Maggiecrowley's Blog


Bloggers Advice

Posted in Topic of the Week by Maggie on July 14, 2010

Greetings PR students and future bloggers!  Beginning as a novice blogger myself, I am proud of the progress I’ve made and the amount I’ve learned from blogging in the past several months.  I cannot say that I am an expert yet, but I’m confident that if you look back at some of my earlier blogs (circa January 2010) you will see some major improvements!  If you are looking for some quick and dirty tips from a mediocre blogger, like myself, you’ve come to the right place!

Here I’ve compiled a short list of 10 clues that may help you beginner bloggers:

  1. Concise, short, succinct.  For social media, it is best to entice readers with smaller paragraphs.
  2. Set a goal- why not decide how much time you are willing to put into your blog? How much do you want to write? What do you want to write about?
  3. Themes can be catchy and cute, but don’t over do it, buddy! When a page gets overcrowded it will be hard for the reader to focus on the most important part: your words.
  4. Speak you heart (but not too much). It is possible to relay what you want to say without being vulgar, wordy or fussy- even though it may take some extra time.
  5. Always use some kind of citation or link if you use others’ words, pictures or ideas.  It’s very easy to do.
  6. You can dress up a semi-boring post with a picture or graphic!  Whether it’s an assignment or personal, pictures can brighten just about anything with color and animation
  7. Don’t just blab- try to write about things that you care about. If you do not care about what you’re writing, no one else will either.
  8. Think outside of the box! Blogs are fun because they are so versatile. You can change its appearance and depth as quickly as you change your mood and mind.
  9. If you are having trouble getting started, try looking at other blogs for some inspiration. There are millions of blogs existing in the outer space of the word wide web- surely there is one that can grab your attention.
  10. Have fun!!! Blogging can only benefit those who enjoy and appreciate it. Hey, why bother, right?
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Social Media News Releases

Posted in Personal,Uncategorized by Maggie on July 8, 2010

This information can be found in PUBLIC RELATION WRITING AND MEDIA TECHNIQUES, 6th edition, by Dennis L. Wilcox.

What is a social media news release?  Social media news releases, or SMNR, share information similar to what can be found in a traditional news release, with added high-resolution photos, graphics, videos or audio components.  Social media news releases are the high-tech version of traditional news releases that provide information in five general areas including:

  • Announcements– provides information about the occurrence of personnel appointments, promotions and changes, new products or services, earnings, mergers, events, etc.
  • Spot Announcements– occur under circumstances that can not be controlled by an organization, like a storm or outside action, that must explain what happened and how it will affect the organization.
  • Reaction Releases– when an event or situation has an impact on an organization, this type of news release can be used to describe how the event has impacted related organizations and how it will affect the public.
  • Bad News- an approach used to confront an issue that may damage an organization’s image, otherwise.
  • Local News- localizes issues to make organizations and events seem closer to home and more important to certain communities.

Social media news releases were first pioneered by the major electronic distribution services, such as Business Wire, PR Newswire, and Marketwire.  To promote maximum exposure, these distribution moguls have teamed up with major search engines like Google, Yahoo! and MSN to make searching and finding much easier.

According to most experts, bloggers are one of the biggest targeted audiences when it comes to social media news releases. This audience spends a lot of time on the Internet and is familiar with how to handle these types of releases.

When writing a social media news release, keep in mind that only actual news should be included.  Sometimes readers can be overwhelmed by the magnitude of information in news releases.  As writers, we should try to avoid over-stimulating readers with every tid-bit of multi-media excitement and too many words.  Paragraphs should stay succinct and factual to be most affective.

Social media is an easy and cost-effective way for news releases to circulate, especially for major event and product launches.  This example of a SMNR is an announcement of Chik-Fil-A’s new spicy chicken sandwich. Unlike a traditional news release, this example was formatted for the Internet and includes a high-def picture to further entice viewers.

Chick-Fil-A Heats Up Menu with New Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of a social media news release:

Pro’s:

  • Relatively easy to create
  • Cost-effective
  • Ability to reach masses of viewers
  • Very versatile

Cons:

  • May be harder to “stand out”
  • Sensory overload
  • Can be more difficult to reach target audience

How and when to utilize a social media news release can be tricky. It is important for users to determine when it will be most effective to use a social media news release.  SMNR’s are effective when announcing the release or launch of a new product or service.  Public relations practitioners should consider the timing of a SMNR before it’s distribution.  Social media news releases can be used simultaneously with the placement of other forms of advertisement, like PSA’s, commercials, newspaper and magazine placement, radio announcements, etc.

