Better Business Blog Posts Emphasize the Positive

“The tape guns are not for customer use!” was the headline on the poster my National Speakers Association colleague Todd Hunt saw in his local UPS store. There was more text on that sign, Hunt reports: “For liability reasons, it is prohibited for customers to use our industrial tape guns.  If you need something taped up, please either purchase a tape dispenser from our retail wall or just ask us to tape it up for you.  We’re always glad to help.”

In his e-newsletter,Todd (who’s been described as “funnier than a business speaker, more informative than a comedian’) uses this UPS sign to teach his readers a couple of lessons all of us business blog content writers can use:

“They (UPS) offer a great service, but they’ve buried it in the body text!”  Come right out with your message (I call this the “pow’ opening line). “Need your package taped? Just ask!” is the starting statement Hunt would’ve put on that sign.

Be purposeful about your opening lines, leaving no doubt in searchers’ minds that they’ve come to the right place to find the information, products, and services they need.
Todd Hunt suggests deleting the sentence about the liability – too negative. Just stash the tape guns behind the counter out of sight, he recommends, if there have been so many problems with customers using them! Emphasize the positive.

In business blogging I advise taking the high road in marketing strategy. In other words, don’t put down your competition.  Instead, simply emphasize your own expertise, products and services. “Accentuate the positive and latch on to the affirmative,” as Bing Crosby used to croon.

Offer your customers different options, Hunt suggests. We’re happy to tape your package closed for you at no charge.  If you prefer to do it yourself, we have tape dispensers for sale on our retail wall.

Communicate the fact that you and your staff have the experience, the information, the products, and the latest technology to solve problems and meet needs, yet offer choices of action to help readers feel they are in control.

Better business blog posts accentuate the positive!



The Problem With Hero Action Beginnings for Business Blog Posts

Too organized for in medias res type business blog writing (that’s where you intrigue readers by going right to the conflict, then jump back to an earlier, quieter part of the story to deliver the information they need to understand the concepts)? Novelist Cheri Laser has at least three other suggestions for ways to begin a novel.  You might like to use what Laser calls a “hero action beginning” for your blog posts.

“In a hero action beginning, the hero is onstage, doing something active and interesting related to launching the core story,” explains Laser. For us Indianapolis freelance blog content writers, the equivalent would be a bold statement of what our business owner or professional client has to offer.

My friend and fellow blogger Thaddeus Rex lists “Four Ways STUFF has of Differentiating Itself”. A hero action beginning for a blog post might include one of those:

1. Features – your product or service can do something your competitors can’t (or yours does it better).
2. Location – your product/service is available someplace your competitors’ is not (or it’s more easily available)
3. Service – the buying experience you provide sets you apart
4. Cost – you’re the cheapest or the most expensive (exclusivity).

Of course, the secret, as Rex so rightly points out, is to really know your audience, so you know which of those things will be most likely to appeal.

When it comes to blogging (as compared to say, ads, billboards, or even brochures), the potential problem is that this sort of hero action beginning has a way of bordering on being a “boast session”. Fine to let online readers know about what you have and about the things you do, but keep this in mind:  It has to be about them!

In one recent issue of Speaker Magazine, authors offer tips to professional speakers who want to launch books they’ve written. “Don’t tell your prospects how great you are; tell them how great they will feel when the ideas in your book relieve the pain they’re experiencing.”

Hero action beginnings can be great as “grabbers” in business blog posts, with one proviso – remember that the real hero of any blog post had better be – the reader!



Beginning a Business Blog Post In Medias Res

There are four different ways to begin a novel, explains author Cheri Laser, with a less commonly used choice of the four, yet a favorite of hers, being “In Medias Res”, meaning “into the middle of things”.

An  in medias res novel, Laser adds, introduces the characters and the conflicts at the mid-point or at the conclusion, then flashes back to catch up. The concept? Intrigue the reader, then jump back to an earlier, quieter part of the story to deliver the information readers need to understand the conflict.

Business blog content writers know the importance of intriguing and engaging readers, and of doing it right away. At Say It For You, I emphasize how big a deal it can be to get the “pow opening line” right. In SEO-conscious marketing blogs, of course, it may be the keyword phrases in the title that start the job of getting the blog found. But once a visitor has actually landed, it takes a great opener to fan that flicker of interest into a flame.

