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!.

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!.

Who Is Your Audience?

audience

Our OutreachU concepts always discuss being more focused, having high-definition and using your scarce resources wisely.  As in anything else in life, a good pre-plan is always warranted, mixed with a certain amount of flexibility of course.

But really, who IS your audience.?

One of the best ways to determine your “audience” and how to grow it is to look at the sucsscess you have had.  What are the common criteria that allowed those interactions or cases to BE successful… common business life cycle stage, common leadership, a commonality in seeing the value of outreach?  There are many variables.

In health care, taking a patient’s vital signs, i.e. blood pressure, pulse, lung sounds is part of the general patient assessment.  And, most health care providers are taught to take those vital signs no matter how stable the patient may appear.  This is because of a standard of care but ALSO because, how can you assess abnormalities in vital signs if you don’t understand what is normal?

The same thing with your targets… examine what or why you have had recent success in your outreach activity.  Try to draw correlations between your successes…for example, “Why did they buy whatever it was you were selling?”  Did they see a value, was this shoved down the administrators’ throats, was there a common issue, or pain point, that is common?

Once you know why things have gone RIGHT.. you can replicate the success by keying in on organizations or individuals that have similar circumstances and, creating that list of commonalities, will increase your percentage of success if you look for companies that fit within that list of commonalities.

The problem is most of this takes time away from the road to assess these things and you start to feel counter-productive but not performing your outreach duties…. however…just to the contrary, making your list of success commonalities, will be well worth your time as you start to key in on potential donoros, volunteers or customers that seem to fit within that “sweet spot” of success.

Thoughts?  Comments on how you increase your outreach success?  Comment below..

Using Social Media To Enhance Your Outreach Efforts

We recently completed a webinar regarding the use of social media for outreach efforts.  It was one of the OutreachU series of webinars for the DonorPro customers.  Trying to shove a social media presentation into an hour is like trying to park a 26-foot RV into a “Compact Car Only” parking space.

However, the webinar can be an impetus of discussion for your questions and comments here!

First, keep in mind that “Social Media” is not just Facebook and Twitter.  It is any type of “social” media, i.e. blogging, video blogging, chat threads on your website… anything that invites interaction with your customers.

Secondly, don’t get overwhelmed by the various platforms of social media.  Pick one or two to experiment with.  And please DO experiment.. get in, get your hands dirty so that you understand their functionality or pay for the expertise if you don’t think that you have time to dedicate to it.  If nothing else, social media can be a great way to listen to your industry or brand.

Also, make sure that you have a plan.  We are all familiar with the standard newsletter that starts out to be monthly, then due to time and effort, slides to quarterly and eventually slides into something that gets done “when we have time.”

Give social media an active role in your regular outreach activities.  If you think of your geographical territory as a clock, and you are physically working your way around the territory, the clock, in a systematic manner, what happens in the 12-o’clock or 9-o’clock part of the territory when you are concentrating on face-to-face outreach meetings in the 6-o’clock geographical area?  Well, if planned properly, your contacts/customers can be touched by your social media messaging in those other areas until you make your way around the clock face. Therefore, a well-planned and executed electronic social media plan can support and enhance your physical outreach activities.

And when it comes to creating your plan on what to say on your social media channels, remember this, BE SOCIAL!!!  Don’t be pushy.  Make 80% of the messaging about them.. not you.  Here’s our EVERlast OutreachU tool to help guide you in what would be good information to post.

Make your posts:

  • Educational to your desired audience
  • About food, i.e. providing small denomination food gift cards as rewards
  • Validating, in an authentic manner, to your audience
  • Emotional.. draw on the emotions of your audience
  • About recognition.. recognizing your staff or audience for their work vs. your work
  • Lasting.. .something that your audience will want to SHARE with their audience

As I said in the beginning of this post, this is the START of the discussion so let’s hear your thoughts and questions below..

What If Your Outreach Budget Was Cut By $1.2 Billion??

Ok, so maybe the headline was a bit misleading.

The $1.2billion cut represents general figure cut from the U.S. government budget due to the sequester.  But wouldn’t it be great to have that problem where someone was cutting your outreach budget by $1.2billion.

The sequester cuts HAVE affected the outreach at NASA.  See the full article here.

For those of us on THIS end of the low side of budgeting, we typically cannot afford a $1.20 cut in our outreach budget because we have already done with less for as long as we can remember.

Typically, I do not like to “pitch” the OutreachU modules directly in this blog.  However, the NASA article and the daily outreach lives of most of us highlight the fact that we typically operate with limited resources as the normal protocol.

Limited time, limited money, limited marketing material all equal a need to be more efficient with the resources that we do have—- one of them being our time!  And that is specifically why the OutreachU principles were developed.  To assist outreach professionals with “triage” their time and resources to focus directly on those individuals or “targets” that have the ability to , make a decision to consume whatever service/product we are offering but also the ability to afford the same!

Keeping customers/donors/targets on your Targeting Matrix helps you to decide where and how to apply your limited resources.

As I just presented to a group of bank outreach staff members, it can be difficult to, emotionally, to classify a customer as a “brick” on the Targeting Matrix … someone that we can’t or shouldn’t with which we should spend time.  In their opinion, EVERYONE is is a potential client.  And while that is true, the way that I helped them prioritize was this…Yes.. everyone is a potential customer given the amount of products offered by the bank.  But, the way to triage those customers is to look at it this way…

If you had 1 hour left in your work day or 2 information folders left in your hand and you had 5 potential customers to see or talk to (limited resources), which ones would ones would you prioritize and why.

