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China Part 2: Students and Tourism

Welcome to the second of our World Travel Market-inspired posts on China and its outbound tourism markets. We’ve covered FITs and WeChat, and now it’s time to talk about students.

When creating Chinese language content for use online and in social media, the focus is almost always on China itself, the land within the so-called ‘Great Firewall’. But what about the thousands of Chinese young adults studying throughout Europe?

Students aren’t strictly tourists. Obviously. But they are an important tourist market in many ways: as a general rule, they tend to make a point of seeing as much as possible of Europe while they are studying here, to ‘make the most’ of their free time, so to speak. Many Chinese students will go on day trips to attractions and weekend trips to other parts of the country or other nearby countries (for example, hopping on the Eurostar to see France one weekend or getting a train to Edinburgh). This behaviour, of course, only increases during holidays (assuming that they don’t go home to visit family).

As well as this, despite having access to (and using) Western platforms such as Google, Facebook et al, they will still maintain their Chinese social media accounts and are still a primarily Chinese-language market. This is doubly significant when we consider their role in Chinese society: as people who have spent a good deal of time abroad, they are considered experts. Word of mouth is so crucial to Chinese people that they will become the unanticipated spokespeople for your brand as friends, relatives, and friends of friends come to them for advice on where to go and what to see.

A natural result of having a large population of Chinese students of Europe is that inevitably their family and/or friends will come and visit them at some point (or several) during their course. During their time visiting, they will treat their student point of contact as an expert, as we’ve mentioned above, and are likely to participate in traditionally ‘tourist’ activities such as visiting attractions and going sightseeing, etc.

When you have this in mind, it is clear that European-based Chinese students are a key market to consider when strategising your digital campaigns. And the best part is that they’re already here! There’s no need to entice them to get on a long haul flight to visit.

So, what to consider when incorporating this crucial market into your online/social media output? The rules are much the same as for targeting the Chinese tourism market at large: tailor-make your content, and make sure it’s impeccably translated. Go out of your way to interact with your target audiences, and encourage sharing of their experiences. Listen to what they have to say and learn from it. And most of all, get in touch with us at Rhubarb Fool! We really can help.

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 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

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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.

Maintain Perspective.

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.

Mates’ Rates.

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.

Express yourself.

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.

Rhubarb Fool is a multi-platform content provider

Entrepreneurial journalism. Part I.

At Rhubarb Fool we never stop reminding ourselves that you won’t deliver style, if you can’t deliver substance.

In no small part, the substance of Rhubarb Fool’s work is determined by the content it generates. The greatest proportion of this contact comes in the form of the written word. And that’s what will will be the broadest focus of this piece. Good, accessible writing.

We’re also clear that the writing that we

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undertake as Rhubarb Fool is largely commercial. Its success or failure won’t be determined by the response of The Times Literary Review. However, at Rhubarb Fool we all love great writing and we all aspire to write well.

In our attempts to qualify the writing we produce, we’ve coined the phrase ‘entrepreneurial journalism’. It’s a phrase that you may have come across on our website. But please don’t get too alarmed. We’re not claiming to be great entrepreneurs and we’re certainly not claiming to be journalists. Rather, when we talk of entrepreneurial journalism, we’re talking about writing that helps our customers meet their commercial objectives.

If we approach writing in its generic form, the conclusion that our boardroom conversations have led us to is that good writing is underpinned by the author’s personality (having something worth saying in an attractive, engaging and interesting fashion) and accuracy (grammatical and factual integrity).

At the same time, anyone who has written a lot will know that (even if you have bags of personality and are the sort of person who loses sleep over a mis-placed comma or a questionable fact), writing involves a process.

Entrepreneurial journalism is, by its very nature, more process driven than its brothers and sisters in the literary or journalistic world. Essentially, the process

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of entrepreneurial journalism demands not only preparation (that would be a prerequisite for any good piece of writing), it also involves planning. Our purpose is not only to deliver something that attracts and engages. It is also to deliver something that is functional. Something that does a great job for our customer.

