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?

 

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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.
 

 

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Business Blogs - Where Marketing Initiatives Converge

“For an unlikely selfie, visit the Four Corners Monument, the only point in the United States where four states converge,” suggests Alison Caporino in “A Quirky Tour of the U.S.A.”. The monument itself is in Arizona, she explains, but Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet at that spot as well.

Since, at Say It For You, we eat and breathe blogging for business, I hope you’ll indulge my using the Four Corners Monument as a metaphor for content marketing through blogs. I’ve done a lot of thinking about how email, social media, websites, and blogging relate to each other when it comes to attracting and retaining customers and clients

In fact, I like to describe blogging, social media, and email as the "Three Musketeers" of online marketing, with blogging being the hub (like the Arizona location of the monument). The blog is where you think through, and then put together, the words to add fresh content about your business. From there, you encourage “convergence” with different social media audiences.

What’s so amazing about blogging, remarks Brian Clark of Copyblogger,  is the fact that “anyone willing to put in the work can become a media producer/personality without speaking a word to anyone in the existing media power centers of Los Angeles, New York, et al”.

“Your own site (on your own domain),” he continues, “is simply the best way to publish new media content. And social media news and networking sites are the ways that your content gets exposure.”

And how, exactly, can blog content writers help that exposure happen? In small chunks, suggests Mark Scott of socialmediatoday.com. “Instead of writing huge descriptions or copy-pasting who paragraphs on Facebook, use small attention-grabbing snippets from the post, backlinking to the full blog post.” Scott reminds business owners to use their personal brand to promote posts by commenting on related blogs.
 

Not to ignore the obvious - let your existing clients and customers and all your business friends know about the birth of your blog.  Add the blog’s URL to flyers, business cards, and to your website. Email an excerpt from a favorite post to a select group of clients and business contacts.
http://www.writersdigestshop.com/writers-digest-yearbook-2012

Blogging can easily become the Four Corners Monument for marketing your business or professional practice!

 

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Eating Around for Business Bloggers

One sure-fire strategy for idea-generation is what I call “reading around”, scouring other people’s blogs and articles, magazine content, and books. “Learning around”, I teach newbie content writers, means staying alert for tidbits and teaching tools (after all, what is a blog if not a teaching tool?) to keep fresh ideas flowing for your business blog posts. .But eating around??

Yes, the other day I discovered a new “recipe” for locating content treasure – enjoy breakfast or lunch in different and unusual venues – and stay alert!. At the Best Bet Breakfast in Fishers, where each table is decorated with poker chips and mini-posters with betting related trivia, I devoured interesting information along with the cinnamon toast.

Whatever industry or profession you’re blogging about, research tidbits from the past. Here’s one about the gambling I found at Best Bet: Back in 1910, games of chance became a crime in the state of Nevada.  But then, a public prosecutor ruled that draw poke was a game of strategy (talk about “spin”!), and, for the next twenty years in Vegas, while roulette was verboten, poker became the game of choice.

The value-add here? History tidbits engage readers' curiosity, evoking an "I didn't know that!" response.

Use the tidbit to emphasize your unique “slant” or approach to your business or professional practice. One of the stories shown under the glass of my Best Bet Breakfast table was about Binion’s Horseshoe. Benny Binion, I learned, bought the Eldorado Club and Apache Hotel in 1951, re-opening them as the Horseshoe.  The Horseshow was the first casino to have carpeting and the first to offer “comps” to all gamblers.. When he first opened the Horseshoe, Binion set the craps table limit at $500—ten times higher than any other casino in Las Vegas at the time. Unlike other casinos, the emphasis at Binion's was on gambling, not on big performing acts.

The “comp” for business owners and freelance blog content writers in sharing such a history tidbit with readers? First of all, the success of your blog marketing efforts will be very closely aligned with you (or you client) being perceived as expert in the field. Even more, presenting a definite perspective on your industry establishes you as a leader.

I highly recommend “eating around”. You just never know what appetizing information you’ll find on your blogging plate!

 

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Language Basics for Business Bloggers - Part C

“Grammatically speaking, voice refers to whether the subject of a sentence is on the giving or receiving end of the action, explains Anne Stillman in Writer’s Digest Yearbook.