For today’s online searchers, that flicker-to-flame process is condensed, to say the least. “Every day, you fight a battle, competing with the internet, emails, texting and voicemail. “  Kimberly Yuhl of SteamFeed quotes a quite startling word quota from Statistic Brain: The average attention span in 2013 was 8 seconds. If the average adult listens to or reads one word per second, that gives us eight words to capture our readers’ attention.  “They had better be some powerful words,” advises Yuhl.

Darren Rowse of Problogger suggests starting with a question as one way to engage readers: Did you know….? How do you….? What’s one of the most common problems that…..? Do you want to learn how to…? Have you ever…? Do you ever wonder if…?

Another form of in medias res beginnings for business blogs is what Hector Cuevas calls the “shock and awe approach”, which involves starting posts by ”disagreeing with what is commonly accepted as the norm”. This, Cuevas suggests, “builds an instant sense of curiosity and brings up questions that your readers need answered.” The caution, he adds, is that your content needs to clearly explain your point of view.

For your next business blog post, consider starting in media res!



A Writing Prompt Challenge for Business Bloggers

How do you “ignite your creativity engine” and “fuel your inspiration”?

Writers’ Digest advises novelists to use story starters or writing prompts. And while as blog content writers, we aren’t dealing in fiction, at least some of the 52 prompts suggested by Brian Klems and Cris Freese could conceivably pump up the creativity level of our content marketing.

In fact, I challenge readers of this Say It For You blog to write in ideas about how they’d go about using one of these prompts in one of their own posts.

My own favorites from among the Writers’ Digest prompts:

  • “You return home from work to find a ‘Dear John’ letter on your table.  Oddly, it’s from a FUTURE romantic relationship.  What does the letter say?”

(Couldn’t professional service providers use this? In what ways might the blog reader’s future relationship with you either succeed or fail? Paint a picture of what it’s like being a client or patient in your service or practice.)

  • “You’re trying to read the morning newspaper when your cat begins pawing at your leg.  You brush him away, but he jumps on the table and begins meowing.  Final, the cat speaks.  What does he say?”

Successful business blog writing reminds online searchers of the annoyances and frustrations they are have in dealing with their present service providers, and that you and your staff have the experience, the information, the products, and the services to solve exactly those problems and meet precisely those needs.

  • “At work, you’ve been getting a Post-it note on your desk every morning that reads, ‘Why did you do it?’ You’ve talked to your boss, the night cleaning crew and your co-workers, but no one seems to know who’s putting the note there or why.  You decide to work through the night in hopes of catching the person.”

In many marketing blogs, the blog content writers focus on appealing to consumers’ fear.  To appeal to a better kind of customer - the kind that buys for the right reasons and then remains loyal, I train writers to appeal to readers' better nature and focus on the problem-solving aspects of the offered products and services.

Ask yourself:  Could writing prompts pump up the creativity level of my blog?



Business Blogging Helps Friends See What You Enjoy

“Each year, the largest performing arts conference in the world draws artists from around the globe to New York Midtown Hilton Towers in Manhattan. …you can enjoy the newest ideas in theatre, dance and music,” explains my friend and fellow blogger Thaddeus Rex. “But, please,” he warns, “Don’t plan to eat in the area.”  Why? "Food in this hood winds up extremely expensive and excessively lame."

Rex’ blog post, which begins on this negative note, carries two positive benefits for readers:

A valuable tip:
“Walk just a few blocks west of 54th and 6th to 9th or 10th Avenue, and you get twice the quality for half the cost.”

In blogging for business, it’s important to proactively interpret information in ways that are not only understandable, but usable by readers. Engaging? Fresh? Relevant? Unique?  Those are all qualities to strive for in blog content writing. But offering basic, immediately usable information is a very compelling way to welcome prospects who are meeting you through your blog.

An insight:
“These businesses have learned the secret of differentiating via location.  They know they don’t have to be best in the world.  They only have to be best on the block. Once people are up on their feet, walking around, they get hungry….They assume high price means high quality.  And many never know the difference.”

Smart blog content writers know that there is no lack of sources where readers can find information on our subject.  But readers don’t want to do that – they want our help making sense out of the ocean of information out there. They want our guidance arriving at insights that will help them understand and use all that information.

