People-to-People Blogging for Business

Skimming through my now-pretty-extensive collection of business books, I came across Hollywood producer Peter Guber’s book Tell to Win.  Guber thinks storytelling is a professional discipline, and in the book he examines the way people use stories to do business.

As a professional blog content creator and trainer in corporate writing, I think that what Guber calls a “purposeful story” describes a perfect vehicle for blogging. Guber himself ties storytelling to salesmanship, saying that the goal of your story must be to show what’s in it for the listeners (readers, in the case of blogs) – the audience must win.

While marketing blogs should be designed to “win search” (from an SEO standpoint), once the searchers have arrived, what needs winning is their hearts, and that is precisely what content writers can achieve best through storytelling.

Tim Nudd of Adweek.com agrees.  “The more compelling, clever, insightful or entertaining the stories are, the better your chance of engaging the viewer and delivering a memorable brand message,” he states.

So where do those compelling, insightful, and entertaining stories come from? Start with the business owners. Why did you choose to do what you do? What are you most passionate about in delivering your service to customers and clients?  What are you trying to add to or change about your industry?  Your customers have stories. What problems did they have that you helped solve? What funny things happened to them, to their kids, to their pets that relate to your product or service?

“It’s so simple, it’s embarrassing,” Peter Fuber says.  “You, the storyteller, must first know what your own intention is and then be transparent about it to establish trust.” People shop for product, sure.  But – and this is as true today as ever, Guber points out – people want to do business with people!

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In Business Blogs, Quotations Can Be a Good Idea

Quotation MarksHow good an idea is it to use quotations in your business blog? Very good, once you allow for certain caveats. You can use a quote to:

  • reinforce your point
  • show you’re in touch with trends in your field
  • add value for readers (by aggregating different sources of information in one business blog)
  • add variety to your material
  • add to the authority of your claims

In “How to Use Quotes in Your Speech”, Andrew Dlugan says that a quotation is more powerful than simply repeating yourself in different words. But Dlugan offers a caution I want to emphasize to business bloggers: Avoid closing your speech with a quote. “Your final words should be your own,” he cautions.

I agree.  Curating the work of others (bloggers, authors, speakers) is a wonderful technique for adding variety and reinforcement to your own content.  Remember, though, when it comes to writing marketing blogs, you’re trying to make your own cash register ring.  It’s your voice that has to be strong throughout the post, so readers will click through to your website or shopping cart. (In the case of Say It For You ghost blogging clients, the blog writer must become the voice of each business owner or professional practitioner.)

“Depending on how you deliver the quotation,” Andrew Dlugan adds, “you can create anticipation, suspense, or drama.”  (As much as I’d like to imagine otherwise, “Abraham Lincoln once said” or “Microsoft founder Bill Gates once said…”, will probably capture more attention than “I always say…”.)

Dlugan offers a couple of warnings:  a) Don’t use a quote that everyone knows: you’ll receive no benefit from repeating it. b) Don’t overdo.

In blogging for business, quotations can be a very useful tool!

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Made-’Ya-Look Blog Post Topics

Headline concept.

 

“If you can make people look twice at a blog topic or title, they will definitely want to check it out,” observes Ken Myers in blogherald.com. Myers suggests fighting “the borings” by basing blog posts on some of the following, tying each to your own subject:

  • Holidays (decorating ideas, recipes, tips)
  • Celebrities (little known facts, causes they promote)
  • Nightlife (gambling, drinking clubs, parties)
  • Gross – (disgusting animal and human tidbits)
  • Food (growing, cooking, recipes, restaurant review)
  • Brands (the very names will assure your posts will attract interest)
  • Love (relationships, anecdotes)
  • Technology (latest cool toys, how-to tips)
  • Nostalgia (comics, collectibles, memories from childhood)

I have a theory about human curiosity that I think taps into this “made-‘ya-look” concept:  Our curiosity is at its most intense when it concerns testing our own limits. So, yes, readers like juicy gossip tidbits about sports and movie stars.  And, of course, readers have interest in how stuff works in your field, (since they’ve been directed to your blog, the search terms they used indicated an interest in your field).
But (or so my theory goes, anyway), blog readers are most curious about themselves, about how they “work” and the limits of their own knowledge and their own physical capabilities. That’s why, for example, I think magazine “quizzes” are so hard to resist.

The one thing I’d add to Myers’ list for making searchers look again is Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things. Blogging about unusual ways your products or services have been applied in different situations is a good way to capture interest. It’s best if the new information relates, not only to your topic, but to something with which readers are already familiar.

Fight “The Borings” by making people look twice at your blog topic or title!

 

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Wouldn’t You Do It Every Single Blog?

