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Blogging to Bust Myths and Build Trust

mythbusting

“Was the oldest woman a fraud?” asks Smithsonian.com, referring to French socialite Jeanne Calment, who appeared to be making history when she died in 1997 at the age of 122. (Later investigation revealed that Jeanne had actually died at the age of 59 in 1934. Her daughter had actually assumed Jeanne’s identity, later dying at the age of 99.) Valery Novoselov, assistant professor of the Department of Gerontology and Geriatrics of RUDN University, known for studying medical documents to investigate the deaths of famous Russians, was actually the mythbuster, revealing that the reason for the hoax had been to avoid the payment of inheritance taxes on Jeanne’s estate.

One of the bigger myths about trust, says Charles Green in trustedadvisor.com, is that trust takes a long time to create, but only a moment to destroy. That in itself is a dangerous myth, Green contends. Human emotions take roughly as long to get over as they take to develop in the first place. Trust formed quickly, Green agrees, can be lost quickly; trust formed at a shallow level can be lost at the same level.  But trust formed deeply, or over time, takes deeper violations, or a longer time, to be lost. Thinking of trust as something you can lose in a minute makes you cautious and unlikely to take risks. But the absence of risk is what starves trust, is the point Charles Green wants to make. There simply is no trust without risk – that’s why they call it trust.

Business blog posts are actually the perfect medium for “mythbusting”, I teach at Say It For You. Blog content writing has the power to clear the air, replacing factoids with facts, allowing readers to see their way clear to making decisions. Offering little-known explanations that explode common myths is a good way to engage readers’ interest. Done right, blogging about myths related to our own products, services, and company history can provide value-packed “verdicts” on each false claim or misunderstanding. Citing statistics that disprove popular myths gives business owners and practitioners the chance to showcase their own knowledge and expertise.

There’s a proverbial fly in the ointment here, though. People don’t really like being proven wrong. And, since one of the purposes of any marketing blog is to attract potential customers to the business’ website, it would be a tactical mistake for blog writers to prove those online visitors wrong.  The skill lies in engaging interest, but not in “Gotcha! – I’m-the-expert-and-you’re-not” fashion. (Anyone might reasonably have come to the conclusion you did, should be the message, without knowing the facts I’ve researched and which am providing here.)

Many misunderstandings about a product or service present themselves in the natural order of business, in the form of questions and comments from readers and customers. Shining the light of day on that misinformation is one function of blogging, and, provided your blog post is well written, perhaps with a bit of tongue in cheek, it can offer enlightenment in a way that engages searchers and keeps them coming back.

The goal – blog to bust myths while building trust!

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Please Stop Blogging the Same Story

storytelling in blogs
“Please stop telling that same story,” Elizabeth Bernstein begs in the Life & Arts section of the Wall Street Journal. Storytelling is supposed to be a bonding experience, she says, because, when we share our personal narratives, we disclose something about our values, our history, and our outlook on life. But the bonding benefits of storytelling only work if you’re good at it, she warns, and many of us aren’t. We simply tell tales we’re told before, tales that don’t have a point.

Bernstein offers some valuable “advice from the experts”:

  1. Have a point (the details of the story must convey the reason you’re sharing this story).
  2. Flesh out the characters in the story.
  3. Disclose something about yourself.
  4. Build tension.
  5. If you’ve told the story before, explain why you’re repeating it now.

As a professional blog content creator and trainer in corporate writing, I think storytelling is a perfect vehicle for blogging. While blog marketing can be designed to “win search”, once the searchers have arrived, what needs winning is their hearts, and that is precisely what content writers can achieve best through storytelling. The point? Showing why you are passionate about delivering your service or products to customers and clients.

The characters in the stories? They can be the people delivering the product and service, or they can be customers – what problems did they have that you helped solve? What funny things happened to them, to their kids, to their pets that relate to your product or service? Creating compelling business blog content can – and should – incorporate both people storytelling and product storytelling. In terms of disclosing, I recommend including anecdotes about customers, employees, or friends who accomplished things against all odds. That shifts the focus to the people side of your business, highlights the relationship aspects of your practice, plant, or shop.

To reach the point of building trust, there must first be some sort of “tension” or issue. Talking about industry issues and your strong opinion about those is a good path towards building trust through your business blog. Sharing your own failures helps others, Beccy Freebody writes. In business blogs, true stories about mistakes and struggles overcome are very humanizing, creating feelings of empathy and admiration for the entrepreneurs or practitioners who overcame the effects of their own errors. Award-winning sales training expert Tim Roberts agrees, saying there are two skills needed for an effective inquiry conversation with prospects: vulnerability and transparency.

Good business blogs, of course, offer valuable information to online readers. But, the fact is, people want to do business with real people. Blog stories, not the same old, same old story, but the ongoing story of you, your people, and the people you serve. 

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The Pomelo Schema for Business Blogs

To make a profound idea compact, you’ve got to pack a lot of meaning into a little bit of messaging. Chip and Dan Heath wrote the book Made to Stick to help readers who have ideas to convey and who want to make sure their messages are understood and remembered (that they “stick”). Since, for us business blog content writers, messaging is a core mission, what the Heaths call “the pomelo schema” is a concept well worth our attention.

