Getting Personal in Blogging for Business

Those who tell the stories rule society - Quote by Plato

As someone who helps clients communicate via the internet, I got a thought-provoking kick out of the anecdote Nancy Clark from West Point, Virginia submitted to Readers’ Digest:

      I’ve given up social media for the new year and am trying to make friends outside Facebook     while applying the same principles.  Every day I walk down the street and tell passersby what I’ve eaten, how I feel, what I did the night before, and what I will do tomorrow. I share pictures of my family, my dog and my gardening….I also listen to their conversations and tell them I love them.  And it works. I already have three people following me – two police officers and a psychiatrist.

One interesting perspective on the work we do as professional bloggers is that we are interpreters, translating clients’ corporate message into human, people-to-people terms. In fact, one reason I prefer first and second person writing in business blog posts over third person “reporting” is that I believe people tend to buy when they see themselves in the picture and when can they relate emotionally to the person bringing them the message.

“Getting down and human” in business blogs is so important that it becomes a good idea for a business owner and professional to actually write about past mistakes and struggles. Blogger Beccy Freebody posits that it’s much easier to connect to someone who has been where you are.

So just how personal should your business blog be?” asks  Many businesses and business people struggle to find that fine line between adding a personal touch and shocking or boring their readers to death with overly personal, trite information,” the authors observe.

On a business blog, you will be rewarded for having a unique and authentic voice, but that doesn’t mean you have free reign to swear or otherwise be rude. Your unique voice should fit nicely within the brand’s larger personality, mavenlink wisely adds.

Important to the Readers’ Digest dilemma, the authors state that “while business bloggers may benefit from discussing past and current struggles as a tool for connecting emotionally with readers, such stories are best used as a means to an end, with the end being solving readers’ problems.

Business is personal, so is a blog,” writes Ty Kiisel in Forbes. “Over the years,” Kiisel says, “my readers have gotten to know me because I share with them some of the details of my life.”


Think-Like-a-Shrink Blogging for Business

portrait of middle aged female therapist

“When someone is struggling with a problem you think you could solve easily, remember that the problem looks simple only because it’s not your problem,” Dr. Jeremy Sherman reminds readers of Psychology Today. “Don’t pretend that your guesses about what motivates people are objective observations.  They’re always refracted through your own biases,” Sherman adds.

For purposes of business blog content writing, understanding what motivates our readers is crucial. People are online searching for answers to questions they have and for solutions for dilemmas they’re facing, and we’re out to engage our blog readers and show them we understand the dilemmas they’re facing. But, do we really understand? How can we get better at “guessing”?

Sherman recommends curiosity. “If you’re intellectually curious,“ he says, “every experience, story, idea, conversation, and argument is a window into human nature. Read broadly across the social sciences and apply what you learn to everyone, yourself included.”

In blogging for business, I recommend curiosity as well. “Reading around” and “learning around”, in fact, are my prescriptions for keeping blog post content fresh and engaging. When you learn snippets of O.P.W. (Other People’s Wisdom), you enrich your own knowledge, including your knowledge of people.

E-learning coach Connie Malamed, for example, lends insight into the way our brains process information.  She recommends a strategy called chunking, which means breaking down information into bit-sized pieces so our readers can more easily digest the information.

Then WIBC newscaster Mike Corbin gave me a useful understanding when he talked about “unpackaging” news events by discussing those events from varied standpoints. I realized that “unpackaging” is a perfect description of the way we bloggers can help online readers connect with information we’ve presented.  We put facts and statistics into perspective, so that readers realize there’s something important here for them.

Drawing ideas from everywhere and everything – what you read, what you hear and view is what I call “learning around” for your blog. It’s absolutely true that every experience, story, idea, conversation, and argument is a window into human nature – and, for us blog content writers, that means the readers!


Another Year, Not Just Another Blog

2016 Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Everybody, it seems, has advice about how to make your blog better than ever in 2016. John Egan, writing in the Huffington Post, sort of sums it up in two words: “Aim high”, by which he means never sacrificing quality merely to achieve quantity.

BlogTyrant makes some predictions about blogging SEO in 2016 centered around speed, because “even a second or two of lag can cost your business thousands of dollars”. Learning “how to shrink stuff” – photos, images, graphics, etc. can save loading time. Blogtyrant predicts that guest posting will still be one of the “absolute best ways to get your name out there and grow traffic.”

As a checklist for themselves, blog content writers might wish to use the judging criteria for the UK Blog Awards 2016, which include the following five aspects of a blog:

  • Design
  • Style
  • Content
  • Marketing
  • Usability

“Determine why you are blogging,” advises Maisha Walker of Walker outlines the four reasons a website exists to aid a business, and suggests ways to measure success for each goal:

  • build a brand (what awareness studies will you do?)
  • generate leads (How many phone calls or emails to you want to get from your blog?)
  • generate direct sales (How many readers and page views will it take?)
  • generate advertising revenue (How much do you hope to make? How many readers and page views do you need to do that?)

