Blogging Wisdom in a Puzzle Book

I’ve always been a puzzle book junkie, and one of my favorite puzzle types is the Quotefall. The other day, after solving one of the puzzles, I realized the puzzle creator must know something about business blogging…

The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way
or a new thing in an old way.

(The adage, I later learned, has been attributed to Richard Harding Davis.)

Saying “old things, is, in fact, a concern of many business owners and professional practitioners when it comes to their blog. Even if they understand the overall marketing value of having a blog, their concern is that, sooner or later, they (or their blog content writer) will run out of things to say. In blogging training sessions, I need to explain that it’s more than OK – in fact it’s a good idea – to repeat themes already covered in former posts. The trick is to adding a layer of new information or a new insight each time.

To us blog content writers, “saying old things in a new way” means that each time we’re preparing to compose content for a bog, rather than asking ourselves whether we’ve already covered that material and how long ago, we ought to plan content around key themes. That way, we can be using the same theme while filling in new details and illustrations.

What about writing new things in an old way? In the process of introducing new information or suggesting a new attitude towards certain features and benefits of a product or service, behavioral science tells us that we must create a perspective or “frame”. The “new” concept needs to be presented in a way that relates to the ”old” and familiar, so that readers can envision an improved result for themselves.

So, what happens when you realize that information you’d put in a blog post months or even years ago isn’t true any longer (or at least isn’t the best information now available in your industry or profession?) Maybe the rules have changed, or perhaps there’s now a solution that didn’t even exist at the time the original content was written.

This is the perfect example of saying old things in a new way. Armed with your new understanding or with a better solution to a problem of which you’ve now become aware, explain what you used to think, (linking back to the old blog posts), then share the new, better information you have today.

That Quotefall puzzle was a good reminder that the secret of good blog content writing is saying old things in new ways and new things in old ways!


Steve Jobs and Pixar Illustrate an Important Principle of Blogging


My realtor friend Steve Rupp sent me a piece with the following story about Steve Jobs….

After purchasing computer manufacturer Pixar, Jobs relocated the company to an abandoned factory, re-organizing the physical structure with offices and workspaces around a large, central atrium. Under this new (at the time) very unusual arrangement, the mailboxes, meeting room, cafeteria, coffee bar, and gift shop were all in the center of the space. The underlying principle? “When people run into each other and make eye contact, things happen.” Of course, electronic messages could have been sent throughout the Pixar building in a millisecond, Jobs realized, but the community context of the message is the part that would help people understand each other and work together.

Could Jobs have avoided restructuring the entire complex of buildings, relying on mandatory periodic meetings or even informal periodic staff get-togethers to accomplish his goal of employees “running into each other”? Perhaps, but that “eye contact”, “context-sharing” and cross-pollination of ideas, Jobs understood, needed to happen frequently in order to be meaningful.

At Say It For You, after years of being involved in all aspects of corporate blog writing and blogging training, one irony I’ve found is that business owners who “show up” with new content on their websites are rare. There’s a tremendous fall-off rate, with most blogs abandoned months or even weeks after they’re begun. That sense of community Steve Jobs was after in the redesign of the Pixar facility? You might say the first job of a blog content writer is to help a business or a professional practice “get its frequency on”. What the blog does is get the business owners and practitioners into the “atrium” to “run into” their readers!

Good things happen in the blog frequency “atrium” for business owners who make blogging part of their routine as part of an overall business marketing strategy, with blog posts providing a steady stream of “sound bites” – little bits of different, interesting, and helpful content.

Steve Jobs building design was meant to encourage employees to “hang out” with each other in the Pixar atrium area whenever their schedules allowed, with no regular times posted. Over the years, relates, various studies have analyzed data to find out the best time to publish a blog post. Most often, though, we find that the issue is less that of choosing the optimal posting time and more about finding the time to create content to post in the first place!

Our mission, then as blog content writers, is to create an “atrium” where business owners and practitioners can share ideas with readers.


Don’t Keep Yourself a Secret in Your Blog

“What we’re marketing is Y-O-U”,” career strategist Diane Wingerter reminds clients, subjecting their personal profiles to her “’red pen review”: It’s a mistake to introduce yourself to a prospective customer or employer with a laundry list of all the things you do, she teaches . In order to focus on how you want the reader of the profile to feel about you, weave your bio into a narrative that reveals your personality.

In fact, two P’s of business blogging, we remind clients of Say It For You, are Passion and Personality. As compared to brochures and advertisements, blog posts are ideal for revealing, while imparting valuable information to visitors, the unique personality and core beliefs of the business or practice owners.

Used to be, the emphasis in marketing was on conveying a USP, a unique selling proposition. Today, however, we should move in the direction of ESPs – emotional selling propositions,” Jeanette McMurtry cautions in Marketing for Dummies. And, in online communication, while need may have brought visitors to your blog, it’s their want (their desire to do business with you) that will move those visitors “down the sales funnel”.

