What’s-Really-in-Your Blogging For Business

fear blog titles

There’s a reason the cover of Consumer Reports has a picture of a cow on the cover of this month’s issue, along with this very compelling question: “What’s Really In Your Meat?”  Titles catch the eye (that one certainly did mine) and set up readers’ expectations for what kind of content they’ll find if they open the magazine and read the article. As a blog content writer, I’m interested in titles.  What elements in the titles listed on a magazine cover, for example, are most likely to induce a browser to buy that issue? Then, which titles tempt the magazine reader to read those articles first?

I categorize this particular title, “What’s Really in Your Meat?”, as a “truth-about”. This type of header is meant to instill fear, one of the two dominant buying motives (desire for gain and fear of loss). In fact, people are drawn to articles with negative titles, my friend and fellow blogger Lorraine Ball pointed out a year ago.

A few other salient titles in the October Consumer Reports issue fall into the “How-To” category:

  •  “Beating Back Surprise Bills”
  •  “Keeping Your Data Private”
  •  “Simple Ways to Add Convenience and Security”
  •  “Good Riddance, Robocalls!”

Less disturbing (some might argue less compelling) than “truth-abouts”, in blogs, “How-To” titles perform the very important function of confirming to searchers that they’ve arrived at the right place to find precisely the kinds of information they need. 

Using a consumer question in a title, then answering that question in the article or blog post is yet another approach.  Three such pieces in Consumer Reports were:

  • “My car is starting to smell musty, and an air freshener isn’t cutting it.  What else can I do?”
  • “Can I catch food poisoning from another person?”
  • “How can I keep my leftover paint fresh enough to reuse?”

Truth-abouts, how-tos, and question titles, I teach at Say It For You, can all be effective blog titling techniques, with the purpose being to tell readers why they should bother to read what you’ve written in the blog post.

Most important, when choosing a title, design it so that it conveys not only the nature of the content, but the value readers can expect to receive from that content! Ask yourself this question:

For my readers, what’s really in my blogging for business?

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Business Blog Title Threesomes

 

A couple of years ago at Say It For You, I began calling attention to the idea of using certain literary devices in business blog titles with an eye to making them more “catchy”.  In addition to alliteration, a second creative writing technique is “threesomes”. The same Fortune magazine that used those ten alliterative titles I named in my last post also had at least two good examples of the Power of Three:

  1. Introducing MUFG Bank – trusted, global, seamless
  2. Right place, right fit, right now (WorldBusinessChicago.com)
  3. “Real Reliable”, “Real Service”, and “Real Pride” (parts of an advertorial series about the Stihl Company)Like alliteration, The Rule of Three is a language device. We’re all familiar with these examples in which three related words or points presented in quick succession for literary effect:
  •  “Friends, Romans, countrymen”
  •  “I came, I saw, I conquered”
  •  “Of the people, by the people, for the people”

Things that come in threes are more persuasive, Moodle explains. Since we process information using patterns, threesomes make content more memorable.

Some more modern examples include:

  •  Stop, look and listen
  • The good, the bad and the ugly
  • The Olympic motto Faster, Higher, Stronger.

“It’s no accident that the number three is pervasive throughout some of our greatest stories, fairy tales, and myths,” writes Brian Clark of Copyblogger.com. the combination of pattern and brevity results in memorable content, which is why three bullet points are more effective than two or four, Clark adds.

Blog posts, I teach at Say It For You, have a distinct advantage over the more static website copy. Each post can have a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of your business, and call for a single action. The single topic focus, though, can be supported by three points.

Alliteration, according to Hubspot, makes text “lovelier to read.”In business blog content writing, threesomes might not add “loveliness”, but they do tend to leave an impression!

 

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Opening Gambits in Blogging for Business

 

When you’re serving up seventeen articles about the very same topic, how do you keep things different and engaging? It’s all in the opening lines, I discovered, looking through TIME’s special edition, The Science of Exercise.

Of course, that’s hardly “new news” – I’ve always stressed to new content writers that opening lines have a big job to do. “Cute-sy” writing may not cut it, either, because, as blog content writers, we can hardly afford to be enigmatic in our attempt to arouse curiosity. We have to assure readers they’ve come to the right place to find the information that satisfies their need for answers. On the other hand, a “pow” opening line may be just what’s needed to keep a reader progressing through the page.