Many consumers (those who assume a burger with a high price is a burger of high quality) never know the difference. “But YOU know the power of energy,” Thaddeus tells his blog readers. “YOU discern quality with a steady eye and are willing to work for it”.  

Does your business blog help your new friends (your online visitors) see what you enjoy?



Don't Notch the Bedpost in Your Business Blog Post - Yet!

“Most branding activities are just well-catalogued brag sheets“, according to marketing speaker Bruce Turkel (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at our National Speakers of Indiana chapter a few months ago). And while these “bedpost notches such as credentials, accomplishments, satisfied clients, etc., may please your grandmother, he says, they don’t interest anyone who’s not already thinking about hiring you."

Reading that advice, I couldn’t help being thankful. To a certain extent, we blog content writers are able to put our business owner and professional practitioner clients in a more advantageous position as they meet prospects. After all, readers who arrive at a business blog have already “drunk the Kool-Aid”. They already have an interest in the topic and are ready to receive the information, the services, and the products our clients have to offer.

Having said that, our task is to keep those visitors engaged with valuable, personal, and relevant information.  Bedpost notching is important, enumerating the business’ or the practice’s special areas of expertise, years of experience, and success filling customers’ needs. To be sure, we don’t have a very long “window” to accomplish that task, really just a couple of seconds. That’s where Bruce Turkel’s “simple but not easy” recommendation comes in.

Build an “all about them” brand, he says. Speak to your clients’ wants and needs and not your own. Turkel offers two examples of that new paradigm thinking (in the context of how professional speaker should promote themselves):

Don’t:      “Roger McFlintock is the leading expert on underwater basket weaving.”
Do:          “Underwater basket weaving can change your life.”

Don’t:      ”Ellie Dabooter has spent the last 15 years teaching leadership skills”.
Do:          “Leadership is the single most important skill you can use to improve your
                business. Ellie Dabooter is singularly qualified to lead you there.”

As a corporate blogging trainer, I wholeheartedly agree. Any piece of marketing material can be tweaked to put the emphasis where it belongs – on the buyer or user.  In terms of online marketing, the What’s-In-It-For-Them paradigm shift is particularly relevant for blog posts.

Don’t notch the bedpost – yet. Sure, those online visitors found you because they’re already interested in your type of product or service.  Your first order of business, though, is confirming the importance of the subject matter in terms of the difference it can make in their lives!





Bad Business Bloggers of the World, Untie!

By his own description, Richard Lederer is a verbivore.  Fans refer to him as the “poster godfather of good grammar”.  Lederer is able to laugh about common grammar mistakes writers make. Myself, I have a harder time suppressing my anger, particularly when it comes to bad grammar and incorrect spelling sins committed by blog content writers.

True (as I’m fond of mentioning in corporate blogging training sessions) the language used in blogging can be - in fact should be - more conversational than the stuff you might find in a company’s brochures or on their website’s “About” page, so that, depending on the target audience, blog writers are OK bending grammar rules by a bit.

But, as Richard Lederer reminds us (albeit with a smile), some of the crimes committed against our precious English language are definitely not on the OK list. “Every time you make a typo,” Lederer writes, “the errorists win.”

Copyblogger’s Brian Clark explains that while bloggers try to write the way people speak, there are certain mistakes that detract from your credibility, including four mix-ups:

  • Your vs. You’re
  • It’s vs. Its
  • There vs. Their
  • Affect vs. Effect

Gini Dietrich on American Express’ Open Forum worries that creators of customer-target content’s worry about the grammar police (I proudly sport my badge) can create writer’s block. The most important thing, she says it to “get the writing out of you. It can always be fixed to perfection later.” Still, Dietrich says, if you can learn to avoid basic errors (she mentions Brian Clark’s items of your/you’re, they’re/there, then adds the total no-no “irregardless), you’re off to a good start.

HubSpots’s Ginny Soskey adds a few errors to the watch list, breaking the news that
 “alot” is simply not a word, and cautioning writers to use “who”, not “that” when referring to a person: “Ginny is a blogger who likes ice cream.”

Judging from the search results when I Google “grammar and spelling mistakes in blogging”, everybody seems to be conscious of the problem. Still, the more I keep reminding blog content writers in Indianapolis how important it is to be fastidious using our language, the more examples of sloppiness seem to stare me in the face whenever I surf.

