Dot points – to comma or not to comma. Full stop.

We are often asked – what is the standard way to punctuate dot points or bullet point lists?

To be honest there is no right or wrong way, however consistency is important – setting a guideline and sticking to it. And to help you be consistent, it’s a good idea to keep the guidelines simple.

This is what we usually recommend:

Bullet points and lists carry minimal punctuation and should generally be punctuated in the same way as a normal sentence. So, if a point reads like a full sentence, a capital should be used at the start of the point and a full stop at the end of the point.

If an item in a bulleted list is a sentence fragment, it requires no capital letter and a full stop only after the last point in the series. Commas could be used, however we don’t recommend them, because it usually leads to confusion and inconsistencies.

Do not:

  • use semicolons or commas at the end of each point
  • include ‘and’ on the second last dot point.

Here are some examples of fragments and full sentences.

FRAGMENTS
Benefits include:

  • tax deductibility
  • invitations to events
  • access to our stock room.

SENTENCES
Your Business Association embraces strong values:

  • The traditional owners of the land on which it operates are acknowledged.
  • Members are celebrated, so their work is appreciated locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Democratic operations are based on collaboration and participation of all the members.

We always recommend creating a ‘writing style guide’ for clients, particularly for those who have a variety of writers. Your brand can suffer if the mechanics of your written content varies from piece to piece – perhaps in spelling conventions, use of acronyms or how you refer to your own organisation. It makes life easy and saves time in corrections, if you have set guidelines for your ‘house style’.

Ask us about creating your house style for written content.

Creating content that Google likes a lot

If you keep in mind that Google’s goal is ‘to serve high quality relevant search results to its users’ you will be well on the way to creating content for your website and social media platforms that will rank highly in Google searches.

Alexi from Google’s Search Quality team explains this nice and simply in this neat little video (even if it’s a little cringe-worthy, the message is clear and understandable.)

Watch plenty of tips on Google Webmasters YouTube channel.

Submissions & Tenders – to template or not?

At The Write Business we are often asked to help small businesses prepare their submissions or responses to tenders.

You may ask – how are we able to do that without really knowing the business? It’s a good question. We take a structured approach to learning about your business and, having worked with a variety of other businesses and their submissions, we have learnt how to solicit the necessary information. This experience also means we bring objective and constructive criticism to your current materials.

We go through an initial information gathering session to accumulate knowledge of your business and also conduct our own research of the industry and the competition. We also run a session to ascertain your current business objectives and to better define your competitive advantage.

This is quite an investment of time upfront, however, and often it’s the case, it’s a good foundation to assist with developing a bank of materials for other submissions in the future.

All submissions, proposals and responses to tenders need to be tailored – a cookie cutter approach is not advisable.

However, some business documents can be prepared as a standard template and be organised in a logical folder system from which to draw on for each submission. These likely include your company profile including vision and mission, your business structure, staff bios as well as all the information you usually need to include like insurance details and pricing schedules.

Demonstrated experience is almost always a requirement and this definitely needs to be tailored to address the criteria. We recommend building up a bank of case studies that cover all your service areas and products and how they have performed across a range of projects. You can then pull on this bank and tweak the cases to address specific criteria. This ‘bank’ can be built up gradually, prompted by the submissions as you go along.

No matter what business you are in, if the submission format allows, we also recommend use of good photography to illustrate how effective your business is – and how professional.

You will also need referees and their testimonials are always handy. So, when you finish projects collect testimonials and referee permissions along the way – so you don’t have to make adhoc calls at the eleventh hour before submission.

Contact us if you’d like help preparing your submissions. We really enjoy bringing structure and organisation to business materials that help our clients to win tenders and contracts and also in a way that helps our clients to do it themselves.

Online marketing for small business. Do words count?

Online marketing for small business? Do words count?

The short answer is yes – one by one. Take the low road, step by step, not the high Everest track.

Small business owners often ask us for our opinion on refreshing their website, placing Google adwords, should they have a Blog and be on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media of the moment. Their expectations are high – they assume they have to do it all.

We could say, “yes, you should do all of these and, if you commission our writing services, your new good quality written content will sort out your marketing”. We don’t. Even though it would bring business our way, we’d be doing you a disservice. Why? Small businesses rarely have enough time to build a solid foundation on which to maintain a momentum of continuous engagement through online channels with their customers. It takes a lot of energy, creativity and organisation to continuously feed the online cookie monster. Larger companies employ people to do this job full-time.

So, what should a small business do? 

I’m a great believer in the ‘eat the elephant in small bites’ approach – one step at a time:

1. WEBSITE

Start by having a great website that speaks directly to your customers – don’t forget the existing ones as well as the ones you haven’t met yet. Your words should be simple and direct, including keywords (the words people use in Google to search for businesses like yours). Include great visuals, a dynamic design (preferably designed by someone who knows what they are doing – a professional designer and programmer) and always remember to ask yourself these questions – who, what, how, why:

  • Who is arriving at your site?
  • What are they looking for?
  • How do they behave on your site or how do you want them to behave on your site?
  • Why would they stay or come back for more?

