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Digital design, branding and content part II

Rhubarb Fool shares 10 benefits of quality web design

5. THE PURPOSE, INTEGRITY AND COHERENCE OF YOUR CONTENT

Content and design should co-exist in harmony on your site. Always remember that it will take visitors some effort to try and understand what you’re trying to say. So make sure you don’t:

  • say it in blocks of small, dense text
  • set out your text in an unattractive way
  • use tools of navigation that aren’t straightforward.
  • allow your “calls to action” to be confused.
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visitors away. The job of a good designer is to work with your content. They’ll deliver it with clarity and visual appeal, so that it directs your visitors to do what you want them to do.

6. THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL

Choice of fonts, text spacing and contrast are the sort of details that make a significant difference to the overall quality of your site. Such subtleties could be overlooked by those happier

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with function than design. But ultimately it’s is these subtleties that can determine how readable and functional the site is.

7. LEAVE IT TO THOSE WHO CAN SEE THINGS AS THEY ARE, RATHER THAN AS YOU’D LIKE THEM TO BE.

Your expertise is your business. The chances are that your expertise is not web-design. Sometimes you’ll actually benefit from making a trade off by focusing on what actually works for the web, rather than what actually works for you. When you pay the premium for a professional web designer, you’re paying for some who as the experience of translating ideas into web pages.

8. AVOID FALSE ECONOMIES.

Everybody wants a good deal. But how many times have we all regretted convincing ourselves that the great price we’ve been offered would actually deliver a great quality product. It’s quite possible to try to buy into the promise of getting high-quality design services and ending up spending time and money having to get someone else to put a bad job right. You’ll never run a business well if you don’t try and secure value for money in your purchases. But our experience is that good design takes time. As such, it costs money.

9. RELIABLE PARTNERSHIP

Business owners and web designers need to take a completely collaborative approach to creating a website. The process involves communication, a to and fro of ideas, conflict and compromise. If you can go through this process and deliver a satisfactory outcome, you’ll be at a point of establishing a long term commercial relationship.

10. ROOM FOR DEVELOPMENT

The foundations that should be laid by good quality web-design should offer a solid foundation from which improvements and embellishments can be made. It may be that you want to want to add a new product, or include a new service. Whatever the case may be, your site should already have have a suitably strong aesthetic to allow you to move forwards rather than to retread old ground.

So if you’re looking for some guidance in the field of web-design why not contact us at Rhubarb Fool. What you’ll find is a process that will be all about you. Not us.

Digital design, branding and content part I

Rhubarb Fool shares 10 benefits of quality web design

In any new industry, it’s been our experience that self definition can come to play a big role in determining a service provider’s skills and abilities. We’ve certainly met a lot of web designers. But a lot of the web designers we’ve met have actually been individuals who are quite capable of building a website, but believe that this ability somehow bestows on them the ability to design a website. Self belief; however, is necessarily a very subjective issue.

Rhubarb Fool can’t offer you any definitive advice that will assist you in your quest to find a good web designer. However, what was evident to us was that when you’ve found a good one, you’ll know it.

Something there’s no question about is that quality web design can be an extremely valuable investment. But these seem to us words that slip out a bit too easily. What do they mean? What are the actual benefits of commissioning a professional web-designer? Will your hard earned gold pieces actually yield a tangible return? Will an attractive website stimulate your business’s growth?

At Rhubarb Fool we champion great web design. Here are a few reasons why.

1. CONSISTENCY OF BRAND IDENTITY

Professional designers occupy the macrocosm, rather than the microcosm. They’ll be focused on  creating a visual identity for your brand that maintains its integrity across a variety of different contexts.

Your logo, website, social media profiles and even your business cards all need to be singing from the same sheet. Homogeneity and individuality need to be dancing together like old partners of the silver screen.

Brands that have a consistent visual identity are simply more memorable than those that appear fragmented. Being more memorable, they’ll also be more durable. A professional web designer should know how to make your brand’s visual identity move seamlessly across different contexts.

2. MORE VISITORS WHO STOP FOR A CUP OF TEA, A SLICE OF CAKE AND A CHAT.

Your website represents your business. So you’re not just looking for clicks. You’re looking for visitors who will  browse through your site and become acquainted with you and your brand. Don’t be under any illusions. Most visitors will have a swift glance at your site and then be off. It takes something a little bit special to keep a visitor interested in your site. It takes even more to make them want to learn more about you and eventually make a purchase.

