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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.

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

Chapter 8

Posted in Reading Notes by Maggie on June 19, 2010

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

Chater 8: Selecting Publicity Photos and Graphics

Publicity photos are an important addition to news releases and feature stories because they add interest, variety and often explain things better than words alone.

Components of a good photo include:

  • technical quality
  • subject matter
  • composition
  • action
  • scale
  • camera angle
  • lighting and timing

When working with photographers, it’s important to be sure to find an appropriate photographer, agree to a fair contract, plan a photo session in advance, edit appropriately, and always keep ethics in mind.

When distributing photos and artwork, there are four different formats that offer a variety of options depending on what an editor is looking for.  Remember, the editor is who you’re selling to!

Chapter 7

Posted in Reading Notes by Maggie on June 19, 2010

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

Chapter 7: Creating News Features and Op-Ed

A feature story provides background information, generates human interest and creates an understanding in comparison to a news release which only discloses basic information about situation and events.

Feature stories must:

  • provide more information to the consumer
  • give background and context about organizations
  • provide behind-the-scenes perspective
  • give a dimension to situations and events
  • and generate publicity for standard products and services

There are several types of feature stories…

  • Case study- frequently used in product publicity and often tell how individual customers have benefitted from a company’s product or service.
  • Application story- similar to a case study, distinctive in that an application story focuses on how consumers can use a product or a service in new and innovative ways.
  • Research study- uses polls and surveys to provide information about a product or service to readers.
  • Backgrounder- provides some kind of history or evolvement of a product or service
  • Personality profile- used to relate with readers. These features usually “sell” the idea of a profile, make the executive available, provide background information and even arrange photo shoots
  • Historical Piece- focuses on anniversaries, major changes, centennials or other events.

Parts of a feature include the headline, the lead, the body, the summary and photos or graphics. Features can be placed in newspapers, magazines and internal publications.

Chapter 6

Posted in Reading Notes by Maggie on June 12, 2010

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

Chapter 6 Preparing Fact Sheets, Advisories, Media Kits, and Pitches

Here are several key terms that are important found in this chapter:

  • Fact sheets– one page background sheets about an event , a product, or an organization.
  • Media kit (press kit)– kit containing materials like news releases, fact sheets and photos.
  • Media advisories (media alert)- used to let assignment editors know about a newsworthy event or interview opportunity that could be helpful for photo or video coverage.
  • Pitch effective memos and e-mails that are meant to persuade reporters and editors to cover a product, service or event.

In order to pitch a story effectively, it is important to:

  • Research the publication that is being sought. Pitches are not meant to be “one size fits all”, pitches must be customized individually to an organizations.
  • Prepare the pitch appropriately according to who and where it’s going.
  • Keep it short! “The first rule of a pitch is brevity” (page 156).
  • Use succinct sharp wording for effective sentences.
  • Have an enticing lead to attract editors and ‘gatekeepers’.
  • Follow up! It is always important to follow up after sending pitches to media outlet editors. Whether by phone, email or mail, an effective follow up can make or break chances of a successful pitch.

Chapter 5

Posted in Reading Notes by Maggie on June 12, 2010

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

Chapter 5- Writing the News Release

This chapter of discusses the basics when it  comes to writing a news release. A news release is, or press release, is the backbone of most publicity plans. Shockingly, studies have shown that between 55-97% of all news releases intended for media use are never even used!   In order for a news release to be considered by media outlets, there are three criteria that must be met:

  1. A standard format must be used
  2. Information provided must interest the audience
  3. The material must be timely

News releases are important because they help organizations achieve objectives of many kinds.  Another reason why news releases are so prevalent is because they are so cost-effective. Also, in contrast to advertisements,  news releases seem much more credible.

There are several types of news releases:

  • Announcements- announce personal appointments, promotions, new products or services, reports of sales, contests, anniversaries, openings, etc.
  • Spot Announcements- used to announce some outside action or influence that effects an organization.
  • Reaction Releases- used when an event or situation has an impact on the organization
  • Bad News- used to confront issues that reflect badly on an organization.
  • Local News- used in weekly newspapers, and local writing to give “hometown” news to locals

There are seven elements to a traditional news release:

  1. Letterhead
  2. Contacts
  3. Headline
  4. Dateline
  5. Lead paragraph
  6. Body of text
  7. Summary of organization

Leads are most important because they attract and entice readers to a story.  When it comes to writing a news release, PR practitioners must remember to use factual information, be professional, and keep the story interesting.

PRCA 3330: Reading Notes (Chapter 4)

Posted in Reading Notes by Maggie on June 3, 2010

Finding and Making News:

These are a few notes that I found helpful when reading through chapter 4.

  • Obviously, many PR practitioners are expected to generate publicity and hype for an organization or event. Chapter 4 introduces some techniques to help PR people do just this. There can also be some obstacles to avoid, like information overload. To help create a healthy and fulfilling environment for creating awareness, the book suggests following several steps involving understanding the news, as well as the target audience, proactively considering the ideas and interests of clients and audiences, and creatively presenting information that will help get information through the media gatekeepers.
  • Timeliness is just as important as any other characteristic when it comes to news. People do not need to read about events that happened a long time ago!
  • There are many tactics that can be utilized when it comes to generating news. Some of these techniques include special events, awards, personal appearances, stunts and polls. The attention of audiences and readers can be caught by using something interesting first, and then informative.
  • Public relations writings should always be constantly observing and evaluating the media and news. If we are not right on top of what is happening we are left behind in the fast paced environment of the media today.

This has been one of the most helpful chapters in the book so far because I think it will be the most useful when I have a job! This chapter covers the basics when it comes to my ideal job in the future.

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