Go Ahead – Write Blog Content About “Un-related” Topics!

unrelated topics

 

“Be generous. Be informative. Be funny. Be inspiring. Be all the characteristics you enjoy in other human beings,” says Gary Vaynerchuk in Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, a book about ”telling your story in a noisy social world”. From a marketing standpoint, the author explains, content writing can be about not just your brand, but about related topics.  You can even talk about un-related topics, the author says. Jabs can be anything that helps set up your commercial “ask”.

“No one wants to be interrupted (with banner ads and popups), and no one wants to be sold to.  Your story needs to move people’s spirits and build their goodwill, so that when you finally do ask them to buy from you, they feel like you’ve given them so much, it would be almost rude to refuse,” Vaynerchuk advises.

Visitors arrive at your blog to find information on specific topics.  But, once your opening lines have reassured them they’ve come to the right place, it’s a great idea to use some unlikely connections, even unrelated but fascinating tidbits of information to give readers a sense of being ahead of the crowd, having some unusual “inside information” or amusing tidbits to share with friends.

Getting personal is a huge element in the success of a blog for any business or practice Sure, Indianapolis blog content writers must focus on personal anecdotes and on the personal values of the business owners and of the people delivering professional services. But, to give the blog that needed extra boost, the content can reflect current happenings and concerns and topics trending on social media.

“Jabs” are nothing more than marketing “touches”, ways to establish connection between you and the reader. The trick, of course, is keeping up the flow of content. When I found that the biggest fear business owners have when it comes to maintaining a company blog was running out of ideas, I came up with the concept of tidbits.

Tidbits are interesting, little-known facts. While at first the tidbit appears to be unrelated to the business or practice, it can be used to explain the company’s products, services, and expertise.

An HVAC company, for example, could share the story from Mental Floss magazine of how, when President Garfield was shot and lay dying in the White House, inventors rushed forward with devices they hoped would help, using a contraption to blow air over a box of ice into a series of tin pipes, eventually using a half-million pounds of ice.

Jab, jab, jab, even about seemingly unrelated topics, Vaynerchuk explains, working up to that big “Right Hook” ask!

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Jabbing and Dee-jaying it for Blog Content Writers

blog jabs

 

“It isn’t about breaking the news or spreading information – it’s about dee-jaying it,” says Gary Vaynerchuk in Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, a book about ”telling your story in a noisy social world”. From a marketing standpoint, the author explains, news has little value on its own, but the marketer who can skillfully spin, interpret, and remix it in his or her own signature style can often tell a story that is more powerful and memorable than the actual news itself.

In Vaynerchuk’s metaphor, jabs are the content you put out, and the right hook is the “ask” – for the sale or for a donation. The right hook sells and self-promotes, but the jabs engage readers and trigger an emotional response, Tanner Hunt comments on Vaynerchuk’s book.

The thing about blog content writing, we’ve learned at Say It For You, is that your stuff might be high-quality and informative and still not have any measurable effect if it lacks emotion. But can “emotional” blog marketing be effective in B2 situations? Yes, yes, yes! Remember that computers don’t make the buying decisions; there’s always a person involved, and, by definition, a person has feelings.

What Vaynerchuk calls “remixing” I refer to as putting your own spin on the information. There is no lack of sources for readers to be “told” information; you want to “show” readers, using examples that are more unique and vivid, fact-based , but not focused on the facts.

Long before getting to the “right hook”, bloggers for business need to go beyond providing information and become “thought drivers”. Whether it’s business-to-business blog writing or business-to-consumer blog writing, the content itself needs to use opinion to clarify what differentiates that business, that professional practice, or that organization from its peers. In other words, blog posts will go from information-dispensing to offering the business owner’s (or the professional’s, or the organizational executive’s) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic.

A deejay, remember, is a very special type of performer, someone who does so much more than play tracks from a playlist.  The deejay answers questions and calls, offering comments and “slant” on the selections being played. Over time, listeners come to trust the deejay and value his/her advice.

Blog marketing isn’t about breaking the news or spreading information – it’s about jabbing and dee-jaying it.

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The 9 Types of Essays You Meet in the Blogosphere

9 types of essays in blogs

“Your college compositions will like take one of the following formats, ”Quick Access” authors advise students. The same list of 9 might apply to us business blog content writers, I couldn’t help thinking.

1.  Illustration essay – “Just as in a visual illustration, a written illustration shows the reader something or illustrates a point.” Beginning with a startling statistic is certainly one tactic blog writers can use to bring a point to the forefront of readers’ minds, then illustrating that point with specific examples.

2.  Narrative essay – A narrative is any type of story, and good ones should contain some dialogue and sensory details. Stories of all kinds – case studies, customer testimonials, famous incidents from the news, Hollywood, folklore – you name it) help personalize your blog post.

