5 Tips for Writing Better Leads in Your Next Blog

As we had written about previously, content marketing should be one of the key components of your Outreach initiatives. A blog is one form of content marketing. Last week, we covered how you can make some tweaks and improvements to your headlines that can drive traffic to your blog. Headlines are certainly important in capturing the eyes and attention of your audience. The lead paragraph is just as critical. A good lead will convince your readers to read further.

Some of our LinkedIn connections offered some tips and advice on how to write an irresistible lead in a blog post. Below were the 5 top responses.

Be clear

Don’t worry about trying to be clever, says Diana Bradford, a marketing director in Missouri. Instead, get to the point right away.

“It’s more important for search optimization to include keywords that will drive traffic to your post,” she says.

Bradford recommends being clear and to let your audience know what the article is about rather than impressing them with your wit.

“You can do that in the body of your post,” she says.

Keep it short

Brevity is essential as is keeping the language simple, notes Kevin M. Norris, a health and fitness entrepreneur in Washington, D.C. He stresses that there is no need to impress with verbosity or big words.

“If all else fails, humor. Impart it cautiously but don’t be afraid to use it even under the most serious of circumstances,” he adds.

People don’t like to read long blog posts because their attention span is short on the web. Instead, say what you have to say short and sweet, then move on. Also, keep your sentences short.

Write the lead last

Rather than stare at a blank sheet of paper for hours on end, just start writing. It will save you a lot of time in the long run. In fact, Margaret Yokels, a brand marketing manager Fare Buzz in New York City, tends to write the entire blog post first and then goes back to the lead paragraph.

“This way I can sum up what the whole piece is about, and at that point I’m well into the groove of writing so figuring out something catchy comes easier,” she says.

Tell a story

Elizabeth Shih is a copywriter from Canada. For her, “telling a fascinating story or an anecdote are both common ways to start an article or blog posting.”

People enjoy reading stories and real-life anecdotes. Oftentimes, they can relate and it also can capture and enthrall the reader and bring some personality and flavor to the piece.

Daniel Hall, an online marketing specialist in New York, NY, agrees.

“Personal anecdotes do work best,” he says. “Some examples include how someone, or some company benefited financially or otherwise from the use of business services or systems, or even how you or someone can give important value to other persons in their businesses.”

Use humor

While we cautioned against being witty, using humor can oftentimes get your readers to continue to read.

“It doesn’t have to be belly laugh all of the time but simply something that leaves them smiling will always have them seeking out whatever you have to say,” says Howard R. Berger, a Raconteur from Chicago, IL.

For example, Berger used to run a training department for a firm and they had a quarterly newsletter. He always had about five or six lines of of humor and wisdom in his leads.

“Everyone went to the training department’s section first,” he says. “Even the Managing Director liked it best.”.

5 Sure-Fire Ways to Improve Headlines That Will Drive Readers to Your Blog

As we mentioned in a previous post, a blog can be an effective part of your Outreach activities. But are you capturing your readers’ attention when they first come across your blog? Besides the content, your post’s headline and the lead will make a difference on whether the readers will continue to read.

I recently queried my LinkedIn connections and asked for their best tips on how to write a snappy headline and an irresistible lead in a blog post. The response was overwhelming. I received over 50 tips, but for brevity, I whittled down what I felt were the 5 best responses for each category. We’ll focus on the five best ways to craft a headline that will make your readers want more.

1. Use numbers

There’s a reason why I used a number in my headline for this article—it works. Think about how many articles and blog posts have caught your attention over the past week just because it contained a number.

One reason why these headlines are popular is that readers love numbered lists. A number in your post’s title indicates your article or post contains a numbered list. People tend to skim, especially on the web, and a numbered list makes it easy for them to do so.

Example: 5 sure-fire ways to write a catchy headline

2. Ask a question

George F. Snell III, a digital communications executive from Boston, recommends leading off with a question.

“Ask a question and then answer it,” he says. “Make it concise, punchy and interesting. In addition, avoid jargon at all costs.”

While a good question can intensify your reader’s curiosity, be sure to ask questions that the reader will feel compelled enough to continue reading.

Example: Are your blog’s headlines driving your readers away

3. Be witty

For James Day, wit can never be underestimated.