3. MORE CUSTOMERS

A good web designer will focus on calling your visitors to action. They’ll be asking them to “sign up”, “learn more” and “buy now”. The placement, appearance and content of these calls to action will be vital to the functionality and effectiveness of your site. The upshot of getting this done right is simple. Busy cash registers.

4. PUTTING CLEAR BLUE SKY BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR  COMPETITORS

The internet is built on the back of websites that are “good enough”. So how are you going to stand out from the crowd? Within any one industry you can bet your bottom dollar on the fact that there will be a lot of websites that look the same. They say what they’re expected to say, in a manner that they’re expected to say it. Their design doesn’t offend, but nor does it excite.

We’ll never encourage anyone to make a spectacle of themselves. But quality is all about identifying your individuality, focusing on your unique selling points and combining these elements into one joined-up visual identity.

video marketing rhubarb fool

Video marketing with Rhubarb Fool Part III

Let Rhubarb Fool give some simple tips to help any video marketing project

Step 4: Think of Ray Mears. Leave things how you found them.

Having completed the video shoot, with all and sundry happy with the quality of footage that has been captured, it’s time to tear down the set and get home for supper.

But please remember. You can’t afford any rushes of blood or demob happiness. You have to take as much care dismantling the set as you took to set it up. Can you imagine how you’d feel, as the satisfaction of completing a good job diminished with the smash of an expensive lens or a beautiful decorative vase that your client had provided to add style.

Dismantle all equipment (be that yours or your client’s) with care and consideration.  And you’ll surely remember that checklist from Step 1? It’s just as important at the end of a job as it is as the beginning of a job. Make sure you check off each item of equipment that you have taken to the shoot. You know what we were saying about commercial credibility. It’s not something that would be helped by a client phoning you up to inform you that you’ve left a lighting rig behind.

In our experience highly effective artistic skills are completely compatible with highly effective organisational skills.

Step 5: No footage is bad footage

The moment you return to your office or studio, make sure you immediately import recently shot footage onto your computer or hard drive. Swiftly completing this task will minimise the risks associated with shooting onto that exact memory card at a later point.

It may also be that your ability to edit the footage that you’ve shot will be greatest immediately after you’ve shot it.  Even a coarse edit at this point can help you to capture that feeling you were trying to convey.

And a rough edit can kick off the process of feedback that’s going to be so important to you meeting your commercial objective. Once you’ve received all the feedback you want (or you can cope with) you can start to finalise the editing process and implement the video into a focused marketing strategy!

Please remember as well. You could tattoo this step by step guide  onto the palms of your hands. But mistakes will be made. What Rhubarb Fool has tried to help you to do here is avoid the avoidable ones.

Interested in harnessing the power of video-marketing. At Rhubarb Fool, we really know our onions. Check out how good our work is here.

video marketing rhubarb fool

Video marketing with Rhubarb Fool Part II

Let Rhubarb Fool give some simple tips to help any video marketing project

Video Marketing with Rhubarb Fool Part 2

Step 2: Know what works for you and make sure that it’s working for you.

Positioning,

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lighting and angles are vital elements of video production that you’ll have to be completely on top of. But these are three different elements that are underpinned by the same process.

The camera operator will need to decide on the angle and position. This will largely be determined by the lighting, but would also need to take into account any other distraction that could occur in the background of the shot.

When the shot is backlit, the viewer will not be able to see the face of the interviewee or the facade of any items that might be being shown. If anything, it’s always a good idea to start off by shooting the camera from the opposite direction of the window (or light source) to use the light to enhance and illuminate the image.

Of course, the angle at which a video is shot will be defined by the person behind the camera. In the piece of work we undertook for leading law firm Freshfields, we were well served by setting the camera just off to the side. This offered the interview feel so important to the legacy objective that the client was seeking. It wasn’t rocket science we were just able to give the sense of the contributor speaking to someone slightly off camera.

When we undertake videos marketing that is targeting products or services, we like will position the camera head-on. This allows the contributor to speak directly to the viewer. It establishes trust and intimacy. But use this technique with caution. A subject looking directly at the camera can add an “infomercial” or “television commercial” quality to your interview. This can make it appear trite, superficial and impersonal. It can really detract from quality content.