  •  “Ever since high school, Mark Tarnopolsky has blurred the line between jock and nerd.”
  • “Is your DNA your destiny? Not if you exercise, suggests new research.”
  • “If you’ve ever opened a birthday card to a message that reads ‘It’s all downhill from here’, you’re likely at an age when, according to popular opinion, your best days are behind you.”

Openers come in different flavors and sizes.  To help my business owner and professional practitioner clients and their freelance blog content writers focus on their blog post openers, I’ve selected several personal favorites out of The Science of Exercise:

Bold assertion
“Exercise is a miracle drug,” is the opening statement of “The Incredible Medicine of Movement”, in which New York sports medicine physician Jordan Metzl reviews scientific research providing “irrefutable evidence of the medicinal value of exercise.”

In-your-face statement
“There’s such a thing as good pain.” Robert Davis is referring to DOMS, the  delayed-onset muscle soreness that comes after exercise, but that opener is counter-intuitive enough to grab attention.

Thought provoker
“There’s no denying that running is one of the most democratic ways to work out.” Author Alexander Sifferlin explains that running can be done anytime, anywhere, with the only requirement being a good pair of running shoes and stamina. That opening line leaves readers wondering just why Sifferlin selected the unlikely descriptor “democratic” for exercise, and encourages them to keep reading to learn the answer.

Personal anecdote
“As I huffed and puffed up the subway stairs, trying to catch the elevated train to work one recent morning….” Blog readers respond to first and second person nouns. It can be highly effective to relate how you personally went through the same failure stages.

When you’re a blog content writing serving up many posts over time, all revolving around the very same general topic, how do you keep things different and engaging? It’s all in the opening lines!

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Still More About Words to use in Blogging for Business

Words have power text on notepad
It’s the one lesson blog content writers can never afford to forget – the right words are our business blogging power tools. Sure, images (pictures, video clips, infographics) have power of their own.  But never forget that, in blogging, words matter, as Jennifer Olney of bealeader.com points out. Words are art, Olney emphasizes, and, as bloggers, we must “convey our message in words so that we can be understood without distraction”.

“Blogging has become the best possible way to leverage your online presence and gain traction with Internet searches performed by your potential clients.”(No surprise there, but what I did find surprising is the source of the remark – none other than the National Association of Realtors!)

 “Using powerful phrases – the right words – when you communicate gives you the confidence that you’re communicating your best…What you say can make all the difference in how your customers view you and your company,” says Renee Evenson in “Powerful Phrases for Effective Customer Service.”  As blog content writers, we need to be conscious of the difference the right words can make in marketing our clients’ businesses or professional practices.

Customers and clients talk to each other. “Research generally supports the claim that WOM (word of mouth marketing) can be more influential than print sources,”  An essential part of business blog marketing, I’m convinced, is “putting words in blog readers’ mouths”, helping them feel knowledgeable and in control in discussing the buying choices they’ve made with friends, neighbors and family.

“Building a successful word of mouth marketing machine is a dream for nearly every small business,” explains Chelsea Segal of Targetwise. “Word of mouth is about making your product and customer service so incredible that people can’t help but talk about it.”  Segal advises combing through what’s being said about you on various social media channels.  As blog content writers, we should look for congruence between the words customers use and the words we use to describe the product or service.

The words we use in our blog content, the words our clients use in talking to us and to others about us – it’s all about words.  The right ones are our business blog marketing power tools!

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Why and Why-Not Blogging for Business

book Aliens

 

Aliens would probably come to Earth in peace, quantum physicist Jim Al-Khalili assures readers in his book Aliens, proceeding to bust no fewer than five commonly held myths-from-the-movies about encounters with visitors from other planets.

The author uses scientific knowledge to debunk each myth:

Aliens will eat us. No, because, in order for them to process our molecules of amino acids and sugars, they’d need to have a biochemistry similar to ours, “a long shot for a species that hails from a different world”.

Aliens will breed with us.  No, we can’t even reproduce with our nearest evolutionary relative, the chimpanzee.

Aliens will look like us.  No, because their evolution would not have been parallel to human evolution and it’s “near impossible that they would have human-like features.”

Aliens will be living creatures. No, should aliens contact us, “we will hear not from fellow organic creatures, but from the robots they produced.”

Aliens will come to steal our water and metal.  No, most of our metal is in the Earth’s core, not its crust; asteroids would be better for mining, and icy moons would be easier places to stock up on water.