“Use puns which are applicable to either something topical or a well-known phrase,” says Day, a social media manager from England.

In fact, last month, he wrote an article on pitching to potential investors, and by using this title: “Pitcher-Perfect: How to Optimise Your Pitching Skills” received more feedback than a standard post.

Example: A prescription for what ails your blog

4. Write for your audience

Jonathan Eaton, a web usability specialist, also from England, advises authors of blog posts to think about who your audience is.

“Create a spokesperson for them and critically evaluate everything you say as if he or she is reading it,” he says.

For example, Eaton has created a spokesperson who he calls Nigel. He only ever writes blog posts that he knows Nigel would be interested in.

“I try to write about topics that I think Nigel needs to know more about,” he says. “What I really want is for Nigel to talk to all his friends about what I have said. So it is important that Nigel can understand and then explain the concepts in my articles.

For Eaton, it’s difficult to come up with that clever or catchy headline until you know who your “Nigel” is. Think about what he or she needs to know and what you want to tell them, and then write your lead in the way that they would expect to read it.

Example: 5 incredibly simple tricks to improve your healthcare blog

5. Study pop culture and gossip magazines

“Grab a copy of Cosmo and the National Enquirer—seriously,” advises Andrew Martinsen, a sales strategist for WalleyeFishingSecrets.com in Duluth, Minn.

Martinsen says that the headlines from those publications should provide enough inspiration for several years’ worth of catchy blog post headlines, no matter the market.

“When using these magazines for modeling your headlines after, just tame them down and make them more professional, again, depending on the market,” he says. “And of course don’t copy the headlines verbatim in any case.”

How about you? Any good suggestions on how you can improve your headlines?.

5 Elements of a Successful Blog Post

If you maintain a blog as part of your Outreach activities, there are five main characteristics that each of your blog posts should contain if you want to get your point across and generate some attention. We’ll explore each of these elements below. 

Get attention  

If your posts do not draw the eye of your readers, they will most likely ignore it and your message could be lost forever. The online space is crowded—your audience is inundated with hundreds of emails clogging their inbox; their RSS feeds could run the entire length of their laptop screen; and they may have dozens of web browser tabs open.

One way to get attention with your blog posts are generating attention-grabbing headlines. A good headline will stop readers in their tracks and compel them to read further.

Another way to capture your readers’ attention is with great visuals. An appealing image can get your blog post noticed. But be sure the image applies to the content of your blog post. Remember, you can’t just grab images using Google. Many images you find have copyright protection. Instead, use a service like istockphoto.com where you can purchase images or better yet, take the time to take some original photos on your own.

Focus on your audience

Keep the readers in mind as you write your blog posts. Always write from their point of view. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand their problems. For instance, if you’re writing blog posts for benefits managers at small companies, you may want to learn which trade magazines or website they read or even attend some of the same seminars or webinars they do.

The more you understand them and their problems, the more you can write effective posts that address their concerns. And always write in the second person. Pretend it’s a one-on-one conversation with you and one customer or client.

Include examples to illustrate your point

While you may offer great theories and have a tremendous amount of knowledge to convey in your blog posts, you still need to write your posts in way that your readers can easily understand and apply in their own workplace.

The best way to do that is to offer mini case studies or brief examples so they can better grasp what you’re trying to say. Concrete examples can help your readers better relate to your blog posts. These examples can be real-life situations; however hypothetical scenarios work just as well.

Add a call-to-action after each post

After each post, you want to direct your readers to take some call-to-action to keep them further engaged. These call-to-actions can include: following you on Twitter, subscribing to your blog, leaving a comment, joining your mailing list, or even buying a product or service.

If you neglect to include a call-to-action and your post just ends abruptly, you could potentially miss out on a good prospect. Some bloggers will include their call-to-action in the middle of a blog post; but we find it more effective at the end of each post.

Make your blog post easy to read

As we mentioned earlier, your audience is crunched for time these days. They’re not going to have the time or the patience to sit through a three-page blog post. Keep it short and to the point.

Use subheadings (as I did in this piece), bold or italicize your text, and insert bullet points to break up copy. Using these formats will make your post easier for your audience to scan and read.

