The Power of Blogging, Part 1

This 3-part blog post series is provided by Pat Wootton of the copywriting, editing and proofreading company, Prompt Proofing, who offer blogging services:

No matter what your area of business, even if it is as seemingly localized and simplistic as a lawn-mowing service, you cannot ignore the power of the blog in today’s world of business.

True, the area of social media as a whole is vital but this has become such a daunting subject, deserving of several months of blog posts to even scratch its surface, that it is easier to focus on one area, and the blog is certainly one effective and very doable area in which businesses can market themselves at a low cost, reach a whole new demographic of customers and dictate their entire brand image.

Because even the blog is a huge area of interest and study, we will analyze its benefits to business over a series of blog posts, focusing on one core advantage each week.

This week, we have advantage #1, perhaps one of the most important benefits of all:

YOUR BLOG = YOUR VOICE

Yes, even if you aren’t writing it yourself!

Many businesses use a blogging service, and Prompt Proofing also manages blogs for its clients, writing and posting blog posts on a regular basis in order to keep up the company’s search engine presence and provide the blog’s readers with regular, informative news that is well written.

The fact of the matter is, with marketing and word-of-mouth whispers between current and potential customers, a blog is the one space in that vast web of the Internet that you can dominate and claim as your own, allowing you to exert some influence over how your business is perceived.

Readers much prefer reading a business’s blog to its marketing materials because, quite simply, they don’t feel as though you are trying to sell to them. Obviously you are, as there would be no point in putting your time and energy into a business blog if you didn’t eventually hope to gain some customers from it, but the fact is, you cannot maintain a sales pitch throughout every single blog post (or at least, you shouldn’t).

Blogs read more informally than marketing literature, and are there to provoke discussion and provide information rather than simply to persuade the reader to hand over their credit card. Prompt Proofing’s blog is a great example – we essentially charge people to improve their communication and writing, yet we constantly write blog posts advising you how to improve your own writing. That’s because we recognize that education and information are two key factors that bring people to peruse blogs and we don’t want to just sell our services to you. We want you to find something of interest to read on our site, and – because it is our passion – we desperately want to improve spelling and grammar everywhere!

Let’s go back to our example of ABC Lawn Mowers Ltd. Their blog posts could cover issues such as how to care for your garden or what model of lawn mower to buy. That’s right, they could be providing information about how to buy a machine that would mean their services would not be needed! Seem counter-intuitive? The fact is, you want to draw readers to your blog. You cannot be naive enough to assume that every reader will become a customer. The most important thing is to increase traffic because that will increase awareness of your business. Even if that reader buys the lawnmower and never uses their service, they may direct someone else to your site in future who doesn’t have time to mow their own lawn and just wants ABC Lawn Mowers Ltd. to do it for them.

This is a very simplistic example of how business is gained from a blog, but truthfully the ways in which blogs can lead to business growth are far more nuanced and plentiful than it is possible to outline here. The bottom line is: Blogs lead to business growth. End of story. So why aren’t you doing one?

If you don’t have time, dedicate a few hundred dollars from your marketing budget each month and pay a service to blog for you, once a week to start with, steadily increasing after that if you feel like it. The important thing is not to miss out on this low-cost and easy opportunity to have your voice heard!

Blogging for Business

In this week’s guest post, Pat Wootton from Prompt Proofing, a copywriting, editing and proofreading service, discusses blogging for business:

Why should your business start and maintain a blog? It seems almost obligatory to write a blog if you have a business nowadays, but what is the purpose? How will it help your business and what should you include or not include? We will endeavour to answer these questions in this week’s blog post.

Why?
A blog can increase public awareness and enhance your search engine optimization. Your main goal, presumably, will be to increase sales and/or your client base. Increasing your visibility is one of the main stepping stones towards that main goal, and a major way to increase your visibility is to have a presence in social media. A blog provides an excellent public relations opportunity and can also serve as a forum, if you choose, to invite feedback from your clients.
Social media is hugely important; if people see something they like then they may well share it. A well-written blog will give you the opportunity to increase your keyword exposure and may help drive traffic to your site.
When?
Having new content on a regular basis contributes to an effective SEO strategy. A weekly blog might be a good rule of thumb for many businesses but you should blog as often as you can so long as your posts are of a high quality. There are many services out there that produce articles loaded with keywords but they are of a low quality. Having readers take interest in what you have to say will prove more valuable than simply being associated with a barrage of keywords.
What?
A blog serves as a teaser, leaving your readers wanting to know more. It does not need to be too detailed and should avoid being blatantly advertorial. You may want to inform your clients about new products or services, or to share your goals or achievements. Write what you are passionate about and what you are knowledgeable about, and that will come across to your readers.
Remember that you are writing for the screen and that concentration spans, when reading online, are notoriously short. Divide your writing into short paragraphs, separated by plenty of white space. Unbroken blocks of text are off-putting and rarely read.
Your reader may not be your customer, but converting every reader of your blog into a customer should not be your ultimate goal; it’s not realistic and it will affect what you write – and not in a good way. You need to bear in mind that providing information is far more valuable and that although many readers may not ever be customers, they may well help you gain other customers, through word of mouth or sharing on social media.
Still not sure? Hiring someone to write blogs for you may relieve the pressure for many business owners. A lackadaisical blog, written out of a sense of obligation, will probably not serve your business well. Consider using a blogging service if you are not sure you want to take this task on yourself.

Crafting a Kinder World

Michaels celebrates Random Acts of Kindness Day with $100,000 in giveaways.