“Bad spellers of the world, untie!” quips Richard Lederer.  Professional ghost bloggers of the world, unite!” is all I have to say! Are you going to stand there and let those errorists win?



Try a By-the-Numbers Business Blog Post

The editors of For the Record Magazine (a publication for health professionals) have latched on to a good  page design which I found very decorative, with seven 7 numbers (in color) heading up the seven short paragraphs of text.

While the basic information in your blog will be served up in word form, visuals add interest.  What’s more - (our grade school teachers used Show and Tell for a reason), people absorb information better when it is served up in more than one form.

For the Record’s writing about seven statistics, each having to do with health care.

Earlier this week, I described a “one-tank template”, based on a Columbia Club magazine article about places its members could visit using less than one full tank of gasoline. In this health magazine article, by contrast, the” template” is the numbers:

  • 8
    Only 8% of primary care phy6sicians reported being “very dissatisfied” with their Electronic Health Record system’s ability to lessen their workload.
  • 72
    This is the percentage of physicians who said technology was helping them make more informed health care decisions.
  • 94
    This is the percentage of patients who prefer video visits to telephone-only consultations with their doctors.

The point of using numbered lists in business blogs, I explain to blog content writers, is to demonstrate ways in which your product or service is different, and to provide valuable information that engages readers, helping them see you as a go-to guy or gal to solve their problem or fill their need.

A gem of a quote I found in the book “Dance First, Think Later”, is this: “If you say that there are elephants flying in the sky, people are not going to believe you.  But if you say that there are four hundred and twenty five elephants in the sky, people will probably believe you.”

Numbers are valuable tools in corporate blogging for business because they add both interest and credibility to any factual material.  So, in order to freshen up blog post content, I teach in corporate blogging training sessions, start with an idea about your product or service, then put a number to it:

Whatever your business or professional practice, the real point of the numbers is to offer valuable information, showcase your expertise, and demonstrate ways in which your product or service can help problems.



One-Tank Templates for Business Blogging

As a member of the Columbia Club, I get to enjoy the club’s monthly magazine. In fact, one article from last month’s issue sparked a great idea that I want to pass along to business blog content writers.  

The feature “One Tank Destinations” describes three interesting places to visit in Indiana, all of them close enough to downtown Indianapolis (Columbia Club is right on Monument Circle) so that you can get there and back on a single tank of gasoline.

Think about it – the Club’s providing interesting information to its members, adding value, yet not selling them anything. Of course, that’s one of the purposes of any blog presented by a business or professional practice – adding value to the relationship existing customers have with that business or practice, and demonstrating what a good idea in would be for prospects to get on board.   

The “trick” is in the title.  It would’ve been ‘blah” at best to call that page "Three Places to Visit in Central Indiana”. The expression “one tank”, on the other hand is catchy and makes the reader figure it out. What’s more, One Tank becomes a template unifying the three different mini-feature stories, one about Bluespring Cavern, one about the Culbertson Mansion, the third about Scribner House.

Whenever you have several pieces of information to impart, consider ways to “unify” them under one umbrella or category. The Writing Center calls this “glueing our ideas together”.

Actually, every blog post will probably need some “glue” in the form of transitions. As The Writing Center explains, whether you’re joining single words, phrases, sentences, or even paragraphs, transitions tell readers how to organize their thoughts as they read.

“One-tank templates” are perfect for business blogging!



"Our Pick" Business Blogging

“Sleek and shapely wins the style race,” begins USA Today’s review of the the new Banana Republic sheath dress collection by designer Roland Mouret.

Always intrigued by fashion, preferring simpler silhouettes, I was intrigued by this article from a blog content writer’s viewpoint as well as from that of a would-be wardrobe connoisseur. Here’s why:

Reporter Andrea Mandell begins with testimonials –"Mouret’s dresses are being worn by the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, and Halle Berry", but goes on to assure readers that the Banana Republic versions are wallet-friendly.  

“When buying products, consumers are influenced by references,” choosing products that appear to have a “higher status”, explains Professor Nienke Vlutters of the University of Twnte.

In blogging for business, don’t forget to tell them “who else is doing it”!

Next, the designer himself is interviewed. He talks about his own favorite from the collection: the one-shoulder color-black dress, inspired by the one seen on Jennifer Chastain.

Customers want to buy from or work with the person who has the reputation, credibility, and knowledge of an expert, and that’s exactly the result we professional blog writers are aiming for on behalf of our business owner and professional practitioner clients.

