Coffee, NT News and blogging for your business

Coffee, NT News and Business Blogging (Photo *_Abhi_* via Flickr)

Coffee layers and blogging (Photo *_Abhi_* via Flickr - not the one used in the NT News)

Had to laugh over a frothy little story in the NT News this week about the end of the free instant coffee, driver reviver program.

The story and the picture of a coffee next to it illustrate a few dos and don’ts for business blogging.

The froth

The very top of a fancy coffee is a layer of milk froth and, sometimes, chocolate sprinkles. It has no substance but it grabs attention.

Likewise the opening of the article in question strings three sentences together, all pretty meaningless babble, but all designed to grab attention.

For example, the opening sentence claims people who prefer espresso coffee are ‘ruining the Territory’ and then claims they don’t just want to stay alive but they want fancy coffee to help them stay alive.

Intriguingly, the eradication of instant coffee is unlikely to ‘ruin the territory’ and as the story quotes later, the instant coffee program was not ‘effective as a road safety tool’, undermining the claim about staying alive. So what we really have thus far in the story is just old jokes and chortles.

From a business perspective, if this was your communication to prospective customers, what we learn here is that we must use the opening lines to grab attention and try to connect with our readers.

But the other dimension to this opening is that the NT News is in its full, Punch and Judy routine here. By creating punching bags out of southerners the paper can unite locals (who buy the paper and buy advertising in the paper) around ‘their’ paper.  Although I am not sure Tourism NT or tourism operators and staff would appreciate the angle, I would argue that business owners can learn something here.

If you can identify an ‘enemy’ of your prospects and customers, or a customer type that would never buy from you anyway, it can be fruitful to ‘take a stand’ against them. I am not suggesting you incite hatred, merely that you stand for something important to your prospects so they can identify with you.

The body

In the main body of the article we then learn some facts.

In this case, we learn that all of the claims in the frothy introduction are baseless (you don’t let facts get in the way of some old coffee jokes) or at least selective.

For example, the story reveals that roadhouses involved in the program reported that travellers were preferring to buy better coffee than take the free instant coffee.

In important insight here is that the journalist (or editor) saw a chance to take the mickey out of southerners and went for that angle. Another angle might have been how roadhouse operators are doing much better business these days by offering more highly priced, better quality coffee.

Would you have chosen the angle about how coffee culture is helping to boost income in regional roadhouses or the angle the NT News chose of dragging out some old coffee jokes for some puffery? This is the sort of question you will face when writing your own material. Ultimately, you need to choose the angle that will be most helpful to your prospects and most likely to get them to take some sort of action, from contacting you to sharing your article with others.

The conclusion

As we look at the coffee photo used in the NT News story, at the very bottom is the foundational shot of coffee upon which the whole drink is based.

Likewise, in the story the last few lines spill the beans, so to speak, on just how this story was much ado about nothing.

The official program spokesman says very few people were still using the program and it was an ineffective road safety tool.

So, the very essence of the story is at odds with the introduction.

For the NT News, I think they would be thinking ‘job done’. We used a coffee angle to stir up a storm in a teacup (to mix metaphors) and keep eyeballs engaged so that our advertisers stand a chance of getting seen. And so be it. Although, here is a cheeky thought. The NT News did a telltale video on Channel 9 speeding through an amber light in doing a bad driving expose. Perhaps Channel 9 could secretly film the NT News editor and staff drinking lattes after doing this instant coffee rallying call!

Back to business blogging. The main difference I would urge you to consider is that as a writer establishing your reputation or building thought leadership on a topic, you need to be much tighter in the link between your frothy introduction and the body of your article.

Unlike the NT News, which is in the infotainment business, you are being searched for by a prospect seeking a solutions to problem and therefore you cannot afford to leave your reader with a bitter taste in their mouth.

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