Step 3: When you think you’re ready to start shooting, put your finger to the wind and think.

That equipment that looks ready to roll, perfectly positioned and accurately angled. Surely it’s time to roll! But just hold your horses for a moment.

Before pressing the record button, there are a couple of things to check on your camera. A stitch in time WILL save nine. One of two test runs with the interviewee speaking direct to microphone will allow you to make sure that all of your volume levels are where they need to be. And don’t forget the lighting. Determining the correct white balance level in the camera settings, can make all the difference between a high quality and a low quality picture shot.

Last but not least, don’t forget to check the camera focus. It’s probably the most important part of the set-up to check before you shoot. If the camera is even a touch out of focus for some or all of the video shoot, those clips will only be suitable for littering the cutting room floor. It’s a complete waste of time and the nature of video is that it won’t just be your time that will have been wasted. It will have been your client’s time. It’s such things that can turn a potentially profitable commission into a liability.

Video marketing with Rhubarb Fool Part I.

video marketing rhubarb fool

Video marketing with Rhubarb Fool Part I

Let Rhubarb Fool give you

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some simple tips to help any video marketing project

Ownership of a camera that’s capable of shooting HD video bestows no exclusivity on anyone nowadays. Be it a smartphone, a compact digital camera, or a DSLR; the tools of the video-marketer have become increasingly ubiquitous.

But the elusive question remains just as intangible. How can you shoot video footage of a quality that that can be presented to and enjoyed by an commercial audience?

At Rhubarb Fool Andy is our go-to guy for video marketing. Catching him between shoots, we eventually got him to sit down long enough to give us 5 essential tips for the video marketer.

First things first. Let’s not forget the old adage about the bad workers’ willingness to blame their tools for their own deficiencies. At Rhubarb Fool, we approach this from a slightly different angle. That being that the good worker will make sure they have the best tools to ensure they produce the best possible work.

So if you’re looking to compile a video of commercial quality , we’d recommend that you invest in a quality SLR and a video marketing studio capable of editing HD video. If you’re building a video marketing studio from scratch, then you could do a lot worse than to check out Vidyard’s Ultimate Video Marketing Studio checklist.

So now you’ve bit the bullet and shelled out for the equipment, the hard work begins. Let Rhubarb Fool offer you a little guidance that will help you to deliver quality material for yourself and your clients. This isn’t an extensive list of dos and dont’s. Just five broad principles that hard won experience has taught us at Rhubarb Fool. If you want to succeed in marketing through video, then you’ll first have to succeed in delighting through video.

Step 1: Be prepared.

There can’t be many worse experiences than heading out for a shoot, showing up at the location, unloading your gear and then realising that a vital piece of your equipment is missing. The best way of avoiding such toe curling annoyance is to make sure your equipment is always ready to go.

Store all of your video equipment in the same location in the same positions. That way if you’re rushing out of the door on a shoot, anything that you might have left behind will be clearly visible.

Failing this, how about a checklist? Nothing too fancy. Just use a phone, or a pen and paper has been known to work. You may think that we’re fretting like old geese,

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but checking off each piece of equipment before heading out for the day will make sure nothing is left behind.

Though we can’t actually speak from experience, the thought of re-scheduling with a client because of some simple and avoidable mistake sends shivers down our collective spines. It would not only cost money. It would undermine professional credibility and there could be no worse feeling than that.

Video marketing with Rhubarb Fool Part II

Social Media for small businesses

Swimming in content … or drowning?

We are bombarded with content.

The average social network user receives 285 pieces of content daily.

Facebook has 900 million users.

Every sixty seconds, 293,000 status updates are posted on

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Facebook.

175 million tweets are sent each day.

The number of fake Facebook accounts is roughly equivalent to the population of Egypt.

Youtube has more than1 billion unique users visit the site each month, with over 6 billion hours of video watched. That’s almost an hour for every person on Earth, and 50% more than in 2012.

Etc, etc.

It really wants to make you cry. Or at least design a funky infographic!

Instead we say, forget the facts, ditch the digits and focus on one thing. Your customer.

We help brands connect to this market get the right content to the right customers at exactly the right time.

