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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Giving it Away to Get ‘Em – the Other Side of the Useful Info Story

useful info in blogs

No, (as I spent some digital “ink” saying in my last post), I don’t think sports scores or snow statistics belong on the blog sites of jewelers, dentists, or veterinarians, when those are used primarily as a way to attract visitors. My take on that form of marketing is that it works counter to the purpose of establishing trust and credibility for the business owner or practitioner.

But there’s always an “on the other hand”, as I will be first to admit. Offering tidbits of information loosely related to the industry or field represented in the blog is something readers tend to like. It “puts words in their mouths”, gives them “ready-to-microwave” cocktail conversation consisting of little-known or just plain interesting things to mention at the appropriate moment.

Humor speaker Todd Hunt doesn’t have a blog, but his e-newsletter, Hunt’s Headlines, does that “words-in-the-mouth’ thing for me. This time, Hunt explained the difference between acronyms and initialisms:

An acronym is a word, Hunt reminded me, that is formed from initial letters and pronounced as a word:

Scuba = Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (I’d forgotten this)
NATO = North Atlantic Treaty Organization (I knew that one)
Laser = light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation (who knew?)
Zip (code) = Zone Improvement Plan (I would’ve missed this on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire)

Now that I think of it, to illustrate my Say It For You blogs and emails, I use JPEGS. I was never informed (until now) that the acronym stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group.

In an initialism, in contrast to an acronym, the letters are actually pronounced individually (not as one word). Examples are:

FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation
IRA – individual retirement account
AAA – American Automobile Association
ATM – automoated teller machine

One initialism pertaining to our work as blog content writers is HTML, which (I should’ve known this, but somehow didn’t remember)) stands for Hyper Text Markup Language.

I’m far from actually reneging on my earlier assertion that “you cannot afford to tax their (online readers’) patience by distracting them with sports scores or weather updates; you’re best focusing on the search topic that brought those readers to you in the first place. Still, in blog marketing it’s well worth the effort of digging up curious and little known facts relating to your business or profession.

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Add a Little “Why” to Your Business Blog Content

When speaker Todd Hunt saw a sign in his health club reading:

“Please Do Not Pour Water on the Sauna Rocks”

Hunt’s first thought, he relates, was “I’ll pour water on the rocks if I want to.  Nobody tells me what to do!” But after spotting the second line of copy on the sign, Hunt changed his tune:

“Our system is not built for water.”

“Oh, now I understand,” he thought.  Hunt reminds his audiences to always add “why” statements to make statements more customer-friendly.

The same concept of “explaining why” is used in training parents, teachers, and caregivers of children with behavior challenges to used “scripted stories”. Here’s an example:

:.
I like to run. It is fun to go fast.
It’s okay to run when I am playing outside.
I can run when I am on the playground.
Sometimes I feel like running, but it is dangerous to run when I am inside.
Running inside could hurt me or other people.
When people are inside, they walk.
Walking inside is safe.

In the case of the sauna and the behaviorally challenged children, the purpose was to prevent action (pouring water or running).  But in marketing, calls to action (CTAs) often use imperative verbs designed to provoke immediate positive action: find out more, call now, provide contact information, etc. The concept, Horner explains in “Writing a Better Call to Action”, is to show consumers how to take the next step and to create a sense of urgency around the offer.

Just as Todd Hunt intuited about the power of explaining why in sign copy, searchers who’ve found themselves at your blog want to know why they ought to keep reading/follow your advice/buy your products and services. Answering the “why’s” before they’re asked overcomes buyers’ natural skepticism.

Prospects actually need answers to five “why’s”:

1. Why me?  Why did you target this particular market (the one represented by this potential buyer)?
2. Why you (the author)? What is our expertise and experience?  Why do we care?
3. Why this (the offer) What are the specific solutions you provide?
4. Why now (the urgency)
5. Why this price (the value)

Adding “why” makes blog content statements more customer-friendly!

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“Ever-Wonder-Why” Blogging for Business

My friend Larry M. shared a fascinating list of “Ever Wonder Why Trivia” that I think you’ll enjoy.  More important, there’s a lesson here: trivia and blog marketing go together like “a horse and carriage” (if you’re my age) or maybe like peanut butter and jelly (if you’re not).