The Time article about Aliens is a good example of mythbusting, which is used in many fields to counteract counterproductive thinking. For that very reason, I’m a firm believer that myth debunking is a great use for corporate blogs.

In the normal course of doing business or operating a professional practice, misunderstandings about your product or surface are bound to surface.  (It’s even worse when those myths and misunderstandings don’t surface, but still have the power to interrupt the selling process!)

That’s why the de-bunking function of business blog writing is so important. It’s our way of taking up arms against a sea of customers’ unfounded fears and biases.  Blog content writing can “clear the air”, replacing factoids with facts, so that buyers can see their way to making decisions. The technique is not without risk, because customers don’t like to be proven wrong or feel stupid.  The trick is to engage interest, but not in “Gotcha!” fashion.

In other words, business owners and professional practitioners can use their blogs to showcase their own expertise without “showing up” their readers’ lack of it, assuring prospects and clients that they, like movie aliens, are coming in peace!.

 

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Posing the Question in Business Blog Post Titles

people question mark
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 for solutions for dilemmas they’re facing. But even if those searchers haven’t specifically formulated a question, I suggest we can do that for them by presenting a question in the blog post title itself

- “Is the U.S. Ready for Future Disease Threats?”
- “Can the Mind-Body Problem Be Solved?”
- “How Many Lego Bricks Would It Take to Build A Bridge from London to New York?
- “Do Baby Boomers Deserve Social Security?

Using a question in the title of your blog post can arouse readers’ curiosity about which side of the issue your opinion is going to represent, and about the answers you’re going to provide in the content of the post itself. The question-title also informs the reader that you’re going to be providing information specifically relating to their search.

Blog questions can be either confirmatory (closed-end, yes-or-no) or exploratory (open-ended). Remember, unlike marketing research firms, business owners or professional practitioners are not out to gather consumer data; they want to engage their blog readers and show that they understand the dilemmas those readers are facing.

  • Did you know….?
  • How do you….?
  • What’s one of the most common problems in…..?
  • Do you want to learn how to…?
  • Have you ever…?
  • you ever wonder if…?

Besides offering readers a promise of relevant content in the body of the blog post, the title question can include keyword phrases to help Google index the blog.

My question to you: Does your business blog deserve better titles?

 

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We’ve All Heard the Naysayers

Outdated technology concept.
“We’ve all heard the naysayers – they argue that speechwriting is losing relevance in a world of unscripted comments and 140-character attention spans”, reads the invitation to the 2017 Speechwriters Conference. The reality, Ragan explains is that organizations need thoughtful communicators more than ever.

Importantly, all three skill areas on which the speechwriter’s conference promises to focus are highly relevant for us as blog content writers.  (We’ve all heard the naysayers, haven’t we, arguing that blogging is losing relevance?)

1. Ensure strategic messages get through
There are two kinds of goodwill that can be conveyed through messaging, as business valuator Lindon Kotzin puts it: ”Personal or professional goodwill attaches to a particular individual, while enterprise goodwill is derived from the characteristics of the business itself, regardless of who owns or operates it.” Both those types of strategic messages can be conveyed through our blog content, which is frequently updated and thus relevant to the current climate in our industry.

2.  Use humor appropriately to capture your audience’s attention
Hope Hatfield of LocalDirective.com points out that humor is a hook, having the same impact as a strong headline to grab the audience’s attention. Humor’s an icebreaker, she adds, but only so long as you carefully consider your target market, focusing the humor around a problem your company can solve. No matter how funny your marketing messages are, don’t forget that the goal is to educate your prospects about your products and services. “You want to make sure that you don’t lose the message in the humor, Hatfield cautions.

3. Develop an authentic and trustworthy voice
Successful content creation consists of capturing the unique style of the business owners, practitioners, and employees who will be delivering the service and products. Business coach Donna Gunter calls it the WYSIWYG approach (what you see is what you get), referring to authenticity in advertising and promotional materials.

Yes, we’ve all heard the blogging naysayers, arguing that blogs are losing relevance.  The reality, though, is that professional practitioners and business owners need thoughtful communications more than ever!