3.  Descriptive essay – The writer creates a picture for the reader, using close observation. Basic information about your business, material you’ve presented again and again in earlier business blog posts, can assume new power when you relate that content to different sounds, sights, or smells.

4.  Process essay – This essay explains how something happened or how something works.  There’s no end to the technical information available to consumers on the Internet, but as business blog content writers, we can help readers absorb, buy into, and use that information. How-to blog posts engage readers while establishing business owners and practitioners as knowledgeable in their fields. It might well be that, teaching is the new selling!

5.  Definition essay – A word or term is defined by using examples, descriptions, comparisons, or contrasts. Sometimes, in corporate blogging training, I ask writers to make zany comparisons: Online searchers almost certainly lack expert knowledge in your field. That makes it difficult for them to judge if your prices are fair, how experienced you are relative to your peers, and where you “place” in the big “scheme” of products and services.

6.  Comparison-contrast essay – The writer explains the similarities and differences between two things. Compare-and-contrast is one of several structures we blog writers can use to help customers and prospects derive the greatest use out of the information we’re presenting. Use what they know, comparing your ”new” solution to traditional “old” solutions to the problem your company solves. Compare unfamiliar things to things with which readers are already comfortable.

7.  Classification essay – The writer puts things into groups of related objects, with the purpose being to break down larger groups of things into smaller components. Collecting information from different sources and organizing that information so that it is more understandable to our readers plays a big part in creating value through a blog.

8.  Cause and effect essay – A cause is the reason why something happens – the effect is the result of that cause. Consumers reading a blog post are not trained in whatever the company’s specialty is, and could understandably misunderstand the significance of the data presented, and the advice and the intent behind it. Clarifying the best way to address certain problems is one important function of business blogs.

9.  Persuasive essay – The writer is trying to convince the reader that his or her own opinion is valid. In blogs, you want to be perceived as a Subject Matter Expert offering usable information and insights rather than as a salesperson. The blog content itself constitutes a persuasive Call to Action! 

Are you using all the 9 essays as you  create content for the blogosphere?

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The Long and the Short of Business Blog Writing

“So which is better for you: long or short content?” Rob Marsh asks on copyhackers.com.

The short of it as per Forbes.com: “Write short, pithy posts.  After 750 words – or sometimes after only half that – you risk losing your readers’ attention”.

The long of it as per Buffer:  “Posts longer than 2,500 words received more than twice the social shares of posts less than 2,500 words long.”

But, forget long vs. short. What do people actually read? March asks. An easy way to “fatten up” your thin content is to make it longer, but should you, he wonders. In other words, what do human beings prefer?  According to the Medium.com data lab, the optimal posts take the average reader seven minutes to read.

To succeed with longer content, you have to use your WORDS, March cautions.

W –well researched, with examples and case studies
There’s a privilege to blogging, I always tell content writers, and that privilege comes with a duty we have to offer usable, high-quality, well-researched content, presented in quality fashion.  Our online readers have a right to expect no less.

O – outstanding, triggering an emotional response.
At Say It For You, I tell blog content writers that one reason I prefer first and second person writing in business blog posts over third person “reporting” is that I believe people tend to buy when they see themselves in the picture and when can they relate emotionally to the person bringing them the message.

R – regularly posted
Recency and frequency are crucial. Once-in-a-while blogging just doesn’t do the trick, even if it’s high-quality stuff.  To satisfy a search engine, your blog material must be updated frequently, and I mean very frequently.  It seems that when it comes to blogging for business, search engines are saying, “Never mind what you’ve done. What have you done for me lately?”

D – designed to encourage reading
A scannable, easy-on-the-eye layout, with subheads, bolding, graphics, and paragraph breaks ,keeps readers’ attention.

S – substantive – important and covering the subject in depth
Blog posts that demonstrate a high degree of expertise backed by solid research, plus a very high degree of focus, give readers a sense that paying attention longer is “worthwhile”.

Smaller Targets, Better Hits in Blogging for Business

So which is better for you? At Say it For You, my own motto over the years has been this:

Make blog posts as long as they need to be to get the point across, but not a single sentence longer!

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Shedding Shame in Business Blog Marketing

blog marketing

 

Have you ever asked someone to “pardon your tartle?” Tartle is actually the Scottish term for the kind of “brain freeze” you get while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.” Helping readers avoid (and, if necessary, deal with) awkward and embarrassing situations is one valuable service business owners and practitioners can offer through their blog content.

“A learning culture (in an organization) is often open to employees failing, considering it a part of growth,” writes Bill Howatt in theglobeandmail.com. In blog content writing, it’s important to reassure readers that they have come to the right place to arm themselves with the information they need to perform well, but that on the other hand, they are not expected to do things perfectly right “out of.the gate”. Your products, your services, and your advice will help them get the job done and avoid the faux pas they fear.