For us freelance blog content writers, “voice” is an enormously important element when it comes to “hooking readers and wowing fans”. This week, my Say It For You blog posts are devoted to a review of fundamental writing tools and techniques based on the Yearbook. In a way, choosing the right “voice” goes far beyond grammar and sentence structure, setting the entire tone for each business blog post.

“The active voice has definite advantages over the passive,” explains Stillman. “It’s more concise, it’s often more informative, and it can make your writing appear more vigorous and confident.”  That doesn’t mean, she adds, that the passive voice is never appropriate.  For example, Stilman says, “The wedding cake had to be carried in by eight strong waiters” is better than saying “Eight strong waiters had to carry in the wedding cake.”  Why?  The focus of the sentence is the cake, not the waiters.

Since one of the very purposes of business blog writing is to showcase the accomplishments of the business owners, as a general rule we bloggers need to focus on “staying active” in our content, I teach in corporate blogging training sessions.

A jewelry store blog might read “Our jewelry is worn proudly by all types of people, from homemakers to business executives,” but it would pack more punch to say, “From homemakers to business executives, people of every type proudly wear ABC
 jewelry.”

This past week in my Say It for You blog, I spent a lot of time discussing the ingredients of good writing. There’s certainly a lot more to effective blogging than just the writing. Bloggers need marketing expertise and at least some degree of technical expertise.  The bottom line, though, is that blogging involves the skillful use of words.

For us blog content writers as well as for our business owner and professional clients, A is an important letter in our lexicon. From apostrophes to active voice, paying attention to our craft pays off!

 

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Language Basics for Business Bloggers - Part B

There’s no lack of information for us content writers when it comes to hooking readers and wowing fans, but, as Tiffany Lucket, editor of the Writer’s Digest Yearbook points out, it’s important to go back and review fundamental writing tools. That’s why I’m devoting this week’s Say It For You blog posts to some of the language basics covered in that wonderful magazine.

“…the ways in which the elements of a sentence can be put together – separates the casual writer from the true professional," asserts Anne Stilman. “Unconventional or incorrect grammar may be seen as an indication of carelessness or ignorance, with the result that readers may take the content itself less seriously,” she explains.  (Thank you, Ms. Stilman! I get a lot of pushback from business owners and professionals when I tell them their websites are filled with grammar errors - supposedly nobody “normal” pays attention to such language detail.”)

Stilman focuses on topics that she finds present frequent stumbling blocks for content writers, including:

Agreement between subject and verb:
When sentences contain two or more nouns or pronouns and share the same verb, the verb needs to be plural, even if one element of the pair is singular, and even if that's the word closest to the verb. The baseball players and the manager were disappointed after losing the big game.  (Even though the manager WAS disappointed, it's the baseball players and the manager who WERE disappointed.)

Avoiding misplaced modifiers:
If a sentence is carelessly constructed, the entity to be modified is not clear. As an example, Stilman offers the following sentence: “Just two years after finishing graduate school, Adelaide’s career took off.” Since it was Adelaide and not her career that finished school, this is a confusing sentence.  It would have been better to state that “Just two years after Adelaide finished graduate school, her career took off.”

When I’m training newbie blog content writers, I like to remind them of the doctor’s mantra “Above all, do no harm.” In blogging for business, the warning might read, “Above all, create no confusion in readers.” You want online searchers to get the message, not be left scratching their heads.

If online searchers can't tell what you mean, they will simply click and leave! Ignoring clarity by failing to use proper punctuation and sentence structure in blog posts is done at business owners' peril.

 

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Language Basics for Business Bloggers - Part A

“Keep in mind that apostrophes are never used to form a plural word; they are used only in contractions and when creating the possessive form,” Brian Klems reminds readers of The Writer’s Digest Yearbook.

The basic concept behind this treasure chest of a magazine: Writers learn about hooking readers and wowing fans, but it’s important for them to go back and review fundamental writing tools. “Without a base, there’s nothing to build upon,” says Tiffany Lucket.  The Digest’s executive editor is addressing novelists, but blog content writers are equally in need of such a reminder.