If you can stand in their shoes and review your website as they will, you stand a better chance of creating a website that will work for your business.

2. BLOG, POST NEWS

Devise a manageable calendar of posting information, news and useful tips on a regular basis to keep your website interesting. Monthly posts are great, but be kind to yourself – one post every 6-8 weeks would be good – that’s only half a dozen a year. Make sure the information is relevant to your customers – and builds trust and confidence in your brand.

3. E-NEWSLETTER

Let your existing customer database know that you have posted new and useful information by sending out a regular newsletter by email. You can make this easy by scheduling at the same time as your post on your blog. The newsletter can include a couple of short pieces – the breadcrumbs to lead people to your website to read more.

4. SOCIAL MEDIA

Once you have these three steps under control – you’ll be ready to move from the waltz to the foxtrot, by incorporating social media posts to align with your website, blog and e-newsletter. Look to your customers’ habits to define which social media platform to place your bets on, but understand that you‘ll have to post a lot more often than six times a year. Make it at best a weekly habit. Make a date in your diary with yourself to take 10 minutes to make your posts and also to respond to comments, queries and to moderate. Social media is not a one-way channel.

MAKE IT EASY FOR YOURSELF – SHARE THE LOAD

To make all four steps easier, sit down with your team to create a list of topics to talk about in your posts – test them against a set of basic criteria to make sure they’re enforcing your brand and are valuable to your customers. Then share out the work – ask different members of the team to draft the ones they feel confident talking about. They don’t need to be long but genuine is good. Just make sure someone proofs them for quality and spelling before posting. Keep an ongoing list of topics on a shared document that everyone can add to, e.g. in Google docs or Dropbox or on your own server. Make use of all your content by sharing blog posts and newsletter articles on your social media site/s.

IS IT WORKING FOR YOU?

Last of all – bear with me – keep a simple log of what you posted and when – did you notice any more enquiries or interaction? Don’t give up too soon, it’s a gradual process building the foundation – just keep to your diary appointments with yourself and enjoy your postage time. Ask your customers what they like about your newsletter and posts, and use the analytics on your website and e-newsletter (e.g. MailChimp) to find out what people are reading and clicking on.

READ MORE:

Lee Traupel’s article in The Huffington Post  has some great tips – ‘ Why Many Social Media Experts are Selling Snake Oil’.

NEED HELP:

Louise and I are at hand if you’d like to talk through the written content for your website or preparing a topic list for blogs and e-newsletters. We can also refer you to a fantastic band of creative designers, photographers, videographer and social media gurus if you require. Email us!

Carola Akindele-Obe is one of writing partners at The Write Business.

 

Bringing MoMA to Town

BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE ART GALLERY

Glenn Iseger-Pilkington, Associate Curator of Indigenous Objects and Photography talks with Carola Akindele-Obe about his experience working on the planning and presentation of bringing works from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to Perth for the Van Gogh, Dali and Beyond: The World Reimagined at the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

Delivering six exhibitions with MoMA has had the Gallery in a spin. The staff and the curators are under pressure to deliver on multiple levels. So I am surprised when Glenn Iseger-Pilkington answers the phone on a Friday afternoon with a bounce in his voice and a chuckle. From the conversation that follows it is evident that he thrives on the diversity and the continuous learning that his role affords him.

He’s cognisant that his gregarious nature and interest in people from all walks of life has set him up well for the code switching required of an Indigenous art curator. Equally at ease conversing with Indigenous artists at a remote community as he is with a museum director in New York, Glenn professes that he loves to hear and talk about art.

Glenn started out as a photographer and new media artist. Studying for a BA in Fine Art from Edith Cowan University to pay the bills, he took on coordinating the Regional and Indigenous Artist Development Program for Artsource.

‘In working with Indigenous artists and other curators I became interested in how art collections are developed and the important role institutions play in capturing cultural memory.’

From an Indigenous background on his father’s side, and a European background on his mother’s, it was inevitable that Glenn would be drawn to preserving the cultural legacy of first Australians.

‘I didn’t really plan to become a curator but my decision to work at AGWA six years ago turned out to be a good one. If I was ever to move out of my specialty in Indigenous art I’m almost certain I would continue to work with new media, photography and installation art.’

As an AGWA curator Glenn looks after the Gallery’s collection of Indigenous works on paper, new media, sculpture, ceremonial artefacts and some bark paintings. He explains that it’s not easy to compartmentalise a curator’s role by art medium, particularly with Indigenous art, because it’s more about what is being communicated, for example a ‘narrative’ painted on bark, may also be applied to a carved object. .

Starting with a very large coffee, his regular day at the Gallery includes researching the collection, piecing together information about individual works, such as attributing works to people, times and places, as well as finding ways to communicate the works in the collection in practical and meaningful ways.

