Two Important Blogging Beginnings – Anecdotes and Questions

introductions in blogging

“The opening paragraph, or introduction, of your essay is key,” the Research & Education Association’s QuickAccess laminated writing guide advises. The guide suggests two “methods you can use to hook the reader”:

  1. Anecdote – a story that illustrates your point
  2. Question – establish a reason to keep reading (to find the answer)

“The introduction should include both your thesis statement and some background information about your topic,” QuickAccess continues.

In business blog content writing, anecdotes serve to keep the material fresh. While the message may be one that you’ve delivered in your blog many times before, adding a new story to illustrate the point makes the material seem brand new. Emotional appeal is what makes readers take action, and anecdotes give “heart” to the information. You may be selling a product or a service, but what you’re really selling is a solution to a problem readers are facing. The story makes that solution come alive.

Another way to state the importance of harnessing the power of storytelling in business blogs is this:  Use more examples; make fewer claims; “showing, not crowing”, will get you a lot farther in blog content writing.

I tell new Indianapolis blog content writers that, in creating content for marketing blogs, we need to keep in mind that people are online searching for answers to questions they have and solutions for dilemmas they’re facing. But even if those searchers haven’t specifically formulated their question, I suggest we can do that for them by presenting a question in the blog post itself!

You can use a customer question as a headline, then use the post to answer that question. Specifically, the question in the title or in the opening line “grabs” readers, demonstrating what they can expect to find in the blog post, and showing that you understand the dilemmas they’re facing and how to solve those!

Ask a question you know will catch their eye.  You can even add in a layer a curiosity, copywriter Amy Harrison suggests, by following your question with “The answer might just surprise you….”.

Anecdotes and questions – two important “Ones” in the one-two punch of blog content writer.  The “two”? All the valuable and interesting answers those readers were hoping to find.

 

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Build the Thesis Ahead of the Blog

thesis building in blogs

“Before you begin writing an essay or writing a research paper,” the Research & Education Association’s QuickAccess laminated writing guide advises, “draft a working thesis statement.”

That’s great advice for student, even better advice for business blog content writers, I believe.  It’s advice too often neglected, I find, with the operative work being “before”.

The thesis statement should contain two parts, REA explains:

  1. the subject of the essay
  2. your opinion on the subject

As an example of a weak thesis, REA offers this: “High school dropout rates are increasing.”

What’s wrong with it?  Lacks an opinion and is too general.  A stronger version, the guide suggests, would read:  “Because higher education is needed more than ever before in order for members of today’s workforce to be successful, the rising high school dropout rate is harmful to society.”

For business blog writing, though, that second version is far from ideal – too wordy, for one, and lacks “pow”. Two shorter, related sentences might create more impact: Here’s my version:

“Our kids are dropping out of high school; to staff our workplaces, we need to give our education system two major tweaks.”

Writing with impact, as REA is correctly telling students, requires thinking. And not just any thinking – it takes pre-thinking and planning. Composing an effective college essay is serious business; composing an effective marketing blog post IS business. Sure, our blogs may state a business owner’s or practitioner’s case in less formal, more conversational style than essays, but preparing a working thesis statement forces writers to focus, which translates into impact.

Just as REA teaches, the thesis statement should contain two parts:

  1. the subject (ONE main idea, ONE aspect of the business or practice)
  2. the opinion (a slant or unique value proposition, the answer to the online searcher’s questions – Why should I do this now? Why should I choose you?)

Build the thesis ahead of the blog!

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Bloggers – Avoid the 5 Big Mistakes Advisors Make

marketing blogs like newspaper interviews

“When dealing with the media, there are five common mistakes that financial advisors tend to make, “ writes Sally Cates in Financial Planning Magazine. “I should know,” Cates remarks (for 25 years, she’s been helping advisors have discussions with reporters).

I should know, too. As a now-retired financial planning practitioner who trains blog content writers, the mistakes Cates mentions are the same ones I often notice in business blogs.  Although reporters are not our business owner or practitioner clients’ target readers, we writers need to avoid committing the same “doozies” Cates lists:

Too general a message
“Reporters like examples, case studies, interesting details, and fascinating client situations,” Cates coaches advisers.  (Blog readers find those details and case studies engaging.)

TMI (too much information)
Don’t provide too much technical detail, Cates tells the advisors.  “Your article shouldn’t require a law degree to decipher.” Use true stories to highlight the mechanics.

Over-sharing
Don’t vent about prior firms or share resentments about co-workers or job conditions, Cates cautions. In similar vein, I caution blog content writers to avoid bashing competitors, focusing on their own strengths.