And speaking of apostrophes, I find misuse of them nothing short of rife in business blogs, beginning with the use of “it’s” as a pronoun. (“You need to see this furniture to appreciate it’s beauty. Oh, Gawd…).

Brian Klems goes on to describe a related apostrophe question: Should you use the apostrophe to form a plural word when a name ends in the letter S? In a word, no, no. no!  We keep up with the Joneses, not with the Jones’. Of course, if you’re trying to have your cat keep up with the Jones’ pet, the apostrophe would be very apropos in a possessive.

What’s the big deal? Grammar mistakes in content writing for business are very much like the much-publicized TV star wardrobe mishaps in that they call attention away from the kind of impression we intend to make on behalf of our businesses or professional practices.  (Yes, I’ve been accused of being a “grammar Nazi”, and yes, it’s true that most readers won’t catch the grammar errors. But, can you afford to lose the respect of even a few?)

Assuming all content writers would at least reluctantly concede the answer to that question is  “no”, I’m devoting all of this week’s Say It For You blog posts to language basics covered in the Writer’s Digest Yearbook. IT”S elementary. Blog WRITERS’  AND BLOG WRITERS’ CLIENTS’ reputations need protection against grammar and vocabulary mishaps!  Repeat after me: apostrophes are never used to form plural words, and “its” would have one only if you mean “it is”.

 

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Fireworks for Business Blogs

Hard to imagine Fourth of July celebrations without fireworks, but, until two weeks ago, I hadn’t known about the “biggest and best fireworks blog in the world”, Epic Fireworks.

The Epic Fireworks blog is big, all right, with literally hundreds of categories and thousands of blog posts. Since today is July 4th, I spent some time analyzing the Epic post titled “4th July or Independence Day”.

As a corporate blogging trainer, I give kudos to Epic blog author Paul Singh for incorporating:

Interesting facts:

  • “The oldest established July 4th celebrations which have continued without interruption have been held in Bristol, Rhode Island since 1777.”
  • “Macy’s Fireworks have been held since 1976.  In 2009, in recognition of the route taken by Henry Hudson in 1609, the fireworks were moved from their usual site over the East River to the Hudson.”

Online readers have a natural curiosity, particularly when you offer information related to a query they’ve already typed into a search bar.  That’s why little-known facts and statistics make for good business blog fodder. Important for bloggers to remember, though: use each tidbit as a jumping-off point to explain some unique aspect of your own products or service!

Illustrations and images:
Each fact on the Epic blog is attached to an image.
The main message of a blog is delivered in words, of course. 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.  People absorb information better when it is served up in more than one form.

Frequency:
I’d come upon the Epic blog just two weeks ago, June 23, to be exact. The latest post had been June 22; the ones before that were posted on June 20, June 17,and June 16.
Momentum in the online rankings race comes from frequency of posting blogs and from building up longevity by consistently posting content on the Web over long periods of time.
 
Navigation ease:
At the bottom of each blog page were two arrows, one leading to “older entries,” one to “newer entries”. The page had a search bar and a Calls to Action section allowing readers to buy Epic Fireworks online, subscribe the blog via RSS feed, or follow Epic on Twitter.
The point I want to stress to content writers in Indianapolis is simply this: The easier it is for searchers to navigate your site, the easier it will be for them to engage and transact.

Hard to imagine Fourth of July celebrations without fireworks.  Hard to imagine  a better model for newbie blog content writers to follow than Paul Singh’s fireworks blog!

 

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Wait-Wait-Don't-Tell-Me Business Blogs

Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”, NPR’s weekly hour-long quiz program is a favorite of mine, and I’m not the only one – the show has been enormously successful for years.

Since, at Say It For You, we’re all about creating content that can engage readers, I asked myself just why the “Wait Wait” content is so very engaging. I concluded there are two main reasons for the program’s success:

  • Listeners get to be involved (by guessing the answers)
  • Listeners don’t need to actually make a commitment (sitting in my car, I don’t worry that anyone will know I’ve selected the wrong response).

So, what’s the takeaway for us blog content writers?