“Your previous years’ outreach can clue you into what balance will work best. Take stock of what you did the past year: What was a home run? What was moderately successful? What underperformed? And what were the reasons for your content’s success or failure?” Amanda Hicken of advises.

Then, looking towards the coming year, Hicken says, go through the holidays, seasonal events, and conferences that impact not just your industry, but also the industries related to your target audience. Uncover other newsworthy topics and trends by using a monitoring tool. But, she cautions, “don’t fall into the trap of operating on autopilot”.

How will you approach blogging in the new year?


Blogging to Tell Them What to Think About

Thinking manHara Estroff Marano, writing in Pyschology Today, says she won’t tell you what to think, but will tell you what to think about.  While in this article the psychologist is offering food for thought in the spheres of dating and self-motivation, I couldn’t help but love that line of hers, realizing how very apropos it is for us business blog content writers.

In fact, a point I often stress in corporate blogging training sessions is this: whether you’re blogging for a business, for a professional practice, or for a nonprofit organization, you need to voice an opinion, a slant, on the information you’re serving up for readers. In other words, blog posts, to be effective, can’t be just compilations; you can’t just “aggregate” other people’s stuff and make that be your entire blog presence.

On the other hand, if you, as a business owner or professional practitioner, try telling people what to think, that’s a surefire way to lose friends and customers in a hurry. Yes, your blog is your “podium”, meaning you get to showcase your business so customers will want you to be the one to provide them with the product or the service they need. But they need to arrive at that point as a result of their own thinking.  Dr. Marano hit the nail on the head – don’t tell readers what to think; give them all the facts they need to think about.

How can blogs help potential clients and customers make better, sometimes complex, decisions?

  • By suggesting questions readers can ask themselves while choosing among many options. (Do they want ease of use? Current functionality? Future capabilities?)
  • By “mapping”, meaning showing how choices are related to consequences.  How much sooner will your mortgage get paid off if you add $100 each month to your payment? How should the prospect feel about the purchase (Relief? Trust? Premier status?)
  • By offering easy ways to make choices, so that the decisions are not pressure-packed.

You might say the art of blogging consists of supplying facts, and then putting those facts in context.  As bloggers, we’re giving them the raw materials to think about, but we need to go one step further, demonstrating why those facts matter, suggesting ways readers can use the information for their own benefit.

To the woman concerned that the man she’s been dating has been legally separated for the past twenty years, Marano suggests, “Could it be that your online friend values clinging to the comfort of the status quo?”

Are you giving your readers something to think about?



Blogging Almost to the Finish Line

A group of runners in a cross country race.“You can’t open a magazine or newspaper without seeing a recap,” motivational speaker Mark Sanborn wrote. Sanborn isn’t sure, though, how useful recaps are, and quickly concludes he had nothing to do with major events and nothing he could do about them now that they were over.  “The best I can hope to do is learn vicariously from these people and events,” he writes, “and find some ways to apply the lessons in my own life.”

Look first at your successes, Sanford says.  High achievers go too quickly on to the next goal, missing the pleasure and optimism that comes from reflected on success. Next, says Sanborn, look at the setbacks.  What were the lessons you learned?  Have you made changes in your behavior to lessen future setbacks? If there’s nothing you could have done to avoid whatever difficulties occurred, FIDO (Forget it, drive on). Third, advises Sanborn, project into the year ahead to form ideas, goals and plans.

Now that the end of 2015 is coming close, I try to follow that self evaluation process Sanborn wrote about back in 2011, looking back at the past year spent as content writer and corporate blogging trainer. It was useful to go back and read Eric Wagner’s “Five Reasons 8 Out of 10 Business Fail”, which appeared in Forbes two years ago.

Failure reason #1 for small businesses is not being really in touch with customers.  On this one, I give my Say It For You team high marks.  Since our business model involves taking on only one client in each field of business, then assigning a dedicated writer to interface with the owner or practitioner, I put staying in touch in our Success column.

When things didn’t work this year, I realize, it almost always had to do with lack of coordination among the blog writer, the webmaster, the business owner, and the staff of the client’s business or practice. We business bloggers are nothing if not interpreters. Effective blog posts must go from information-dispensing to offering the business owner’s (or the professional’s, or the organizational executive’s) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic.

That means owners and professional practitioners have got to be involved in the process of producing content, even after they’ve engaged the services of our professional content writers. The webmaster has to work together with the blog writer to provide the optimization and analysis that make the content “work”. Hiring professional bloggers is not a “wake me up when it’s over” proposition. I think my biggest mistakes happened when I compromised on this principle. Not only should there be periodic team meetings to discuss content, it is not a good idea for me and my team to take on writing assignments without insisting the business also invest in properly designed landing pages and website optimization. When blog writing is not coordinated with email and social media the results are simply not likely to be what the business owner expects.

I have to say, we on the Say It For You team have more than enough reasons for pleasure and optimism. On the other hand, we’ve already begun to make certain changes to our business model, with an eye to learning from our failures.

2016? Bring it on!