There’s-a-Reason and What’s-the-Reason Blogging for Business

reason why

“There’s a reason why The Northside Social in Broad Ripple feels so comfortable,” Seth Johnson writes in Broad Ripple Magazine. (Great opening line. Bold assertion. Makes the reader want to know the why of it.)

In the same magazine issue, Jon Shoulders starts a review of Taylor’s Bakery (shown above) with another good opening: “How does a relatively small, family-owned bakery not only stay in business but also flourish for more than a century?”

At Say It For You, I’ve always stressed the fact that opening lines have a big job to do. As blog content writers, 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 that arouses curiosity may be just what’s needed to keep a reader progressing through the page. Think of beginning a blog post with the words “There’s a reason” or the question beginning “What’s the reason that…?”.

After his opening statement, rather than a lot of ad-like “sales-ey” text, Johnson’s write-up goes on to illustrate the “reason why” behind Northside Social’s success with a specific example:

We treat the chicken three different ways, Nicole says. “We brine it in pickle brine,
we marinate it, and then we confit it.  So we roast it in duck fat and then we bread it
and fry it to order.  It’s delicious”.

Shoulders, whose write-up of Taylor’s Bakery focuses more on business history and strategy,
offers a mouth-watering reason-why as well:

“If it’s baked and it’s sweet, you’ll likely find it at Taylor’s – cookies, cakes, doughnuts, Danish, breads and dinner rolls and flavored popcorn are all offered.  Everything is made fresh daily down to the ice cream…which is churned from scratch using special in-house machinery.”

In an article in Self magazine, the author urges readers to stop pussyfooting around and ask for what they need, but advises providing a reason for that need. Because at Say It For You, I provide business blogging assistance to business owners and their employees, I thought this Self article was “spot on“. After all, in business blogs, readers are often asked to subscribe to the blog, pose a question or comment, sign up for a mailing list or newsletter, or buy products or services.

But, as the Broad Ripple Magazine articles so aptly demonstrate, readers need to be given a reason to do those things. The “because” needs to be presented in terms of advantage to the reader.

Beginning a blog post with the words “There’s a reason why” or the question “Why” (is getting to know this company/product/service going to be a very good idea for the reader) might turn out to be a very good idea for the company offering the blog!

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Blogging as Long as It’s Black

Blog readers need to perceive you as an expert in your field, I teach at Say It For You.  And for that to happen, I believe, you need to clearly state a firm perspective on your subject. There’s no lack of information sources – and no lack of “experts” (purported or real) on any topic and that is the reason we need to go beyond presenting facts, statistics, features, and benefits, and get authentic and yes, even opinionated.

Around six months ago, I came across a wonderful feature story in the Wall Street Journal Magazine, featuring the Danish kitchen design company Vipp.  Explaining ”How a Salon Trash Can Turned a Design Brand Into a Phenomenon”, reporter Natalia Rachlin discussed CEO Kasper Egelund’s take-it-or-leave-it-approach:

“The first thing I always tell someone about the kitchen is that they can have it
in whatever color they want, as long as it’s black.”

 Vipp’s success is not in spite of, but precisely because of this firm posture. In the “lucrative and highly competitive kitchen market, which tends to be all about customization”, Rachlin posits,  being opinionated presents a picture of self confidence and expertise.

Expertise and exaggeration, of course, are two different things, and exaggeration is something blog marketers need to handle very, very carefully.  After all, we’re trying to build trust, and it’s crucial that we be factually correct in describing the extent to which our products and services can be of help. “Claiming to have expertise you don’t have can create customer dissatisfaction and complaints, ultimately eroding your reputation,” cautions the Ethics Center.

No, it’s not exaggeration we’re after in crafting blog posts, but influence. As blog content writers, our goal is framing our story in a way that this audience will focus on and respect. Chris Anderson, head of TED Talks, would remind speakers: Argue the rarer point or elucidate as only you can.”

Readers are looking to us for expertise and a firm perspective. It appears Vipp kitchen buyers, knowing  there is a rainbow of cabinet and backsplash finishes available to them, still love having Egelund tell them “as long as it’s black”. Shouldn’t we be “blogging as long as it’s black”?

