Let’s face it.
Blogging is one of the hardest things to keep up with.
In the long run, many, if not most blogs are abandoned.
You start, full of enthusiasm and feeling like a crusader. You churn out a series of blog posts to resounding applause from your peers.
You even have a list of topics you are going to write on in the future – enough to last you a couple of months.
But for some reason only your industry peers seem to connect with your posts - low social shares, low comments, and low morale.
Rinse and Repeat.
For a personal blog, there is always the option of just walking away and forgetting you ever had a blog.
However, when dealing with a corporate blog, the stakes are much higher and you can’t just walk away.
It seems you have to stick around and make this work!
But here is the crucial question: ‘How do you turn a boring corporate blog into an interesting conversation with friends who can’t wait to try your products?’
Not to worry. I’ve got your back!
Tip 1: Lose the corporate talk
Well, I know you call it a corporate blog. :)
But that is where your corporate status ends – literally.
The fastest way to alienate your audience is to extend the corporate effect to the tone you use in your blog posts.
Blog posts should be fun and engaging, not stuffy and corporate.
Write like you would speak in everyday conversations – with personality and character.
“Writing, when properly managed, (as you may be sure I think mine is) is but a different name for conversation.” – Laurence Sterne
Now, this doesn’t mean writing exactly like you talk, with the missteps, grammar mistakes, and unfinished sentences. Rather, it means editing your content to ensure that it does not read like writing.
Have you noticed how I have added a fair sprinkling of questions throughout this post? And how those questions directly address you as a reader through my use of the word “you”?
That’s how I engage you as a reader.
You should use the same technique in your writing to add personality to your posts.
Here are some ideas to help you ditch the corporate tone:
- Stamp out gobbledygook from your writing. Words like breakthrough, innovative, and cutting-edge have lost their meaning a long time ago. I sincerely hope you got the memo.
- Sentence bloat makes you look, well, bloated. Avoid unnecessarily long sentences. Keep your sentences short and use simple, everyday words.
- Stop talking about yourself for a second. We know your app has a dashboard that displays real-time metrics second to none. So what? Your readers want to be educated, entertained and informed. They want to know what’s in it for them.
- Add a generous dash of contractions like we’ll, they’ll, she’s, and we’re. They make your writing sound a lot more informal.
- Butcher long paragraphs and blocks of text. Conversations are a two-way street, so drop plenty of white spaces to give your readers time to catch their breaths.
Tip 2: Allow Engagement through Feedback
Do you accept feedback from your audience?
What feedback mechanism have you put in place to facilitate the process?
As Paul Boag explains, most corporate blogs fail as a result of their insisting on a one-way-traffic communication pattern:
“They focus on telling readers how great their products and services are. Rarely do they ask for feedback or ask questions. In fact, it is not unusual for companies to disable comments for fear of criticism.”
Well, the world is full of missed opportunities.
The best blogs out there are not a broadcast tool.
They are, in fact, a dialogue between individuals within companies and their audiences.
The comment box “is a superb opportunity to get free feedback from your customers, something many organizations pay market researchers for”, continues Boag.
Even most business blogs with active comments section simply pass through the motions without getting the point.
The comment section is meant to add audience perspective to your content.
Comments give you insight into how your engaged audience thinks, and what is important to them.
If you are not harvesting those insights to inform future post direction, then you are leaving a lot of money on the table.
This, any entrepreneur would agree, is a sad thing to do.
Apart from using feedback from the comments section, you may want to reach out directly to your audience from time to time and get their point of view.
Can you send out periodic surveys to ask what your readers would want you to post about?
Believe me, it works.
You could say, “What is your biggest challenge when it comes to “x”?”
The insights you could get from this kind of surveys can help you enter the minds of your audience and become the voice in their heads.
Tip 3: Stop being a Salesman
We know the main reason you are in business is to make a sale, drive traffic and get the much-needed recognition your business needs as an industry leader.
But your audience is not exactly in the business of helping you meet your sales target, and, if all they get from you are sales message after sales message, your blog will soon be a lonely planet where cobwebs grow.
Yes, as much as it may hurt, your audience is not interested in your business. They come online, not to help you stay in business, but to solve their own problems.
So, stop selling, and start helping.
You should stop seeing yourself as a salesman (read sleazy salesman) out to advance the next sale and start viewing yourself as a compassionate mentor out to guide your reader by the hand through problems he has.
Identify interest intersections between the different segments your business addresses and provide helpful content that solves real problems encountered by those in your audience.
Make no mistake about this - your efforts helping out the community will not go unnoticed.
Your regular thoughtful advice will position you as an authority and you will earn the trust of those you serve and they will eventually be eager for opportunities to buy from you.
Think of it like a game of seduction.
To carry the first date scenario even further, you don’t take a lady out on a first date and try to take her home afterward.
You let things build up to the point where going home with you seems like the obvious thing to do.
You have to think of content marketing in the same way.
Show some restraint and focus on making a great first impression. And maybe second. And maybe third.
If you start mixing sales messages in your content, you trigger the “this is just a sales pitch” radar in your readers, and they instantly mistrust everything you say.
They know if you are selling, then that is influencing everything you say.
And they are right.
Is this some new insight?
No, this content driven economy is nothing new.