What really gives the USA Today fashion piece its “pow!, in my opinion, is the section “Our Pick”. “We love his emphasis on sleek details such as this subtly patterned Sloan leopard panel pencil skirt…”, says Mandell.

The real blogging value gets added, I’ve always maintained, when content writers add “spin” to the information presented, basing the comments on the  business owner’s or practitioner’s own business wisdom and expertise. In other words, don’t just serve up information – add “your pick”.  Readers want to relate to you when you have knowledge AND an opinion to offer.

Interviews in a blog? Yes. Testimonials? Yes. But then, share your picks!



Business Blog Readability in the Flesch?

“Readability is a critical yet often-overlooked aspect of writing – particularly online writing,” according to Jeanne Dininni of The idea, of course, is to match your writing to your intended audience. “Some sites target a more educated demographic, some attract a population segment with specialized knowledge or expertise in a particular area, and others,” observes Dininni, “cater to more general audiences”.

Science?  Common sense? Both, actually. After all, we business blog content writers aren’t in this to entertain ourselves – we’re out to retain the clients and customers we serve and bring in new ones.

If you didn’t already know this, there are tests you can put your blog through to see how you’re doing in terms of readability - are you reaching the right people and doing it by using words and sentences to which they can relate?  Well, a Readability Index Calculator can give you the answer.

The most-used calculator is the Flesch-Kincaid.  Your scores on the Flesch indicate two things:

  1. How easy your text is to read on a scale of 0-100. (A high score, say 60 or 70 means your stuff is relatively easy to read; a low score, say 20 or even 10 means you’re getting too close to legalese territory – and who wants that??)  
  2. What grade in school a person would need to have reached to be able to understand your content. (A score of 7 would mean the typical seventh grader would understand your writing, while a sixth grader might not. In fact a score of 6 or 7 would be considered optimal in journalism.)

So what, exactly, do those two Flesch-Kincaid measure to take your readability “temperature”?  Essentially, two things:

  • The average number of syllables per word
  • The average number of words per sentence.

I tested a recent blog post of mine,, with the following “verdict”:

“This page has an average grade level of about 7 and a reading ease score of 68.7. A value between 60 and 80 should be easy for a 12 to 15 year old to understand.”  

You need to know – how would your business blog measure up in the Flesch?



An Email Tip Business Bloggers Can Use

Anyone involved in corporate blogging for business should read the latest e-newsletter I received from business speaker Todd Hunt.  Funny thing is, in this piece, Hunt’s not directly talking about business - or about blogging.  Instead, in this “Hunt’s Headlines”, he’s offering some tips about email. So what’s the connection?

Well, assuming you’ve got readers signed up for an RSS feed for your blog (and I certainly hope you do), and assuming you’re posting every few days (and, as a corporate blogging trainer, I certainly hope that’s true), then your most valuable readers are receiving not just occasional, but regular emails from you.

As an aside, Todd Hunt apparently agrees with the Power of One concept I teach blog content writers: focus on one central idea in each post, leaving the rest for another day. Hunt’s referring to email, but the caution is very valid for business blogs. The way he puts it is “Send separate emails, rather than bundling myriad items in one message.”

But, when you do that, Hunt points out, you need to be careful to vary the subject lines. If you don’t, you run the risk of having your client never open an email, because they believe they’ve already read that one!

Now, the first time a “stranger” arrives at your blog site through organic search (that person needs the kind of information, products, or services you offer but doesn’t yet know of you or of your business or practice), Todd Hunt’s tip won’t apply.  But for those of your loyal fans who’ve signed up for an RSS – wow! That tip could mean the difference between your business blog post getting read or having it be deleted before it’s ever been opened!

Of course, as Sharon Housley of FeedForAll reminds us, the best way to engage RSS subscribers is simply writing good stuff. “A consistent stream of original content will do well to earn subscribers’ loyalty,” she says, and “the best RSS feeds provide content that is compelling and unique.”

But, to be sure your “stuff” – all of it – gets opened, remember the Todd Hunt tip about varying the subject lines!



Help Your Blog Readers Discover Your CTAS

True to its title, Discover Magazine (one of my favorite reads) provided an exercise in “discovery”.  Inserted between the pages, in no fewer than five different spots, were postcards.  Each card offered me the chance to “discover the savings” by signing up for a subscription to the publication.