“If you knew something as easy as adding images to your blog posts would increase your readers, Orange Megaphonesubscribers, followers, and leads, wouldn’t you do it every single time?” asks Neil Patel of HubSpot.com.

We live in an age of visual culture, observes Jeff Bullas.  In fact, Bullas points out, that 10% of photos taken by humankind took place in the last 12 months, and photos are becoming “the universal language”!

Bullas lists a number of rather startling statistics to demonstrate the reason images and photos need to be part of any business’ marketing tactics:

  • Articles with images get 94% more total views.
  • 60% of consumers are more likely to consider or contact a business when an image shows up in local search results.
  • In an online store, customers think the quality of a product’s image is more important than product-specific information and even more important than ratings and reviews.

Images need to have a purpose, though, as Neil Patel observes, and not be there merely as decoration or “filler”.  Purposes include:

  • Emphasizing a point
  • Explaining a concept
  • Showing personality

I teach content writers that, even though the words you use to tell the story are the most important part of blogging for business, visuals add interest and evoke emotion.  Personally, I like “clip art”. Why? These commercial images aren’t original to my client’s business or practice and they don’t depict the actual products or the customers or colleagues of that business or practice. But what clip art does accomplish, I find, is capturing a concept, helping express the main idea that is articulated in the post.

When it comes to writing headlines, Neil Patel advises, focus on the 4 U’s: unique, ultra-specific, useful, or urgent. At Say It For You, we try to use images the same way, selecting one for each post that gives readers an idea of what to expect in the post. Wouldn’t you do that every single time?  You bet!

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10 Blog Posts for 10 Reasons

HR World’s John Edwards tells his small business owner readers no fewer than ten reasons to outsource their payroll. I must Enter the weekly time sheet concepts of work hours reportingsay, he presents a compelling lineup.

As a corporate blogging trainer, I couldn’t help but think Edwards’ article could actually be turned into ten separate blog posts, with each adding an anecdote or statistic to pack a punch with online readers.

For example, “productivity” is one of Edwards’ 10 reasons, and he elaborates as follows: “Payroll management is a time-consuming activity.  With this burden removed, your employees can focus on doing more productive thins, and you may even be able to trim your staff’ size.

That statement is the perfect lead in for a story about how a small business owner was able to reduce the size of his workforce and still increase productivity and sales. Blog posts should include stories about how you solved client problems in the past, and lessons you’ve learned through your experience that you’ll be applying for the benefit of new customers and clients.  In other words, rather than listing all ten reasons at once, a blog post might be devoted to only this one aspect of outsourcing the payroll.

The HR World website then goes on to list “accuracy” as one of the 10 reasons to outsource the payroll. “Payroll mistakes can be painful, angering employees and – more ominously – the government.  A good payroll-services provider is far less likely to make a serious error than your in-house staff.  Furthermore, if a big mistake is made, you can seek financial restitution from the provider – something you can’t do with your own employees.

This paragraph practically begs for a real-life example of a business owner who made a serious payroll mistake, “made the government angry” and paid a big price.

The lesson here is “Elaborate, elaborate, elaborate”.  Put “teeth” in your statements by making the scenario real for potential customers and clients. Those “10 Reasons”?  Turn ‘em into ten blog posts, and for each one, include story along with statistics.

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A Profoundly Moving “Final” Blog Post

“In October of 2014, I was told I was about to embark on a journey.  As I prepared In Memory Letterpressfor this journey, I learned many things about life and myself…I had been given a special gift – time to prepare for my final ‘destination’, what baggage to bring or not bring. As you read this, you know I have reached that destination.”

Just last week, in my monthly e-newsletter, I talked about “changing voices” in business blog content writing.  “I/you” writing, I explained, is very personal, with the business owner or practitioner talking directly with the reader. By contrast, when interviewing clients and reporting on their experience or when interviewing experts, that writing might be done in third person.

Never before, though, had I come across “I/you” writing in the form of a self-composed obituary. Donn K. Miles, who died June 17th, had prepared the obit which I read in the Indianapolis Star. “I was born…”  “I was adopted…”  “I graduated…”  “I served…” “I was married…” “My curious nature and the love of people led me to a lifelong employment in the world of sales….”

The late Mr. Miles was so right – he had indeed been given a special gift and he was able to give me and all the other readers a special gift by putting his story into words.

Naturally, as a content writer for so many years, I feel reverence for the power of words, of “voice”, of messaging.  And, while the marketing messages we offer online readers may not be as profound or as stirring  as Miles’ story about his final journey, the words we use in our blog are the best tools we have for letting others hear the story of what we do, what we’ve learned, what we offer, and, essentially, who we are.

Thank you, Donn K. Miles for your profoundly moving “final blog post” obituary, reminding us Indianapolis blog content creators of the power of I/you writing!

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