Trivia can be used in business blogs for:

  • defining basic terminology
  • sparking curiosity about the subject
  • putting modern-day practices and beliefs into perspective
  • explaining why the business owner or practitioner chooses to operate in a certain way

Here are some choice tidbits from Larry M.’s list – see if they spark some ideas related to your own business or profession:

  • Why do men’s clothes have buttons on the right, while women’s clothing has them on the right? When buttons were first invented, they were very expensive and used primarily on rich people’s clothing.  Most people are right-handed, so the buttons went on the right. (Rich women were dressed by their maids).
  • Why do Xs at the end of a letter signify kisses? In the Middle Ages, few people knew how to write, and documents were signed with an X. Kissing the X. was a sign of accepting the obligations specified in the document.
  • Why is someone feeling great said to be “on Cloud Nine”? Clouds are numbered based on the altitudes they attain, with 9 being the highest level.
  • Why do we save coins in jars called “piggy banks”? Dishes and cookware in Europe used to be made of an orange clay called “pygg”.

A tidbit of trivia, I’ve found, can be the jumping off point for explaining what problems can be solved using your business’ products and services. Trivia is just one of the many tools that can help business owners present what they know, what they do best, and what they have to sell.

When I’m offering business blogging assistance to writers and owners, I talk about the need to create as much fresh material as possible to inform, educate, and entertain.  That’s a pretty tall order for most busy business owners and employees.  Collecting trivia can be part of “keeping up” with blog content creation.  “Ever-wonder-why” blog posts are one good place to start. 

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Having the Last Word in Your Business Blog

closing lines in blogs“Nothing can be more annoying to your reader than an article that ends too abruptly or shabbily,” Elizabeth Soumya writes in BlogVault.com. “As writers we can often feel complacent, as if we have little to say by the time we find ourselves at the end.” But concluding means bringing your blog post to a convincing end, one that doesn’t leave readers feeling dissatisfied, Soumya cautions.

My favorite trivia magazine, Mental Floss, understands the importance of last words, devoting a long article to 64 famous people and their famous dying words, including:

  • Blues singer Bessie Smith: “I’m going, but I’m going in the name of the Lord.”
  • Frank Sinatra: “I’m losing it.”
  • Benjamin Franklin: “A dying man can do nothing easily.”
  • Charles Gussman (writer and TV announcer): “And now for a final word from our sponsor…”
  • Sir Winston Churchill: “I’m bored with it all.”
  • Steve Jobs: “Oh wow, oh, wow, oh wow!”

“How you start will determine if you get read,” says Brian Clark of copyblogger.com, but “how you end will determine how people feel about the experience.”  Of course, he admits, the direct response copywriter’s favorite closer is the call to action. “Make it clear what you’d like to have happen,” Clark warns. Endings are critical, he points out, because the last impression you leave with people is the most important.

End with a lesson, a discovery, or a revelation, is the advice of world-words.com. You shouldn’t simply repeat what you’ve already said, however.  Use an image, fact, or anecdote that helps summarize and demonstrate all that has gone before, while simultaneously hammering home the main point.

A great opener with a lame last line is.., well, lame, I point out to business blog content writers.. Sure, it’s super-important in blogging for business to have great titles and strong, curiosity-stirring openers, but you’ve got to “close your parentheses”. One way to do that is the tie-back, a news writing device that refreshes readers’ memory about earlier parts of the business blog post.

In corporate blog writing, it all matters – the title, the opening line, and the reader-friendly, relevant, updated, useful content.  Somehow it’s not the same, though, without a great finish. Have the last word in your own business blog!

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Ask, But Also Persuade

Pay Raise Word Increased Income Workers Lift Arrow

 

“Yes, you should ask — but you should also persuade,” Mental Floss magazine advises employees ready to request a pay raise.  “If your company doesn’t offer an annual review, ask your supervisor if you can have one.”

The pointers the authors offer on best ways for employees to use that meeting are definitely apropos when it comes to content writing for business owners and professional practitioners:

  • Provide the reasons you deserve a raise.
    Offer reasons for readers to expand their budgets to include your services and products.

  • Outline your accomplishments over the year.
    Let readers know your products and services are constantly be improved and updated.