A couple of years ago, I remember, I commented on an advertorial in the Indianapolis Star supplement called “Why To Buy A Piano”.  The piece provided tips on the basic decisions facing piano buyers (digital vs. acoustic, upright vs. grand, used vs. new).  But the big thing about that advertorial was in the final paragraph: “You don’t have to make the ultimate piano decision the first time.”

Think about how reassuring that statement might be for a buyer (“They’re trying to help me, not sell me the most expensive instrument in the store”). Searchers on the web may be shopping for a the products or services you offer, but may not be ready to make a commitment. If, in your business blog, you can convey the idea that there are different levels of involvement possible, and that “ultimate decisions” need not be made the moment a potential client or customer “steps into” your website, visitors can be comfortable engaging with you.

The NPR blogging secret for business owners and professional practitioners: Offer valuable information and encourage “just looking” blog visitors who may be thinking, “Wait, wait, don’t sell me!” – yet…  

 

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Cancellation Notice for Blogs

I read a lot.  If you’re a business blogger, I hope you read a lot, too.

That’s because, no matter what business, what professional practice, or what organization you’re blogging about, ideas for content are everywhere, but you’ve got to make your mind available in some unlikely spots to find them.

In the May issue of Discover Magazine, in the HotTech section, there’s a story called “Cancellation Notice”. An estimated 10 million Americans, the article reminds us, suffer from a rhythmic trembling in their hands that intensifies with action.  Up until recently, the technology was focused on restraining the shaking, and the devices used were bulky and largely ineffective. The newest technology, called Liftware, uses “active cancellation”.  In other words it offsets the shakes, rather than trying to suppress them.

Constantly alert for ideas that can help my freelance blog content writers fill the various marketing needs of our clients, what I find is that mostly what’s wanted by our clients is attracting traffic and moving readers to action.  Every so often, though, my bloggers are working as part of a “damage control” effort.

One of the themes I keep coming back to in this Say It For You blog is that corporate and organizational blogging can be used to exercise control over the way the public perceives any negative developments and correct any inaccurate press statements. The general concept of damage control, as fellow blogger David Meerman Scott explains, is to “get out in front’ of any media crisis, rather than hiding from the publicity.

There’s another plus to blogging a lot following some kind of negative press. Providing relevant content that is more recent has the power to supplant the negative story by “pushing down” the older content on the first page of the search engine. And, whether you’ve realized it or not, explains John Hacker, “There probably is some negative criticism about you out there on other blogs, other websites, or even forums that you’re not going to want your potential customers to spend time reading.”  Starting a blog and writing often is “one of your most valuable allies to pushing down negative search results.”

Blogging for business takes advantage of the Liftware “active cancellation” principle. Offset the shakes (the negative publicity items) rather than trying to suppress them.

 

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Unpackaging Information in Business Blogs

I’m sure the last thing on WIBC newscaster Mike Corbin’s mind was business blog content writing – he wasn’t even aware I was listening to him on my drive home! Still, Corbin managed to give me the kind of gift I treasure - a word tidbit.

The topic of the moment was Republican House Majority Leader Cantor’s loss in the recent primary election. To introduce the discussion, Corbin used three words: “Let’s unpackage this”, he said.

“Unpackaging” - I’d never used that word to apply to our work as content writers, but, yes. That’s actually a perfect description of the way bloggers can help online readers connect with information presented in a blog post. Facts and statistics need to be “unpackaged” or put into perspective, so that readers realize there’s something important here for them.

It’s fascinating, what a big difference skillful use of language can make in every aspect of life and particularly in business. As business owners and professional practitioners, we can get so tied up in manufacturing a good, marketable product and in serving our customers' needs, we forget how much help the right words can be.

Of course, for content writers, it’s all about words, so that the right word tidbit can be a true gift. When it comes to “unpackaging” information for our readers, we business bloggers are nothing if not interpreters. Effective blog posts, I teach, must go from information-dispensing to offering the business owner's (or the professional's, or the organizational executive's) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic.
 

One form of un-packaging consists of putting your own “spin” on any messages the public might be receiving about your industry – or about you - from competitors or critics. Sometimes negative perceptions arise from inaccurate press statements, but often, accurate information, incompletely explained, causes negative perceptions.  Blogs are a way for business owners to exercise a degree of control over myths and misunderstandings.

