What-Do-You-Want-To-Own Blogging for Business

 

In an interview with a top investment strategist, the reporter from Barron’s posed many of the questions that have become standard for that type of encounter: “Why are you still bullish?” “What do you see as the biggest risk in this market?” “What are the ramifications of more money in passive strategies?” “Which sector is the most crowded?”

As a blog content writer,I have to admit that I found one of the reporter’s questions the most impactful. Why? The reporter said “you”: What do YOU want to own at this stage of the bull market? (“OK,” was my gut reaction as a reader. “Now we’re getting down to the heart of the matter; what is she doing with her own money?”)

Marketing blogs, I firmly believe, tend to be most effective when they are at their most conversational and most personal. Blogger John Haydon runs a bootcamp about “narrative voice”, and recommends using second person (“you” and “your”) in corporate blogging for business to provide useful information to readers and give those readers the feeling that the author is speaking directly to them.

There’s more to the “what do-you-want-to-own thing than having content writers understand and speaking directly to their audiences, believe. The Barron’s reporter wanted the interviewee to commit, not merely offer advice. The question demanded an “I would” answer.

Nobody likes guys or gals who can speak of nothing but themselves, their skills, and their products, you know, the “But-enough- about-you” types.  Yet, as a corporate blogging trainer, I stress the importance of first person business blog writing because of its one enormous advantage – it shows the people behind the posts.

Imagine that every visitor to your blog is asking you a question that demands an answer beginning with the words “I would” or “We would.” Try What-do-we-want-to-own blogging for business!

 

 

 

 

 

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Opening Blog Lines Say Which Side You’re On

blogwriting tips

In blogging for business, I teach, opening lines are key. In fact, they’re key in all kinds of writing, as quickstudy.com’s “Writing Tips & Tricks” points out to college students.  Their thesis statement, Quick Study explains, will set the tone for their entire essay.

Now, the thesis statement of a blog post doesn’t necessarily need to come in the opening line, but in a recent Time Magazine issue, I found three very effective articles where the thesis is made clear in the very first line:

  • “Movies that were a lot of work to make shouldn’t be a lot of work to watch.”
  • “Vladimir Putin believes he’s destined to make Russia great again.  He has a long way to go.”
  • “Steven Soderbergh is one of those directors who can do anything – which doesn’t necessarily mean he should.”

In each of these articles, it’s clear to us as readers, from the author’s very first words, not only what topic will be under discussion, but on what side of the issue the author finds himself. In other words, we’re introduced to both topic and thesis straightaway.

As a business blog content writer, I like that.  And, were these three articles in fact blog posts, they would have obeyed the SEO rule of incorporating keyword phrases in their opening sentences, assuring readers who’d searched for information about movie reviews or about Russia that they’d come to the right place and inducing search engine algorithms to make that match.  I like that the author’s slant on the subject is clear as well as the topic.

In blog marketing, the reality is that readers have their choice of providers for whatever product, service, or information they’re seeking.  Our job, as I tell newbie blog content writers, is to help those readers make sense out of the absolutely oceanic online “library” of information available to them. Showing what our own choices have been (in terms of the way we’ve chosen to create or market a product, or in the way we’ve chosen to practice in our profession) helps them make choices.

Why not start out a blog post by making your thesis clear along with your topic? Let your opening line say what side of the “line” you’re on!

 

 

 

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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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A Good Story Can Get Rid of the Business Blogging Blues

tangents

 

My friends from the MindTripping Show  thought a nice feel-good story would help get rid of mid-winter blues, and they were certainly right. Interesting thing, though. While the story they chose to share in their Mind Trip of the Month did change my negative perception of rats, the tale has little to do with the wonderful kind of mind-tripping and magic that are the hallmark of Christian and Katalina’s long-running show.

There’s a lesson here for us business blog content writers, I thought. In fact, I’ve found going off on “tangents” can serve a real purpose in business blog posts. The business blogging challenge is both simple and daunting: How can the content of a business blog stay relevant over long periods of time, without becoming repetitive and even tedious to both writer and readers?

True, it’s important for business blogs to stay on task and on topic, because the search engines help readers find your blog based on topic. On the other hand, there are compelling reasons for not being repetitive in blog posts:

Technical reason:  avoiding “duplicate content”.  Search engines tend to penalize rankings of sites that duplicate content that’s already in the blogosphere.

Common sense reason: avoiding staleness and continuing to engage readers.

OK, then, so, how do you keep talking, several times per week over periods of months and years, about essentially the same thing, without becoming either duplicative or stale? Answer: You go “orthogonal”, meaning you veer off-course.  On purpose. You come up with material that’s unusual and unexpected, given the nature of your business. My Say It For You blog, for example, is about business blogging.  So why, back ten years ago, did I blog about an advertisement for a piano? I was being orthogonal.

The Mind-Tripping Show hosts were being orthogonal, presenting the story about heroic rats trained to ferret out land mines in order to save human lives. Blog posts need to capture readers’ attention in precisely the same manner, by presenting examples and illustrations that don’t at first glance appear to relate to the subject at hand.

A good story can get rid of the business blogging blues!

 

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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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Business Bloggers Can be Authors of Defining Moments

bloggers as authors of defining moments

In The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, authors Chimp and Dan Heath posit that there are certain brief experiences jolt us, change us, and elevate us. What if a teacher could design a lesson he knew students would remember twenty years later, they ask.  What if a manager knew how to create an experience that would delight customers?