Ever on the alert for marketing concepts that might be useful for us business blog content writers, I noticed several interesting things about the Discover postcard subscription-signup strategy:

Repetition: The cards were spaced at least ten pages apart. Whether I turned out to be a systematic reader, the kind who starts at the beginning and goes through the magazine story by story, or whether I was the kind of reader who skips over the first part of the magazine to get to the stories listed on the cover, I was still going to find one of those calls to action.

Appeal to different interests: One of the cards touted “Next Gen Tech” with an eye, I imagine, to hooking younger readers. Two of the others had “skinflint appeal", promising that every new subscription would include two special issue, and that signing up now for three years could save me as much as $141.

Engagement:  While a couple of the postcards were loosely inserted between pages, one was bound with the magazine, requiring me to tear it out before filling out the information.

‘“Without bombarding your audience with ‘Buy Now's!’ and ‘Click Here's!’’’ you can easily capture attention, drive action, engage audiences, and keep them coming back for more,” says Megan Brown of the Content Marketing Institute. How? Let them download a tutorial, fill out a lead form – in other words, do something.

Whether it’s a postcard in a magazine or a Call to Action in a business blog post, help your blog readers “discover”  you and follow your CTAs!



Why I Crave Clip Art for Business Blogging

No doubt about it, the words you use to tell the story are the most important part of blogging for business. Where visuals come in, whether they’re in the form of “clip art”, photos, graphs, charts, or even videos, is to add interest and evoke emotion.

Personally, in blogging for business, I like clip art.  Sure, those commercial images are not original to my client’s business or practice and they don’t actually depict the products, the services, the colleagues, or the customers of that business or practice. Clip art can’t show the “before” and the “after”.

What clip art does accomplish, better than anything else, in my opinion, is capture concepts, helping me as the blog content writer express the main idea I’m articulating in the post. You might say that any form of visual can reinforce a point made in the text of a blog post, summarize a set of statistics (as in a chart or graph), or add emotional impact. But I particularly like to use clip art as metaphors for concepts I’m discussing in the blog.

Crisis communication - Any business or professional practice can exercise journalistic crisis control through blogging.

“The No.2 is definitely No. 1 in the pencil market”. When you’re blogging, you’re talking to a friendly and interested audience about things that might help them.. Let the useful and interesting information you offer to readers of your blog bring out the specialness of the product or service.

The funnel expresses the idea that consumers want different content at each stage of their research. For prospects at this beginning stage, content should be light, educational, and product-neutral. Blog posts can focus on industry-relevant topics rather than on product.




In corporate blog posts, focus on one story, one aspect of a business, using three examples. The three-legged stool is a metaphor for that template.







One company I personally use to buy clip art for Say It For You blogs is Getty Images’ Last month istock’s marketing department “turned the tables” on me by emailing me a concept photo to remind me to buy more stuff from them. The picture showed the front part of a truck with no back half to it, and the caption read “Don’t Get Caught Short”. Well, they got the point across…..



The Second Hardest Aspect of Business Blogging

The second-hardest part of writing is cutting your own work, says Don Fry in Writer’s Digest “Novel Writing". (What’s the hardest? Deciding what to say and how.)

Cutting your own work is no easy task, Fry admits – it’s less like cutting your fingernails and more like cutting off fingers. Still, editing and revising are essential steps in writing. (Fry’s next sentence might have been addressed to us business blog content writers:) “Ask yourself what the piece is about, and then examine each section.  Does it contribute to the point of the whole thing? If not, cut it. Then read through where it used to be, and you’ll probably find you didn’t need it”.

In blogging for business, I teach, a good principle to keep in your mind’s eye is The Power of One. Blog posts have a distinct advantage over the more static website copy, because you can have a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of your business in today’s post, saving other topics for later posts. As a natural result, posts will be shorter and have greater impact.

I especially loved this part of the Fry article: “You’re reading along and say to yourself, ‘What a gorgeous sentence! Man, I’m good.’ Cut that part. It’s probably self-indulgent, written for yourself and not for your readers.”

In answer to the specific question “How Long Should My Blog Posts Be?”, Susan Guenlius has this to say: “A range between 400-600 words is commonly used as the length that most readers will stick to from start to finish and most writers can communicate a focused message with supporting details.”

