Are Your Blog Questions for Learning or Judging?

Questions open our minds, says executive coach Roz Savage, but we need to go from judging to learning. While old-style leaders ask questions to elicit facts, new-style leaders ask questions “to unlock the intelligence of the team”. In her book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, Marilee Adams compares judging questions with learning questions. When we leap to judgment, that prevents us from learning very much, she teaches.

At Say it For You, always on the hunt for ways to improve the way we go about business blog content writing, we wondered how questions can be used in blog content itself, in which the “conversation”, at least at the start of the encounter, is one-way! Neil Patel suggests asking questions on social media as a way of learning more about your target audience for the blog. The first and most important question you need to ask, Patel says, is What are my readers worried about? The answers will allow you to provide a better customer experience and blog reader experience.

A question in a blog post title is an invitation to participate in a conversation, Patrick Armitage of BlogMutt suggests in  And, while in a blog post, Armitage says, you’re often providing answers to questions that your potential customer might ask, the very fact that it’s in the form of a question allows readers to feel you’re helping them form them form their own opinions.

Visitors are, without a doubt, judging your website. If it does not appear attractive, easy to navigate, or knowledgeable, you’ve lost your customer, cautions Webociti. Relevant information they should find includes questions and answers, Joe Mediate explains.

As Marilee Adams emphasizes, learner questions lead to discovery and understanding, while judger questions more often lead to blame and frustration. In keeping with that concept, blog content should focus on expansive and productive questions, such as “What’s possible?” “What are my choices?” “What’s useful here?” In the real blog marketing world, I’ve found, the content writers focus on appealing to consumers’ fear. My own thought has always been that, to appeal to a better kind of customer – the one who buys for the right reasons and remains loyal, the content must appeal to readers’ better nature – and to their ability to arrive at intelligent answers to “learning” questions.


Increasing Blog Effectiveness Through Content “Vocals”


“Vocals aren’t the actual words you use, but what you do with your voice to clothe words with meaning,” the authors of Close the Deal explain. Vocals include:

  • tone
  • pitch
  • emphasis
  • accent
  • inflection
  • pronunciation
  • volume
  • rate
  • tempo

The important lesson here: Vocals give you a tool to increase buyers’ comfort with you.

Of course, in video clips included in blog content, all these vocal elements would come into play. But can all these valuable tips about increasing buyers’ comfort come into play in non-vocal blog content writing? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Language has the power to establish personal connections. “Tone in writing refers to the writer’s attitude toward the reader and the subject of the message. The overall tone of a written message affects the reader just as one’s tone of voice affects the listener in everyday exchanges,” the OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab explains.

As a blog content writing trainer, I found three of the tips from Close the Deal are especially apropos to our work:

Vary your vocals.
You’ll bore buyers if you drone on, and get caught using a “singsong” delivery, the authors caution. Liven your speech patterns with variety, they advise.
As a businessperson or practitioner, I teach, you have many different kinds of stories to tell through your blog, including the benefits of your products and services, the history of your business and your own journey, successful case studies, and your perspective on trends in your industry.

Show friendliness through a relaxed tone.
Speaking louder than your buyers can make you come across as pushy and overbearing.
“The business writer should strive for an overall tone that is confident, courteous, and sincere,” OWL advises, “and should be written at an appropriate level of difficulty”.

Temper your accent.
Water down your regional accent in settings where the majority of people don’t share it. Reflect the buyer’s tempo, tone, and volume.
Having a focused topic in a blog post is important, but focusing on a specific audience is equally as important. Before writing, research your target audience. “Once you have your data you can start to put together personas and plan your online marketing activities around them,” Sleeping Giant Media teaches.

Just as vocals do, the language you use in your blog content has the power to increase buyers’ comfort with you.


The Right Words Resonate With Blog Readers

sticky words om blogs

Finding word combinations that resonate with blog readers is a big part of the challenge involved in blog content writing. Reading through my issue of the Hamilton Country Business Magazine this month, I found two perfect examples of stick-in-the-mind phrases, both in a feature story about the Grindstone Public House:

1. Restauranteur Blake Fogelsong is explaining that his company’s staying power is due to the fact that they own and develop many of their properties: “It’s a lot more beneficial in the long term for a healthy restaurant if you have a mortgage instead of a lease.”

