Chapter 14 Reading Notes

July 7, 2010 at 2:54 pm (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          In chapter fourteen of our  Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques textbook we learn all about writing e-mail, memos, and proposals. This deals with communicating on a more personal level rather than reaching a large, impersonal audience. There are a few guidelines to remember when writing personalized letters and reports that I remeber easily by referring to them as the 5 C’s and an R:

  • Clarity
  • Completeness
  • Conciseness
  • Correctness
  • Courtesy
  • Responsibility

          Information overload is spreading through our society and this clutter can be reduced by keeping messages short, simple, and to the point. No one wants to read all the “fluff” that goes along with the message you are trying to send, so make sure to clearly state your purpose up front. Text messaging, wikis, and applications such as Twitter (which we are all familiar with after week four) to reduce e-mail bulge to organizations and individuals.

          A common misconception made by many PR professionals is that e-mail is a substitute for personal one-on-one communication. Even though e-mail is rapid and cost efficient, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. It is so important to find a balance between coming off as professional and personal but a PR writer must create a happy medium in order to be successful.

          Memos should be one page or less and the key message should be stated immediately. The textbook gives us five components of a memo:

  1. Date
  2. To
  3. From
  4. Subject
  5. Message

          Proposals are prepared to convince management to make a decision about a contract or approve money and resources for a project and they must follow a logical, well-organized format. They are often written after a client gives a Request for Proposal (RFP) which is circulated to various public relations firms.

          A position paper, sometimes known as a “white paper,” states the organization’s perspective on a specific trend or industry and they should begin with an overview so the highlights can be read immediately without taking up much time.

          Becoming familiar with this chapter will help me build skills that I intend to take with me in my professional career; I now feel more comfortable preparing e-mails and written proposals for not only class, but at work and even communicating with professors and applying for internships.

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Chapter 12 Reading Notes

July 7, 2010 at 2:33 pm (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          Chapter twelve of the  Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques textbook is entitled Tapping the Web and News Media and it deals with writing for online media. The book explains that the media traditionally has had the following characteristics:

  • It is centralized, having a top-down heirarchy.
  • It costs a lot of money to to become a publisher.
  • It is staffed by professional gatekeepers known as editors and publishers.
  • It features mostly one-way communication with limited feedback channels.

          However the new media, known as the mediasphere and the blogosphere by Cooperkatz and Company, is characterized by:

  • Widespread broadband.
  • Cheap/free, easy-to-use online publishing tools.
  • New distribution channels.
  • Mobile devices, such as camera phones.
  • New advertising paradigms.

          When writing for the web a PR professional must use nonlinear organizaion; instead of a long, linear narrative format, topics should be in index-card format to allow viewers to click on the information that is most appealing to them. These written materials for the web should be in short, easy-to-understand chunks. The ideal length of a news item is two to three paragraphs, which is equivalent to about one screen. Viewers are turned off by long pieces of information because they require too much scrolling.

          The majority of organizations use webcasting, which is the streaming of audio and video in real time over a website, for anything from news conferences to employee training. Most internet content is consumer generated, giving rise to “social media” in the second generation of the internet called Web 2.0. This provides public relations professionals the opportunity to get feedback and build relationships through social networking at their fingertips.

          Blogs are growing in size and popularity with each day and there are three types of blogs from a public relations standpoint:

  1.  Corporate blogs
  2. Employee blogs
  3. Third-party blogs

          The most popular social networking sites are MySpace and Facebook and I think that these are excellent ways for not only PR writers and professionals, but everyday people to stay in touch with one another and remain current on what is happening in the world.

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Chapter 11 Reading Notes

July 7, 2010 at 9:28 am (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          The eleventh chapter of our  Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques textbook is called Getting Along With Journalists. This chapter contains many ways in which public relations professionals can improve upon their professional relationship with journalists; after all the text explains that:

“One survey of 539 large companies by the Public Affairs Group (PAG) found that media relations was the number one job responsibility of their public relations staff. A survey by PR Week found that media relations was the number one activity performed by corporate public relations departments. Similar surveys have indicated that media relations is the primary activity of public relations firms.”

          Journalists turn to PR sources for recieving most of their information and PR professionals rely on the media for distribution of information; journalists and PR writers have a dependent relationship on eachother and they must remain professional and courteous to one another in order to keep this relationship going.

