Blogging causes nightmares. It releases sweat on foreheads and causes solid marriages to fail. It leads to nail-biting and overeating and disquieting moments of sheer panic. Blogging is like having to sing “New York, New York” naked in your neighbor’s front yard.
Don’t lie – that’s what it feels like to you sometimes.
Much of this ado is about nothing, though. Blogging is just writing – and we all know how to write.
When faced with the prospect of having to whip out a new post for your company’s blog, you can throw yourself down a long flight of stairs and bank on breaking your wrists, or you can take a deep breath and start typing. When you do (start typing, not falling), you’re going to want to blurt out one of 3 common excuses – excuses that only create more anxiety.
Even those of us who write for a living use ‘em, but we have ways to get past the excuses and move on to the writing. Below are useful tricks we use when we get hung-up, flustered, sidetracked and cynical.
Excuse: “I don’t have anything to say.”
Rebuttal: You think you have nothing to say that anyone would want to read, right? You think everything that needs to be said is all “already out there” or old hat or a beaten horse.
Well, your organization has built an entire business around what you make or the services you provide; you have employees, a building, computers, desks, a receptionist, casual Fridays, logo’d pens…if you don’t have anything at all to say, what are you doing there?
My trick: When you forget that you have something valuable to say, get out a pen and write down the questions clients and prospects ask you every week (or day or month or during every sales call). It could be about pricing or service plans, why your process is different than a competitor’s, if your production methods are green, what customization capabilities you have – anything, really.
Take the 10 most common (and, ideally, the 10 that give you the greatest opportunity to highlight your value proposition) and write a thoughtful, thorough answer. Talk as much as you need to but not more, giving detail where your prospects want it and keeping it short where only a cursory overview satisfies the inquiry.
Remember: You have something to say if your prospects have questions to ask.
Note: This trick also works really well for the excuse “I don’t know what to say.”
Excuse: “No one cares about ___________ (in-mold labeling or kitted EMS supplies or bicycle parking systems or heat-treated industrial blades…).”
Rebuttal: The simple fact that you have customers means that people care about your product, at least to the extent that it helps them in some way. People are buying your product because it makes their lives easier, processes faster, turnarounds shorter, costs-in-use lower, shelf-lives longer…whatever. It’s integral in some way to the success of whatever it is they do.
Our trick: If I’m staring down the blank page and have determined that no one cares about my two cents – at least when compared to forest fires and sink holes and the Kardashians and 4-out-of-5 dentists recommending things – I remind myself that I’m not writing for a large, disinterested universe; I’m writing to one guy (my best prospect) who wants a single problem solved…we’ll call him Ed. Ed just hopped on the Internet to search “How to keep a blog stocked with content” or “how to make email marketing more effective” and that’s how he found our site. He needs help. So when I write, I write to Ed.
Imagine each time you set out to write a blog (or any other piece of content) that you’re making a case to one prospect who wants your help and it will become much easier to “talk” comfortably, make points concisely, and resolve issues in a way that aligns perfectly with his needs. (To learn more about developing a persona of that prospect, download our Content Creation Template & Worksheets – you’ll find everything you need to better understand your prospect).
Excuse: “I can’t write.”
Rebuttal: Well, sure, some people are more skilled than others. But everyone can write – some just need better guidelines to follow.
My trick: I outline my posts. An outline gives you a chance to clearly define what you’re going to write about (be specific: rather than “I’m going to write about how to present in public without anxiety,” zoom in on a manageable, meaningful sliver, like “I’m going to write about 3 different breathing techniques that will calm nerves before public speaking”). It also helps you lay out how you’re going to get from A to Z smoothly.
And once your post is hammered out, you probably don’t have to go it alone; someone in your office should act as editor, reviewing and evaluating your post for spelling, grammar, readability, comprehension (does it make sense to an outsider?) based on these guidelines:
- Be clear and concise. Get to the point and don’t belabor it
- Write with energy and brevity. Example of a dull, lifeless sentence: “A variety of marketing studies have recently shown that communications delivered to audience members outside the customer’s previously stated target market has little or no value to either the short- or long-term goals of the company.” The same sentence written with punch (and easier to understand): “Studies prove that communicating to a non-target audience is a waste of time and money”
- Be conversational. Writing well and professionally doesn’t mean being stiff, tightly structured and exacting (though I’m pretty sure that’s what high school English teachers taught us all). Write with contractions (because that’s how we speak), be casual, use colloquialisms when appropriate, let your personality show through, use humor…all the things you were taught not to do are okay to do. It makes you much more readable and approachable
- Keep it relevant to your target. Remember why you’re blogging: because people are searching online for answers. You need to answer in a way that’s focused on them, not you: their challenges, the benefits of your product or service to them, what you can do for them that competitors can’t
- Provide an expert perspective. One way to think of how NOT to write a blog post is by reading the newspaper. Newspapers give you facts; there are no (or should be no) suggestions, recommendations, supposition, etc. But in blog writing, you need to connect dots, link ideas, tell readers what to do for the best outcomes, draw conclusions, make assumptions…all as it relates to the target
If these 3 tricks fail you, a last-ditch effort is in order: just start typing. Put down anything that comes into your mind about the topic, in no order, with no rhyme or reason; completely stream-of-conscious writing. Empty your brain of all the related thoughts, insights, questions, knowledge and assumption about the topic. You'll find as you release all this information that you indeed have a point to make or valuable information to share that could help the reader. As you do, expand on your best thoughts and ideas, weed out the not-so-great stuff, and organize, polish and post!
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