In fact, it is the pillar on which content marketing rests.
We have to build relationships with our audience if we are to make the sale. When this is well executed, sales naturally follow.
A lot of marketers understand this and still miss the point. So much of their content marketing are thinly veiled sales pitches focused on selling their products or services.
In explaining this concept to my clients, I often point to Kissmetrics and CoSchedule as excellent examples of content marketing done right. While you are reviewing their site, pay particular attention to how subtle their marketing is and how they seem to be completely focused on being of help to the reader.
How can you implement this strategy in your blog?
It begins with asking two questions;
1. Who is my targeted reader? When you have a clear mental picture of who you are writing for, your writing becomes succinct and evocative.
2. What keeps this person awake at night? To get an answer to this question, you might want to review your support log, customer emails, and sales representative field logs. These are usually treasure troves that will uncover valuable insights. I have also found that Quora has a boatload of opportunities for all sectors. Another idea would be to scout through the comment section of top blogs in your industry with your notepad handy, to copy anxieties your audience is having.
These two questions can give you a solid foundation for you to provide content that will be useful for your audience.
You will find that the more you provide valuable content to your audience without an obvious sales agenda, the more value and trust they place on you and, much more interestingly, the more readily they would buy from you.
Bottomline is: pitch less = sell more.;
Tip 4: Add a dash of metaphor
I used the word “metaphor” here as a metaphor. ;)
What I really mean is that you should write poetic prose.
Make your content textured and rich in meaning.
Dry and bland prose will quickly get boring, no matter how factual the information you are sharing is.
So, the greatest favor you can do for both your business and your audience is for you to stop trying to write for Google and write for people instead. When Google is your addressable audience, believe me, your business is in trouble.
It is the richness and deliberateness of language that encourages people to slow down and give a sentence a second look.
Tragically, what often gets the cut when we are bent on getting right to the point is figurative language. But you need a rethink on that.
Metaphor exercises the human brain in a way raw fact never could.
Consider for a moment what is evoked when you read expressions like “he dodged the question”, “she grasped the truth”, or even “the business struggled to keep head above water”.
Now compare that with the following matching expressions: “he refused to answer the question”, “she finally understood the truth” and “the business is having liquidity troubles”.
Which set of statements did you find more engaging?
I thought as much.
In a blog post on NPR about the book Louder than Words by Cognitive scientist Benjamin K. Bergen, Krish Sathian, a brain researcher at Emory University, sheds some light on this subject.
Sathian explains how to the brain, a “rough day” literally connects to our experiences of touching things like sandpaper.
“When listening to these sentences containing textural metaphors, we found activity in the part of the brain that’s involved when we feel surfaces,” Sathian adds.
Another example that clearly illustrates this comes from Began himself. Consider the difference between how these two sentences are read:
· This year, the balance in that account changed from $400,000 to $300,000.
· This year, the balance in that account dropped from $400,000 to $300,000.
“Dropping is something you can see, or simulate seeing,” he said, “and it drags with it inferences from what you know about things moving in the physical world to the world of accounting.”
When we think of an object dropping it engages us in a whole mental process.
“For instance, if something drops, it’s going to keep dropping unless some other force stops it like it hits bottom or someone pushes it back up,” Bergan adds. “That engagement of what you know about what objects look like when they drop and how you interact with them makes your understanding of a financial system, for instance, different, and you could say richer.”
So when you describe abstract concepts in our writing, make the language evocative by using simple metaphors that can literally rev the engines in your readers’ minds.
Tip 5: Put it Through the “Would I read that?” Test
Before you hit publish on that post, remember this: more than 2 million blog posts are published each day.
That’s a huge number of new content to be hitting the blogosphere every single day.
Unless your industry is extremely obscure, you will likely have hundreds of competing contents being churned out daily and struggling for space with yours.
So the thing is, that corporate blog of yours is not a hobby.
It is a battleground.
A battle to get the attention of your audience.
To make matters worse, apart from the multiplicity of content sources, online audiences today have the shortest of attention spans and are trained to gratify their desires instantly.
The next distraction for today’s reader is always a click away - a listicle of cat gifs, a viral youtube video, a pic of the latest Internet meme, your article and of course, a fake spreadsheet for when the boss wanders too close to her desk.
Is that post what you bring to the front? Do you honestly consider it to be your best shot?
Another way of vetting your effort is by asking yourself this self-searching question: If you had no affiliations with that post, would you sacrifice 7 minutes of your life to read that?
If you have doubts, then you clearly have not put in enough.
One of the best things you can do for your business is to start a regular blog.
However, like most good things, blogging can have a negative impact on your bottom line – if done wrong.
This results from the negative perception your audience may have about your brand, which can influence how they respond to other forms of marketing they may be exposed to, even when those other forms of marketing are done right.
If you must blog, (and you must), do not make the mistake of using a corporate tone. Craft a personal voice instead and have your bloggers master how to communicate in a friendly, personable manner in that voice.
Don’t worry, your readers won’t miss the corporatese.
They’ll even love you for ditching it!
Yeremi Akpan is a certified freelance writer and copywriter with a focus on B2B and B2C SaaS companies. He helps ambitious startups with blog content strategy, freelance writing and growth strategy. Want to make high impact content that converts? Click here to get started.