Social media news releases can be created using pre-made templates found in the Internet or, for the experienced practitioner, can be homemade.  Here are a couple of links that offer help for those new to the practice of creating social media news releases.

PRX Builder: Create, Combine, Distribute

Copyblogger: How to Write a Social Media Press Release

Take a look at this You-Tube video for a quick lesson in social media news releases:

This social media news release utilizes the images and hyperlinks to entice readers and provide additional information.

Times Live: Zuma to Captain Special Olympics Cup Squad

When creating a social media news release, Craig McGuire, of PRWeek, offers the following pointers:

  • Include links offering additional information
  • Place important terms in key positions like headlines and first paragraphs
  • Distribute releases through a service that carries hyperlinks to downstream sites
  • Don’t go link crazy- too many links confuse readers and make releases look sloppy
  • Don’t use low-resolution photos- high-resolution photos look better and are easier to use
  • The message comes first- use the “bells and whistles” after completing the message
  • Use bullets to convey key points
  • Be sure to provide contact information
  • Use short paragraphs with important information- skip the flab.

Social media news releases are an important part of social media and public relations today. From here, we can only go forward with social media- it is a growing part of public relations and can be utilized to benefit creators and viewers.

How to Drive a Journalist Crazy!

Posted in Topic of the Week by Maggie on July 6, 2010

Public relations professionals share a tight-knit relationship with journalists. Media relations are an important part of working in PR.  PR people rely on journalists heavily, but the dependency is mutual because journalists need PR professionals, too.  Here is a list of common discrepancies between PR writers and journalists, followed by a solution to the problem, or how to avoid it altogether.

  1. The problem:  Hype and News Release Spam.  Journalists receive hundreds of e-mails everyday and are dulled by the hype words attempting to bribe them to a story.  Due to the constant flow of spam and overrated news releases, journalists often conclude that many publicists and PR writers are incompetent.

A different approach:  In order to catch the attention of journalists without bugging them by sending e-mail after e-mail, PR professionals could try sending an actual hand-written letter to journalists. If the letter doesn’t prompt a response, PR writers may try catching up with journalists in person to talk about upcoming events or stories.  By meeting up with journalists in person, PR people can get a feeling for what the journalist is interested in writing about or publishing instead of the hit and miss technique that is adopted when constantly sending e-mails about what they find interesting.

2. The problem: Name Calling.  When journalists and PR professionals don’t get along, the bitter relationship can quickly go from bad to worse when the name calling begins.

A different approach:  To completely avoid the phenomenon of name calling, public relations writers should go out of their way to ensure a respectful and professional relationship with journalists.  To do so, a PR person may consider offering a small promotional item, or some kind of sincere gesture to the journalists to start things off right.  Because of their mutual dependency on one another, name calling is just one more unfortunate down side of the relationship between the two that should be completely avoided.

3.  The problem:  Sloppy reporting.  Sometimes when journalists publish a story, it doesn’t turn out the way that we hoped. Instead of getting mean or even, the PR pro should remember the necessity of a good relationship between journalism and PR.

A different approach:  Instead of getting mean or seeking revenge, the PR professional should step back, take a breath and try to understand what happened.  Why would the story turn out the way it did? How can we prevent misunderstandings like this in the future? Is this someone you should really be working with to begin with?

4.  The problem:  Advertising influence.  Often, published stories are the works of paid advertising. Sometimes, only paid advertisements make the story. Because PR tries to avoid paid advertising, there can be some resentment if that’s the case.

A different approach:  In order to avoid the negativity that comes with not being able to share information with audiences because of the journalists, PR professionals could try other media outlets.

5.  The problem:  Tabloid Journalism.  Some outlets of journalism do not require the highest standard of ethical and fair reporting and some journalists do not mind sensationalizing headlines and stories, just to sell the issue.

A different approach:  Instead of stopping service to journalism altogether, PR professionals should try to avoid the muck of flab journalism.  PR people could try talking to the reporter to before offering information to find out their real motives to publishing the story.