Unpackaging, though, doesn’t need to be reactive.  In blogging for business, it’s important to proactively interpret information in ways that are not only understandable, but usable by readers, “unwrapping”and drilling down to the core of the message.

 

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Nail Polish Remover for Business Blogs

Ink-smudged laptop keys or floor tile? Haul out the nail polish remover, advises Alison Caporino in one of my favorite Reader’s Digest sections “Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things”.

How-to ideas are always a good idea for business blog posts.  By teaching, rather than selling, I explain to blog content writers, business owners or professional practitioners can enhance their own value in the eyes of readers.

To me, this tactic is a blog marketing no-brainer.  But what so often happens is that I’ll be discussing blog content ideas with new Say It For You clients, and I’ll get a lot of pushback. The fear is that if they include “how-to” ideas in their blog, proprietors or practitioners will lose, rather than gain, customers and clients.  (Those readers won’t need them, is the worry.)

In the real world, I hasten to assure the fearful, things usually work the opposite way. Giving advice by sharing “recipes” and instructions is a great way to showcase your experience and expertise, and consumers who feel fairly informed might actually prove more willing to make buying decisions.

The “extraordinary” part of the blog content equation needs some further explanation, I realize. As with spices in cooking, less is more. Blogging about unusual ways your products or services have been applied in different situations is a good way to capture interest. (Remember the song “You Gotta Have a Gimmick” in “Gypsy”?) “

But in order for the stuff to be really useful to readers, your reason for including it in the blog posts has to be apparent. It’s best if the new information relates, not only to your topic, but to something with which readers are already familiar.

In other words, while it’s fine to include “extraordinary” information tidbits in your business blog posts, (assuming the goal is winning click-throughs and acquiring customers), your main emphasis should be extraordinary solutions to ordinary needs.

 

 

 

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Business Blogs Help Readers Put Theory Into Practice

“Colleagues tell me that stories and examples work best in helping students understand how to put theory into practice,” says Elizabeth Natalle in “Teaching Interpersonal Communication”. So, for every concept Natalle teaches in class, she gives an example in the form of a scenario or story. For variety, she sometimes has groups of students analyze a case study.

We blog content writers would do well to follow Natalle’s example, harnessing the power of storytelling to bring out the points we’re trying to make in our posts. And we should do it for the same reason: stories and examples help readers understand the information we offer and relate to what we’re saying.

If one secret of successful business blog writing is, in fact, telling stories, the trick to finding story ideas may be, as Malcolm Gladwell says in What the Dog Saw, “to convince yourself that everyone and everything has a story to tell.” In fact, a big, big part of providing business blogging assistance to my Say It For You clients is helping them formulate stories.  Those stories have the power to forge an emotional connection between them and their potential customers.

The setting of a business’ story refers to where it is (where the plant, the distribution area or the professional practice is actually located). The setting also includes the backdrop of the market and the industry or field in which that business or practice operates.

The history of the company or practice makes up the “plot” or story line. The story unfolds as the owners and employees answer questions such as “What do we do?” “How?” “Why?” What does ‘success’ look like to us?” “What values do we stand for?”

I call it the training benefit. Whether owners are doing their own blog content writing or working with a freelance blog writer like me, in the process of verbalizing positive aspects of their own business, helping readers relate to them and trust them, leaders are constantly providing themselves with training about how to tell their own story!

Elizabeth Natalle is on to something: For interpersonal communication (and that’s exactly what blogging for business is designed to be), nothing beats a good story!

 

 

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What Distinguishes Blogging From Other Social Media?

Came across a very useful blog post the other day, written by Jeremiah Owyang of Social Media and titled “Understanding the difference between Forums, Blogs, and Social Networks”.

As a freelance blog content writer and corporate blogging trainer, I agree with Owyang that there’s a lot of confusion out there about what distinguishes blogs from other social networking tools.

Backtrack a bit: Social media, as defined by ESCP Europe Business School marketing professor Andreas Marcus, consists of “a group of Internet-based applications that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.”