And what if, reading this book made me ponder, we knew how to create content that would delight readers and emblazon our clients’ brands in their prospects’ and their customers’ minds and hearts? Isn’t that, I asked myself, really what this business blog marketing thing is all about?

When people assess an experience, the Heath brothers explain, they tend to forget or ignore its length and rate it, in retrospect, based on the best or worst moment (“the peak”) and the ending. Translated into the construction of a marketing blog post, while its’ the keyword phrase that starts the job of getting the blog found, a big part of blog content writing, I’ve found, involves getting what I call the “pow opening line” right.

The opener might consist of an anomaly (a statement that, at first glance, doesn’t appear to fit). Or, the opener might be a bold assertion or “in-your-face” statement. The “pow” opener puts words in readers’ mouths – when talking to others about this topic, readers will tend to use those very words which you will have, figuratively, “put in their mouths”. Seth Godin’s “There are actually two recessions” is a perfect example of impactful, thought-changing discussion-piece openers..

The Power of Moments authors talk about ”flipping pits into peaks”, turning customer complaints into positive, memorable experiences.  You want to get things wrong, have customers bring those mistakes to your attention, so that you can create a memorable “fix”. For us blog content writers, the lesson is this: writing about past business failures is important! True stories about mistakes and struggles are very humanizing, adding to the trust readers place in the people behind the business or professional practice.

Readers, I explain to business owners and practitioner clients, even the ones who have subscribed to your blog, are not going to peruse, much less study every word in every one of your blog posts, however relevant the information, however artfully worded.  What we’re shooting for as blog writers is to be authors of defining moments for readers rather than merely waiting for those moments to happen!

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Business Bloggers Can be Authors of Defining Moments

bloggers as authors of defining moments

In The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, authors Chimp and Dan Heath posit that there are certain brief experiences jolt us, change us, and elevate us. What if a teacher could design a lesson he knew students would remember twenty years later, they ask.  What if a manager knew how to create an experience that would delight customers?

And what if, reading this book made me ponder, we knew how to create content that would delight readers and emblazon our clients’ brands in their prospects’ and their customers’ minds and hearts? Isn’t that, I asked myself, really what this business blog marketing thing is all about?

When people assess an experience, the Heath brothers explain, they tend to forget or ignore its length and rate it, in retrospect, based on the best or worst moment (“the peak”) and the ending. Translated into the construction of a marketing blog post, while its’ the keyword phrase that starts the job of getting the blog found, a big part of blog content writing, I’ve found, involves getting what I call the “pow opening line” right.

The opener might consist of an anomaly (a statement that, at first glance, doesn’t appear to fit). Or, the opener might be a bold assertion or “in-your-face” statement. The “pow” opener puts words in readers’ mouths – when talking to others about this topic, readers will tend to use those very words which you will have, figuratively, “put in their mouths”. Seth Godin’s “There are actually two recessions” is a perfect example of impactful, thought-changing discussion-piece openers..

The Power of Moments authors talk about ”flipping pits into peaks”, turning customer complaints into positive, memorable experiences.  You want to get things wrong, have customers bring those mistakes to your attention, so that you can create a memorable “fix”. For us blog content writers, the lesson is this: writing about past business failures is important! True stories about mistakes and struggles are very humanizing, adding to the trust readers place in the people behind the business or professional practice.

Readers, I explain to business owners and practitioner clients, even the ones who have subscribed to your blog, are not going to peruse, much less study every word in every one of your blog posts, however relevant the information, however artfully worded.  What we’re shooting for as blog writers is to be authors of defining moments for readers rather than merely waiting for those moments to happen!

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Say It For You 2018-01-25 01:00:44

Every communication you send to your team is an opportunity, explain authors Steve Chandler and Scott Richardson in the book 100 Ways to Motivate Others. “Your first job,” the authors tell managers, ”even before your job of informing others, is to motivate others…A true leader never wastes the opportunity to instill optimism, they explain.

But, for business blog content writers, is that really true?  “Negative titles often work better than positive ones,” Lorraine Ball of roundpeg.biz pointed out. “The posts with negative titles stand out in your blog roll, on your Twitter feed or LinkedIn blog page.” Why? “People are drawn to articles with negative titles because they are afraid of doing something wrong or the title connects with something they were feeling but hadn’t been able to put into words,” Ball explains.

In many marketing blogs, in fact, the content writers appear to be focused on appealing to consumers’ fear.  Fear is one of seven emotions that are considered “key drivers” for successful ad copy writing. (Others include greed, guilt, anger, salvation, and flattery.) After decades of writing question/answer columns and blogs, one of the questions I continue to ask myself is whether “scare tactic”, or at least negative, marketing is ever appropriate for use in business blog writing.

First, the blog represents just one aspect of any company’s  (or any professional practitioner’s) overall marketing strategy, and its tone needs to be consistent with the client’s overall brand. These clients want to appeal to a better kind of customer (the ones who buy for the right reasons and then remain loyal, not those who are “scared” into action.)

On the other hand, I teach at Say It For You, we blog writers do need to go right to the heart of any possible customer fears or concerns by addressing negative assumption questions before they’ve even been asked. In the final analysis, though, I agree with the Chandler and Richardson concept – positive messages pack more power to motivate the right people for the right reasons.

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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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