6.  The problem:  Lack of preparation.  On either side of the fence, when someone or something is not prepared for an interview, story, deadline, etc. it can cause problems to everyone.

A different approach: In order to avoid this problem, take every means necessary to prepare yourself for upcoming deadlines, events, stories, etc!!! If you are the one being outed when another individual is unprepared, you can try to avoid working with them in the future, or try to give reminders to ensure that everyone stays on tasks.

7.  The problem:  Disrespect.  When anything goes wrong in the media, a scape goat is often sought after to blame.

A different approach:  Instead of blaming a journalist of co-worker, try to find the root of the problem and fix it before a new problem arises.  Blaming is the beginning of an unhealthy and disrespectful relationship.

8.  The problem:  Bribery.  Journalists and PR professionals alike have all been bribed to print a story, or support a cause that they don’t necessarily believe in.

A different approach:  When bribery takes place,  no one wins.  While promotional items are commonly used, bribery takes the competition out of the game by winning someone over with money and gimmicks.

Chapter 14

Posted in Reading Notes by Maggie on July 6, 2010

This information is found in PUBLIC RELATION WRITING AND MEDIA TECHNIQUES, 6th edition, by Dennis L. Wilcox.

Chapter 14:  Writing E-mail, Memos, and Proposals

Public relations writing can involve writing through any vehicle- some important and often used writing includes e-mail, memos and proposals.  The PR writer may become well versed in all of these types of writing quickly because they are used so commonly.  When writing for any of the above stated, it is important to “write smart, simple, and short,” says Richard E. Neff, a consultant in Belgium who writes for Communication World.

Although e-mail or, electronic mail, is a commonly used communication tool by most people today, it’s important to note the difference between professional and ‘play’ use. Professionals should recognize the limitations of e-mail and effectively use its’ advantages efficiently and responsibility and ethically.  E-mail has many advantages, including:

  • It reduces the cost of employee communications
  • Increases the distribution of messages to more employees
  • Flattens the corporate hierarchy
  • Speeds decision making

E-mail also makes it easy for professionals to keep up with upcoming events, make arrangements and appointments, and review and edit documents.  We should remember that e-mail is only one communication tool- e-mail can never replace the quality of face-to-face communication.

An e-mail should contain only important information.  Style, grammar, and substance are all important parts of professional e-mails, and should remain flawless.  Messages should be brief, blunt and easy to read.  E-mails should always be double checked before being sent.

A memo, or memorandum, is a brief written message that is usually photocopied and distributed to employees.  A memo can serve almost any communication purpose. A memo should be specific and to the point.  The key message should be found in the first paragraph. A memo’s format should contain these five elements:

  • Date
  • To:
  • From:
  • Subject
  • Message

Letters are not obsolete! Although e-mail is pervasive in today’s society, letter writing is a commonly thought of as a more formal or official type of communication.  As a PR professional, there are two types of letters we use:

  • Personal letters are written to a specific individual establishing dialogue between the sender and receiver.
  • Form letters are less personal letters are sent to large numbers of people concerning a specific issue, usually business related.

Letters can be written to ask information, give information, motivate, answer complaints, soothe or arouse, warn, admit or deny.  Letters carry just about any type of message.

Public relations firms usually acquire new business through the preparation of a proposal offering services to individuals or organizations.  Proposals usually include:

  • Background information
  • Client’s situation
  • Goals and objectives
  • Key messages
  • Basic strategies
  • General timeline of activities
  • Proposed budget
  • How success will be measured
  • Adescription of the team that will handle the account
  • Summary of why the firm should be chosen for the job.

Proposals should follow a logical and well organized format.  They are prepared to convince management to make a decision about  a contact or approve money and resources for a project.

Chapter 12

Posted in Reading Notes by Maggie on July 1, 2010

This information is found in PUBLIC RELATION WRITING AND MEDIA TECHNIQUES, 6th edition, by Dennis L. Wilcox.

Chapter 12: Tapping the Web and New Media

It is estimated that over  1.5 billion people are regular internet users.  With this many people logging on to the web daily, the internet can be used as a tool to reach many people in a short amount of time and with little cost.  Information can be updated quickly, users can be involved interactively, mass amounts of information can be found, and users can access details about a company’s organization in a very short amount of time. 