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Appearing Professional Means Minding the S and G in Your Blog

grammar in blogs

“The English language sticks to its spelling rules, such as i before e except after c, about as strictly as we follow the no cell phones while driving rule,” jokes Jenny Baranick in the book Kiss My Asterisk. Society hasn’t exactly promoted healthy spelling, she says – we were raised with SpellCheck. However, we must learn how to do it; otherwise we will appear unprofessional, Baranick warns.

A few of us are old enough to remember the song lyrics, ”Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage” (OK, so I’m a grandmother..) However, there are certain words that simply should never join, Baranick states emphatically. (Well, certain ones can, she adds, but the meaning is totally different.)

Alright  is never all right.

Altogether and all together are two different things. We are all together at the coffee shop, and we are altogether (completely) happy about that.

Every day and everyday are also two different things. Every day you may write a blog, and every day you may take a 30-minute power walk.  But when blog writing and power walking begin to seem boring and everyday for you instead of exciting, that’s not a good thing.

When  A and part are apart,  they miss each other. Together, they are a part of a writer’s group. (“A part” means a piece of something that forms a whole.)

Of the two types of people who make up the English-speaking world, I find myself among the  minority who believe proper grammar and spelling matter on business websites and in business blogs. After many discussions of the subject at networking meetings, I concluded that the mainstream mindset is that, in our digital world, nobody notices grammar and spelling errors, and if they did, they wouldn’t care that much. Maybe Baranick’s Kiss My Asterisk will change some minds.

As a blog content writer and trainer, my thought is this: you always want to be sure poor usage and misspelled words aren’t distracting any of your readers. Minding the S and G in your blog can mean keeping your readers’ minds focused on the message!

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Top Ten How-To Titles in Blogging for Business


There’s a reason “how-to” blog post titles work, marketing gurus Guy Kawaski and Peg Fitzpatrick show in their user guide on social media. How-to titles might start out with those very words, or take forms such as:

  • Quick Guide to…..
  • Complete Guide to….
  • Questions to Ask Before…
  • Rules for….
  • Essential Steps to….
  • Most Popular Ways to…..
  • Tips for Busy……..
  • Tactics to….
  • What No One Tells You About……..

There’s a “biology” to selecting effective business blog post titles, I wrote in a blog post some five years ago. (Since, as blog content writers, one big challenge we face is selecting the best title for each post, I had found an exercise in an Ivy Tech Community College textbook in which students were to select the best out of four possible titles for an article about humpback whales.)

In composing business blogs, I reminded my Say It For You readers, we need to keep several goals in mind:

  • write engaging titles
  • include keyword phrases to help with search
  • be short and to the point
  • use power words

The overriding goal, though, in composing a title, I pointed out, has to be making promises we are going to be able to keep in the body of the blog post itself.

The correct answer in that student textbook was #3: “The Digestive System of the Humpback Whale”. That’s the one, the writer explained, that includes the writer’s focus in the paragraph.  The other titles were either too broad, too specific, or limited to only a portion of the paragraph’s content.

The best “How-to”s are neither too broad nor too limited. They have a “news-you-can-use” feel. The response you’re after from readers is, “Aha! “I have found the right place to get the information I need.

There are lots more How-to titles where those Top Ten came from, Kawaski promises. In fact, he’s got a chart of no fewer than “74 Compelling Fill-in-the-Blank Blog Post Titles” on a Twitter infographic. Try these on for size:

  • Key benefits of….
  • Essential things for….
  • Examples of things to inspire you…
  • Key benefits of….

How-to titles are the perfect tool in blogging for business!

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New Blogging Means Being Controversial

Be controversial, is the advice Ryan Deiss and Russ Henneberry, authors of Digital Marketing for Dummies. give writers. The idea – making yourself stand out by bringing up controversial topics even if you worry some of your readers won’t agree.