  • Point out the ways you’ve gone above your job description.
    Explain unique benefits your customers have enjoyed.

  • Highlight the projects you want to take on in the future that go beyond your official duties.
    Share plans for expanding your services and new benefits you’ll be able to provide.

  • If any of your projects have pulled in extra revenue, be sure to note that—with specific numbers.
    Include testimonials from clients that specify increases in revenue and visibility they have enjoyed as a result of using your company

 

 

 

 
One fear business owners often express to me is that they don’t want to come off boastful and self-serving in their blog, or be perceived as using hard-sell tactics to promote themselves. That concern is addressed by Steve Wamsley in his book “Stop Selling and Do Something Valuable“, which was reviewed in the Financial Planning Association website. Here’s what Wamsley has to say: “We have to sell ourselves to potential clients so that they choose to work with us rather than the competition. In our role as advocates (he’s speaking to financial planners), we need to persuade people to act.”

When it comes to marketing through posting marketing blogs, you should ask, but also persuade!

 

 

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Would-You-Rather Blogging for Business

People like hearing other people’s opinions almost as much as they like expressing their own, which accounts for the popularity of the party game “Would You Rather”, in which a dilemma is posed the form of a question beginning with the words “Would you rather”. Would you rather be forced to wear wet socks for the rest of your life or be allowed to wash your hair only once a year? Wear someone else’s dirty underwear or use someone else’s toothbrush? Always have to tell the truth or always have to lie?

The format is highly adaptable to different audiences. The Seventeen Magazine version, for example, asks whether you’d rather live in a fro-yo shop or own your own ice cream truck, and whether you’d rather get thrown into the pool fully clothed or get caught skinny-dipping.

My point in all this? The Would-You-Rather format can work for business blogs. (As a corporate blogging trainer, I’m always considering different ways of communicating with online readers.)

While my writers at Say It For You offer a sort of matchmaking service to help our clients “meet strangers” and hopefully convert at least some of them into friends and customers, we need to realize that the readers will process the information we offer in the context of their own past experience and form their own opinions.

Opinion is compelling. When your blog reveals your unique slant or philosophy relating to your field, potential customer and clients feel they know who you are, not merely what you do. Revealing what you would rather, why you chose to do the kind of work you do, why you’ve created the kind of company or practice you have – that’s powerful stuff.

But what if we find that a business owner or practitioner hasn’t yet formed an opinion on some important trending topic? That’s where the blog can “take a poll”, asking readers for their slant! It’s even valuable to readers when you clarify and put into perspective both sides of a thorny issue within your industry or profession.

“Would You Rather” is popular because people like hearing other people’s opinions almost as much as they like expressing their own. Taking advantage of that in a business blog makes great business sense!

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Wedding and Pro Bono Business Blog Gifting

If you’re going to disregard the preferred wedding gift list, what you give has to be good, advises Nicole Garner in Mental Floss Magazine. But, amazingly, the author adds, the most unique and valuable wedding gifts might not cost you anything except some through and effort. You might pass on a family treasure, offer your skills in floral design, dress alternation, or invitation design, Garner suggests, or offer your time pet or house sitting while the couple is on their honeymoon.

At Say It For You, we believe that same concept of “freebie- gifts-with-thought” can apply to business blogs as well. When I’m helping new clients who are business owners or professional practitioners, I often find they feel some ambiguity about planning their blog post content.  In the beginning, many feel uneasy about giving away valuable information “for free”, even though they realize their blog will become a way of selling themselves and their services to online searchers.

Coschedule.com’s Julie Neidlinger talks about the power of blog giveaways, including portable content  in the form of downloads that don’t require people to stay on the site to enjoy. Blog giveaways get shared, and Neidlinger recommends giving away material that is:

  • fun
  • educational
  • reputation-building
  • ongoing

“The reason there is disagreement on giving things away is because some bloggers are approaching it purely from the viewpoint of marketing, while other bloggers are trying to make their living off of content,” she notes. (In the case of our Say It For You team, we’re coming at blogging from the marketing side, helping business owners and professionals tell their stories.  Neither our writers nor the clients are in the business of selling content to readers.) That means there’s every reason to openly “give away” tips and how-tos that relate to each client’s expertise.