“The web is one big network of advice,” writes Rebecca Haden in Haden Interactive. “After all, she says, “people come online either to play or to get information”. There’s a difference between valuable information and a diagnosis, Haden cautions, particularly when it comes to medical information online. Yet modern consumers like to be informed and they will go online for it, and you’d like them to find that information at your website rather than elsewhere, she observes.

“We are constantly on the lookout to see what other people think about us. When we think that people are evaluating us negatively, our sense of self takes a huge hit,” a study by John Jay College professor Joshua Clegg showed. By showing that you’re able to handle the discomfort and move on, you will minimize the effect on the way others view you, Clegg advises.

“Tips and tricks to…..” are popular with blog readers, making them feel “armed” and prepared to handle the situation. In fact, one point I’ve consistently stressed in these Say It For You blog content writing tutorials is how important it is to provide valuable information to readers, while avoiding any hint of “hard sell”.  Well, providing tips and helpful hints may very well be the perfect tactic for accomplishing that very goal. Readers who feel empowered to “shed shame” and cope with awkward situations are readers who are likely to feel loyal. 

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Business Blog Marketing – Explaining When the Cows Come Home

old sayings in blog content

When exactly do “the cows come home”? And who was the first person to “steal someone’s thunder?” Who would ever put a cat in a bag? Writing in Reader’s Digest, Jacopo Della Quercia shares the history of several colorful expressions that are part of the English language, but which have “lost the connection to their delightful origins”.

For us business blog content writers, “delightful origins: can be a tool for livening up blog posts designed to market a business or a professional practice. In fact, I teach at Say It For You, history has an important place in blogs. “History-of-our-company” background stories have a humanizing effect, engaging readers and creating feelings of empathy for business owners or practitioners who overcame adversity or at least extricated themselves from a “pickle”.

What’s more, I have a pet theory about the kind of trivia Della Quercia is presenting in the Reader’s Digest piece: I think our curiosity is most intense when we’re testing our own knowledge. We’ve all heard the colorful English expressions he’s talking about, we all use them, but now that he’s brought them up, we realize we have no idea where they came from.

It’s fascinating to realize that cows were often milked in their barns at night, making that task one of the last ones on a farmer’s list. People used to sell piglets tied in bags, but a shady dealer might swap the piglet for a less expensive animal, such as a cat. 18th century dramatist invented a device to simulate the sound of thunder for his plays – and a rival dramatist copied the method for a production of Macbeth.

From a blog marketing standpoint, the expression “the cold shoulder”, which might have originally meant serving a guest a cold shoulder of mutton (an inexpensive, undesirable dish) to get rid of him, could be incorporated into a blog on etiquette – or on fashion (“cold shoulders” are all the rage). The expression “Till the cows come home” could be used in a message about a provider’s prompt service. Several of the other sayings Della Quercia mentions can also be useful – I can see “Blood is thicker than water” being used in a blog post about estate planning or business succession planning.

Della Quercia writes about “the surprising sources of great sayings’> As writers, we need to be on constant alert for surprising sources of great blog content!

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Business Blog Title Threesomes

 

A couple of years ago at Say It For You, I began calling attention to the idea of using certain literary devices in business blog titles with an eye to making them more “catchy”.  In addition to alliteration, a second creative writing technique is “threesomes”. The same Fortune magazine that used those ten alliterative titles I named in my last post also had at least two good examples of the Power of Three:

  1. Introducing MUFG Bank – trusted, global, seamless
  2. Right place, right fit, right now (WorldBusinessChicago.com)
  3. “Real Reliable”, “Real Service”, and “Real Pride” (parts of an advertorial series about the Stihl Company)Like alliteration, The Rule of Three is a language device. We’re all familiar with these examples in which three related words or points presented in quick succession for literary effect:
  •  “Friends, Romans, countrymen”
  •  “I came, I saw, I conquered”
  •  “Of the people, by the people, for the people”

Things that come in threes are more persuasive, Moodle explains. Since we process information using patterns, threesomes make content more memorable.

Some more modern examples include:

  •  Stop, look and listen
  • The good, the bad and the ugly
  • The Olympic motto Faster, Higher, Stronger.

“It’s no accident that the number three is pervasive throughout some of our greatest stories, fairy tales, and myths,” writes Brian Clark of Copyblogger.com. the combination of pattern and brevity results in memorable content, which is why three bullet points are more effective than two or four, Clark adds.

Blog posts, I teach at Say It For You, have a distinct advantage over the more static website copy. Each post can have a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of your business, and call for a single action. The single topic focus, though, can be supported by three points.

