A Recommended List of Reading Genres for Better Business Blogging

“Reading fiction, it seems, could be a way to break old habits and unlock more effective, empathetic marketing,” Carina Rampell of the Content Marketing Institute observes, quoting William Faulkner. (Good news for me; since the pandemic stay-at-home thing began, I’ve worked my way through some 18 different novels!)

Like all writers, marketers have a lot to gain from exposure to literature, Rampell continues. “Marketing is all about empathy and storytelling, and great stories are proven to make us more empathetic.”’ But not all reading – and not all stories, she cautions, are the same, and “some genres are more effective than others in helping you “improve your marketing chops”.


Rampell lists advantages we content writers can gain from reading:
  • Reading poetry teaches us clarity and precision.
  • Reading the classics teaches us compelling storytelling structure, building tension to pull an audience along to a satisfying resolution.
  • Reading helps us get away from our subject or product expertise and unlock our creativity.

One of the principles I stress at Say It For You is that, in order to create a valuable ongoing blog for your business, it’s going to take equal parts reading and writing.  I’m often asked when I train business owners and employees or newbie blog content writers for hire is this: Where do you get ideas for blog posts? My answer is – everywhere!  But that doesn’t mean the ideas are going to jump right onto your page. At least half the time that goes into creating a blog post is reading/research/thinking time! The lesson I try hardest to impart in corporate blogging training sessions is: “The more you know, the more you can blog about”.  Business content writing in blogs is the result of a lot of reading and listening on the part of the blogger.


The Rampell article discusses the value we blog content marketers can gain by reading and classical novels. A genre I can add to her list is one that, on the surface, seems the very antithesis of the “fresh” content we aim for in blog writing – historical fiction.

The insight I gained? Material doesn’t need to be “new” in order to be “fresh”. Readers may already know some or all of the information you’re presenting in your business blog, but they need your help putting that information in perspective.  In fact, that’s where blogging for business tends to be at its finest, helping searchers with more than just finding information, but helping them understand its meaning and significance.

What If You Saw Only Half the Blog?

Ticket revenue covers just half of what it costs to produce world-class professional theatre at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, theatergoers learn while scanning the program booklet. So???

As John Pullinger puts it in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, “statistics provides a special kind of understanding that enables well-informed decisions. As citizens and consumers we are faced with an array of choices. Statistics can help us to choose well.” But the first choice that people make when presented with a statistic, is whether to take any action at all. From a blog marketing point of view, that IRT statistic in and of itself was a nonstarter. In other words, as a theatre patron, I didn’t feel moved to do anything relating to the funding shortfall. On the other hand, that question – “What if you saw only half the play?” Now, that had “punch” enough to make me reach into my pocket.

“Research shows that people are persuaded to take action or change their minds when you speak to both their heads and their hearts”, says Dr. Stephanie Evergreen, author of Presenting Data Effectively: Communicating Your Finds for Maximum Impact. Numbers give us quantifiable information, but when it comes to communicating how things will actually impact our real lives, some form of humanizing or grounding the data is often effective, Barnard Marr explains in Forbes.

Citing statistics is, without doubt, one tactic blog content writers can use to capture readers’ attention.  But my experience at Say It For You has shown me that statistics, even the startling sort, aren’t enough to create positive results for any marketing blog. What statistics can do is assure readers they are not alone in their need for solutions, plus assure them they’ve come to the right place for help. Still, the “so what? Will need to be addressed.X

It’s simply not good enough to just throw out a statistic demonstrating a need. In corporate blog writing, it needs to be about them, the readers. That means the “because” needs to be presented in terms of advantage to the reader for following any call to action. What if you only saw half the play?


Powerful Paragraphs and Sentences in Blogging for Business

“Construct your paragraphs with a good eye as well as a good mind,” advises Richard Anderson in Powerful Writing Skills.  What does that mean? Consider how the paragraph looks on the page – would it be more appealing to the eye to divide it into two paragraphs?

Anderson’s reasoning includes the following considerations:

  • Enormous blocks of print implant an image of difficulty in readers’ minds.
  • Bunches of short paragraphs can be distracting.

The compromise: vary the length of your paragraphs without making the breaks seem forced. Generally speaking, Anderson points out, “the shorter the paragraphs and the fewer the number of ideas contained in them, the easier they are to read.

In writing good sentences, be yourself, using clear, honest, natural words on paper, Anderson tells writers. He recommends writers choose:

  • nouns over adjectives
  • verbs over adverbs
  • plain verbs over fancy ones
  • specific words over general ones
  • short sentences over long ones
  • personal over non-personal

But, if all your sentences are approximately the same length, Anderson warns, you’re putting    your reader to sleep; vary the length as a subtle way to keep readers awake.