Through the blog content we write:

  • A caterer “gives away” recipes and table decorating tips.
  • An hospital operating room supply company “gives away” tips on pressure ulcer prevention.
  • A insurance company “gives away” tips on workplace safety.
  • A jeweler “gives away” tips on safety cleaning and storing necklaces.
  • A search firm “gives away” valuable resume-building and interviewing advice.

Yes, as Nicole Garner points out, what you give has to be good, but the most unique and valuable pieces of advice offered on a good business blog might not cost readers anything!

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In Business Blogs, Keep the Downbeat Upbeat

Orchestra conductor
In blogging for business, the last thing you’d want to be is “downbeat”. (One dictionary definition of “downbeat” is pessimistic, gloomy, negative, and fatalistic.). On the other hand, “downbeat” might be the very effect I want to achieve in order set the mood for my blog post. (The word “downbeat” is a musical term referring to the opening bars of the music, in which the composer sets the mood for the concerto to come.)

The equivalent in blog writing of an orchestra’s downbeat (the conductor’s baton is raised while a hush falls over the audience, then comes down to start the music) is the opening sentence of each post.

From a search engine optimization standpoint, of course, I want to use keyword phrases in the title and in the first sentence, because that helps search engines match my content with the search terms online readers use. Even more important, though, it’s imperative to make the first ten words of any post count.

“Great opening sentences are critical when you’re writing for the internet, where readers have the attention span of fruit flies,” John Hargrave of Mediashower.com says, citing a survey done by Microsoft of more than 2 billion page views, and found that users spend ten seconds on an average Web page On the other hand, the longer you retain them, researchers learned, the more likely they are to stay. At Media Shower, Hargrave says, “we train our writers to spend more time on the opening sentence than any other part of the article.”

Wayne Schmidt agrees. “Whether a story’s fifty words long or a hundred thousand, the most important passage is the opening paragraph. In the few seconds it takes to read it, most readers decide if finishing the tale is worth their time.” Start with a sentence that makes the reader ask a question, Schmidt suggests. (People hate unanswered questions.) It doesn’t have to be a literal question, just something that piques the reader’s curiosity.

Another approach for the “downbeat” is a “tease”, Michael Pollack suggests, withholding a key piece of information till later in the piece so the reader is compelled to keep reading. “What if I said that every TV network, movie, blog, book, and other forms of media use this same tactic?” Writing something that goes against the status quo or conflicts with conventional wisdom is another way to get attention, Pollack points out.

In business blogs, it’s downright important to keep the downbeat upbeat!

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For Business Blogging, Get in the Remote Mindset

 

Photographer Willie B. Thomas

 

“In the last decade, remote work has exploded in popularity,” says Skillcrush. “It’s totally feasible to land a lucrative, fulfilling career without selling your soul to the daily commute,” Browning assures readers, cautioning that interviews for remote jobs come with their own set of pitfalls.

Interviewees for remote jobs have to demonstrate they are pros at managing time, prioritizing tasks, and communicating with boss and coworkers. Business blog content writers, I reflected, reading this advice, have precisely the same challenges. Without being face to face with the prospect reading the blog, the business owner or professional practitioner (or the blog content writer they’ve hired) must demonstrate expertise, reliability, and empathy.

With all the different communications options, including not only blogging, but social media, mobile apps, forms, webinars, etc., “It’s easy to forget that Expertise is the #1 ingredient for  successful content marketing and blogging,” according to pushingsocial.com. “Without expertise, all these methods are reduced to fancy magic tricks that capture your reader’s attention for a moment.”

Readers come to your blog looking for the answer to two questions, pushing social.com explains:

  1. Can this person/company/practice help me?
  2. Do these people know what they’re talking about?

Without being face to face with readers, blog content writers use words to prove that the answer to each of those two questions is a resounding “Yes!”

But how do you demonstrate that you can help a prospect when you have no proof  – no case studies, testimonials, or clients yet? That question was actually asked of John Jantsch of ducttapemarketing. Jantch’s three-point response:  Publish, Partner, Podium. “Start sharing your expertise and point of view on your own blog,” Jantsch advises, and ”Offer to write guest blog posts.”

Whether you’re a newbie or veteran blog content writer, for business blogging, get in the remote mindset!

 

 

 

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