Professionals who write specifically for the web point out that it’s important to remember to:

  • Define the objective of the site
  • Design the site with the audience in mind
  • Update constantly
  • Don’t overdo the graphics
  • Make the site interactive
  • Use feedback

Blogs are now practically a mainstream in social media.  Blogs are used by millions of people because of their versatility, low costs, quick and easy update techniques, and because people can write about what ever they want or feel. 

A few common types of blogs include:

  • Corporate blogs- written about an organizaiton by an executive and represents the official voice of a company
  • Employee blogs- written by employees to share information with others about what is going on in the inside of the company and what they have been working on lately
  • Third-Party blogs- written by outsiders of a company sharing their ideas or opinions about the company or services or products they received

Other popular social media outlets used today include:

  • MySpace
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Second Life
  • Twitter

Podcasting, texting, and Wiki’s are all common techniques for sharing multimedia information.  Today, these can all be used as tools to reach audiences by PR professionals.

Chapter 11

Posted in Reading Notes by Maggie on July 1, 2010

This information is found in PUBLIC RELATION WRITING AND MEDIA TECHNIQUES, 6th edition, by Dennis L. Wilcox

Chapter 11: Getting Along with Journalists

Media relations is often thought of as one of the most important job responsibilities of a public relations practitioner.   In order for our stories and information to be read by audiences, the journalists must agree to print them; this is the foundation of the importance for PR professionals to get along with journalists.  The relationship works both ways- the media is dependant on public relation professionals, and public relations people are dependant on the media.

Here are several areas of friction that every PR practitioner should try to avoid when it comes to working with journalists:

  • Hype and news release spam
  • Name calling
  • Sloppy reporting
  • Tabloid journalism
  • Advertising influence

Public relations professionals should always try to maintain a respectful and solid working relationship with journalists.  The textbook suggests that we should always be prepared and ready for media interviews and gives tips on how to do so.  News conferences, teleconferences and webcasts should be given the same preparation.  Media tours are aimed to generate news coverage for the client or employer and to build relationships among an organization and it’s public. 

When working with media relations, take note of the following:

  • Know your media!
  • Limit mailings
  • Localize
  • Send only newsworthy information
  • Practice, practice, practice good writing
  • Avoid gimmicks
  • Be available
  • Answer your phone
  • Be truthful
  • Answer questions with one of the three acceptable answers found in the book
  • Be fair
  • Explain
  • Praise good work
  • Correct errors politely

It is important for PR professionals to use proper and polite media etiquette.  Crisis communication is a test of excellent media relations. It’s important to have a healthy and positive relationship with media, especially in a crisis.

Multimedia Storytelling

Posted in Topic of the Week by Maggie on June 30, 2010

According to NewsUniversity’s online course instructor, Jane Stevens, there are “5 Steps to Multimedia Reporting”.

Take a look at the course here:  5 Steps to Multimedia Reporting

The course explains how multimedia stories are built by guiding us through a case study about the dancing rocks of the Racetrack Playa.  The 5 steps include:

  1. Choosing a story
  2. Making a storyboard
  3. Reporting with multimedia
  4. Editing for the web
  5. Producing the story

As a novice writer, I’ve really never written for multimedia- unless Facebook or WordPress count! One important tip I learned from this online course is that when choosing a story, it’s very important to write about something that you are interested in.  If that’s not the case, then the story will be boring to everyone that reads it, just like it is boring for the writer.  Having never put together a storyboard before, I found it to be a very interesting and a little surprising  that the approach to brainstorming ideas for media placement is so broad. As for producing a multimedia story, there are many differences compared to the traditional approach,  one of the most important being that the content needs to be extremely organized and easy to read.

In all, the case study of the dancing rocks was a great example of a creative and fascinating multimedia story. In order to learn more, I feel like the next step for me would be to attempt my own example of a multimedia story.  One concern for me would be not being internet savvy enough to produce an extensive and impressive story with all the glamour and glitter of the example. But, the best way to learn is try, right? This NewsUniversity course has been one of the more helpful and interesting that we’ve taken this semester. I have really enjoyed it! To take a look at the case study of the moving rocks of the Racetrack Playa, click here: The Dancing Rocks of Death Valley.