IRVING, TX, February 16, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ — Random Acts of Kindness Day is Friday, Feb. 17, and to celebrate the spirit of the day and encourage others to participate, Michaels will give away more than $100,000 in gift cards at its 1,060+ stores and on its Facebook page.

Throughout the day, Michaels will randomly hand out thousands of gift cards in its stores and through Facebook to inspire people to in turn do something kind for others, such as donating their gift cards to a school, church or hospital, or using the cards to buy supplies to make a special homemade gift for someone.

“This is a fun way for us to say thanks to our loyal customers and an opportunity for them to pay it forward with a DIY gift,” said Michaels Chief Marketing Officer Paula Puleo. “We hope that our participation in Random Acts of Kindness Day will inspire our customers throughout the year.”

The unofficial holiday falls during Random Acts of Kindness Week, Feb. 13-19, founded by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, an internationally recognized nonprofit organization based upon the powerful belief in kindness, and dedicated to providing resources and tools that encourage acts of kindness.

Customers who want to participate in the holiday with a hand-made gift can find suggested projects to share at Michaels.com/sharethelove.

About Michaels Irving, Texas-based Michaels Stores, Inc. is North America’s largest specialty retailer of arts, crafts, framing, floral, wall decor, and seasonal merchandise for the hobbyist and do-it-yourself home decorator. The company currently owns and operates more than 1,060 Michaels stores in 49 states and Canada, and 136 Aaron Brothers stores, and produces 10 exclusive private brands including Recollections, Studio Decor, Bead Landing, Creatology, Ashland, Celebrate It, Art Minds, Artist’s Loft, Craft Smart and Loops & Threads. For more information visit www.Michaels.com.

Today In History – February 8, 2012

1936 – The first National Football League draft was held. Jay Berwanger was the first to be selected. He went to the Philadelphia Eagles.

1960 – U.S. Congressional investigators began exploring the influence of payola in the radio and record industries. Alan Freed and American Bandstand host, Dick Clark, among others, were called to testify.

1963 – Lamar Hunt, owner of the American Football League franchise in Dallas, TX, moved the operation to Kansas City. He named the new team the Chiefs. Dallas got possession of an NFL franchise known as the Cowboys.

1969 – The last issue of the Saturday Evening Post was published, ending a magazine tradition that began in 1821.

1984 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers scored 27 points while leading his team to a 111-109 victory over the Boston Celtics. Abdul-Jabbar passed Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA career record of 12,682 field goals on this night.

1984 – The Winter Olympics opened in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (now Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina). Some 1,579 athletes from 50 nations participated. The Olympic facilities have since been all but destroyed by the war in Bosnia.

1985 – The Dukes of Hazzard ended its 6-1/2 year run on CBS television. The series was credited with using more stunt men than any other TV series in history. The show had used as many as eight cars per episode when the crash sequences got complicated. Waylon Jennings did the theme song, The Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys).

1986 – Billy Olson, who actually claimed that he was afraid of heights, broke an indoor pole vault record for the seventh time in four months. He vaulted 19 feet, 5-1/2 inches.

1987 – The West beat the East in the NBA All-Star Game. A record was set for total points scored. The West won 154-149 in overtime.

1990 – Singer Del Shannon (Charles Westover) shot himself in the head with a .22 caliber rifle at his home in Santa Clarita, California. He was 50. Shannon’s first and biggest hit was Runaway, which hit number one in the U.S. April 24, 1961. His other top-20 singles included Hats Off to Larry, Little Town Flirt and Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow the Sun).

1992 – The XVIth Winter Olympic Games opened in Albertville, France. The games ran through Feb 23 and included 64 countries with 1801 athletes, 488 of whom were women.

1992 – The single by R*S*F (Right Said Fred), I’m Too Sexy, was #1 in the U.S. It was a smash, staying at number one for three weeks, then dropping to number two for three more. “I’m too sexy for my car; too sexy for my car; Too sexy by far; And I’m too sexy for my hat; Too sexy for my hat; what do you think about that…”

1996 – An agreement was reached between the city of Cleveland, the NFL and Art Modell, permitting Modell to move his football franchise, the Cleveland Browns, to Baltimore. As part of the agreement, the name Browns, its team colors, and storied history would remain in the proud city of Cleveland.

Is it Newsworthy or Not?

Do you really have a newsworthy story to tell, or are you writing your press release just to throw your name out into the masses, in hopes that someone will read your pointless information? If so, then stop. Do not send a release out for the sake of just sending one. If you submit a press release with information that is not of interest to the public―and worse yet, continue to do this―you will eventually alienate your media contacts. When your company’s name or your name is seen, it will be ignored. Make sure your press releases contain valuable information. Make every word count!

Do you have a compelling, important story to tell? Write about a new service you are offering that is unique from your competition. Or use a personal human interest angle and show how your product is helping others. Write about a new Fortune 500 company manager that is now on board with you. Or write about the benefits of your service.

Write a press release that is newsworthy. Can you time your press release with a current event, time of year or holiday? If so, then your story will have a hook for journalists. Use it.

Ask yourself these questions:

•  Who benefits from my product or service?

•  What new or unique bit of information can I hook readers with?

•  Where will my release make the best impact? which country, state, city?

•  When is the best time to release this information?

•  Why should a reader care about my product, service or information?

•  How can I hook them?

What may seem like news to you may not be of any interest to the general public, or the media. Ensure that when you write your press release that you have something to write about. Look for a way to make your release unique. A release is a story, so tell it wisely and grab the attention of the general public.