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’ istockphoto.com. 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.



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.

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



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!



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

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!



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.



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”.



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.

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!



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…  



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.



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.



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.





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!




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!



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!