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Cover the Blog Genre Gamut

VARIETY -Realistic Neon Sign on Brick Wall background

“Don’t be afraid to write in tried-and-true blog genres,” Gary DeAsi and Evan Stone advised their fellow financial planners as part of the FPA Practice Management Solutions Magazine almost three years ago, listing eight kinds of blogs they called “proven attention getters’”:

  1. Advice
  2. Collections and top lists
  3. Reviews
  4. Predictions
  5. Motivation
  6. Trouble-shooting
  7. Interviews
  8. Editorial/ Personal reflection
  9. Now, five years later, I’m inviting each of you Say It For You blog readers to come up with titles you’ve written or found that fit into each of these categories. If you submit your favorite titles, I’ll publish them here, along with some tips on flesh out those ideas to suit your own business. More important, ask yourself whether you’re lending variety to your blog by including all these genres.

    Meanwhile, over those same five years I’ve come up with at least four blog genres I believe ought to be added to the list to round out the “blogger’s dozen”…:

    9.  The tidbit blog uses a piece of trivia to spark interest and help readers understand a concept or product.
    10.  The comparison blog uses a metaphor to explain a complex idea in terms of a tangible object.
    11.  The “confession” blog tears away the “stage curtain” between the business owner and the reader, humanizing business or practitioner and hopefully generating feelings of empathy and admiration.
    12.   The “brag blog” shares accomplishments of which the business owner or practitioner had every right to be proud – a product breakthrough, an award, a milestone reached, an unexpected success.

DeAsi and Stone were telling financial planners not to be afraid to write in tried-and-true genres. As a business blogging trainer, I’d go a few steps further, advising content writers to keep it fresh, saying “Don’t be afraid to keep creating new blog genres!”

 

 

 

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More About Using Skeletons to Bring Life to Your Blog

In the delightful little book Unfortunate English: The Gloomy Truth Behind the Words You Use, you can find a treasure chest of fun ideas for livening up business blog posts. Author Bill Brohough alerts readers to the fact that many of the words we use daily used to have very war-related, sexually oriented, or even disgusting meanings.

Last week in this Say It For You blog, I suggested several ways in which that collection of verbal “skeletons” which Brohough put together can be used to enliven blog marketing content for different types of businesses and professional practices,. skeletonThose word “skeletons” can be use, I explained:

  • to define basic terminology or give basic information to readers
  • to explain why this practitioner or business owner chooses to operate in a certain way:

After all, every business blogger faces the challenge of creating material about the same subject over long periods of time, and anything we can use to deepen and broaden and generally “freshen up” the topic tends to be a good thing.

Two words we’re used to seeing in marketing content, terms used to describe everything from clothing to home décor to autos, for example, are “sophisticated” and “luxury”.  Today, Brohough points out, if you call something or someone “sophisticated”, you mean cultured and refined.  The original meaning of the word was quite different.  To “sophisticate” something was to adulterate it by mixing it with something inferior, and being sophisticated meant the opposite of genuine. The word “luxury”, Brohough adds, has a similarly shady past. The Old French word meant “indulging in abundance”, lacking in taste, or even lecherous.

In corporate blog writing, the target audience dictates the nature of the content, including the writing tone and style, the length of the posts, which keyword phrases to include, and what the Calls to Action will be.  But, even with all those preparations made writers need to maintain a full content “quiver” (with the arrows pointing in the right direction!).

Trivia such as those in Unfortunate English can add a dash of humor and a whole lot of new interest to business blog marketing content!

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Establishing Order on the Planet of Your Blog

icy snowflake“Establish order on the planet of your blog by using proven structures for your blog posts,” advises Tracy Gold of the Content Marketing Institute. Gold suggests a few possible blog post frameworks:

  • Q and A
  • Case study
  • Comparison/metaphor
  • Yes/No debate

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

Case study
Back in Journalism 101 class, we were taught to “put a face on the issue” by beginning the article with a human example. Stories of all kinds, including case studies and customer testimonials help personalize your blog post.

Comparison/metaphor
Of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,0000 snowflakes that have fallen on earth, no two are identical. Snowflakes form around particles of dust and sea salt, but the conditions of temperature and moisture are different each time. The “nucleus” around which business blog posts are formed is their topic, but there is endless variety in how that topic is presented. Metaphors “wake up” blog content by making unusual comparisons.

Yes/No debate
Helping readers sort truth from myth is one important use for business blogs.  In the natural order of business, many of misunderstandings about a product or service present themselves, and shining the light of day on misinformation shines light on your own expertise in your field. Even when there is no final answer, blog content writers can summarize the different schools of thought and recap the research that is being done in the field. That in itself can go a long way towards making your blog a “go-to” place for readers seeking information relating to your industry or profession.

Establish order on the planet of your blog!

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