Delayed response
Reporters work on tight deadlines, so call them back promptly, Cates tells advisors.  The equivalent in the blogosphere is allowing too much time to elapse between posting.  Frequency and regularity earn “Brownie points” from both readers and search engines.

Being disorganized
Prepare talking points for each interview, Cates says, including data to support the points you want to make. Business bloggers need to curate – and property attribute – materials from different sources to support the points and add value for readers.

We should all know these things, of course, but Sally Cates’ piece is a good reminder to avoid those 5 big interview/marketing mistakes!

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Eye-Catching Titles for Business Blogs

blog titles that are eye-catching

 

While the February issue of Science News Magazine had great examples of statement titles followed by explanatory statements, last November’s issue of Science News was a treasure chest of eye-catching and tantalizing titles – you just had to read those articles to find out what they were all about!

In business blog content writing, of course, we don’t have the luxury of using “mysterious” titles, since the “spiders” (search engine algorithms) will be matching the phrases used in our titles with the terms typed into readers’ search bars. The trick is to use keyword phrases while still

One option is to include the “Oh!” part of your title in the meta tag description, which is the blurb of information that shows up beneath your clickable website address on search engine results pages.)

You wouldn’t know it, but the article “Lumpy Space” is about matter in the universe clumping together due to the pull of gravity.  “Big Moves” is about how Asian nomadic herders build new Bronze Age Cultures. “Robot doesn’t stop at flying” is enticing, but with few clues as to the content about a new insect-inspired flying machine used for search-and-rescue operations. “Faux cells could treat diabetes” is a much more of an informative title.

Among all those titles in the Science News Magazine issue, it was easy to choose my favorite:   “Ewe look familiar”. The “meta description”: Trained sheep have advanced face-processing abilities similar to those of humans, researchers have found.

Although I’m using a science magazine as an example, truth is, composing business blog post titles involves a combination of art and science ; reaching readers and, at the same time, satisfying search engines takes an elusive combination of narrative skill and business practicality. 

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Statement Titles for Business Blogs

 

blog post title ideas

Leafing through some Science News Magazine issues, I realized their writers are fond of using statement titles followed by explanatory statements, sort of like the “Huh? Oh!” titles I often use in writing business blog posts. The “Huh?s” are there to startle and capture interest, but the “Oh!’”s are needed to match up with the terms searchers used.

  • “Slow Childbirth Can Be Normal” is attention-getting, for example, but the explanation in the subtitle is needed to a) make the author’s intention clear and b) have search engines match the article with readers searching for information about caesarian sections surgery: “Rethinking labor could lead to fewer unnecessary C-sections”.
  • “Life had a chance in Earth’s infancy” is curiosity-stimulating, but the intention of the article is made clear in the subtitle, “Asteroid barrage didn’t leave plant sterile, scientists claim.”
  • The title “Magnetic Knots” gives almost no clue to the subject of the article, and we need the “Oh!” subtitle: “Swirls called skyrmions could transform data storage.”

In business blog content writing, there are different ways these “Huh?”/”Oh!” pairs can be used to accomplish the twin goals of stimulating curiosity and interest and improving SEO rankings. From an SEO standpoint, of course, we content writers don’t have the luxury of using very long titles, since the “spiders” will use only a certain number of characters for ranking. Still, the beauty of the “Huh?” is that it’s a grabber.

We might need to say “Forgo the C-Section: Slow Childbirth Can Be Normal”, with the rest of the explanatory material going into the opening lines of the post itself.

One option is to include the “Oh!” part of your title in the meta tag description, the information that
describes your page to search engines.  (The meta is the blurb that shows up beneath your
clickable website address on search engine results pages.)

It was easy to choose my favorite among the titles in that Science News Magazine issue:  “Ewe look familiar”. The meta description: Trained sheep have advanced face-processing abilities similar to those of humans, researchers have found.

No, I don’t believe search engine algorithms would have matched “Ewe look familiar” to “face recognition ability”. But putting just a little “Oh!” in that “Huh?” might be just the recipe for getting that fascinating blog post about the face-recognizing sheep “found”.

 

 

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Business Blog Openers That Wait to Reveal

blog writing

Yes, as I emphasized in an earlier post this week, opening lines are key in blogging for business. Why not, I suggested, use the opening sentence to make your thesis clear along with your topic? In other words, searchers should be assured not only that they’ve clicked on the right link to get information on the topic they typed into the search bar, but get a preview of your slant on the subject.

“To drive quality traffic to your site, you must think like a publisher,” content marketer Rustin Banks observes.  One model Banks suggests online content writers should copy from print journalism is the inverted pyramid structure, beginning with a broad thesis, getting more specific as you get further into the post.