But, with so many platforms out there, it’s easy to get the tools mixed up, says Owyang. Forums, he explains, are like social mixers, where everyone mills about and discusses things with others. Social networks, in contrast, are like topic tables at a conference luncheon. People connect through common interests and share information.

Owyang compares blogs, on the other hand, to keynote speeches. (As a longtime member of the National Speakers Association, I can relate to that comparison.) The blogger is in control of the discussion, but allows questions and comments from the audience. Blogs, he adds, are journals often authored by one individual or by a team, used to talk with the marketplace.

Why do I find the Owyang blog post particularly informative for business owners and professional practitioners (and of course for us content writers telling their stories)?

 “It’s important to know the many different tools in your tool chest as every type of accessory fulfills a different need. Before you jump to tools, you should first understand who your community is, where they are, how they use social technologies, and most importantly, what they’re talking about.”

Yasmin Bendror of Marketing Matters sums up the topic in this potent paragraph:

 “It’s obvious that social media will continue to have a significant impact in 2014 on marketers and business owners: They now have the ability to reach out and communicate on a personal level with their target audience on a daily basis. This is a game changer for businesses engaging in marketing, sales, customer service and other business activities.

At Say It For You in Indianapolis, we couldn’t agree more!

 

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Wise "Why's" of Blogging for Business

“But everybody’s doing it!” was never a successful pitch when it came to Mom letting me do something back in school days.  And, frankly, “everybody’s doing it” isn’t a very good reason for starting and maintaining a business blog, either.

Business owners, I find, start blogs (or have me start one for them) for different reasons, too. At Say It For You, we spend a great deal of time discussing business blogging, particularly with entrepreneurs who've heard about blogging but aren't completely sold on the strategy.

One of my idols, Seth Godin, says he's noticed the same thing about the variety of motivations business people have getting into any new activity, blogging included.  There are four types of people in the world, Godin remarks.  Some people want to do things because those things are interesting.  Some people want to do things because everyone else is doing those things.  Some people are too satisfied, too scared, too shy, or too lazy to do anything.  And then, says Godin, some people want to do things because those things work!

Blog content writing is definitely not for the lazy or scared, or even the too-satisfied. Maintaining an effective business blog is simply too difficult and challenging to undertake just because it’s an interesting thing to do, or even because everyone else is doing it. That leaves just one valid reason – blogging works!

But, does it always?  Of course not. Your customers and prospects encounter content every day. Some of it’s good, most of it is forgotten immediately, says Sean Royer of Social Media Today. It is your job, Royer adds, to make sure that your business content is remembered and has a positive impact on your customers. But if you’re still debating whether to pour effort and resources into creating and maintaining a blog, he says, “the answer is, of course, a resounding YES.”

Content marketing is now an essential component of an effective SEO campaign, because Google values high quality content,” confirms Seb Atkinson of Social Media Explorer.

Some “why’s” of blogging listed by quickstudy.com include:

  • A blog provides an online platform where you can express your point of view.
  • A blog is a low-cost marketing tool that will reinforce and enhance all the other marketing you do.
  • Your blog can be emailed as a newsletter, and can also serve as inspiration for content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks.
  • Each new post you write is an opportunity to attract search engine attention.

Don’t create a blog just because “everyone else is doing it”.  There are plenty of wise why’s for blogging for business!

 

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Keeping Your Business Blog in the News Feed

“Out of news feed, out of mind,” quips Reader’s Digest in “Updated Sayings for the Digital Age.” The point, so crucial for business owners and professional practitioners to understand, is that nowadays it’s only recently updated information that is likely to impact the success of their online marketing.

That’s because reality in the digital age relates to recency. That's exactly why once-in-a-while blogging just doesn't do the trick, even if it's high-quality stuff.  To satisfy a search engine, your blog material must be updated frequently, and I mean very frequently.  To stress this point in a corporate blogging training session, I put it this way: When it comes to blogging for business, search engines are saying, "Never mind what you've done. What have you done for me lately?"

But don’t take my word for it.

  • “Google loves fresh, relevant content,” says Simon Tayler of Hykano. “The more regular the updates, the more ‘fuel’ it provides for Google to rank you on.”
     