“Sticky words” do not need to be slogan-like. What makes the mortgage-instead-of-a-lease memorable is that it forces the reader to think, introducing an idea that the mind needs a moment to “figure out”.

2. “The history of the building just felt like a Public House, which is a community gathering place. We wanted to convey a sense of both contemporary and comfort, while also giving a nod to Noblesville’s past”.

One element of the second quote is alliteration, which uses the power of similar sounds to grab attention (contemporary and comfort). In addition, the two elements mentioned, contemporary and comfort, don’t normally go together, and pairing them captures interest.

“Stories are memorable, easily shared, and inspire action, Jeremy Porter Communications teaches. In fact, one big, big part of providing business blogging assistance is helping business owners formulate stories. The “Three Generations of Fogelsongs” article in the Hamilton County Business Magazine is especially appealing and powerful because Fogelsong tells his own story:

“When I was in kindergarten at Noblesville, they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew    up. I simply drew a photo of me working at all the restaurants…I
think just growing up in this business, working with my dad when I was younger,
led to a love to take of people and hospitality.”

Sticky words and stories resonate with blog readers!


Blog Posts Take Prospects Through the BRAN Process

BRAN process for blogs
“The BRAN analysis is a tool that you can use when faced with making a decision,” Dr. Sara Wickham explains in What’s Right For Me?: Making decisions in pregnancy and childbirth.

BRAN consists of four areas:

B = What are the benefits?
R = What are the risks?
A = What are the alternatives?
N = What if I/we do nothing?

“When we seek out content, it’s because we have a problem that needs to be solved or a question that needs to be answered,” sproutsocial reminds us. “Not only should your blog post solve a problem, but do so in a meaningful way,” Brent Barnhart adds.a “Top-tier posts go beyond basic information and dig into specifics.”

Hitting precisely the right “advertorial” (as opposed to advertisement) note is one of the big challenges in blog marketing, I teach in Say It For You blog marketing tutorials. That means finding ways to demonstrate the benefits of your product or service while avoiding any hint of “hard sell”.

In blog content writing, the R (risk) focuses on “the hurt”, meaning the problems readers are trying to solve or the negative effects they’re trying to avoid. Once readers are hooked by your understanding of their hurt, you can offer the “A, meaning the solutions your expertise and experience bring to the table. And, just as newbie suspense novel writers are taught to “put characters that readers care about in jeopardy”, blog readers can be shown how certain things readers care about might be put in jeopardy if they choose inaction as an alternative.

  1. What would it do for you? (the benefits)
  2. Who and what else would be affected (the risks along with the benefits)
  3. What is it costing you NOT to have this? (what if I do nothing?)

Use blog posts to take readers through the BRAN process!


Effective Blog Post Titles Force Readers to Figure it Out

blog post titles
As a blog content writer, I’m always fascinated by what makes certain word combinations used in advertising pack such tremendous marketing power, while others come across as mere “slogans”. Years ago, a presentation by humorist Dick Wolfsie provided a clue. In order for a joke to be funny, he said, the person listening to or reading the joke has to be forced to figure things out. The laughter, he explained, is the reward that listeners or readers give themselves for having understood the meaning of the punch line.

I was thinking about that concept the other day, realizing why some TV ads just seem to “fall flat”, while others stick in my mind for days. Xfinity’s “Simple. Easy. Awesome.”, for example, doesn’t tell me a thing about the company’s products or services, or even relate to their funny video. The title fails to make me think, giving me nothing to figure out. In contrast, USAA’s title “What you’re made of, we’re made for” compelled me to try and figure out the meaning of the message.

“Whenever you think of the brands you know or perhaps love, there are chances that you not only recall the brand name, but campaign slogans, too.” Anne Carton writes in, “Slogans are the taglines or phrases that are used by a company to express the importance or the core idea of their products or services,” Carton continues. Effective slogans have the positive “X” factor that makes us look twice or even thrice, she adds.

As I often stress at Say It For You, blogs are not advertisements, and therefore blog titles are not slogans. Still, there are two basic reasons titles matter – a lot – in blogs:

  1. For search – 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.
  2. For reader engagement – after you’ve been “found”, you’ve still gotta “get read”.

The Dick Wolfsie insight comes into play here: Effective blog post titles not only relate to a reader’s search, but force the reader to figure out if and how!