The Power of the Pod Cast

Posted in Topic of the Week by Maggie on June 26, 2010

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a podcast as, “a program (as of music of voice) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet”.  Podcasts can be found all over the internet; today, they are very common and readily available for listeners.  Anyone can listen to a podcats, and they can be found on most any topic, based on the listeners interest.  There are sports, news, comedy, and cooking podcasts, just to name a few.  Podcasts are an easy and cost-effective way to obtain new information or entertainment.

Personally, I’ve subscribed to a few free podcasts- but I don’t have much experience. In the past, I listened to poetry podcasts and a few music and movie podcasts just for entertainment. Most recently, I have listened to several podcasts from The Creative Career.  This unique website offers many podcast interviews hosted by Allie Osmar.  The podcasts are aimed to offer information to college students who are making the transition from college to the public relations work place.  And there is a plethora of information! Here are a couple of the podcasts I found most interesting:

More Tips for Networking Events – an Interview with Author, Sandy Jones-Kaminski.

Can listening to podcasts be beneficial to public relations students?  Absolutely! With the abundance of social media and internet dependency that is present today, podcasts are just another outlet for reaching large groups of people easily.  You can find a podcast on just about anything that you want to listen to. There are so many to choose from! According to instat.com it is estimated that more than 270 million people will own portable entertainment devices. With all of these iPods and MP3’s out there, it makes sense why there are so many podcasts. Podcasts are an easy and convenient way to provide entertainment and information to millions of people.

Chapter 10

Posted in Reading Notes by Maggie on June 25, 2010

This information is found in PUBLIC RELATION WRITING AND MEDIA TECHNIQUES, 6th edition, by Dennis L.

Chapter 10:  Distributing News to the Media

There are many different vehicles to distribute information to the media. Including email, online news rooms, placement firms, mail and faxing, social media, and news letters. Finding the right medium is important in order to effectively reach an audience.

  • Media databases provide information like names of publications and broadcast stations, mailing addresses, contact information and the name of key editors and reporters. Today many media databases are made convenient through the internet.
  • Editorial calendars operate through trade publications and business periodicals. Many of these are sent in advance and provide information to editors and gatekeepers.
  • Tip sheets are weekly news letters that report recent changes in both media databases and editorial calendars. Keeping up to date with this information increases the likelihood of media placement.

Todays primary distribution channels include:

  • Email
  • Online newsrooms
  • Electronic wire services
  • Feature placement firms
  • Photo placement firms
  • Mail
  • Fax
  • CD-ROMS

To maximize online distribution, PR professionals focus on the key words in headlines, enhancing URL’S, anchoring text and embedded words, adding multimedia content, and tagging social media.

Chapter 9

Posted in Reading Notes by Maggie on June 25, 2010

This information is found in PUBLIC RELATION WRITING AND MEDIA TECHNIQUES, 6th edition, by Dennis L.

Chapter 9: Writing for Radio and Television

Radio and television reach millions of people everyday.  These vehicles of information can reach audiences effectively if used correctly.

While radio may not be as glamorous at television and the internet, it is a cost-effective way to reach large numbers of people in various age, ethnic and income groups. There are about 13,500 different radio stations in the U.S. PR professionals can reach these listeners through:

  • Radio news releases are used to inform the public of upcoming events, announcements, etc.  Radio news releases are written and sent to stations for reading on the air or recording.  When sending a Radio news release to a station, it’s important to use the correct format, and consider the timing of the release.
  • Audio news releases are pre-recorded sound bites that are sent to stations to be played over the air for listeners.  The format is different from the RNR but equally important.
  • Public service announcements are unpaid announcements to promote programs of government or nonprofit agencies or to serve public interest. PSA’s often use statistics to inform audiences.
  • Radio media tours are essentially a round-the-country one on one interviews from a central location. Telephone interviews are pre-brooked with hosts and recorded for later use. RMT’s are primarily used because of their low-cost and convenience.

Television offers the combination of movements, sound and visualization to entertain viewers. The NAB estimates that television news programs reach over thirty million people a day. There are abundant opportunities for the placement of public relations materials at the local and national level. In order for a news story to be placed on television the PR professional must follow many requirements. Like radio, television uses a similar format called video news releases as well as PSA’s. Other placement opportunities include:

  • Talk shows
  • Magazine shows
  • Documentary videos
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