Business Blogging to Help Maintain Control Yourself

take control
In this time of Coronavirus anxiety, I suggested in my latest Say It For You blog post, our focus as blog content writers should be firmly on showing readers how our business owner and professional practitioner clients can help their readers maintain control. As the TIME piece by Hallie Levine emphasizes, anxiety in short bursts and in the right amounts can actually help people fulfill tasks and achieve results. The secret for hitting the anxiety “sweet spot” (not too much nor too little), Levine says, is maintaining control over as many aspects of the situation as possible.
Now, let’s examine how we can use that same advice for our own benefit.
Get real.
In The Art of Social Media book by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick, there’s a little section called Be a Mensch, with “mensch” being defined as a “kind and honorable person who does the right thing in the right way”.  One thing for sure is that a mensch is real. You can’t give a reader a sense of control without showing that you’re dealing with the very same issues facing them. Emotional intelligence, closely related to mensch quality, is the capacity to express and then manage emotions. So first of all, allow your content to “get real’.

Be organized.
Even while letting readers see your own “humanity”, keep your blog content well-organized and well-written to convey a feeling of being in control. Maintaining a consistent schedule of posting sends a reassuring message to readers.

Share, don’t “give” advice.
As content marketers, we want to present the business or practice in a very personal, rather than a transactional way. Still, since the business owner or practitioner is, after all, the SME (subject matter expert), practical advice on how to best use the product or service is very much in order.  The tone, however, should be one of “sharing” a useful insight or tip, rather than “handing down” advice.

It’s interesting that Kristin van Ogtrop in that same TIME issue on anxiety, realized that “there is a fine line between setting boundaries and controlling, between guiding choices and telling your kids what to do.”  The message for marketing content writers, I believe, is to acknowledge that the reader is the one in control.  We’re the ones sharing some valuable mechanisms to arrive at a state of “anxiety contol”. 

Achieving Eudaimonia in Business Blog Writing

The Stoics realized that there are things we control, and things we don’t. To get to the good life, we should focus on things we control, accepting the rest as it happens. When it comes to the things we can control, Stoics believe it’s not an external situation that makes us happy or miserable, but our interpretation of that situation. The idea is to achieve a supremely happy life, which Stoics call eudaimonia.

That ancient philosophy can help business entrepreneurs today, comments. As I read this article, it occurred to me that three business concepts based on Stoicism can serve as great guidelines for those of us involved in blog marketing:

  1.  “Before we try to control events, we have to control ourselves.”

Twelve years ago, in the process of explaining the way my company Say It For You came about, I talked about the “drill sergeant discipline” needed by blog content writers. What I meant was that, while all my business owner clients knew that writing blogs in their area of expertise was going to be a great idea for them, not very many of them felt they could take the time to compose and post content on a regular basis.  I also knew that the main key to business blogging success was going to be simply keeping on task. Meanwhile, our business owner clients can’t throw in the towel before success has been given the chance to develop. We can’t control the market or our customers – first we have to control our own activities.

2. “Stoicism means leveraging your uniqueness.” (Don’t let emulation turn into imitation.)

To have any hope of moving higher in search rankings and engage readers’ interest, blogs must provide fresh, relevant content. But, with the sheer volume of information on the Web on every topic under the sun, how do we keep providing new material in our blog posts week after week, month after month, even year after year? Two strategies include bringing in less well-known facts about familiar things and processes, and suggesting new ways of thinking about things readers already know.
But, besides offering unique tidbits of information, we must incorporate one important ingredient – opinion. Taking a stance, using blog content writing to express a firm opinion on issues, is how companies and practices can leverage their uniqueness.

   3.  “Stoicism turns problems into opportunities.”

I teach freelance blog writers in Indianapolis to include stories of their clients’ past mistakes and failures. Such stories have a humanizing effect, engaging readers and creating feelings of empathy and admiration for the business owners or professional practitioners who overcame not only adversity, but the effects of their own mistakes! When customers’ complaints and concerns are recognized and dealt with “in front of other people” (in blog posts), it gives the “apology” or the “remediation measure” more weight. In fact, in corporate blogging training sessions, I remind Indianapolis blog writers to “hunt” for stories of struggle and mistakes made in the early years of a business or practice!

Studying the Stoics gives us a chance at achieving blogging eudaimonia!


Blogging to Reveal the Reason

reason why
Readers usually arrive at business blogs because they need something. Then, as they progress through a post, they are asked to do something – subscribe, comment, take a survey, or buy products or services. All too often, though, the blog doesn’t provide compelling WHYs:

  • why this provider has chosen to be in this particular business or profession
  • why this product or service is delivered in this particular manner way
  • why the problem the reader may be experiencing is common
  • why understanding the origin of the problem can help solve it
  • why the solution the business owner or practitioner will work

As business blog content writers, I teach at Say It For You, we’re engaged in helping readers reason their way to doing business with the business owners and professional practitioners who’ve hired us to tell their story. It’s not that there’s a lack of information sources; if anything, there’s a glut of data available to online searchers! What readers need from us, then, is not more information, but help in reasoning through all that information so that problem-solving choices can be made.