But, of course, there’s more than one way to skin that thesis statement, as quickstudy.com explains to college students. And, of course, there are many different ways to approach what, in corporate blogging training sessions, I call the “pow opening line”.  And, while searchers must be assured they’ve come to the right site for the information they want, you don’t necessarily have to “show your slant” at the start of the post.

Show our slant we must, though. Blog posts, to be effective, can’t be just compilations of even very useful information we’ve aggregated. One thing I’ve learned over the years of creating blog content for dozens and dozens of clients in different industries and professions is that it is opinion that humanizes a blog and differentiates a business, professional practice, or organization from its peers.

We can wait to reveal, however. Shopify’s suggestions for blog templates, for example, include listicles, how-to posts, and storytelling posts. Listicles “round up” existing content such as “10 Interesting Indiana Foods to Try for Your next Pitch-in”. How-to posts tell ways to solve a problem, while storytelling posts offer interviews with customers, or experiments you’ve done.

Using any of these formats, we can explain what conclusions we’ve arrived at. Having set the stage, we can end with our opinions, putting our own unique slant on best practices in our field.

 

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Contrarian Content: Go Ahead – Blog to Differ

contrarian blogging

Whatever the conventional wisdom is, Brute Squad coach Ariel Jackson begs to differ. “In order to progress, we need to stop automatically accepting conventional wisdom as dogma and train ourselves to explore nuances and identify new approaches,” Jackson says.

There’s something very appealing and curiosity-stimulating about contrarian content, and, whether it’s business-to-business blog writing or business to consumer writing, being a contrarian has two effects:

  1. making readers sit up and take notice (This is not going to be same-old, same-old, readers realize.) 
  2. clarifying what differentiates your business or professional practice from its peers. (Again, why should we choose you if you’re serving up the same product and service as everyone else?)

On the issues relating to your field, what words should follow “I beg to differ”? When online readers find your blog, they want to know “Who lives here?” To be perceived as not only a provider, but an influencer, you need to formulate – and clearly state – your opinions!

Neen James explains the subtlety well in Speaker Magazine.  A Subject Matter Expert or SME, she explains, knows something, whereas a thought leader is known for something. Thought leaders know how to present ideas in ways that appeal to a marketplace craving direction and wanting solutions to problems. Those ideas, those opinions, often go against conventional wisdom, James adds.

“I hope I change some minds along the way, and I hope my mind is changed here or there,” Ariel Jackson says in his introductory blog posts. “What if I start my blog, writing strong opinion pieces and then later change my mind about the right way to do things?” is a fear one new blog content writing client expressed.

The way I answer that question is this: People are going to want to do business with someone who has something to say about the way they choose to operate within their world, offering strong recommendations and opinions in their blog.  People are going to LOVE doing business with a real person, someone who’s continuing to think about improving the way they operate and how to incorporate new knowledge and new developments..

Blog content writing is an absolutely wonderful way to express what you think and why you do things the way you do. It’s also the ideal vehicle to ride as you change and develop in your thinking as a business leader.  Go ahead – beg to differ (including with your own earlier ideas!).

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Business Blog Writing to Boost Readers’ Brains – and your Own

blog writing to boost memory

Turns out I was right about the “training effect” of a business blog. When you blog, I like to say, you verbalize the positive aspects of your business in a way that people can understand. You put your recent accomplishments down in words. You review the benefits of your products and services and keep them fresh in your mind. In other words, you are constantly providing yourself with training about how to talk effectively about your business.

“Learning to express yourself clearly and compactly is useful not just in terms of coming across well when speaking to others, but it also helps you to think with great clarity,” the Paragon Books Brain-Boosting Challenges explains.

“When we think we can remember a first letter but no more, there’s a good chance we’re actually correct,” the authors say. The first letter of a word is a critically important part of our ability to identify it.”  Two creative writing techniques that can make your blog post titles, as well as some of the text content, memorable and interesting are alliteration and assonance. Alliteration repeats the same consonant (Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers) or the same vowel sound (Honesty is the best policy).

“To help make a memory stronger, when you go back over the same material, it’s helpful to try presenting the content to yourself in a difference way to force yourself to think it through from a fresh angle.” Isn’t that precisely what business blogging is, continually approaching the same core topics from different angles?  What you can do with the blog is offer different kinds of information in different blog posts. 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.

As a blogging trainer, one concern I hear a lot from business owners or professional practitioners is that sooner or later, they’ll deplete their supply of ideas for blog posts. “I’ve already covered my products and services on my website – what else is left to say?” is the common thread in the questions I’m so often asked.