What tips have you found to be effective when writing your own blog posts? Comment below!.

I Liked Your Facebook Page, Why Don’t You Like Mine?

A client of mine was dismayed that only 20 of his 600+ Facebook friends “liked” his business page. Like other small businesses, he wanted to use Facebook as a part of his overall Outreach initiatives to promote his products and connect with customers. He was also hoping to get the required minimum of 25 likes to land a vanity URL.

He was more irritated at friends whose pages he “liked” but didn’t “like” his back. He felt that reciprocity was in order. And I agreed. At first.

You Scratch My Back…

If I helped your business out and liked it, it’s time for you to repay that favor. Then I thought about my Twitter account. I know there were people I was following who didn’t follow me. I’ll give Alyssa Milano and Steelers WR Antonio Brown a pass. But those close to me? Heck, I even had friends and former co-workers who weren’t following me.

Once a month I use a free service called ManageFlitter.com to purge my Twitter account of those people I was following but were not following me back. As I began to delete them from my social media life forever that got me to thinking that there’s probably a reason why some people don’t reciprocate.

Here’s Why I Don’t Follow or Like…

One is because your tweets or status updates may be annoying. In fact, I’m guilty of it at times. Instead of using Twitter as an information sharing tool, or to educate or inspire others, some use it to gripe. I know I get turned off when I see others do that so I click unfollow.

Another reason you may be unfollowed or not reciprocated is that you’re overtweeting. I tend to do this when my favorite teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Steelers, are playing. Thankfully, many others do it during the games, so my tweets often go unnoticed. Still, this can be bothersome to non-sports fans.

But back to Facebook, my client finally got over the 25 like-threshold. In fact, he’s nearing 100+ likes now, so he’s happy.  It just took time, which was one piece of advice I gave him, He also began to post more relevant information and became more conversational with his friends and even on the pages he “liked.” He sent out his like request again for his business and received a more favorable response.

What Some Experts Think…

I threw out my question about reciprocating on LinkedIn Answers. Here’s what some people from around the country had to say:

Kate Davids, Online Marketer: There’s no reason, and indeed some reasons not to, follow back. The reasons not to include: bogging yourself down with tweets and page updates that just don’t hold any value for you. For instance, if you’re a personal trainer, you post about exercises, articles you like on dieting, etc. Your follower might be an accountant in another state who likes to work out, but you have no desire to read the accounting articles she posts about. Why would you follow her back? It only clogs up your Twitter stream.

Lorenzo Araneo, Screaming Lunatic: I follow back on Twitter those who are real. They interact with others and/or provide valuable resources to my industry. As far as a company, I will follow those who interest me. On Facebook, it’s a bit tougher because usually you want to reciprocate the follow back. Facebook can be more personal because your friends are on there. I have a few friends who just post non-stop so while I do “like” them, I end up using the “Hide” feature so nobody gets any bad feelings.

Sherese Duncan, Small Business Strategist, President and CEO, Efficio, Inc.: I’m not sure the important thing here is whether you should automatically reciprocate a “like” or a “follow” just because someone has “liked” or “followed” you. Quality over quantity comes to mind here. Building social media networks is based on trust.  People do not want to fill their networks with spam and meaningless blabber that they don’t care about. Neither should you. Only reciprocate a “like” or “follow” if you feel there’s an added personal or business related advancement or benefit.

Troy D. White, Educational Consultant, Cloud Owl Technologies: As an open networker, I do reciprocate requests (and follows). Naturally, we don’t have to reply to all the get-rich-quick messages and MLM schemes. But for people who are making a legitimate effort at connecting or advancing their business/careers, I’m more than happy to take a minute and Like a page or review a resume and offer a few quick tips.

Sheri Huesman, Owner, Cybertary Spartanburg: For me, social media is not a numbers game.  I only follow people back on Twitter if I’m remotely interested in what they have to say. I do not follow back if they’re blatantly trying to sell or advertise some “get rich quick” scheme. Same with Facebook, I only “like” who I truly want to follow. I don’t purposely help them get a vanity URL. I don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t “like” me back. There have only been a few instances where I have unfollowed someone because they send way too many tweets.

What do you think? Do you reciprocate on social media?.

