Entrepreneurial journalism. Part II.
Identify and focus on the ultimate objective.
If you can succeed in entertaining and educating your reader, then you're half way there. But we never lose sight of the fact that strong entrepreneurial journalism should be aimed at eliciting a response from its reader, rather than entertaining or educating him or her.
The exact nature of that response can come in different shapes and sizes. But is has to be clearly identified and targeted from the outset. Unless we know precisely what optimum reader response we're seeking, then we're not practising entrepreneurial journalism.
Add Value and Establish Credibility.
Reading various other peoples' work on commercial content, we've seen the word “value” come up again and again. But how do we add value to a product by writing about it?
Let's approach this question by way of analogy. We like to think of a football commentator, who's giving a commentary on a match you're watching. A good commentator will offer a sense of excitement and provide an accurate description (players' names etc) of the game.
A great commentator also does these things. But they'll also tell you things that you didn't previously know and point out details of the match that you hadn't previously noticed. A great commentator will be on your level. They'll give you the sense of being on your side by helping you to derive as much enjoyment from the game as possible. It's easy to understand that some people have favourite football players. But it's our experience that people also have favourite football commentators as well.
Connect and Empathise with your readers.
We all need a friend out there. In market places that sometimes seem rapacious and bewildering, it can be nice on occasions to be taken by the hand and helped to make a good decision. But it's nicer if you feel that the person who is taking you by the hand has an unambiguous understanding of what you're actually looking for in that market place. And to understand your readers you're going to have to take the time to get to know them before you start communication with them.
Visit the venue before the Event.
It's important to be mindful of where or how your reader is going to encounter your content. This can be tricky because the answer(s) may not be singular. You may be firing some shots in the dark. However, you’ll be a far more valuable resource if you’re able to integrate your content into a media-driven strategy
Think about how the media best serves your reader. Try and identify a realistic time and place where the interaction will take place. Is it going to be one or two way traffic? Will the experience be superficial or more profound? Is it a first time meeting, a regular spot on the social calendar or a follow-up? As much as is possible try to focus on the where, when and why factors and you could increase the relevance and accessibility of your content.
Put Meaning into your Message.
Your content should be based on an idea. But that idea can't be arbitrary. However basic this may sound, anyone can call themselves a content creator. Style without substance can still turn heads and, though it will always be found out sooner or later, in the short term it can even win contracts. But we want you to do things properly. We want you to thrive and still be reading our blogs in years to come.
So every element of the content you create should be a step towards an ultimate objective. Put another way the macro message you want to deliver will never be successfully constructed unless the micro messages are intricately, thoughtfully and meaningfully delivered in a manner that is more than anything joined up.
Contextualise your Message.
Interactions in the public sphere no longer occur in isolation. This is a fact that is even more evident in commercial spheres. So make sure you've got a good sense of who's doing what in the space that you're entering. Find out where the party's at. Learn what’s tired and what’s fresh. Identify your market’s most influential individuals, organisations, publishers and companies.
Never be afraid to rigorously research your competition. Familiarise yourself with the tactics and tone that have traction in the market place. While you're ultimately going to be served by making yourself unique, it will always help to know what's worked and what hasn't.
Make your content come alive.
The best way of doing this is by having a headline that makes an impact. Your headline is an invitation to like-minded people to join you and enjoy what you're enjoying. So you can't afford to be coy. Make people feel that they'll be missing something unmissable if they don't get on board with you. Make it clear this one can’t be missed.
Excite. Tease. Tantalise. Strike a chord. And be ever mindful of the fact that you only get one shot at a one liner. Make your opening salvo resonate. It needs to be exciting, resilient and most importantly something that you won't be tired of seeing a year from now.
Listen. Create. Communicate. Three words that occupied us for days. They're probably not words that are going to get anyone hot under the collar. But they're words that accurately headline what we do.
You live, breathe and sleep your company. Good. It shouldn't be any other way. But let's be fair. Not everyone is going to share your passion. The easiest way to lose someone is to ply them with information about something that they have no interest in.
You won’t turn a single head by talking about your brand or product. Regardless of the message you're trying to give, the central character of the piece has to be the reader. Make “you” your stand out word. Assume that your reader’s favourite subject is him or herself. After all everybody warms to someone who is interested in them.
Encourage a Realisation.
Let's assume your headline worked. Your reader gets your message. But never is the old adage "many a slip twist cup and lip" truer. You could still lose that reader if you don't consolidate the initial connection. So pose a question or make a statement that encourages the “yes, that’s me” realisation. Let your reader know you get them and you get their needs.
Feelings are your friend.
Your reader will process information firstly through emotion, and secondly through reason. So your writing should be connecting straight to your reader's limbic system; the sub-cortex section of the brain, the centre of desire and motivation. Use words that suggest passion (and if you're passionate about your subject that helps) and feelings.
Drifting? Lacking ideas? Words aren’t flowing? Not hitting the right tone? Each of these issues is probably linked to you over-thinking what you're doing. So approach your content without fear and formality. Singularise the interaction by talking to just one person. Try imagining it's a mate or someone you're relaxed when talking to. And start typing the way you’d talk.
Enliven with Verbs.
Use adjectives sparingly and use verbs vigorously. Engagement is about doing. Support. Promote. Achieve. Do. Be. Do.
In a world defined by increasing homogeneity people tend to remember the one offs. The writers that are remembered: Shakespeare, Joyce, Twain and Camus had voices that were as unique as their fingerprints. And you are unique. So find your voice. Let it define your writing. And never be afraid of being you.
Plain English is Big and Clever.
Want to alienate a reader? Go to the manual. There's nothing worse than industry-specific, technical language. All it will do is cast your reader back to the hellish hours they spent assembling a flat-pack piece of furniture. No matter how much you love your industry’s jargon, leave it where it belongs.
But, perhaps conversely, avoid any process of dumbing down, in pursuit of perceived accessibility. Just be yourself and focus on little words that showcase big ideas.