The most recent issues of two magazines help illustrate my point. The July 2019 issue of Consumer Reports lists several useful why tidbits (each of which might be used in the marketing blogs of quite a number of different businesses and professional practices):

  • why deep dents or bulges in cans means they need to be tossed (bacteria may have been let in)
  • why drinking water is good for a headache (dehydration often is the cause of the pain)
  • why eating berries is good for you (they contain anti-inflammatory anthocyanins)

Meanwhile, the June 2019 issue of Discover magazine has two especially useful whys:

1. why the human foot was the key to humans dominating the animal kingdom (with locomotion on two legs, the upper limbs were freed to make and use tools, including weapons). Think podiatrists, shoe company, health provider blogs….
2.  why smart phones are so addictive (the human brain craves instant gratification and unpredictability). Think parental advice blogs, phone companies, tutorial services…..

One company, WageWorks, a provider of Health Savings Accounts for employees get the why idea: “We won’t tell you which HAS to pick. We’ll just tell you why it should be us.”

For every piece of information you provide in your blog content, tell them why that is so. Most important, tell ‘em why it should be you!


Are-Both-Sides-Right Blogging for Business

“Are both sides right?” asks veterinarian Carrie Donahue, writing in Good Health magazine, alluding to the debate about whether dogs should be on a raw diet or a conventional one. The raw camp emphasizes raw or lightly cooked meat, including organ meat and bones. The conventionalists are concerned about bacteria in raw meat and the threat of choking on bones.

The author concludes by saying that regardless which method is chosen, supplementation is important, going on to offer tips on which supplements help a dog have a healthy coat and skin, and which are beneficial for a pet’s brain, eyes, and heart..

Whether the topic of your blog marketing efforts is plumbing, pets, or pharma, the content itself needs to use opinion. It’s opinion, after all, that clarifies what differentiates your business, your professional practice, or your organization from its peers.  This Good Health article, takes a slightly different approach – airing both sides of a debate.

At Say It for You, I train content writers to reveal their unique “slant” or philosophy within their field.  That way, I explain, potential customers and clients feel they know who you are, not merely what you do,  and they are more likely to want to be associated with you.

For that very reason, one important facet of my job as a content writer is to “interview” business owner and professional practitioner clients, eliciting each one’s very individualized thoughts. The Carrie Donahue article about pet food suggests an alternate approach – present both sides of the story to readers.  When you clarify and put into perspective both sides of a thorny issue within your industry or profession, you’re performing a valuable service for readers.

On the other hand, I have observed, whether you’re blogging for a business, for a professional practice, or for a nonprofit organization, there needs to be 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.

There’s value in Are-Both-Sides-Right blog posts, no doubt, as Carrie Donahue so effectively demonstrates in this article. In the big picture, however, I have to conclude that, to achieve the status of “thought leader” and inspire action, business blog posts will need to involve taking one side of an issue, not both.


Blogging as Long as It’s Black

Blog readers need to perceive you as an expert in your field, I teach at Say It For You.  And for that to happen, I believe, you need to clearly state a firm perspective on your subject. There’s no lack of information sources – and no lack of “experts” (purported or real) on any topic and that is the reason we need to go beyond presenting facts, statistics, features, and benefits, and get authentic and yes, even opinionated.

Around six months ago, I came across a wonderful feature story in the Wall Street Journal Magazine, featuring the Danish kitchen design company Vipp.  Explaining ”How a Salon Trash Can Turned a Design Brand Into a Phenomenon”, reporter Natalia Rachlin discussed CEO Kasper Egelund’s take-it-or-leave-it-approach:

“The first thing I always tell someone about the kitchen is that they can have it
in whatever color they want, as long as it’s black.”

 Vipp’s success is not in spite of, but precisely because of this firm posture. In the “lucrative and highly competitive kitchen market, which tends to be all about customization”, Rachlin posits,  being opinionated presents a picture of self confidence and expertise.

Expertise and exaggeration, of course, are two different things, and exaggeration is something blog marketers need to handle very, very carefully.  After all, we’re trying to build trust, and it’s crucial that we be factually correct in describing the extent to which our products and services can be of help. “Claiming to have expertise you don’t have can create customer dissatisfaction and complaints, ultimately eroding your reputation,” cautions the Ethics Center.

No, it’s not exaggeration we’re after in crafting blog posts, but influence. As blog content writers, our goal is framing our story in a way that this audience will focus on and respect. Chris Anderson, head of TED Talks, would remind speakers: Argue the rarer point or elucidate as only you can.”

Readers are looking to us for expertise and a firm perspective. It appears Vipp kitchen buyers, knowing  there is a rainbow of cabinet and backsplash finishes available to them, still love having Egelund tell them “as long as it’s black”. Shouldn’t we be “blogging as long as it’s black”?