Improve Your Outreach Productivity With These 7 Social Media Tools

Whether you recently started managing your company’s social media channels or have been doing it for a number of years, it can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. Sometimes you just want a shortcut to help you be a little more efficient and to also help you better manage your social media outreach activities. You’re in luck—there are probably thousands of social media applications and tools available to help improve your productivity. Below is a list of just 7 that we recommend. Keep in mind some of these tools are free and others come with a fee. 

Lucky Orange (www.luckyorange.com): Do you manage your company’s blog? If so, you know the importance of monitoring your readers’ activity. Lucky Orange allows you to see which pages your visitors are reading, where they came from and how long they stayed on your site. You can also view recorded or real-time videos of your visitors browsing your site. (Fees vary per month)

Broken Link Checker (www.brokenlinkcheck.com): Ever come across a blog or a website with a broken link? Doesn’t that bother you? Imagine visitors experiencing the same thing on your site. This free tool goes through your site and then generates a list of any pages on your site that contains a broken link.

PicMonkey (www.picmonkey.com): By now you should know that sharing photos through your social media channels improves the visibility of your post being seen. PicMonkey is a free online photo editor that allows you to crop your images, add text to your photos, and more. If you don’t have access to PhotoShop, this is a great alternative.

Tweak Your Biz Title Generator (http://tweakyourbiz.com/tools/title-generator): This was a cool online tool we happened to stumble upon a few weeks ago. Ever stuck for a title for your blog post or even an article you may have written? Tweak Your Biz Title Generator creates a list of possible titles for your content based on the keywords your enter.

Tagboard (http://tagboard.com): With Tagboard, you can check out what’s trending in social media based around certain hashtags.  This tool allows you to see an overview of the hashtag you choose on a variety of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

Facebook Like Box (http://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like-box/): If you maintain a blog or your company’s website — and you have a Facebook Page — be sure to add the Facebook Like Box to help increase your likes. This Facebook widget makes it easy for your visitors to become a fan of your page by simply clicking on the Like button right from your website.

ManageFlitter: (www.manageflitter.com): One way to quickly grow your following on Twitter is to follow those who are relevant to your business. ManageFlitter allows you to search through Twitter profiles and find people who meet keywords. Another nice feature of ManageFlitter is that it allows you to unfollow those people who are not following you back.

Have any suggestion of your own?  Comment below!.

Integrated Platforms for Marketing and Outreach?

OU-IntegratedPlatforms

The question of integrated platforms came up a few weeks ago.  Actually… multiple questions like “What is it?”  “How do we use them or it?”  “Is it an it or them?”

Thankfully I quickly realized that the question was not about the shoes I wore back in the 1970s with my wine-colored bell bottoms and double-knit flowered shirt.

The problem with the general question  of, “Can you explain integrated platforms?” is that it is like asking the question “Are you a computer person?” or “Are you a doctor?”  Like physicians and computer people, the term integrated platform is extremely general and, in order to be explained, has to have a specific focus, such as marketing and outreach in this case, just like a doctor might have a specialty or a “computer person” might deal with hardware, coding or off-the-shelf software implementation.

I’ll do my best to keep this brief but understandable.  The focus here will be integrated platforms for marketing/outreach and CRM and

Depending on the size of your organization, you may have a Donor list (large and small), a Marketing database, a PR list or database, an email list of Large Event attendees, etc, etc.  All of these potentially different silos being overseen and managed separately within your organization.

The key behind implementing integrated platform software is that it links everyone in the organization to the same database of information…hopefully creating  less work and better shared information for everyone.  Marketing knows who comes to the Large Events, PR knows who is on the Marketing list, Donors (large and small) are known to the Marketing and PR department and, even accounting.. who collects payments directly or from a website transaction, has access to the list so that, when someone calls to complain about an issue with their credit card, accounting knows to whom they are interacting with.

Ahaaaaa.. what?  All of us sharing information?  All of us working off of the same database of information?  Does this mean that I have to change MY habits to appease someone else’s needs? Yes.  Yes.  Yes aaaaand yes!!!