  • “There isn't any doubt that blogs on the website play a part in SEO, “ says Cristine Bentonnot of Iconi.
     
  • “Unless you’re steeped in SEO terminology, you may not have heard of the acronym “QDF” or Query Deserves Freshness. QDF, simply stated, is that for every query (“search term”) a search result list should include one (or more) piece of content that’s been recently published,” points out Sean Jackson of copyblogger. The caution, though, is that, “While QDF is a powerful benefit… it does not last.”
     
  • According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, over 43% of Americans go online to get news on a daily basis. To stay plugged into news consumers on a consistent basis, you have to share your own “news” and opinions frequently.


At Say It For You, we freelance blog content writers understand the “out-of-news-feed-out-of-mind” principle: We’ve gotta keep our client’s business blogs in the news feed!

 

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Empower Your Business Blog by Embracing Your Own Opinion

This week’s Say It For You business blog posting lessons are based on the secrets and shortcuts Geoffrey James shares in his book "Business Without the Bullsh*t".

In a way, James’ entire book showcases a point I often stress in corporate blogging training sessions – 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.

(Of course, you can do that, just aggregate, I mean, and many sites do. Aggregation may even make your blog site the “go-to” destination for information.  But if you ask me, that’s not going to result in readers coming to your business or practice for service, products, and advice.)  

James’ book has a chapter I love, called “How to Cope With Management Fads”. The author gives readers career-saving tips for when their employers are in the throes of implementing that he calls “faux panaceas”.  Six Sigma? “Expect everything to take 10-20% longer than it otherwise would because of buttinsky experts clogging up the way the organization runs.”  Reengineering? “…one of half a dozen euphemisms that executives use when they’re planning to fire a bunch of people.” Matrix management?  “The result is predictable: an endless, debilitating turf war.”

The book blurb explains that Geoffrey James writes one of the world’s most visited business blogs.  The reason, I firmly believe, is that he’s opinionated, very opinionated. Sure, James’ style may seem far too harsh for you to use anything like that in your own online marketing.. You’re out to nurture the relationships you’ve established and welcome new clients and customers to your business or practice, not “turn them off”.

Still, what I’ve learned over the years of creating blog content for dozens and dozens of clients in different industries and professions is that, in order to turn clients and customers “on”, we must incorporate one important ingredient - opinion. Taking a stance, I’ve found, is what gives a blog post some “zip”.

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.

In business blogging, embrace your own opinion!

 

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The Pareto Principle in Business Blogging

Just one of the 49 secrets and shortcuts Geoffrey James shares in his book "Business Without the Bullsh*t" is how to use the Pareto Principle to prioritize your to-do list. (You remember Pareto’s concept – 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions.)

Couldn’t help recalling the Say It For You video I’d recorded about time management for blogs. Allowing 120 minutes total per blog post, I’d allocate 40 of those minutes for research and “reading around”, learning others’ opinions on your topic and gathering information.  50 minutes should be used, I advised, for the actual writing and editing of the business blog, with 10 minutes for finding photos, charts, and clip art for illustrating your points, and 20 minutes for the actual posting on the site.

The reason most time management systems don’t work, James points out, is that the less important actions are given the same priority as the more important ones when it comes to making a schedule or to-do list.  A more productive planning system would come from following these steps:

  • Prioritize each item on your to-do list by the amount of effort required, numbering the item from #1 (least effort required) to #10 (most effort required).
  • Then make a second list, numbering the items by expected positive results of each action.
  • For each action, divide the effort number by the potential number. The result is “priority ranking”.
  • Now, follow your list in order of priority ranking, doing the tasks with the highest priority rankings first.

So, how did my blog content writer’s allocation work out under the Geoffrey James system? Almost entirely on target:

Reading around:                              #2 effort, #2 results.
Writing/editing content:                    #1 effort,,#1 results
Actual posting                                 #3 effort, #4 results
Illustrating                                       #4 effort, #3 results

Yes, it’s always nice when someone more famous than you confirms what you’ve been saying for a long time. Distilling your own experiences in your business and profession and gathering wisdom to share with your business blog readers are the two tasks that take the most effort and, over time, the ones that make for long-term blogging success.