Whatever the topic, you have to answer four questions that will be in readers’ minds, Deiss and Hennberry stress:

  1. Why now? (Why is the information you’re offering timely?)
  2. Who cares? (Who in the target audience is likely to be affected by having or not having what you’re selling?)
  3. Why should they care?) How will their lives be different with your product or service?)
  4. Can you prove it?  (Here’s where case studies, testimonials, and news stories come in.)

Daniel of Freerange Communications agrees. “One way to increase organic traffic and build engagement is by writing controversial content while backing up your opinions”.  But, he cautions, “You cannot simply contradict what everyone else is saying…You need to support your arguments with accurate sources and data.

Daniel lists three possible approaches to writing controversial blog posts:

  • Riding coattails:
    Using an already popular subject to prove your point. For example, “Why Steve Jobs Constantly Ignored His Customers”
  • This versus that:
    “5 reasons email marketing is better than social media marketing”.
  • Being the messenger:
    “The  ——-  Myth Debunked”

If you decide to write about a heated topic, tackle the topic boldly, using clear sentences. You can even present arguments for both sides while making sure that the side you pick is clear, Daniel advises.

In blog content writing training sessions, I’ve always emphasized to content writers that blogs must have a strong, “opinionated” voice. Posts must go far beyond Wikipedia-page-information-dispensing and offer the business owner’s (or the professional’s, or the organization executive’s) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic.

In any field, there will always be controversy – about best business practices, about the best approach to providing professional services, about acceptable levels of risk, even about business-related ethical choices. Rather than ignoring the controversy, bloggers need to comment on the different views and “weigh in”.  New Blogging will consider controversy a tool for thought leadership.

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New Blogging Means Being Controversial

Be controversial, is the advice Ryan Deiss and Russ Henneberry, authors of Digital Marketing for Dummies. give writers. The idea – making yourself stand out by bringing up controversial topics even if you worry some of your readers won’t agree.

Whatever the topic, you have to answer four questions that will be in readers’ minds, Deiss and Hennberry stress:

  1. Why now? (Why is the information you’re offering timely?)
  2. Who cares? (Who in the target audience is likely to be affected by having or not having what you’re selling?)
  3. Why should they care?) How will their lives be different with your product or service?)
  4. Can you prove it?  (Here’s where case studies, testimonials, and news stories come in.)

Daniel of Freerange Communications agrees. “One way to increase organic traffic and build engagement is by writing controversial content while backing up your opinions”.  But, he cautions, “You cannot simply contradict what everyone else is saying…You need to support your arguments with accurate sources and data.

Daniel lists three possible approaches to writing controversial blog posts:

  • Riding coattails:
    Using an already popular subject to prove your point. For example, “Why Steve Jobs Constantly Ignored His Customers”
  • This versus that:
    “5 reasons email marketing is better than social media marketing”.
  • Being the messenger:
    “The  ——-  Myth Debunked”

If you decide to write about a heated topic, tackle the topic boldly, using clear sentences. You can even present arguments for both sides while making sure that the side you pick is clear, Daniel advises.

In blog content writing training sessions, I’ve always emphasized to content writers that blogs must have a strong, “opinionated” voice. Posts must go far beyond Wikipedia-page-information-dispensing and offer the business owner’s (or the professional’s, or the organization executive’s) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic.

In any field, there will always be controversy – about best business practices, about the best approach to providing professional services, about acceptable levels of risk, even about business-related ethical choices. Rather than ignoring the controversy, bloggers need to comment on the different views and “weigh in”.  New Blogging will consider controversy a tool for thought leadership.

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Should Blog Posts Be Op Eds?

opinions in business blogs

 

“Opinionated editorial essays are often the most fun, fast and furious pieces to get into print – especially for nonfamous  witers with strong opinions and day jobs in other fields,” opines Susan Shapiro in Writer’s Digest.

What about business blog content marketing? Should posts do more than describe the products and services being offered and include the opinions of the business owner or professional practitioner? Three insights from Writer’s Digest can help answer that question….

1. “Convey a strong link to your subject,” Shapiro advises.  “Unless you have fought in the Iraq war, have lost a family member there, or are yourself from Iraq, your chances of selling a piece about it are slim.”