Alliteration, according to Hubspot, makes text “lovelier to read.”In business blog content writing, threesomes might not add “loveliness”, but they do tend to leave an impression!

 

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Business Blog Title Tongue-Twisting on Purpose

alliteration

 

Remember the two old tongue-twisters “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” and “She sells seashells by the seashore”? Those two sentences are actually extreme examples of a creative writing technique called alliteration, in which you repeat the same letter or sound at the start of nearby words.

A couple of years ago at Say It For You, I began calling attention to the idea of using alliteration in business blog titles with an eye to making them more “catchy”. You see, it’s one thing to write great content, and quite another to get it read and ranked, as Corey Wainright of Hubspot reminds us.

Apparently, alliteration is a good idea not only for blog posts, but for magazine content as well. The other day, reading through this month’s issue of Fortune, I noticed many examples of alliteration in article titles:

Turning Travel Time into Quality Time is about private aviation company Wheels Up.
Critical Condition is a piece about a “botched acquisition by Pfizer”.
How to Connect with Tomorrow’s Customer is a piece about a “botched acquisition by Pfizer”.
Facebook’s Fix-It Team is about the company’s efforts to purge hate speech and criminal activity from its site.
Make Your Business “Sense” Smarter and More Self-Aware is about microelectronic sensors.
An article about Mattel is titled Barbie’s Diversity Dance.
A congressman from California is pushing an Internet Bill of Rights; the write-up is titled Man in the Middle.
An ad for Botox® is headed The Details Make the Difference.
The toy company Bird is featured in a piece called America’s Scooter Showdown.

“It is important to note that alliteration is about the sounds of words, not the letters; therefore, the letter “k” and “c” can be used alliteratively (as in  kitchen and cookie), as well as the letter “s” and “c” (as in sparkle and  cycle),” ereadingworksheets.com explains.  The words don’t need to be directly next to each other in the sentence or stanza to be considered alliterative, the website explains, but a good guideline to follow is whether you can detect the repetition of sound when you read the line aloud.

“Have some fun with alliteration,” Hubspot advises in “Foolproof Formula.” Why? “It’s a device that makes something a little lovelier to read, and that can have a subtle but strong impact on your reader.” Making a subtle but strong impact on readers? That’s precisely what our work at Say It For You is all about!

 

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Take Blog Readers to Where You Want Them to Be

guiding blog readers

More data in business blog posts may not be the best way to persuade readers and to overcome skepticism, Jeremy Porter Communications teaches, because “those who make the most emotionally persuasive arguments win.”

Both this week’s Say It For You posts are focused on Jeremy Porter’s “Nine ways to create an emotional connection”. On Tuesday we covered the first three; here are the remaining six:

Tell a story
“Stories are memorable, easily shared, and inspire action.” Successful content writing for blogs is all about the power of story, I’ve found over the years. In fact, one big, big part of providing business blogging assistance is helping business owners formulate stories.

Use metaphor
Metaphors can make a speech interesting and memorable, Porter teachers, using as an example the one used by Martin Luther King said that “America has given the Negro people a bad check…But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.” In a business blog, even though the overall topic is the same, there is endless variety that can be used to make each blog post special. One technique is usuing metaphor to make an unusual comparison between two things.

Visuals
“Support your speech with photos or video.” While the story line is paramount in blogging for business, where visuals come in, whether they’re in the form of “clip art”, photos, graphs, charts, or even videos, is to add interest and evoke emotion.

Get the delivery right
“It’s important that your tone, volume, and speed of delivery matches the moment.” It’s true that Porter is coaching speakers, but the same lessons apply to us business bloggers. The “facts” about the business or practice, I teach Indiana blog writers, must be translated into relational, emotional terms that compel reaction in readers.

Words matter
“Have a thesaurus handy and be ready to swap words that don’t pack enough punch, or pack too much punch. Do you want to say pain or agony? Sad or devastated?” One of the many delights of my work as professional ghost blogger derives from the discovery of “word tidbits” in other people’s writing. A really good word tidbit hits you smack between the eyes; in just a couple of words, it conveys an entire situation.

Use rhetorical devices
The Rule of Three makes a message easier to remember: The iPad2 was “thinner, lighter, and faster”; Abraham Lincoln spoke of a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
In business blogging, I recommend a razor-sharp focus on just ONE story, one idea, or one aspect of a business, a practice, or an organization (other aspects can be addressed in later posts). But the “rule of three” still applies, in that you use three examples or three details that support the main idea of that blog post.

The lesson we business blog content writers can take from the Porter Nine: in writing business blog posts, more data may not be the best way to persuade – logical arguments are important, but appealing to readers’ emotion will win the day!

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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!

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