What is the right content? Well it has to be three things:

  • Timely
  • Relevant
  • Engaging

And before we put pen to paper we discuss the brand. From here we think about developing a tone of voice. Sometimes that’s as easy as playing the “if the brand was a famous person who would it be?” game.

Sometimes it’s useful. Sometimes we realise we have spent the last hour deciding that the W Hotel was Chloë Sevigny.

But it’s a starting point and more often than not it will lead us to go out and gather as much customer insight as possible. There’s no rigid formula to doing this.

For example, we’ll hang out in hotel lobbies before launching a hotel magazine. But we’ll supplement this with using data to listen to what your customers are doing, reading, watching and buying – and then act.

So don’t just sit there. Go and sit in a hotel lobby. Or decide what superhero Hoover would be. Just don’t drown in the content.

Rhubarb Fool Marketing design branding

Rhubarb Fool and multi-media marketing methods

How Rhubarb Fool can practice the perfect multi-media marketing strategy to promote your brand.

A beautiful billboard advertising campaign, focused on sites of premium exposure, will turn heads and it could create a stir. But what happens when the wind and rain works its magic. The beautiful colours will fade and that high quality paper will tear.

At Rhubarb Fool we believe that nothing will serve you as well as an integrated marketing plan that has breadth, charisma and durability.

But, as is the case in all of our commercial activities, that’s easy to say, but difficult to do.

At Rhubarb Fool the task we set ourselves is to identify the best possible combination of market approaches to take with your brand.

Research undertaken by Pointroll (in conjunction with Kelton Research) generated some interesting pointers.

In surveys of marketing professionals more than half of these professionals suggested they would use 5+ marketing methods in a single campaign.

Of these, 15% said they used between 7 – 9 different methods and 13% claimed to routinely be hitting double figures in the methods they would use.

This suggested to us that people in the know seemed more inclined to approach the market place with a wide net, rather than a deep net.

But let’s be clear. Although Rhubarb Fool is able to pick from an extensive stable of marketing methods, there’s no chance of us being able to spend five minutes looking at your business and then tell you what methods are going to work best for you.

Unlike Google, we don’t have fantastic algorithms at our command. We still have to suck it and see sometimes.

Think about cooking your favourite dish. Imagine the blend of herbs and spices; or cooking times and methods that deliver those taste sensations that you seek.

Sometimes you’ll be best served by closing the recipe book and relying instead on Instinct and experience. You need to personalise the recipe. It’s just the same process in identifying the best methods of marketing for a company.

When we approach (for example) marketing methods for a digital campaign, we would be thinking along the lines of content, social, apps, tablets, website development and search engines. Any number of these can be used in a digital marketing campaign, but you wouldn’t necessarily need to use all of them.

The success of a marketing campaign will be defined by its ability to make as many people as possible (in your target market) absorb your brand’s message. We don’t think you’ll do this by a billboard on the North Circular, unless awareness was measured by the number of hours that London’s ill-favoured motorists spent staring at it. But we’re In the digital world.

At Rhubarb Fool we want to diffuse your brand’s message across a bespoke selection of online streams . We want these streams to support and reinforce each other, and thereby provide a solution to brand communication that is integrated and holistic.

Allow me a cliche. At Rhubarb Fool “we’re always thinking outside the box”.The digital world is constantly evolving and by way of this process it’s always generating new marketing opportunities. Let’s look at Vine.

It’s a social app, which allows users to capture and share a constantly looping 6-second video, for example. The potential that this had for marketers looking to create branded

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content is huge. It’s just one of the new marketing methods that Rhubarb Fool is harnessing.

To better illustrate out approach, let’s imagine we’re working with a young travel company, which had asked us to increase its profile. We might think about running a competition to engage potential punters. But, for that competition to work, we’d need people to know about it.

And how would we do this?

We might write a witty article or produce a comical video to surround our competition? But that’s not all. From there, we’d be using all of our skills to get our great content published on a variety of high profile and targeted sites. These would encourage and incentivise our audience to visit a website that we would have had specifically made for the competition.

Then, we’d be working to inspire people to share and engage with the brand via the hashtag or Twitter handle we would have created for the occasion. And beyond that we’d look at have a Facebook page underpinning the whole process.

So I hope you can see how Rhubarb Fool would use content, website development, social sharing and all-round exposure to engage your target market. Once we’ve done that your target market will yield customer upon customer.