‘We inhabit the exhibition spaces – looking at placement of works, lighting, design elements etc. Writing is also important – for catalogue essays and journals – and it’s something that I have enjoyed developing with the help of mentors and good editors. I think writing absorbs some of my latent creative energy.’

In October 2012 Glenn travelled to New York where he worked on a scale model of the planned exhibition, at MoMA.

Salvador Dali

Van Gogh, Dalí and Beyond: The World Reimagined is showing 22 June – 2 December 2013 at The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.

 ‘The experience of working on Van Gogh, Dalí and Beyond: The World Reimagined has rekindled my interest in modernism and contemporary art and undoubtedly broadened my career path. With co-curators Gary Dufour and Samantha Friedman, Assistant Curator, Department of Drawings, The Museum of Modern Art, we have collaborated over the selection of works, the design of the space, audio tours and of course the installation itself.’

When asked what Friends and visitors will find most exciting about the show, Glenn chooses the power of proximity,

‘I hadn’t really considered ‘modern art’ since I studied it at art school, so to see these incredibly iconic artworks in real life, instead of a small representation on a page or on the web, is really quite exhilarating. To think that the hands of such influential artists’ were right there painting on these surfaces!’

Visitors will take away much more than this. As well as the versatile craftsmanship of the great artists, Van Gogh, Dalí and Beyond encourages contemplation on how we respond to change. The exhibition covers landscape, still life and portraiture from 1889 – 2011, created in times of great change, world wars and social development.

‘It’s easy to forget the date of the older works because they sit so comfortably with the works of recent times in their style and how they challenge the status quo. However we have to recall that artists in the early 1900s were hugely restricted, sometimes persecuted and not celebrated. Contemporary artists today have so much freedom and can enjoy success during their lifetimes.’

In November, we are invited to hear Glenn talk about Salvador Dalí before the screening of the film Dali Dimension – Decoding the Mind of a Genius.

‘Dalí is totally unique; many artists have tried to emulate his work without success. In a small space he is able to present multiple realities, often polarities, such as depictions of loss and euphoria. Because of this his work elicits different responses from different viewers – and so, the viewer in many ways creates, or resolves the work in their own minds.’

I think we can all tell by Dalí’s subject matter that he must have been a complex thinker and possibly deeply troubled. He lived in a time when artists were beginning to take on celebrity status. This was not an easy transition, especially as many artists had previously been able to hide behind their creations.’

Glenn encourages Friends and visitors to look closely at Dalí’s work to appreciate the skill and control in the details; often so fine that he must have used a magnifying glass, for instance look at the cascading bicycles in Illumined Pleasures 1929.

Salvador Dalí – a Film and Lecture, with Glenn Iseger-Pilkington
Mon 11 Nov, 6 – 8.30pm ($40/$50)
AGWA Theatrette
Dalí Dimension – Decoding The Mind Of A Genius  (2008, 75 minutes) delves into the psyche of the Surrealist artist. Through a series of rare film clips and interviews with the artist, it explores the many inspirations that resulted in Dalí’s masterpieces. An evening that will expand your mind!
Bookings required: CLICK HERE.

Van Gogh, Dalí and Beyond: The World Reimagined is organised by The Museum of Modern Art, New York in collaboration with The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.
Visit www.momaseries.com.au for more info.

This article was published in the August 2013 edition of Artifacts, the magazine of the Friends of the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Carola Akindele-Obe is an editor and writer at The Write Business.

Chickens and Eggs – website copy

Which comes first? The copy or the website design? It can work both ways but we recommend that copywriters and web designers work together from the start.

Undoubtedly the end goal of the website is the priority, to be nutted out first, and this affects the functionality and the wireframes.

Copywriters are often seen as an add-on at the end of the project, and sure, if given a good brief that includes the page templates, style and quantity of text required, their work should fit like a glove.

However, in real practice, this is rarely the case. A new website is often a very large task for an internal team and if you don’t have a team to look after these projects, it really is a big ask on top of everything else you are doing to keep on top of your job.

When a new website is planned it often comes with a hidden agenda (or rather, aspiration) to re-brand. Even if that isn’t the case it usually comes with the weighted ambition of ‘doing things differently’ (hopefully connecting with customers better). As the development workshops progress, ideas evolve and the commissioning client becomes accustomed to a new way of doing business via their website. Brainstorming occurs.

The brains of designers and writers have to come together during the planning process. The designer thinks deeply about the intuitive ways that people access information and the visual language. The writers are thinking about how language plants the seed for action and inspiration; they are thinking about the logic and order of information. These elements need to work together to create a useful website that meets your business goals.

Working in concert from the early stages also reduces wasted time and money later. For example, confusion often occurs when a writer is inadequately briefed and poor work is delivered. If the copywriter is involved from the start a deeper understanding is obtained along the way, and you don’t need to sweat over generating a copywriting brief. (The quality of any creative work is often dependent on a good brief.)

The two minds of designer and writer working together from the outset will, more often than not, create a better, more creative and more productive website.