A schema helps create a complex message from simple material, and the authors illustrate the point by presenting two ways of explaining what a pomelo is:

Explanation #1: A pomelo is the largest citrus fruit with a thick, soft, easy-to-peel rind. The fruit has light yellow to coral pink flesh and may be juicy to slightly dry, with a taste ranging from spicy-sweet to tangy and tart.

Explanation #2: A pomelo is a supersized grapefruit with a thick, soft rind.

(The second explanation “sticks a flag” on a concept the audience already knows, making it easier for them to learn new material.)

In business blog posts, I teach at Say It For You, don’t try to give searchers information about everything you have to offer. Instead, in each post, stress just one major aspect of your company or practice. And, since you want the blog to stand out and be unusually interesting, one tactic to try is putting two things together that don’t seem to match. But, in my view, making the right unusual comparison can actually accomplish even more than teaching a complex concept using the “pomelo schema” method.

One big challenge in business blogs, newbie content writers soon learn, is sustaining the writing over long periods of time without losing reader excitement. Similes and metaphors (“pomelos”, if you will), help readers “appreciate information picturesquely”, as 19th century newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer once put it. Unlikely comparisons evoke pictures in readers’ minds:

“Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.”

“The challenge many blog writers face is that they want to write a blog that their clients will love and that also markets their company. The problem is that clients are worn out by constant advertising,” Martin Woods of semrush.com writes. If you advertise your product or service in your blog, odds are you’ll alienate your readers, he cautions. On the other hand, since the blog is part of the overall marketing plan, Woods says, it must remain relevant to the actual business. Pomelo schemas are just one tactic content writers can use to combine teaching with selling.

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Saint Patrick’s Blue Blog Content Writing

Okay, so you wore that green tie or green jacket on St. Patty’s day and had yourself a good time, but now, almost two weeks later, I think you might be ready for the truth. Several truths, actually. Since at Say It For You, I teach that mythbusting is one very legitimate and important function of blog writing, I want to pass along a few super-busts straight out of one of my favorite sources – Mental Floss magazine.

For starters, St. Patrick wasn’t Irish. (He did introduce Christianity to Ireland back in the year 432, but the man himself was born in Scotland or Wales.) His real name wasn’t even Patrick – it was Maewyn (he changed it to Patricius after becoming a priest.) What’s more, though we’ve come to associate Kelly green with the holiday, the saint’s official color was St. Patricks blue. (The color green was linked to St. Patrick’s Day only later, during the late-18th century Irish independence movement.) Perhaps the most startling “bust” has to do with the fact that St. Patrick’s Day started out as a dry holiday; up until the 1970s, pubs were closed on that national holiday!

So, what’s the point of all this? Well, mythbusting can be used to counteract counterproductive thinking, and I’m a firm believer that a big function of business blogs is doing just that. In the normal course of doing business, you’ve undoubtedly found, misunderstandings about your product or service might surface in the form of customer questions and comments.  (It’s even worse when those myths and misunderstandings don’t surface, but still have the power to interrupt the selling process!) By myth-busting, blog content writing can “clear the air”, replacing factoids with facts, so that buyers can see their way to making decisions.

Myth-busting is also a tactic content writers can use to grab online visitors’ attention. The technique is not without risk, because customers don’t like to be proven wrong or feel stupid.  The trick is to engage interest, but not in “Gotcha!” fashion. Business owners and professional practitioners can use their blogs to showcase their own expertise without “showing up” their readers’ lack of it.

‘Course you’re still going to wear green, not blue, next March, but at least that decision will be based on the facts!

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Boxing Day Mythbusting for Bloggers


Discovered a mild case – or an epidemic – of counterproductive thinking when it comes to your industry or profession? Blog posts are the perfect medium for “mythbusting” to dispel that counterproductive thinking.

Since our last Say It For You post (dealing with Santa’s red outfit and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer), Boxing Day was celebrated in the UK and Australia.  Many think Boxing Day is for boxing up and returning gifts you don’t want, but that’s not the case at all. It was on Boxing Day that, in the Middle Ages, churches would open their alms boxes and dole out the money to the poor.

One very simple format blog content writers can use when mythbusting is to simply list common myths surrounding a particular business, debunking each one. Oxygen Magazine does exactly that in the article “Sacking Sleep Myths” lists 5 myths. Each myth is followed by a paragraph full of debunking facts. It’s a myth, for example, your relationship will suffer if you don’t sleep with your partner. “Night divorce” can actually improve sleep patterns and in turn improve the relationship.

In a second mythbusting article in Oxygen. writer Jenna Aytyiru Dedic takes a different tack, using a claim/verdict format. Claim: Joint pain is exacerbated by cold weather. Verdict: False. There is no evidence that cold itself is at all culpable.

The debunking function of business blog writing is very important.  Blog content writing has the power to clear the air, replacing factoids with facts, allowing readers to see their way to clear to making decisions.

Offering little-known explanations that explode common myths is one way to engage readers’ interest, to be sure.  The next step, however, has to be leading into myths and little known details related to our own products, services, and company history, and providing a value-packed “verdict” for each false claim or misunderstanding.

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