We want to give your audience more than a simple banner ad. We want to give it a whole brand experience that it can interact with.

Want to find out more then say hello!

Media strategy tourism retail rhubarb fool

As a content company we strive for cathartic content

Let us optimise your branding, design and digital strategies with great content.

At Rhubarb Fool we believe that at the basis of every successful marketing strategy you’ll find content that is charismatic, comprehensive and creative. But even the most exciting and well written content will need some marketing of its own, if it’s going to catch the attention of audiences that are becoming increasingly dynamic, increasingly switched on and increasingly fluid.

In a perfect market place high quality content would attract a decent crowd on the strength of its own virtues. But Van Gogh died a pauper. Brilliance is no guarantee of recognition. Great content will always be helped by being given a little nudge in the right direction.

So let Rhubarb Fool help you avoid allowing your best content to gather dust in the corner of the internet. Here are some tips that will help you to get the right people engaging with your content and talking about it.

  • Follow a bespoke strategy: It is absolutely vital that your content finds its way to the hearts and minds of your target audience. No matter how effervescent your content may be, effervescence won’t overcome irrelevance.
  • You’ll win few friends frantically throwing your content in the faces of people who couldn’t care less about what you’re talking about. Bespoke content and a bespoke content promotion strategy will allow your content to reach its audience organically. You’ll find this not only quicker, but also more effective.
  • Engage with the movers and shakers. Some people wield disproportionate levels of influence within specific market sectors. These people might be industry specialists, celebrities, authors or even compulsive bloggers. Think about anybody who commands a large social following and whose views and opinions have the power to exert influence.
  • If you can engage with one of these movers and shakers and offer them content that

    they want to share can allow your brand to achieve a unique position in its chosen market place. Think about Adidas’s engagement with the emerging rap music industry in the mid eighties. No coincidence.

  • By the same token, if you can orchestrate a piece of content being spread across social media, (whether its Twitter, Facebook or Google+), it will automatically lend a degree of credibility to your brand. Such a strategy, successfully implemented, can yield a fantastically loyal fan base.
  • Converse: Listen. Create. Communicate. The mantra at Rhubarb Fool. Nothing can begin without listening. This means finding out what is relevant to your target market. What does it care about? What is it attracted to? What does it want to know? What does it aspire to? What does it shrink away from?
  • And perhaps most importantly, if you think your audience has a problem, solve it for them. A short cut to gaining this knowledge can be by following current trending topics and keeping abreast of what the most important movers and shakers are chatting about over Twitter. But a little investment of yourself into reciprocal interactions will often make people far more comfortable about giving up something of themselves.
  • Blog. Blog. Blog: Your brand needs a blog. This can offer you access to a new audience and allows you to share your content literally at the click of a button. Never be afraid to express the unique voice of your brand by way of the content of your blog. This will help people like you and your brand. If you’re liked by your audience, you’ll be trusted by your audience.
  • Don’t be dull. Create something that people will not only want to share, but will also be caused to think about. A glossy coat of paint, plastered over facts that are readily attainable across the mediums of social media doesn’t make for exciting content. However, pretty you can make these facts look, are people really going to want to share such content. Infographics, Ebooks, videos, images and blog posts are just some examples of the exciting content that you could be sharing with your audience. So don’t give your audience anything it could get, anywhere else.
  • Getting your content out there into a wide and receptive audience will ultimately be defined by your creativity, relevance and credibility. So get excited about your content. You don’t have to be evangelical, but have faith in your brand. Promote it at every turn. And when the shares, comments, likes and retweets start coming in, you can sit back and watch your audience grow.
rhubarb fool content brand guidelines branding

Flexibility is the key when building brand guidelines

Rhubarb Fool is currently working on producing brand guidelines for one of the UK’s leading trade associations.

It’s an interesting project and we thought we’d jot down some tips we’ve picked up along the way. The most interesting being that the best brand guidelines are flexible. bend but don’t break!

Form the offset, it has been imperative to understand who will be using these guidelines and importantly why do they need them. Is it just colleagues, or advertising agencies as well?

Read our post on key considerations for building brilliant brand guidelines.

Do ask whether there is there a specific reason why they need to be produced?

