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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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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“Flesh Out” Business Blog Posts with Details

Business blog content writing can balance feature stories with news. News stories are time-sensitive, while feature articles might have the same impact whether they are read today or months from now.

When it comes to blog marketing, “news” can mean two entirely different things.  The first type centers around you and your company or your practice, including new products and services you’re offering, new employees you want to introduce, or your recent or upcoming activities in the community. (Of course, it’s important to present this news in a way that makes it clear why your readers would want to know about it.)

Then, there’s news related to your city, your city, your country, even worldwide events, keeping your readers updated on “what’s-going-on-and-how-do-we-fit-in. In a blog post, you might cite material from the news story, relating it to new developments in your own industry or field. The idea is not to simply repeat what’s already been said, but to showcase your own expertise and experience, offering a new perspective on that very news item.

I had reason to reflect on the concept of using community news in blogs as I attended the
500 Festival Memorial Service here in Indianapolis. From a business blog writer’s point of view, the web page about the service is a very good example of content that is detailed, informative, and which contains an implied Call To Action (spurring readers to attend the event).

There is a hyperlink from the article to the webpage of In.gov that shows a picture and offers detailed information about the War Memorial itself. In the same way, business blog posts can link to landing pages on the business’ or the practice’s website.

The article includes plenty of detail, explaining the terms Cortege (military funeral procession) and Caparisoned (riderless) Horse, and demystifying the symbolic meanings of the reverse Cavalry boots in the horse’s stirrups and of the Army Saber attached to the saddle. “Examples and details are the very things people remember long after reading a piece,” states Brandon Royal in The Little Red Writing Book, and I emphasize to Indianapolis blog writers the importance of.”fleshing out” their content with visual detail.

Business blog writing can balance feature stories with news, but for maximum impact, put “flesh” on the facts with details!

 

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Business Blogs – Inviting Buyers into Your Own Walled Garden

blogging for business

 

“Perhaps the world has moved past the idea of merely having a webpage that’s your own, and nobody else’s. Perhaps we’re expected to do everything, instead, on social media or in someone else’s walled garden,” muses Ernie Smith, editor of Tedium, in response to the question “Is blogging dead?” Maybe, when blogging was on the rise, Smith says, we needed an onramp to the information superhighway, a starting place in a culture where many people chose to both consume and create in equal measures. Smith prefers to think that blogging is very much still alive, but that we’re not using that term to describe our actions.

“There will always be a market for good content,” says “Redditor” William Pitcher. “What is gone are the days you could post what sandwich you had for lunch and have people read it because of the novelty.”

What about the studies showing that as many as 60% of social links are shared without ever  being clicked? The truth is, you still need those blog posts for the audience that does read and does care, says Dave Choate of rakacreative.com.

“Think about it: if you have a website and are putting out content on it, you are blogging,” says Gary Vaynerchuk. Blogging has simply morphed into a much broader category in which the attention graph has shifted.  Social networks are where you meet readers to direct them to your blog page. Don’t abandon the traditional blogging format, Vaynerchuk advises; instead test like crazy on social media to get people to click over to the website content.

Personal blogs offer something that social sites will never have, Vaynerchuk says – the fact is that you control the platform; you decide the amount and frequency of content output.  In a world of “rented:” social media space, that’s valuable, he explains.

As a freelance copywriter providing corporate blogging training, I’m finding the same thing. Businesses  are continuing – and more are beginning –  to use blogs to get their message out to business buyers.  The concept is the same as for personal blogs – bring readers to your website in order to convert them into buyers.

In the early days of Say It For You, I remember, Seth Godin was writing about cat blogs, boss blogs, and viral blogs. The “cats” were personal and idiosyncratic. The boss blogs were written to share ideas with team members. It was the viral blog category my professional ghost writing business was designed to serve. What each of my business clients is interested in remains the same: spreading the word about what they know, what they know how to do, and what they sell.  In other words, I help invite buyers into my clients’ very own walled gardens!

 

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Worm Your Way Into Readers’ Hearts with Business Blogs

 

The Tatoeba Project, which helps foreign students by translating from a foreign language into their own native language, has a lot to say about worms. Examples provided include sentences such as:

  • Tom put a worm on the hook.
  • Worms are sometimes beneficial to soil.

Even more interesting are these sentences:

  • Tom opened a can of worms.
  • The early bird gets the worm.
  • Tom seldom reads an editorial and is not a bookworm.

As blog content writers in Indiana, the basic tool we use to bring our business owner clients’ message to their prospects and customers is – language. True, the majority of our targeted readers might be U.S. born and bred, but some of the “lingo” we sling about so casually – in our effort to write “engaging” copy – well, it might need explaining.