THAT is the crux of the concept behind the OutreachU Targeting Matrix.

Thoughts?  Comments? Write them below.

I Would Walk 500 Miles…

Remember that song?

I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more…

If you don’t remember the song, here’s a video of it, but BE CAREFUL, the Surgeon General has warnings against watching this due to it’s ability to stick in your head for more than 24 hours after watching it!

The point of this blog is, in your outreach position, do you feel THAT dedicated  and passionate to your organization’s mission that you would walk 500 miles and then walk 500 more to find a client, donor or volunteer?  If so, that’s great passion but, even you must admit that you get exhausted and you wish you had more help OR a more efficient manner in which to choose your travels.

This is precisely the focus of the entire OutreachU system and, specifically, the focus of the Targeting Matrix.  The whole goal is to help you become more efficient with executing your outreach duties and make sure your not simply “walking 500 miles” to meet your outreach goals.

The Targeting Matrix helps you to categorize individuals in their ability to make practical decisions but also ads a second emotional axis to  how your clients/donors/volunteers make decisions with whom to associate.  While it would be wonderful to make contact and spend time with everyone within our geographical catchment area, it simply isn’t practical with typical outreach allotted resources.

Using the Targeting Matrix, in a regular habitual manner, helps you to prioritize your targets regarding their ability to make a decision in your favor and forces you to ascertain the targets’ emotional state toward you or your organization.

Let’s face it.. we would all like to THINK that we make practical decisions. However, we are emotional beings and, the fact that we LIKE someone or someone’s organization more than another, plays more of a role in their decision to associate with you than any practical thoughts they may have.  Think of it.. do you buy stuff or services from people you DON’T like??

The Targeting Matrix is the foundation of the entire OutreachU program.  And we would be happy to help you learn it.  Give us a HOLLA!

And in the meantime, good luck trying to get that “I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more” nonsense out of your head today!

Comments?  Let me know below..

Hot Doggin’ Outreach

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Weinermobile at Pittsburgh’s Sheraton Station Square

As I was wondering out Pittsburgh getting work done.  I captured probably one of the most iconic “outreach” tools of all time.  The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.

The first Oscar Mayer Wienermobile was created in 1936 by Carl G. Mayer to transport the Oscar Mayer spokes-person from store to store to promote the company’s products. The original, thirteen-foot-long metal hot dog on wheels featured open cockpits in the center and rear of the vehicle.

Today’s Wienermobiles are modern and high-tech!  They are  twenty-seven feet long and eleven feet high, and weigh approximately 14,000 pounds, the vehicles are equipped with GPS navigation systems, state-of-the-art audio centers with wireless microphones, and exterior rearview cameras; they are outfitted with mustard- and ketchup-colored seats,  mustard-splattered walkways and carpet designed to look as if it had been ordered with “everything on it.

What’s the point of it?  Those vehicles have to be expensive.  Well, you tell me what the point of it is….no matter who sees the vehicle, the approach it with a smile and total amazement and start taking pictures of it and with it.  And then the intern-level staff approach you and start talking about the vehicle… NOT SELLING YOU HOT DOGS…and then they give you a hot dog whistle as a souvenir of your experience.

THAT my friends.. is outreach by OUR definition: two-way engagement with customers and community for mutual, durable high-yield outcomes.

WHAT?

Think of it.. if a one-way, Oscar-Mayer ad comes across your television, radio or free version of Angry Birds game, are you interested, attentive, engaged?  Now let’s take the Weinermobile… are you engaged in a two-way conversation with the “hot doggers?”  Do you feel a part of the Oscar-Mayer “community” when you see the vehicle, touch it and get your whistle?  Is the interaction durable as you take photos of it, yourself with it and them post them on your Facebook/Twitter/Google+/Pinterest/Instagram accounts and email them to  others?

My opinion.. the Weinermobile is it’s OWN version of social media… it certainly is MEDIA and clearly creates a social network around it.  And, the point is, it is a great Outreach Tool.

Have you had a Weinermobile experience?  Do you see the value in it’s outreach efforts for Oscar-Mayer?  Do you see a down-side to the use of the vehicle?

Let me know in the comment section below.  Thanks for reading..

New Site Coming Soon!

Our New Year Resolution is an updated website. 

Just like you might be at the gym, we are working on the new site now. 

Feel free to check back in a week (probably about the same time you’ve decided that the gym is too crowded.).

Creating a Social Media Policy for Your Employees

Do you have a social media policy for your employees?  Having clearly defined rules for both personal and professional behavior online is an absolute must.

Establishing a policy is simply for your company’s own protection. You can’t stop conversations happening online, but you can at least set the guidelines of behaviors you expect within your organization.

Having a policy in writing also alleviates potential “I didn’t know” issues with employees and provides clear direction for those involved. When you develop HR policies, it should also be accompanied by a custom social media guidebook that explains the various platforms the company will use, how they function and best practices for each. This should include brief ‘what’s okay’ and ‘what’s not okay’ examples.

Below are some essentials to be aware of before creating a social media policy for your team.

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