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Conversational Blogging Takes Practice – Part B

Counter-intuitive as that may seem, Gallo explains, “Conversational delivery takes practice,” Gallo stresses in Talk Like TED, tracing the creation of a Dr. Jill presentation in Indianapolis.

As a content writer for marketing blogs, I often explain to clients and to newbie writers that that blogs (compared to, say, brochures, white papers, and newsletters) are casual and conversational.  In fact, that’s precisely what makes it convenient for companies and professional practitioners to use blogs to achieve the frequency needed to win online search engine ranking.

But, as Gallo so aptly points out about the Dr. Jill TED talk, “conversational” still takes practice. The point I want to make is that the steps Dr. Jill used in preparing for her talk can be extremely valuable in blog content writing. Earlier this week, I discussed idea generation and the method any serious blog writer must develop for capturing ideas – from conversations, magazines, radio, billboards, for later blog post content. After typing out her longhand notes, Dr. Jill condensed the material into major points. Gathering ideas, then selecting one central concept to emphasize in each post are each vital steps in blog marketing.

Having honed her ideas and condensed the content, the next step for Dr. Jill was perhaps the most challenging – figuring out how to deliver the message. “Great speakers act out a story,” Gallo says, noting that Dr. Jill “weighs the entertainment component of her presentation as equally as she does the others.” In fact, Gallo’s opinion is that “the problem with most technical or scientific discussions is that presenters fail to make their content visual, interesting, and entertaining.”

When it comes to business marketing blogs, a true content contribution solves customer problems in three ways:

  • by educating
  • by informing
  • by entertaining

While good blog posts can and should be entertaining, most online searchers are not pursuing a recreational activity, but instead are on a fact-finding mission. On the other hand, images can go a very long way in adding excitement and interest.

Dan Hughes of jtvdigital observes that “In this day and age, pictures and video are powerful promotional tools that cater to the attention span of the modern digital consumer.” However, Hughes continues, “well-crafted copy is an essential part of success.”

Conversational blogging may not take all the prep time of a TED talk, but it certainly takes practice!

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Conversational Blogging Takes Practice – Part A

 

When Dr. Jill gave her TED Talk in Indianapolis, reports Carmine Gallo in Talk Like Ted, her presentation seemed natural, authentic, animated, and conversational. Counter-intuitive as that may seem, Gallo explains, “Conversational delivery takes practice. Dr. Jill rehearsed her presentation not once, twice, or even 20 times. She rehearsed it 200 times!” Gallo notes.

Dr. Jill went through several important steps in preparing to deliver that TED talk, Gallo says:

  1. walking the beach with a notepad, writing down words and ideas
  2. reading what she had written out loud to feel how the words and sounds worked together
  3. typing out the notes she’d written in longhand
  4. condensing the material into five major points
  5. figuring out how to deliver the message in a visual, interesting, and entertaining way
  6. rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing

As a blog content writer, I often explain to clients and to newbie blog writers that that blogs, unlike brochures, client newsletters, online magazines, and websites, are short and concise, less crafted and more casual and conversational than other marketing pieces. In fact, that’s what makes it so feasible to use blogs to achieve the frequency that’s needed to win online search engine rankings – there simply aren’t as many steps to the process.

But, as Gallo so aptly points out, “conversational” still takes practice. It may not be feasible to create 200 different iterations of each blog post, yet in great part, the steps Dr. Jill in preparing for her conversational TED talk can prove extremely valuable in blog content writing.

While walking the beach with a notepad may not always be feasible in the Midwest, idea generation begins the blogging process. “The best blog ideas often happen during a conversation, in the shower, or while listening to a seminar. Don’t fight it. Instead, have a method for capturing these ideas so you can save them for later,” advised Michael Reynolds in a guest post for Say It For You.

Condensing is a crucial step in blog marketing; the rule I cite when offering business blogging assistance is simply: “Make blog posts as long as they need to be to get the point across (and just one or two points should be emphasized in each post to begin with), but not a single sentence longer.

Conversational blogging may not take all the prep time of TED talk, but it certainly takes practice!

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There Is a Best Time to Publish on Social Media and You Can Determine When It Is

You work hard to post good content. Don't let it be overlooked because of poor timing.

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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Text Still Tops in Delivering Information

infographic

“For years now, I have been listening to numerous digital marketing experts preach about the end of written content as we know it,” Milica of fourdots.com writes. “Even though the entire Web is basically built on it, more than a few experts believe that sooner or later, video is going to take over.”

According to those text-doomsday-ers, Milica explains, the two main reasons text is nearing its death are a) the dramatic decrease in the average attention span of readers, and b) lack of time. Of course, there’s also content overkill, she adds, expressing sadness over the fact that, “although almost every brand is creating and publishing at least some type of content on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis – the overall quality of it has never been lower.”

As a Say It For You blog content writer and trainer, of course, I share Milica’s commitment to words, appreciating the despite-all-that, 4-point case the author makes for text’s continuing viability as the primary driver of online communication:

  1. Unlike video, text gives you the option to stop exactly where you want to, wrapping your mind around a certain piece of information.
  2. Unlike video, text can be easily updated and upgraded.
  3. B2B buyers consume whitepapers, case studies, and webinars, looking for industry thought leadership.
  4. Text stimulates the mind like nothing else.  Video communicates many different things all at one, destroying focus.

The Infographic Design Team agrees. “First, consider the fact that nothing can replace the spoken or printed word. Words are the most important center of our system of language. They express things in a direct manner that carried more meaning than any amount of images, graphics, or pictures could do. At the same time, the Infographicdesignteam authors admit, infographics “captivate the eye in a stronger way due to their attractive images, colors, shapes, and forms, allowing you “to have a more minimalist type site that focuses more on images and graphics to tell a story”.

At Say It For You, we like to cover both bases with “infographic blog posts” designed to include both visual elements and text in a “show-and-tell” combination. As infographicdesignteam.com aptly puts it, “Graphics and infographics complement the text you write in your blogs”.

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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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