English idioms, the FluentU blog explains, are groups of words which have a meaning which isn’t obvious from looking at the individual words.  “They’re used so often in everyday English,” the authors explain, “that if you don’t know them, it’s almost impossible to understand the context.”  FluentU offers a number of examples:

  • to hit the books
  • to hit the sack
  • to twist someone’s arm
  • to be up in the air
  • to stab someone in the back
  • to lose your touch
  • to sit tight
  • to pitch in
  • to face the music
  • to be on the ball
  • to be under the weather
  • to blow off steam
  • to cut to the chase

In blog marketing, the right words can make a big, big difference in what we like to call “the sales cycle” (itself an idiom!).  When it comes to lingo and industry jargon, we can literally “arm” readers by sharing – and explaining – the buzzwords.  That feeling of knowing the “inside scoop” allows prospects to feel in control and in a better position to make buying decisions with confidence.

Worm your way into blog readers’ hearts!

 

20 Essential English Idioms for Sounding Like a Native

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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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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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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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Smart and Humanizing Blogging About “Alumni”

 

In my last post I took inspiration from Nuvo editor Laura McPhee, who devoted an entire section of the paper to highlighting NUVO alumni, people who had worked at Nuvo, then departed for “better things”.

From my vantage point as a professional blog content writer, I thought McPhee’s idea was fabulously innovative. Sure, many company websites have a section called “Our Team”, with bios of their key employees, but I’d never seen feature articles about the “exes”, people who’d, after all, left the company because they wanted a more promising work environment.

To me, blogs are often the humanizing members of the online communications family, making a company or practice relatable, by introducing the readers to the people behind the brand. And, of course, nothing can be more ”humanizing“ than  stories about real humans, even if they are no longer involved in making your products or providing your professional services. Those alumni are part of your company’s history, and, to the extent you’ve kept in touch with your “alumni”, what a great thing it would be to let your readers know that your company or practice is a great place even to have been!

But what do you write about those “exes”? Nuvo came up with some great interview question, and you can use those as models for blog content:

  • What do you remember most about your time here?
  • How did your time at ______shape your career?
  • Got kids, life partners, or work projects you wanna brag about?
  • Is there a particular story you remember from the time you worked here?
  • How did working here influence the work you’re doing today?

Staying in touch with ex-employees can be a win-win situation, Kelly Services advises. “Clearly
When an employee leaves your company, maintaining and strengthening your relationship can add value for both parties.”

From a blog content writing point of view, staying in touch makes for smart and company-humanizing blog posts!

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Humanizing Your Company by Blogging About “Alumni”

“We have a lot to be proud of after 28 years of publishing a weekly newspaper,” Nuvo editor Laura McPhee wrote. One of the things McPhee is most proud of, she adds, is the NUVO alumni, people who worked at Nuvo, then went on to “better things”.

What a captivating notion, I thought, reading that section of the issue. Many company websites have a section called “Our Team”, with bios of their key employees.  But alumni, people who left you because they wanted a more promising work environment??? But what incredible blog content those stories would make, I couldn’t help thinking….

There was a time, Susan Milligan recalls (HR Magazine), when, leaving a job, you’d likely get a few hugs and a promise that you’ll be missed, but both employer and employee knew they’d likely never speak to each other again. Nowadays, though, Milligan notes, companies are treating ex-employees as “alumni” in the hopes that those people will think fondly about their previous employer.

Eventually, Hank Gilman, deputy managing editor of Fortune points out, new and/or better jobs will come along for your more talented people – or they’ll want to experience something else.
You just have to understand and hope that someday they’ll return, he says.

Since I work as a professional blog content writer, I’ve obviously needed to abandon most of my generational bias towards long, individually composed business letters and long phone conversations in favor of electronic marketing tools.  But there’s a reason I gravitated towards composing blogs rather than website copy.

In a way, blogs are the humanizing factor in the online communications family, making your company or practice relatable. The blogs are where you meet the people running the business or professional practice. And, of course, there’s nothing more ”humanizing“ than  stories about real humans, the ones making your products or and providing your professional service – or who, in the past, did those things.

At Say It For You, we definitely encourage clients to include “Who’s Who in our business/our office/our industry” blog posts. Apart from the typical “Our Team” landing page on your website, which introduces people by name with a brief bio, the blog would offer close-up[ views of the functions each person serves. And, if you’ve kept in touch with your “alumni”, what a great thing it would be to let your readers know you’ve kept in touch with them and their doings.  Makes your company or practice look like a great place to be – or even to have been!

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