That’s when it’s important to remember the readers. Smart blog marketers know there are many subsets of every target market group, and that not every message will work on every person. At Say It For You, we realize online searchers need to know we’re thinking of them as individuals.

Repeating the same information in different forms is not only  good for your own memory – it helps your blog readers remember YOU!

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Why-In-The-World Business Blogging

It wasn’t a blog post, but the article might well have been just that, I thought, reading the advertorial in Senior Living, in which David Ring, owner of Indiana Funeral Care, answers the question “Why In the World Would I Plan My Own Funeral?”

Last November, in my Say It For You blog, I quoted the advice of speaker Todd Hunt.  Hunt suggests “the next time someone asks you a seemingly stupid question, stop and look at it from their side.”  As business blog writers, we need to impress readers before they’ve had the chance to ask us their questions, “stupid” or otherwise, I explained.  In fact, readers find our blogs precisely because they’re searching for answers to questions they have and solutions for dilemmas they’re facing.

In the Senior Living article, Ring does just that – he anticipates, and in fact lists, the many questions our survivors are going to face our survivors if we don’t face them ourselves:

  • Full tradition service or private graveside?
  • Open casket with cremation to follow or cremation with memorial service?
  • Wood or steel casket? (What’s the difference?)
  • What’s a burial vault?
  • What should be done with cremated remains – bury, scatter, in an urn?
  • Newspaper obituary, online obit, or both?
  • List several charities for memorial contributions or just one?
  • What if I move to another city or state?

The final paragraph of the Senior Living article reminded me of a second important business blogging principle: Since our content is often being ready by people who are not yet our clients or customers, how can we address their expectations? Readers need to envision how they will be helped by using our products or services.

As a retired financial planning professional, I know that most planners begin a meeting with new clients by asking the simple question “What is it that brings you here today?” One innovative planner, though, goes further, as a Journal of Financial Planning article reports, asking, “At the end of our meeting today, how will you know that it has been successful?” Through the design and language of each of the corporate or professional practice blog posts we compose, we need to bring readers to the point of figuring out “why in the world” their time with us has been – and will be – well spent.

“The other comment we often hear,” Ring relates, (referring to surviving family members of someone who has passed), “I am so relieved they planned this ahead!”

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Blog Content Writers Take Lessons from the Past

Alexander Pope and Sir Ross Smith lived centuries apart, but both came to the same conclusion on the topic of arguing. Both men are quoted in Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People.  “Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you?  Don’t argue – proving you’re right doesn’t win hearts,” Smith said 100 years ago.  200 years earlier, poet Alexander Pope used different words to convey the same idea: “Men must be taught as if you taught them not.”

David Ogilby, aptly named the Father of Advertising, stressed that “advertising is not an art form, but a message with a single purpose – to sell. Postcron’s Camila Villafarie points out that the “Ogilvian” techniques that worked in the 70s can be applied today in blogging. “The man goal of creating ads, Ogilvy was fond of saying, “is not to prove who’s more clever or witty.  People don’t have that much time to stop and read, so if you think you should surprise them with your words and creativity, you can do it, but never at the expense of making the sale,”,

There are several things the purpose of blogging is not. Not only isn’t the purpose to prove how clever or witty the writer is, it’s definitely not to prove how uninformed the reader is! Still, myth busting is a popular (and rightly so) use of corporate blogs, the idea being to disprove misconceptions about the product or service being offered.  Addressing misinformation is certainly one way to shine a positive light on a business owner’s or professional practitioner’s expertise in the field. The only problem is that people don’t like to be “argued out” of their misconceptions, and they definitely don’t like to be proven wrong!

What about issues where there’s no “myth” involved, but on which there are differing opinions? As a long time blog writer, I tell business owners that it’s fine to take a stand, using various tactics to bolster that stance in the eyes of readers. Then, through including guest posts on their blog and also citing material expressing the opposing viewpoint, they can demonstrate that there can be a productive exchange of ideas. Blogs, after all, are not ads.

The typical website, I believe, is more like the catalogs of an earlier era, explaining what products and services the company offers, who the “players” are and in what geographical area they operate. Of course, the better websites give at least a taste of the corporate culture and some of the owners’ core beliefs.
Where the continuously renewed business blog writing comes in is to offer ideas and inspiration. For every fact about the company or about one of its products or services, a blog post addresses unspoken questions such as “So, is that different?”, “So, is that good for me?” A good idea is its own “advertisement”!

Sir Ross Smith was so right – proving you’re right doesn’t win hearts.  But, unlike Ogilvy’s insistence that the prime goal is making a sale, the purpose of business blogs may be a different one – winning hearts and inspiring action!

 

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