I consider myself to be a generally upbeat person, and I’d like to think my positive attitude is reflected in the blog posts I write. But it is currently a little before 7 p.m. on a Thursday night here at Quintain headquarters, and I’m floating in the hellacious purgatory that exists between my last task of the week – this blog post – and the first breath of fresh air I will take tomorrow morning as my husband, a few of our friends and I kick off a camping trip on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for his birthday.
Unfortunately, until this is written, I’m not leaving. So here I sit in an empty office. Crickets are chirping outside, and I have a mediocre beer at my side. (By the way, John, we really need to talk about our current office beer selection.) And you, dear readers, are about to get an earful on the three reasons why I hate your business blog.
First, You’re Boring
I know topics like insurance coverage gaps or the benefits of outsourced IT partnerships don’t exactly scream excitement and intrigue. (We can’t all be fun like ThinkGeek.) But that doesn’t give you permission to bore me to death with recycled, tired content that would be as at home in a stale Wikipedia entry as it is on your blog.
Oh, look. Another blog post telling me what I already know. Hooray.
I believe there are two main reasons why companies – and the marketers who write for them – fall into this trap: They’re either afraid, or they’re just plain lazy.
Fear is a powerful motivator in the writing world. For example, in addition to burning the midnight oil here as a dedicated content manager, I also write a column for our local paper on beer. And each week, when my article goes to press, I become a slave to the relentless pendulum swing between feeling confident and completely self-hating. Robert DeNiro captured this feeling quite well when he said:
“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination, consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.”
Preach it, Bobby D.
Business writing, on the other hand, takes this neurosis to a whole new level, because you’re not just putting yourself out there. Every time you hit “publish,” you’re putting your brand’s whole reputation on the line. Sadly the caution this fear spawned has backfired, and we now live in a world where everyone would rather play it safe with their content.
No one is willing to take risks or say what they really think. They dress up content that doesn’t contribute anything new to the conversation with a scandal-free, second-person narrative topcoat that won’t get anyone in trouble.
Does this sound familiar?
Bottom line, a lot of you guys are talking a big game about wanting to be a thought leader in your chosen industry – either individually or as a collective brand – but you aren’t walking the walk by being honest in your content. Instead, many of you are hiding behind commoditized content that, quite frankly, could have come from anywhere.
Take a risk. Be honest about what works and what doesn’t. Show of your brand’s true personality. When it’s appropriate, color outside the lines a little bit and embrace the first-person narrative structure. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of writing that resonates with me – when someone is getting to the meat of a concept or cutting through noise we’re used to dealing with in this increasingly crowded world of business blogging.
Now, for those of you who fall into the lazy category, I’ll make it easy for you. Just give a listen to this week’s episode of our #HeSaidSheSaidPodcast. The days of stale content cutting it in today’s world of marketing are numbered, my friends.
Second, You’re Not Giving Me Something To Do
Whenever I go to Google, it’s because I want to learn something. Sometimes it’s something silly like, “Why are sloths tired all the time?” But other times, it’s something important for work. “What bad SEO habits do I need to break?” Regardless of the circumstances, if I am reading your post with the intent of learning something, that means I expect come away with the ability to take immediate action.
I want to hear about a new app. I want new insights that will help me make a more informed decision. I want to know what I’m doing wrong or could be doing better.
The last great blog I read taught me the three dance moves I need to know to be a hit at my next party.
(via Focus Features)
Every time you sit down to write, this is what you need to keep in mind. Because if your readers come to the end of a blog post and feel like you’ve just spit out a bunch of facts they already know, they will consider you and your business blog a complete waste of time.
So put some mental elbow-grease into your writing. If you’ve done a good job of picking compelling topics that your target audience really wants to learn about, reward them by giving something to work with. Tease them with your expertise by arming them with actionable knowledge they can use today.
And Finally, You’re A Terrible Writer
Or maybe it’s that you just don’t care about proper spelling and grammar? Whatever. It doesn’t matter what your reasons are. Business blogs that fail in the grammar and spelling department are like people with “a great personality.” You might make me laugh once or twice, but I’m definitely giving you a fake number and never talking to you again.
It completely boggles my mind how many businesses are perfectly content to blow off basic writing standards and principles, when it comes to their blog.
“So you think your a good business owner?” I hate you. I hate you so much.
The quickest way to erode consumer confidence – aside from ridiculously deceptive business practices – is to look careless in your writing. How are you supposed to establish your company’s reputation as a professional, detail-oriented brand if you can’t take two minutes to proofread something you’re putting out there for the whole world to see?
So if you have a heart, as well as a blog for your business, I am begging you to stop abusing our poor, defenseless language for one second and just hit the spell check button. Or at least put some editing processes in place before you publish something for public consumption.
Well, it’s now after 8:30 p.m., and I am ready to go home. You guys won’t be reading this until tomorrow morning, but I’d like to think that we’ve all learned a lot together. Yes, I know I was a bit harsh at times, but I yell because I care. And because I know so many of you out there are better than the one-dimensional content you’re pushing out. So take this upcoming weekend to reevaluate your content strategy. Are you boring your readers? Are you squandering opportunities to teach them something new? Do you toss commas around like confetti?
The sooner you can answer those questions honestly, the sooner you’ll start producing content that actually makes a difference for your marketing strategy.