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!

Words That Command Attention in Blog Post Titles


Are there certain words, words that are quite common, yet which command a reader’s attention? Leafing through the July issue of TIME magazine, I found the answer to that question is a definite “yes”. Mind you, none of these attention-commanding, curiosity-stimulating words (or set of words) offers the slightest hint of the topic of the article to follow. Instead, these attention-commanding words hint of the tone of the content to come.

  • Finding….
  • How…
  • Could…
  • A new….
  • Singing….
  • Things just….
  • The best…
  • The impossible…
  • The hidden…
  • Is it O.K if….
  • Don’t…
  • Who is….

What these attention-commanders do so subtly and skillfully is to set expectations. The title words “finding”, “the hidden”, the “impossible” might engender the expectation of discovery or of gaining a new insight. “Things just”, “could”, and “the impossible” hint at an opinion piece, even a rant. “The best, “how”, and “don’t” imply that valuable advice and cautions will follow. “How” hints that information about the way a certain process works is to follow, while “Is it O.K if” suggests readers might be asked to weigh in on an ethical dilemma of some sort.

Between Shakespeare’s Juliet asking “What’s in a name?” and father-of-advertising David Ogilby’s emphasis on headlines, there’s simply no contest when it comes to blogging for business – titles matter! There are two basic reasons titles matter so much in blogs, we emphasize at Say It For You. First, key words and phrases, especially when used in blog post titles, help search engines make the match between online searchers’ needs and what your business or professional practice has to offer.

But after you’ve been “found”, you’ve still gotta “get read”, and that’s where these attention-commanding words can be so useful. TIME editors obviously understood this point when it comes to magazine readers. Blog content writers should follow suit, creating titles that are relevant, but which also set the tone and arouse curiosity.


Blog Reader Encounters of the Right Kind


client encounters

When it comes to blog marketing, there’s a lot of talk (too much talk, in my opinion) about traffic. Yes, blogging is part of business owners’ or professional practitioners’ “pull marketing” strategy, designed to attract readers’ eyeballs. At least a percentage of these readers, the hope is, will become customers and clients.

In a sense, however, fewer might well prove better when it comes to the numbers of online searchers who find your blog, then click through to the website. Remember the 1977 movie about aliens called “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”? I like to remind both the blog content writers at Say It For You and the clients who hire us that the goal of a business blog is to bring in customers “of the right kind”. These are customers who have a need for and who will appreciate the services, products, and expertise being showcased in the blog.

Long-time friend and fellow blogger Thaddeus Rex had it right, I believe, when he said: “If your marketing is not getting enough people into the pool, you’ll find the problem is in one of three places.  You’ve either got the wrong story, the wrong stuff, or the wrong audience”. Rex recommends filtering: the audience by differentiating your own business or practice in some way:

  • Your product or service can do something your competitors can’t .
  • Your product/service is more easily available relative to your competitors’.
  • You offer a better buying experience.
  • You’re less expensive.

Years ago, I remember a speaker at a wine-tasting event explaining that, when a customer finds a product or service that appears to be the exact right thing, it’s as if a light pops on. By offering a “content-tasting” on your blog, and doing that regularly and frequently, I tell business owners and professionals, you’ll have put yourself in a position to attract those “encounters of the right kind”.

Getting it “right” takes planning and thought, to be sure. Are you selecting the “right” keyword phrases? Are you establishing the “right” clear navigation path from the blog to landing pages on your website? Are you blogging for the right reasons and with the right expectations?

Remember, the goal is not lots of blog reader encounters; it’s blog reader encounters of the right kind!


How Much Do Your Blog Readers Actually Know About Your Company?


which of the two


Yet another great blog content idea sparked by the latest issue of Mental Floss magazine is a “Which of the Two….” quiz. Which product or brand has locations in more countries worldwide – a) McDonald’s or b) Burger King? Which is known for its brown delivery trucks and uniforms – FedEx or UPS? Which is licensed to the Hershey Company by Nestle – a) Kit Kat or b) Milky Way?

By adding interactive content to your blog, advises Kaleigh Moore of, you stand to make more impact and help your blog content stand out from the noise. Josh Haynam of goes a step further, telling marketers that the word “actually” is very compelling, posing a challenge from which readers won’t want to back down: How much do you actually know about….?” Interactive quizzes are huge lead magnets and have high conversion rates, Simply Amanda agrees.

At Say It For You, we look at trivia as components of a “toolbox” for blog content writers. Continually coming up with fresh content to inform, educate, and entertain readers is a pretty tall order for not only busy entrepreneurs and employees, but even for professional content writers. That’s exactly why I’m constantly on the prowl for blogging “foodstuff”, trivia that can be used to explain concepts, sharing with readers each of our clients’ unique point of view within their own profession or industry and within the community. The interactive quiz serves as a lead-in to sharing that kind of discussion.

“Which of the Two” quizzes can be used in business blogs to:

  • define basic terminology
  • compare one company or practice to others
  • demonstrate unique problem solutions
  • put matters into perspective, explaining why this business owner or practitioner has chosen to operate in a certain way

“Which-of-the-two” can be one way to challenge and engage blog visitors and to find out – just how much DO your readers know about your company and industry?


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.