You may learn something. Sometimes employees (let’s call them users) feel a little imprisoned by the brand, especially if it is an iconic one. They may benefit from being pointed towards alternative, yet still consistent, brand usages.

Maybe it is the opposite and the value of the brand is being diluted by a conflicting variety of usages. In that case we need to impose some consistency. Either way it’s best to find out from the get go.

As soon as you have learnt about the audience, get to the nub of the brand.

Distill the essence of the brand into three or four words maybe. Use these words as the core pillars of the guidelines, making sure to explain how using the brand guidelines will help communicate these pillars to the key customers.

As mentioned, brand guidelines aren’t a pair of handcuffs. Use engaging language to demonstrate that the guidelines are there simply to guide not to rule. Good guidelines almost tell a story, so encourage the user to come along for the ride. Let’s discover the brand all over again!

Your guidelines need to be flexible. Brands need to tell their stories to a range of audiences and one size does not fit all. Adapt your tone accordingly and keep emotional responses front of mind.

Thus, a brand needs to live and breathe.

It is no longer a monolithic icon towering over our lives as it once was. We meet with a brand in a thousands scenarios now, and often the consumer will manipulate the brand to their own means. And there ain’t nothing we can do about it so chill. No-one’s getting hurt.

There is a difference between rigidity and consistency. Go for the latter. Make rules flexible enough for designers to be creative but robust enough to keep the brand consistent and recognisable.

Consistency is key as brand spill over and into different media but feel free to show  examples of how the brand should look across a full range of different platforms and media.

Your brand will evolve with different audiences. That’s fine, don’t sweat it. Your brand is out there living, having fun and only occasionally bringing home its dirty washing.

We’ll update this as we continue with our branding project, but if you have a question about brand guidelines or, indeed would like us to review your own then please do let us know.

Entrepreneurial journalism. Part III

Don’t be Afraid of a Funny.

You have to see your interaction as potentially impinging on your readers’ leisure time. So lighten up, be cheeky, use rhetorical questions and have a giggle. People warm to and try to remember a funny. So if you’re fortunate enough to have a good sense of humour, use it,

Have a Point of View.

Social media can encourage the bland and the insipid. Just look at Facebook. Many people would rather blend into the consensus than risk treading on someone’s toes. But what’s the point of any writing that demonstrates no point of view? After all, people made incredible sacrifices so that we could say it as we see it and express our opinion. Don’t be afraid of that right.

Break. It. Up.

Readers’ searches for content will generally be determined by how fast they can skim read. You’ll only succeed at slowing them down by getting your hooks into them. Ease the function of rapidly shifting eyeballs by breaking up your pieces with short passages, lists, images, bullet points and captions. Clever use of subheadings can break your story down and captivate your reader.

Tell stories.

You’ll always be able to engage readers with how-to pieces, predictions, top-tens and other similar staples. But think of yourself as being a storyteller too. There are certain key elements to storytelling such as time, place, characters, conflict and resolution which can help you to take your reader on a journey.

Arouse.

I don’t wish to be too bold. But maybe I should. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of sensory stimulation. Great writing leans heavily on cliffhangers. So build curiosity. Suggest. Surprise. Hit. Twist. Do the unexpected. Whatever you can do to make eyes dilate and hearts pound will make you mean more to your reader.

Teach.

Advertising is essentially preaching. We like to think of entrepreneurial journalism as being more about teaching. Your mission is to educate, and entertain. You’re going to have to talk about your brand, but you’ll never build an audience if that’s all you talk about. Share your knowledge with generosity and make the reader feel that they’ve engaged in something valuable.

Converse.

Entrepreneurial journalism can lead us to write conversationally. It helps when you ask your readers to ask questions, add comments and join the new media interaction party.

Demand Action.

As any comedian will tell you, it’s always best to leave your

funniest gag until the end of the show. But entrepreneurial journalism has no point of closure. After all it will be motion that you’re ultimately measuring. So never bid your reader farewell. Tell them what to do next. Share. Sign up. Register. Download. Try. Buy.

Grasp these points of entrepreneurial journalism? If you do you’ll succeed in engaging readers. Whatever happens, let us know and don’t be a stranger.

Entrepreneurial journalism: the written word and commerce. Part II.

Entrepreneurial journalism: the written word and commerce. Part I.