So read on and let us set out the most important steps we’ve identified that could help you deliver good commercial writing. We hope that this piece guides you through the planning process to the point of execution and implementation.

Rhubarb Fool

China still lead the BRICS in global travel and tourism

China remains the most important emerging economy for the global travel and tourism industry.

However, some of the 1,277 global industry bosses attending World Travel Market this week who responded for the report admitted that their attention is no longer focused on the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

When asked if the five BRICS nations were still the most important for their business, more than half (56%) said “yes”, although one-in-five (20%) responded “no” with a quarter undecided.

With China’s population now estimated at 1.354 billion, it is little surprise that global travel bosses are interested in appealing to Chinese people wishing to travel, making China the most important BRICS market in terms of outbound travel.

Russia (16%), India (13%) Brazil (13%) and South Africa (9%) have less appeal as source markets although for all five countries the overwhelming appeal – for more than 70% of respondents – is the sheer volume of potential customers.

As destinations, China is also the most popular of the five

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among the global industry. Around one-in-five (18%) tipped China as having the greatest inbound potential, followed by Russia (11%), Brazil (11%), India (10%) and South Africa (9%).

For China and Russia, the sample noted that business and trade links were driving interest from corporate travellers visiting on business.

However, a significant proportion of respondents are focussing their attention elsewhere. For inbound tourism, 41% said that none of the BRICS nations were important to their business. And nearly three-in-ten (28%) admitted no interest in outbound business from the five countries.

Reed Travel Exhibitions, Senior Director, World Travel Market, Simon Press said: “China is still dominating the headlines, and its economic success continues to be reflected by the level of interest from the global travel industry.

“WTM has been actively working with travel suppliers from the BRICS nations for a number of years, and we have expanded the brand into these regions, with the launch of WTM Latin America in Brazil this year and hosting WTM Vision events in Moscow and Shanghai.”

– See more at: http://www.wtmlondon.com/page.cfm/action=press/libID=1/libEntryID=2209/listID=1#sthash.VRLiQKva.dpuf

Rhubarb Fool

Keep taking the tablets, as mobile dominates travel

Smartphones and tablets will be the key customer service tool in travel within the next five years.

Is anything more mobile than travel?

By its very nature, travel is a mobile activity – so the travel trade is using mobile devices before, during and after trips to communicate with customers.

Although communications on-the-go offer great opportunities, travel firms must also be aware that they increase customer expectations, states the report, produced in association with Euromonitor International.

Travellers now expect real-time answers and greater customisation, wherever they are

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and at any time, before, during and after the trip.

TUI Travel, Singapore Tourism Board, and InterContinental Hotels, are among those which have spotted the potential of mobiles, says the report unveiled at the first day of World Travel Market in London.

TUI Travel’s Digital Assistant app offers customers advice before departure, during their holiday and on their return.

YourSingapore Guide app by the Singapore Tourism Board aims to enable visitors to enjoy their personalised Singapore experience as smoothly as possible.

InterContinental Hotels’ Concierge Insider Guides app offers insights provided by company concierges in its 127 world locations.

Peter Long, Chief Executive of TUI Travel Plc, said: “Mobile is revolutionising customer relationships.”

Commenting on the Digital Assistant app, he added: “This is a tool where we think we can really build that intimacy of relationship of treating the customer as an individual and that is very different from the way typically today travel providers work.”

Reed Travel Exhibitions, Senior Director, World Travel Market, Simon Press said: “The dominant role of tablets and apps has created an ‘always-on’ culture amongst consumers. Travel companies need to

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make sure they are engaging with consumers in this way and through these channels.”

Caroline Bremner, Euromonitor International Head of Travel and Tourism Research, said: “Euromonitor International forecasts global smartphone volume sales will post a 17% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) more than 2012-2017, while sales of tablets are forecast at 14% CAGR.

“By 2017, the mobile channel is expected to account for over 30% of online travel value sales. All the signs indicate that mobile will be at the core of customer relationships in travel.”

– See more at: http://www.wtmlondon.com/page.cfm/action=press/libID=1/libEntryID=2216/listID=1#sthash.QMFOXpCd.dpuf