 

 

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Business Blogging Without the Bullsh-t

It’s always nice when someone more famous than you says exactly what you’ve been saying for a long time, and author Geoffrey James, in his book “Business Without the Bullsh*t” did exactly that when he advised, “Don’t blog unless you’re a natural.”

James starts off by pointing out a fact of the universe: “Almost everybody who starts blogging gives up after a few weeks, after which the posts become few and far between, and eventually peter out altogether.  What remains is an out-of-date blog that’s a testament to your inability to blog regularly….If you’re determined to blog, be realistic rather than ambitious.  If you think you can post once a week, set a schedule to post every two weeks or every month,” James advises.

In fact, the how-often-is-often-enough? is one of the very first questions I hear from business owners or professional practitioners getting ready to launch a blog. Here are some opinions I’ve read on that very subject:

Once a week:  (Stan Smith of Pushing Social) – “Your blog strengthens your relationship with your customers by keeping you top of mind. Your weekly post establishes a rhythm to your relationship.” Megan Totka (Small Business Trends) reminds readers that daily content can give a small business blog a great boost, the once a week is an absolute minimum for getting search engines to crawl your website.  “If your updates are more than a week apart, it’s about as effective as not blogging at all,” is Totka’s view.

Anywhere from 2 to 4 times per week to multiple times per day: (Ben Roberts of Salty Dog Interactive) – “Less is not always more where blogging is concerned,” says Roberts “…7 days a week, 30ish days a month. This is where the magic starts happening.”

So what about the Geoffrey James caution about not blogging unless you’re a natural? TashWord offers three reasons for using a professional writer to craft blog posts:

  • To save time.  Blogging is a task to be outsourced so you can spend more time doing what you’re best at – running your business or practice.
  • Distance – a blog content writer is not so close to your business and will have a clearer perspective on what needs to be said.
  • To get words that work well, are easy to read, and are grammatically correct.


    I have to agree with James’ that it would be “bullsh*t” to advise business owners and professionals who aren’t “naturals” at writing to try to maintain what I call the “drill sergeant discipline" of blog content writing. Given all the many potential benefits of business blogging, though, “Don’t blog!” is hardly the best advice.

    You may not want the BS, but you definitely want the business!

 

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The Number One Ingredient for Successful Business Blogging

It’s not easy to be considered an expert - otherwise, we’d all be experts, observes Renee Quinn on IPWatchdog.com. Yet, for us Indianapolis blog content writers, one big goal of the writing we do for our business owner and professional practitioner clients is just that – positioning them as experts in the eyes of their clients and of online searchers.

To be positioned as an expert, Quinn says, you can either be excellent at a few things or OK at a long list of things, but generally not both. Once you’ve decided on one of those two paths, never stop educating yourself in your area. Be confident in your knowledge, she advises, and stay active to show those who follow you what you’re passionate about. Needless to say, as a long-time business blogger and corporate blogging trainer, I was delighted at Quinn’s next piece of advice: Get writing! That’s a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your field.  “When you answer unasked questions, you are gaining credibility and building trust,” she adds.

“Discuss specific topics of interest and newsworthy topics in your industry that are current and carry a lot of interest with your field,” Quinn continues. “By doing so, you are giving people a sneak peak at your level of knowledge on each topic while also remaining relevant and current”.

Having decided to devote this week’s Say It For You blog posts to the topic of expertise, I was absolutely intrigued by this statement by Stan Smith of Pushing Social:  “…dozens of compelling tactics compete for your attention.  With all these options, it’s easy to forget that expertise is the #1 ingredient for a successful content marketing and blogging strategy. Without expertise, all of these topics are reduced to fancy magic tricks…”

Smith quotes one of my own favorite marketing gurus, Seth Godin: “Writing’s power of clarification is the main reason why he posts daily. Writing long-form content on popular topics in your niche will put your thinking on display and give your readers an opportunity to evaluate your expertise.”

No, it’s hardly easy to be considered an expert, hardly easy to be a blogger for business.  In fact, in the early years of my company Say It For You, I talked about the “drill sergeant discipline” needed by blog content writers and about the fact that the main key to business blogging success was going to be simply keeping on task.

 

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