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Writing E-mail, Memos, and Proposals (week 15 notes) April 27, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Reading Notes.
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     Strong writing skills are essential for the public relations profession. Most students understand the importance of producing copy that is accurate and in the correct format.  Not all of a PR practitioner’s time is spent writing news releases though. Here are some useful tips on writing effective emails and memos:

  • Conciseness – Be as brief as possible and carefully select words to convey your message in a concisive manner.
  • Correctness – An error in a personalized communication reflects on your abilities as a professional.
  • Courtesy – The writing should be polite and personal, but not effusive or overly familiar.
  • Responsibility – Remember that your message is a representation of your client.

All information is paraphrased from Wilcox’s Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques.


Tapping the Web and New Media (week 14 notes) April 27, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Reading Notes.
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     Chapter 12 in Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques addresses the ways in which the Internet has become a part of our everyday lives.  The widespread adoption of the World Wide Web has led to several key distinctions between traditional and new mass media.

  • New media is spread horizontally, rather than the traditional way of passing through gatekeepers
  • New media is more interactive
  • The costs of broadcasting on the Internet is much more affordable than running a print publication or radio station
  • New media gets instantaneous feedback online
  • New media has a more flexible format

Writing for the Web:

  • Design the site with the audience in mind
  • Redesign material for a more graphic presentation
  • Update constantly
  • Make the site interactive and pay attention to feedback

Distributing News to the Media and Journalists (week 13 notes) April 27, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Reading Notes.
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     PR practitioners should always make sure that their writing is accurate and in the correct format.  Persuasive writing needs to be clear and easily accessible to a wide audience.  However, once you get your writing technique down, it is just as important to understand the best ways to get your message to the right kind of audience.  The authors of Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques offer several important guidelines for achieving this objective:

  • Regularly check media databases for names of publications and contact info
  • Familiarize yourself with the editorial calendars for trade publications and business periodicals

Distributing Via Email:

  • Don’t send attachments unless requested (they may contain viruses)
  • Provide links for additional information
  • Use bullets for key points
  • Don’t mass distribute releases (it’s called spam!)
  • Always provide contact email and phone numbers

Areas of Friction to Avoid With Journalists:

  • Avoid hype and news release spam
  • Avoid sloppy or biased reporting
  • Understand the demand of advertising influence on journalists

Writing for TV and Radio (week 12 notes) April 27, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Reading Notes.
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     In today’s mass media environment, public relations practitioners need to be able to produce writing for several different platforms. Writing for television and radio calls for professionals to adopt a versatile writing style.

Writing for the radio:

  • Radio News Releases use a more conversational tone
  • Incomplete or partial sentences may be used
  • Timing is vital, so releases must get to the point quickly.
  • Announcers punctuate with their voices, so not all sentences need verbs or subjects
  • Never start a story with a name as this can confuse listeners

Writing for TV:

  • Video News Releases (VNR’s) are perfect for national distribution or can be posted on company websites
  • VNR’s should contain clear identification of the video source
  • Try to include extra soundbites and b-roll

     Sattelite Media tours are a series of prebooked, one-on-one interviews from a fixed location. This provides busy CEOs with a time-efficient way of giving interviews. The SMT is becoming a staple of public relations and the television industry.

All information is paraphrased from Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques.

Selecting Publicity Photos & Graphics (week 11 notes) April 26, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Reading Notes, Uncategorized.
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     If a picture is worth a thousand words, then photos and graphics should be a vital component to public relations activity.  A good photo and caption could be what makes a story stand out and be selected by editors. Chapter 8 in Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques offers several great pointers for selecting publicity photos and graphics.

Components of a Good Photo:

  • Technical Quality: Make sure the resolution is acceptable
  • Subject Matter: Whenever possible, show action
  • Composition and Scale: The photo should contain some element of known size
  • Camera Angle, Lighting, and Timing

Ethical Considerations:

  • Avoid images that alter reality
  • Make sure the image is not deceiving in any way
  • Don’t violate copyright laws

Other Graphics to Consider Using:

  • Charts (pie, bar, or line graphs)
  • Diagrams showing how something works
  • Scale models

All information is paraphrased from Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques, 6th edition.