Based on my years as a college career mentor, helping students secure internships, I have come to compare blog posts to long interviews. Searchers on the web are “recruiting” help, and just as in a face-to-face interview, they evaluate your content in light of their own needs. It’s more than that, as Diane Wingerter so aptly emphasizes. What interviewers really do, as the Helium Jobs & Careers website says, is “get a look at your personality.”

Business blog posts, shorter, less formal, and more personal than websites, are the perfect venue to showcase your personality and your unique approach to your field. Yes, a marketing blog must demonstrate what you have, what you do, and what you know how to do, but, whatever you do – don’t keep yourself a secret in your blog!



Blog Reading Based on Different Motivations


“There was a time when archaeology was commissioned privately by wealthy individuals,” I learned from the incredibly fascinating tome of trivia, Publications International’s The Big Book of Big Secrets. One of the most interesting chapters described the day in 1922 when, some 300 years after the death of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, a way to enter the tomb of “King Tut “was discovered. (I remember visiting the “Golden King” exhibit of these artifacts at the Children’s Museum back in 2009 right here in Indianapolis.)

From a blog marketing standpoint, I was fascinated by The Big Book authors’ insight into the differing motivations those wealthy individuals had for their ongoing efforts, spread over many years, to open the tomb. “Some of those benefactors desired to advance historical knowledge, while others simply hoped to enhance their personal collections of antiquities.” As things turned out, both types were rewarded for their efforts: Ancient plunderers raided the tomb for smaller items, making huge profits from mummies and from recovered items, while the historians were able to “catalog piles of priceless artifacts”.

Firstmondayorg, reporting on a study for the motivations of blog readership among recent college graduates, observes that readers used blogs for step-by-step instructions for hobbies, do-it-yourself household reports, and money management. ”Today, blogs mean a host of things to bloggers, blog readers, and new media researchers.”In the survey, most graduates said blogs were useful in helping them pick up skills they had not learned in college but which they now needed for their careers. Some interviewees reported that blogs provided them with essential professional tips. According to some interviewees, blogs served as niche learning resource tailored to their information problems.

At Say it For You, one valuable coaching tip we offer to blog content writers is to tailor individual blog posts – or series of posts – to different segments of the customer base (as opposed to trying to reach them all in any one post). In a way, each time you post you’re pulling out just one of those attachments on your “Swiss army knife” and offering some valuable information or advice relating to just one aspect of your business. Another day, your blog post can do the same with a different “attachment”.

Brenda Stoltz of Ariad Partners suggests accomplishing that very goal by designating “days” for different targets: Corporate accounting Mondays, Small Biz Wednesdays, or Freelance Fridays. As a variation on the concept, we’ve advised setting aside a section on the website for blog posts for certain specialty readers.

Just like the archaeologies of old, some historians, others antique dealers, blog reading is based on different motivations.


In Blog Content Writing, Be a Mensch With Mentions

Since a “mensch” is the type of person we’d all like to think we are, how does that play out in blogging for business? Guy and Peg Fitzpatrick weigh in on that very subject in The Art of Social Media, first explaining the difference between a “mention” and a “hashtag”.

Hashtags help people share a topic, the authors explain. If you wanted to discuss blog marketing with a group of other blog marketers, you’d use #blogmarketing. On the other hand, if you’re blogging about a certain topic, mentioning the name of a person or company (hoping they will see that mention), you’d refer to them as @name on Facebook or Twitter. Of course, if you want to attribute ideas you’re discussing in a blog post to their original authors, you’d link your text to the source, just as I did after naming the Fitzpatrick book above.

The Fitzpatricks remind us of a super-important fact: While with email, the recipient’s response is the only one that matters, in social media, the audience is everyone who reads your comment or your post and who might react to it either positively or critically. Inevitably, some people are going to disagree with you. The authors’ advice to us is to take the high road and maintain a positive attitude throughout.
“Blogging and social media not only amicably coexist; they complement each other,” the authors aver. The trick? Use your blog to enrich your social media with longer form content; use social media to promote your blog.

Being – and staying – a mensch is the key to successful “re-gifting” of others’ content to your own marketing blog readers, I teach at Say It For You.  In fact, quoting someone else’s remarks on a topic you’re covering in a blog post can be a very good thing, because, you’re:

  • reinforcing your point
  • showing you’re in touch with trends in your field
  • adding value for readers by adding variety in the way an idea is phrased

On the other side of the coin, content writers need to remember that we’re trying to make our own cash register (or the cash register of the business owner or practitioner who hired us) ring. In the final analysis, therefore, the voice that has to be strongest through the post is the one represented by the url on the blog site.

In blog content writing, be a mensch with mentions, taking care of business while “taking care” to give credit where credit is due.