At least in theory, editing blogs should be much easier than editing a novel or even editing brochures ads for the company. Since blog content writing should be conversational and informal, are second drafts even needed when it comes to blogs?

Ummm…….yes, I’d say to bloggers:
More important than the SpellCheck and GrammarCheck go-around is checking to make sure you’ve visualized your target readers, the customers that are right for your business and that every line of this blog post is addressed to them.

What do you think? Is that really the second-hardest part or the hardest?



POV Control for Business Blogs

“If you've been writing awhile, you've probably heard all the rules. Don't switch point of view. Or switch only after you leave a few blank lines. Or switch whenever you like, as long as it's a weekday,” jokes Alicia Rasley in “The Power of Point of View”.

Rasley’s message: writers need to choose a POV that’s ideal for their type of writing and which fits in with their readers’ expectations. For business blog content writers, Point of View, or POV, becomes a tool for engaging online visitors and “positioning” them to respond to an appropriate Call to Action.

POV becomes very important in mystery novels, Rasley goes on to explain, because the key element is that “both reader and sleuth have access to the same essential information.” In other words, a big element in the pleasure of reading mysteries is that, the reader is engaged in using the clues to figure out possible solutions to the crime.

Architect/artist David Byrne understood audience engagement. Playing the Building is a sound installation in Minneapolis in which the infrastructure, the physical plant of the building, is converted into a giant musical instrument controlled by viewers. “There are no ‘Do Not Touch’ warnings,” reporters pointed out.

As a business blogging trainer, I was captivated by that development. In today's world of marketing, we need to understand, it's not enough to "hand out" material about a business.  The best blogs, basically, rather than "sing to people", invite them in to make music. Blogs, in other words, are not only for reading, but for acting and interacting.

All of that interaction relates to whatever Point of View presented in the blog. Crime stories, as Alicia Rasley teaches, succeed by “pitting the reader against the villain”.  Other breeds of novel, Rasley explains, create a primarily emotional experience, again facilitated by the POV.

Fellow blog trainer Alyssa Gregory advises bloggers to have a point of view. ”Sometimes,” she says, “all it takes is a little controversy to get your blog on the map.” More important for today’s discussion, Gregory says, “Make a point to invite readers to weigh in and share their opinions.”  Even when their viewpoint differs from your own, make sure to acknowledge them, she reminds us.

Are you doing all you can to use POV as a business blog writing tool?




Taking Sides Against Yourself in Your Business Blog

“Your real life conflicts are full of riches to be mined for your fiction, observes Chitra Benerjee Divkaruni in Writer’s Digest.  You may find, though, Divdaruni points out, that you’re too close to the subject matter of your life’s battles to achieve the objectivity you need.

Objectivity is an issue in writing blogs as well. Sometimes, the “outside eye” of a professional blog writer can tell the story even better than the business owner herself. As fellow blogger Phil Steele suggests, business blog writing should be aimed at taking a bird’s-eye view of one’s industry, and only then relating back to one’s own business and its challenges and accomplishments.

Business coach Jack Klemeyer agrees.  Offering an explanation for the fact that top-notch sports pros hire coaches, he says “Coaches offer a bird’s eye view on whatever it is that is going on…A good coach can see things objectively without emotional connection to the situation.”

In an ideal corporate blogging situation, the very process of collaborating with a blog content writer will be one of self discovery for the business owner or practitioner.
“Try stepping into your adversary’s shoes with honest empathy, and you just might find the fresh perspective your story needs,” Sivkaruni advises novelists. I advise freelance blog writers in Indianapolis to include stories of their clients’ past mistakes and failures. Such stories have a humanizing effect, engaging readers and creating feelings of empathy and admiration for the business owners or professional practitioners who overcame not only adversity, but the effects of their own mistakes!

A good “ghost blogger” can do much more than “say it for you”, helping you “take sides against yourself” in your business blog! 




The One-Amazing-Thing Blog Post

“Transform personal experience into powerful fiction, and you’ll tell stories like no one else can,” advises Chitra Benerjee Divkaruni in Writer’s Digest. Perhaps blogging for business isn’t about fiction, but successful content writing for blogs is all about the power of stories.