Above all, there are many choices of software that can do this for you.  But purchasing that software is the easy part of implementing an integrated platform.  The hardest part is making sure, operationally and emotionally, that your organization is ready to knock down the interdepartmental emotional walls and give up departmental fiefdoms to REALLY work together as a fully integrated organization.  No software in the world, no matter how expensive it is, will solve the interdepartmental obstacles that can get in the way of fully “integrating” your organization.

So, you want and integrated platform?  Look at the software options but, more importantly, look within your organization to see if everyone is ready to be integrated… emotionally!  Otherwise, your software purchase will be wasted.

I realize that I ran through this quickly.  I hope that it came across coherently.  If for some reason you are now dazed, confused or incoherent from the above explanation, feel free to email me or post a question below.

 

 

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For the Sake of the Argument

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Are you familiar with this scenario?

Two children want the same ball.  One grabs the ball, then the other child tries to grab the ball out of the first child’s hands.  An argument or a tug-of-war type battle begins and eventually somebody wins the battle for the ball.  Once the battle is won, the two children go off to play with anything BUT the ball.  The topic of the argument, the ball, is no longer important.

How about this?  You have an argument with your spouse or co-worker.  The argument gets to the point where there is a tug-of-war of ideas and nobody will give in to the other.  The two individuals each become more entrenched in their side of the argument with no resolution.  The two parties walk away with no resolution and even less open-minded.

Ponder this idea:  The longer an argument persists, the less the argument becomes about the original topic and the more the argument becomes about WINNING THE ARGUMENT simply for the sake of NOT LOSING!

While I’ve had no formal training in psychotherapy, psychology or psychiatry, I have been around my share of disagreements.  As a matter of fact, I guess I should even admit to being involved in a few myself!!  My observation: If you watch a typical disagreement escalate, the disagreement eventually becomes about each of the participants’ emotional need to “win” the argument as opposed to solving the issue.   The idea of the argument shifts to who is not going to give in or “who is the most powerful?

It is human nature to be competitive.  It is also human nature to not want to “lose” to another individual, especially in such a public area such as our work place in front of peers.  The argument quickly turns into “egos” and we lose our ability to be objective.

There is one important first step to being successful in almost any conflict, LISTENING.  At least fifty percent of our role in an argument, discussion, or customer interaction, is listening, or more frankly, the ability to “SHUT THE HELL UP” and try and understand the other perspective!!!

The next time you are involved in an argument, take this challenge:  After you have made your point, stop, listen and REMOVE YOUR EGO (this is the toughest part).  The more entrenched the argument becomes, the more you will have to be aware of your ego.

You will have to be keenly aware of whether or not you are really trying to understand the alternative perspective and resolve the original issue OR just trying to win the argument for the sake of winning.    If it is the latter, you may end up like the two children at the beginning of the story, where you simply move on to another issue without proper resolution and the initial ball (issue) gets dropped.

Thoughts??  C’mon… someone leave a comment.  I am feeling lonely this week!.

A Tall Glass of Outreach

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Utah Jazz Power Forward Derrick Favors and 4 other people that, COMBINED, don’t make as much as he does per year! He was a gracious guy with all of the photo requests.

When my grandmother would see a tall person, like a basketball player, she would say, “Now that’s a tall glass of water!

So, I borrowed the phrase to talk about the outreach we witnessed on a recent trip to the west coast.

As Rich and I were deplaning, excited for our unplanned 6-hour layover in Salt Lake City (thanks to Mother Nature), we were greeted by a throng of people yelling, clapping, smiling and taking photos.

Back in the 90’s, we had some pretty big crowds in our Dysrhythmics days here in Salt Lake, but how did these people know it was us coming off the plane?? How did they remember us?

Snapping back to reality, after Rich and I started hugging all of the women, giving all of the guys fist pounds and receiving suspicious looks from both men and women, it became clear. They weren’t there for us!!

The Utah Jazz NBA team had recently signed a deal with Delta Airlines and, today, some of the players were at various gates doing the boarding announcements and welcoming arriving passengers as part of a PR/outreach activity.

After we realized that nobody wanted selfies with us, original cast members of the Dysrhythmics performances circa 19??, we started taking pics of the Jazz team members like everyone else.