Another way to bore readers is using clichés (overused phrases). They numb readers’ senses, he warns, and they are often too general and vague. “Allow the meaning of your message to choose your words rather than the other way around,” Anderson suggests.

Strunk and White sum up the concept in their own book, The Elements of Style: For the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts, a sentence should contain no unnecessary words.


Can Your Blog Pass the Emotive & Information Power Response Tests?

(There’s a test for those, didn’t you know?)

Since emotional response towards advertising plays an important part in building a strong brand, researchers at the University of Bath, working with Nielson, came up with two ways to score ads.

  1. Information Power Score – measures what the consumer perceives as the value of the message
  2. Emotive Power Score – measures if the emotion is going to change feelings about the brand

So why am I interested in this research? Well, at Say It For You, our business is blog marketing, which means connecting professional practitioners and business owners with prospective clients and customers. And, while I continually preach and teach that blog posts are not ads, but more like advertorials, establishing connections is the name of the game for both advertisers and content marketers

Broadly speaking, the Bath studies showed, there are two types of emotive responses: those based on empathy and those that respond to creativity. In an empathetic response, people feel emotionally closer to the brand; in a creative response, the people feel the brand is imaginative and ahead of the game. “It’s always best if can get both empathy and creative,” Dr. David Brandt writes.

The way that information is communicated has an important influence on how likely people are to believe that information. And for certain advertiser categories, Brandt points out, empathy is more important (food and toiletries, for example), while for other categories (electrical goods or computers, for example), creativity is more important.

Readers of business blog posts fall into two categories, according to Morgan Steward of Media Post Publications:

  1. Deal seekers go online in search of bargains and discounts on products and services they already know and use. The effectiveness of the blog content writing, therefore, would be measured through the “information score”; the content would focus on the cost-effectiveness of your product or service and on any special deals or offers.
  2. Enthusiasts seek information to support their hobbies, interests, and beliefs.
    Blogs aimed at this audience might focus on the “emotive score”. On the other hand, creative packaging, color and shape appeal to these customers, so the “creativity score” can be important as well.

    Can your blog pass the emotive and information power response tests?


Emotion in Business Blog Posts – When Facts are Not Enough

business blogging with emotion rather than facts

In writing business blog posts, giving them more data may not be the best way to persuade and to overcome skepticism. That’s a lesson Science News editor-in-chief Nancy Shute needed to learn. One of the first inclinations of scientists and journalists, Shute observed, was to shower skeptics with facts, sure those skeptics would “get it” when it came to, say, climate warming or the efficacy of vaccinating children.

As counter-intuitive as that may be, Shute warns, it’s time for scientists to learn how to connect with people with different views. Why? “The fear of solutions may be greater than the fear of impacts” and being bombarded with facts can make people dig in even more. People tend to seek out evidence that supports their own world view. In short, emotion trumps fact.

When it comes to climate change, for example, scientist and professor Katherine Hayhoe first provides stories that are deeply researched and fact-checked, but then offers together-we-can-fix-this messages of hope.

In blog marketing’s two horse race, as Jeremy Porter Communications teaches, “those who make the most emotionally persuasive argument win.” The goal, Porter explains, is to create a connection with your audience that makes them receptive to your message. He names seven emotions and their opposites that marketers can tap into to get an audience “from where they are to where you want them to be”:

  • anger/calmness
  • friendship/enmity
  • fear/confidence
  • shame/shamelessness
  • kindness/unkindness
  • pity or compassion/indignation
  • envy/emulation

When it comes to business-to-consumer blog marketing, each of these emotions can be tapped to give the facts you’re providing more “depth” and power. This week’s Say It For You posts will focus on Jeremy Porter’s “Nine ways to create an emotional connection”:

Be human
“Remove the metaphorical barriers between you and your audience.” In business blogging, one goal should be to present the business or practice as very personal rather than merely transactional. Remind them there are real life humans behind the scenes, providing the product or service.

Be authentic
Don’t put on an act. Don’t “lecture” your audience. Infuse a sense of humor into the content once in a while, and include photos of your team being themselves.

Use the right frame
A speaker on clean energy, Porter says, rather than warning and threatening about the dangers of too much carbon, might describe “opportunities for people in a clean energy economy”. In blog marketing, it pays to accentuate the positive, offering readers a vision of the results they can experience through using your products and services.

In writing business blog posts, more data may not be the best way to persuade!