(In Divkaruni’s own novel, nine characters are trapped by an earthquake in a basement. When fights break out, a student named Uma urges the group to focus on the positive, and asks each to share a story from their lives.  She insists that everyone has at least “one amazing thing” they can tell about.)

“To take one personal experience that is meaningful to you and let it inspire your work can be powerful,” the author tells other writers.

I’ve found the same thing to be true for blogging. In fact, one big, big part of providing business blogging assistance is helping business owners formulate stories.  The history of the company and the value of its leaders are story elements that create ties between corporate leaders and blog readers.

Why is this so? Online visitors to your blog want to feel you understand them and their needs, but they want to understand you as well. Stories have the power to forge that emotional connection between company and potential customer.

Internet organic search is all about settings. Consumers are looking for places where they can feel comfortable and be assured of locating the products, the services, and information they need. The keyword phrases blog content writers use help draw visitors to the site, but the stories they find when they arrive provide the setting for the birth of a relationship of trust.

Learning to tell one’s business story carries special benefits for business owners. That’s true, I’ve learned, whether owners are doing their own blog content writing or working with a freelance blog writer like me.

If you could compose only one blog post about one amazing aspect of your company or practice, what would that “one amazing thing” be?




What a Smart Blog!

I keep reminding content writers that blogs are not ads, not even advertorials. Still, a lot of smart marketing goes into ads, and some of that same smart thinking can be used in writing content for business blogs.

You’d expect stuff associated with Harvard to be on the smart side, and sure enough, I found one full page ad the Harvard Business Review for Smart Ass™ ceiling fans. The tag line read “Now the world’s quietest and most energy-efficient ceiling fan is also the smartest.”

So far, the copy was still squarely in the advertisement arena, you’d have to admit. Why? It’s all about the product and the company with no mention of the customer’s needs, hardly a model I’d recommend for any company’s, or any practice’s, blog.

What made this particular ad memorable, though, were the three “Forgets”.

  1. “Forget the switch.”
    The fan knows when you enter or leave a room, and turns itself off accordingly.
  2. “Forget the pull chain.”
    The fan monitors the room’s temperature and humidity and adjusts the speed accordingly.
  3. “Forget the discomfort.”
    The fan learns your comfort preferences and tailors the speed adjustments to your needs.

Not only must the content you include in your business blog (or, in the case of Say It For You clients, the content created by your freelance blog writer) offer valuable and up-to-date information, you must make clear to readers that the information has been assembled here specifically for them. It must be clear you understand those online searchers’ concerns and needs, and that you and your staff have the experience, the information, the products, and the services to solve their problems, even the ones they’ve forgotten they have!

What inconveniences and discomforts can you help your prospective clients and customers remember, then forget?



Don't-You-Hate-It-When Blogging for Business

“Comedy relieves you.  A lot of times, we think we’re the only people bothered by certain things.  Then you hear a comic say “Don’t you hate it when…”  And it’s “Oh, my God! Of course!”, observes Fred Willard in Esquire.

Blogging, believe it or not, can offer that same relieving effect for readers. In creating content for blog posts, business owners and professionals can outline those problems that brought readers to the site to begin with, plus raise some issues readers may not have been thinking about just then.

As content writers, I’m fond of stressing in corporate blogging training sessions, 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 searchers haven’t always fully formulated their questions even in their own minds. So, to engage our blog readers and show them we understand the dilemmas they’re facing, we can make use of the “don’t-you-hate-it-when...” tactic.

I really believe that blog writing for business will succeed only if two things are apparent to readers, and in the order presented here:

  1. It’s clear you (the business owner or professional practitioner) understand online searchers’ concerns and needs
  2. You and your staff have the experience, the information, the products, and the services to solve exactly those problems and meet precisely those needs.

“Don’t you hate it when…” isn’t so much a question as an invitation to commiserate. But actual question-answer can also be a very good format for presenting information to online readers. No need to wait until readers actually write in their questions - every practitioner hears questions from clients; every business owner fields customer queries daily. Sharing some of those in blog posts reminds readers of challenges they face and issues they’ve had with their current providers of products and services.

What I especially love about the don’t-you-hate-it-when intro is that, as professional bloggers, we translate corporate messages into human, people-to-people terms. People tend to buy when they see themselves in the picture and when can they relate emotionally to the person bringing them the message.

“Oh, my God! Of course!” is the kind of relieved blog reader response that can signal the beginning of a business relationship.