I can sum up the point of this blog post like this. I am not much of a basketball fan. The only NBA game I’ve ever seen in my life, oddly enough, is a Utah Jazz home game back when Charles Barclay had a 35″ waist and wore a Phoenix Suns uniform.

As we unexpectedly passed through Salt Lake City airport last week, boom! There were the Utah Jazz and Delta outreach peeps building relationships with everyone passing by…whether you knew who they were (like me) or not.

What did I do with part of the next 6 hours of layover? Well, I certainly spent some time on the Utah Jazz website and social media channels trying to figure out who we should pretend that we knew now that we have pictures of ourselves with them.

Did the Utah Jazz build affinity with those of us with whom they interacted? Yes. Am I a decision maker regarding becoming a fan, even from a distance and being from a town that doesn’t have an NBA team? Yes. Did it cause me to learn more about the team?  Yes.

And building an affinity with a target(customer), enough that they take action, like spending time on your website, is step #1 of building as mass of authentic appropriate relationships and in astonishing the right customers consistently!

Thanks for reading! I will post more pics of Rich and I with the Utah Jazz players and cheerleaders once I find someone to develop the 3 rolls of 110 film! By the way, I’m also out of flash cubes if anyone knows where I can get some, tweet me @OutreachTools..

Outreach – The Third Leg of the Marketing Stool

Norman Childs, President Eyetique

Norman Childs, President Eyetique

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

What is the importance of Outreach?  I can chat-it up with you all day regarding the importance of outreach.  For years we have been saying that Outreach is the “third leg of the stool” of a company’s image plan.  There is traditional marketing, there is public relations and, the third leg, which we all know is the leg that eventually balances the stool, is community outreach.

Today’s blog content substantiates the importance of the third leg of the stool, outreach.

This is a video from Norman Childs, President of a Pittsburgh-based fashion eyewear company.  Eyetique has seen tremendous growth over the years.  While the organization has made strategic moves from a PR standpoint over the years, i.e providing custom eyewear to national recording artist Wiz Khalifa and, most recently, to James Wolpert while he was a finalist on the NBC show “The Voice,” Eyetique has also been focused on community outreach since its inception. Norman attributes this focus on outreach to being an important part of the organization’s growth.

So as you can see,

1) From a corporate standpoint, Norman places a high-importance on a company embedding itself within the community in which it operates…outreaching to the community.

2) But he also points out, understanding that outreach is a two-way transaction.  For example, while he believes that, as part of their mission, giving back to the organizations of the community is important, but, it is also important for those organizations who have been supported, to return support to that local business. This is a key point, from a non-profit organization standpoint, to remember as you ask for donations/volunteers and other types of support from your local companies.

Your thoughts?  Comment below.  Thanks for reading!

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To “Smart Phone” or NOT to “Smart Phone?”

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I received this message from a church pastor, let’s call him Bill ( and why not, that’s his real name.)

Do you think it is mandatory for leaders to have fully enabled e-devices to participate in social media and outreach? I ask because of my current, limited experiences with my $0.99 phone w/no data plan. Are there options available without going full-blown tech/data heavy? Just curious…finding it hard to commit the extra $ in that direction.

Basically, the question is, do you really need a smart phone to participate in social media, if you are a “leader?”

Unfortunately this not a short answer but I will try. First, there is outreach and then there is digital outreach (using social media is part of digital outreach).

Secondly, not all leaders do their organization’s outreach at, least, their social media.

Then again, in a small organization such as possibly the church that Bill (real name Bill) oversees, one person fills many of the blocks on the organizational chart, including Social Media Coordinator.

Given that, I would say that whomever is in charge of the digital portion (social media portion) of the outreach activities, it would bode well if that person had a portable device so that they could initiate social media posts from/about events as they happen, monitor conversations and respond to inquiries/posts by others in a timely manner.

The social media world loves spontaneity and responsiveness. Similar to the Oreos story as it pertains to last year’s Super Bowl power outage.

All that being said, you, or someone like Bill (real name Bill) can carry on digital outreach (social media) from a PC or laptop by scheduling posts according to an editorial calendar. But again, that doesn’t necessarily provide the spontaneity from your events, etc, etc, etc, (I am pretty sure that the rule is to never use etc. unless you use 3 in a row) that the social media world thrives upon..