We must be influencers, I advise clients and blog content writers alike. Whether it’s business-to-business or business to consumer blog writing, the blog content itself needs to use opinion to clarify what differentiates that business, that professional practice, or that organization from its peers.

2. “Be aware of your audience…..Beware of making too many New York or Los Angeles references in a piece aimed at the Detroit News.”

As writers, when we tell the story of a business or a practice to consumers, we “frame” that story a certain way. “Your opportunity,” Seth Godin tells marketers, “lies in finding a neglected worldview, framing your story in a way that this audience will focus on.”  Chris Anderson, head of TED Talks, reminds speakers to do a jargon check based on audience research, eliminating technical terms and acronyms that will be unfamiliar to listeners.

3.  “Don’t share the obvious slant. Nobody wants to print what everyone already knows…Argue the rarer point or elucidate as only you uniquely can.”

One point I often stress in corporate blogging training sessions is that,  whether you’re blogging for a business, for a professional practice, or for a nonprofit organization, you’ve gotta have an opinion, a slant, on the information you’re serving up for readers. In other words, blog posts, to be effective, can’t be just compilations; you can’t just “aggregate” other people’s stuff and make that be your entire blog presence.
      
In “Ten tips to write an opinion piece people read”, A. Stone advises starting with an attention-grabbing opening line that cuts to the heart of your key message, evoking an emotion or curiosity.  It can be a strong fact, statement or even the beginning of an anecdote that has audience connection, he explains. “The first line is the display-window for all the goodies you have inside.” In opinion piece posts, the, the opener should at least hint at the “slant”.

Providing information about products and services may be the popular way to write corporate blog posts, but in terms of achieving Influencer status – that takes opinion!

 

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Steps to Light Up Your Place in the Blogosphere

blogging with intention
In coaching financial advisors, John Bowen Jr. writes in Financial Planning, he found that the most successful individuals had a secret weapon at their disposal: the power of their presence. Bowen names steps advisors can take to “light up a room when they enter”.  Blog content writers, I believe, can use every one of those steps to “light up the blogosphere” with their posts:

Know your story. “By opening up to others about what’s important to you, they will be more inclined to trust you with what’s important to them.”

Customers don’t want to feel like they are being told a brand story, the authors of “Tips & Traps for Marketing Your Business” caution. In your blog content writing, engage readers with storylike entries about existing customers and about you, they advise.  The idea is to create an emotional – and personal – attachment with your company or practice.

Build your dream team. “Leading financial advisors surround themselves with top people, in the form of strategic alliances.”

When things don’t work well in blogging, I’ve come to realize, it almost always has to do with lack of coordination among the team. The webmaster has to work together with the blog writer to provide the optimization and analysis that make the content “work”. Not only should there be periodic team meetings to discuss content, the blog writing must be coordinated with email and social media.

Live with intention. When you define your vision, your tasks become crystal clear.

One concept I emphasize in corporate blogging training sessions is that focusing on main themes helps blog posts stay smaller and lighter in scale than the more permanent content on the typical corporate website. The posts fit together into an overall business blog marketing strategy through “leitmotifs”, or recurring themes. These themes tie together different product or service descriptions, different statistics, and different opinion pieces. Once five or six over-arching themes have been chosen, the tasks of creating individual blog posts become crystal clear.

Amplify your influence.  Communicate your vision in a clear and lively manner. Make your vision come alive to others by using metaphors, examples, and anecdotes.

Most business owners and professionals can think of quite a number of things they want to convey about their products, their professional services, their industry, and their customer service standards. The problem is those ideas need to be developed into fresh, interesting, and engaging content marketing material. Metaphors help readers “appreciate the information picturesquely”.

Inspire those around you by providing leadership.

When it comes to blogging for business, positioning ourselves (or our business owner/professional practitioner clients) as SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) is obviously a worthy goal. Being a thought leader is even better. Our readers need even more from us than expertise, I’m convinced. Yes, we’re giving them subject matter, but they need help processing that subject matter. They need thought leadership!

Take steps to light up your place in the blogosphere! 

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How to Handle Digital Assets of the Deceased

Bet you haven't thought about this lately.

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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