Creating News Features and Op-Ed (week 9 notes) March 12, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Reading Notes.
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     A feature story is very different from a basic news release. It will generally contain much more information and greater detail. A feature story leaves more room for creativity, which is essential for generating human interest. Some important attributes of feature stories:

  • Can provide more information to the consumer
  • Gives background context about the featured organization
  • Behind-the-scenes perspective
  • Creates human interest
  • Can generate publicity for standard products and services

     Types of Feature Stories

  • Case Studies – Frequently used in product publicity; form of third-party endorsement or testimonial that helps to illustrate acceptance or popularity
  • Application Story – Focuses primarily on how consumers can use a product or service in new or interesting ways
  • Research Study – Surveys and polls, as well as scientific research, can generate opportunities for feature writing
  • Backgrounder – Focuses on an organization’s history with finding a solution to a problem
  • Personality Profile – Attempt to humanize celebrities or public figures
  • Historical Piece – Perfect for anniversaries, major changes, etc. in an organization

     Possibilities for feature story placement include newspapers, magazines, specialty/trade publications, and organizations’ internal publications.

All information is paraphrased from Dennis Wicox’s book, Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques.

Fact Sheets, Advisories, Media Kits & Pitches (week 8 notes) March 12, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Reading Notes.
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     Fact sheets are usually one page and give background on an event, product, or organization. Some examples of situations that might call for a fact sheet to be prepared:

  • Notifying the public of an upcoming event, giving dates, times, locations, etc.
  • Providing the public with a corporate profile of an organization
  • Summarizing a new or existing product’s characteristics

     Media advisories, or media alerts, are usually issued to journalists who might be interesting in reporting on an event. Since many journalists are under pressure from deadlines, media advisories should be short and to the point. They also should contain enough relevant details to make the event seem worthwhile. This means that the advisory should incorporate the elements of the five W’s.

     A media kit, or press kit, is instrumental in new product launches. It contains a greater variety of resources for reporters than a media advisory or fact sheet.

  • The typical media kit is a folder with four sides (cover, two inside pages, and a back cover
  • The back cover should have the organization’s name, address, and contact information
  • Electronic media kits may be a more cost-efficient alternative

All information is paraphrased from Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques by Dennis Wilcox.

Writing the News Release (Week 7) February 25, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Reading Notes.
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This week’s reading assignment seems pretty important considering I’m in a PR writing class. Being able to write a good news release is a valuable skill that should be mastered. I think the first thing to focus on is familiarizing yourself with the actual layout of a news release. Spacing and margins have to adhere to guidelines, and if a release looks unprofessional, it may be tossed aside before it is read. Planning is also critical in the initial stages of writing a release. This involves getting all the facts organized and mapping out what you want to accomplish.

Parts of the news release

  1. Letterhead
  2. Cotact Information
  3. Headline
  4. Dateline
  5. Lead
  6. Body
  7. Summary of organization

The lead may very well be the most important part of the entire release. If the reader’s attention is not captured at this point, he or she probably will not continue. Alan Caruba, a public relations consultant, made a list of 10 Classic News Release Mistakes (from Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques 6 ed.):   1) No headline  2) Boiler-plate as lead  3) Spelling/grammatical errors  4) Punctuation errors  5) Hyperbole  6) Failure to attribute data  7) No contacts provided  8) Too long  9) Not localized  10) Not accessible at all times

All information is paraphrased from Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques 6th ed.

Avoiding Legal Hassles February 25, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Reading Notes.
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Legal problems should be a concern for those in PR. Firms produce pages upon pages of documents for clients, and it all must be accurate. It is important to cite all sources when appropriate and to avoid publishing statements that could be viewed as defamatory. I think a good tip that the book gives is to avoid “unflattering comments or accusations about the competition’s products or services.”

Some guidelines for using copyrighted material:

  • Expression of ideas can be copyrighted
  • Major public relations materials should be copyrighted
  • Permission is required to use clips of movies, television shows, or published songs
  • Photographers and freelance writers retain the rights to their works
  • Original materials posted on the Internet have copyright protection

Trademarks are a strange phenomena. People always end up using the trademarked name of a product in innapropriate ways. A trademark should never be pluralized or used as a possessive. Additionally, a trademark should not be used as a verb.

All information is paraphrased from Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques 6th ed.

Becoming a Persuasive Writer February 25, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Reading Notes.
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     I think that understanding the basics of communication should be a foundation for any writer, but especially for those intending to persuade his/her audience. It is important to be able to accurately identify the publics and stakeholders that a message could affect, and also to be able to determine which type(s) of medium is appropriate for delivering that message.

     Different people seek news or use media for many different reasons. Theories of communication, shuch as Media Uses and Gratifications Theory, show PR professionals how to segment audiences based on the way they tend to interact with certain types of media. Other things to consider are the ways in which consumers of media adopt new ideas and the ways in which they fulfill their hierarchy of needs.

     Understanding basic concepts of communication theory allows a writer to “know” his or her audience much better. This is the key to persuasive writing. If the writer knows the audience leans a certain way on an issue, then the story can be easily framed.

All information is paraphrased from the book, Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques 6th ed.