3. Convenience (not place)
  4. Communication (not promotion)

Brian Tracy (one of my longtime heroes back from my National Speakers Association days) has it right, adding a seventh P to his marketing list. “The final P of the marketing mix is people. Develop the habit of thinking in terms of the people inside and outside of your business who are responsible for every element of your sales, marketing strategies, and activities.” Tracy says. “It’s amazing how many entrepreneurs and businesspeople will work extremely hard to think through every element of the marketing strategy and the marketing mix, and then pay little attention to the fact that every single decision and policy has to be carried out by a specific person, in a specific way. “

In Creating Buzz With Blogs, veteran business technology consultant Ted Demopoulos explains, “Blogs create buzz because people will feel like they know you, and people like to do business with people they know.”  After more than ten years of writing content for business owners and professional practitioners, I’m absolutely convinced that’s true. People shop for products and services, but when all is said and done, they buy with their hearts. What that means is that the best blogs give readers into a company’s core beliefs, and help readers meet the people inside that company. And, while blogging can help achieve quite a number of goals, including:

  • building good will
  • staying in touch with existing customers and clients
  • announcing changes in products and services
  • controlling damage done by negative PR or by complaints
  • recruiting employees,

the most important function of your blog is expressing your brand in terms of the people behind it!

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