          There are ways in which PR professionals can get on journalists’ bad sides, the textbook explains that there are five complaints that they have about PR professionals come up the most:

  1. Lack of familiarity with editorial requirements.
  2. Poorly written materials.
  3. Too many unsolicited e-mails and phone calls.
  4. Lack of knowledge about their product or service.
  5. Repeated calls and follow-ups.

          PR professionals in turn have some problems with the ways in which journalists interact with them and do their work; the most common complaint is that journalists can sometimes be sloppy in their accuracy and often don’t take the time to do their homework.

          It is important for the spokespersons of organizations to carefully prepare for media interviews; media training is vital to produce a positive outcome. Retracting statements and setting the record straight should be dealt with among the PR professional and the reporter who originally wrote the story. This chapter provides excellent ways for a PR writer to maintain a good professional relationship with journalists.

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Chapter 10 Reading Notes

July 6, 2010 at 11:34 pm (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          Chapter ten in our  Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques textbook is entitled “Distributing News to the Media.” This chapter deals with selectin gthe appropriate channels of distribution that will ensure that your materials will reach the correct media and intended audience.

          Media directories are vital for compiling media lists and information; they can range from CR-ROMs to online versions. In order to remain current it is important to update media lists and e-mail contacts on a regular basis because journalists frequently change jobs.

          In order for a publicist to find out what special editions various publications are planning for the year, it is important to keep up with editorial calendars. Publicists can become aware of what types of material a publication station is seeking for a specific purpose by using tip sheets.

          Mailing labels must be addressed to the correct editor using their specific name and details such as the floor or suite number of an office building should be included. Electronic media is growing in popularity with each day and the vast majority of news releases and other press materials are now distributed using these types of media. E-mail is also a popular way of communicating with reporters and editors about possible story ideas. However, the best work can be acheived when the reporter and the PR professional have already established a working relationship.

          Journalists rely on online newsrooms as the primary source for late-breaking news and other information about an organization. Electronic newswires distribute news releases to internet search engines and social networking sites, allowing the public to access the information. These news releases include photos, graphics, and video clips embedded into the basic news release. In order to take full advantage of search engine optimization, publicists must use keywords that consumers are most likely to use to search for information.

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Chapter 9 Reading Notes

July 6, 2010 at 11:03 pm (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          Our  Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques book explores writing for radio and television in the ninth chapter of the text. Radio and television present great opportunities for the public relations writer to effectively reach both a mass audience along with more specialized publics. According to the textbook:

“Radio reaches about 94 percent of adults over the age of 18 on a daily basis, with a total estimated audience of about 225 million. A 2008 study by Edison Media Research found that college graduates aged 25 to 54 listen to the radio almost 16 hours a week. Noncollege graduates listen more than 21 hours a week… The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) says that local television news still attracts about 150 million viewers on a daily basis, and the average American family still spends about 7 hours daily watching television.”

          Radio and television news releases begin with the same basic identifying information such as the letterhead, contact, and the subject, however there are specifics for preparing a news release for radio rather than print. One of them being that radio releases are written in all capital letters in a double spaced format. Instead of having a specific number of words as a standard in a radio news release, the general practice is to use an approximate word count.

          The visual element in television is what sets it apart from other traditional media and gives it such persuasive impact. Our textbook tells us that there are almost as many television stations in the United States as there are daily newspapers so this presents numerous opportunities for the placement of public relations materials at the local level.

          The textbook also states that there are more than 5,000 video news releases (VNR’s) produced annually in the United States. A typical VNR costs a minimum of $20,000 to $50,000 for production and distribution; however these costs may vary depending upon a number of factors.

          The broadcast media are extremely important channels of communication, but using them requires a PR writer to think in terms of sound and visual elements. A persuasive pitch letter can be used to obtain placement on news programs and talk shows.

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Chapter 8 Reading Notes

July 1, 2010 at 4:19 am (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          Chapter eight in our Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques textbook discusses how to select publicity photos and graphics. Photos and graphics add variety to stories and capture the interest of the audience in a way that words cannot. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

          The chapter starts off with determining the components of a good photograph. The technical quality, subject matter, compostition, action, scale, camera angle, lighting and timing, and color of the photograph must all be considered when selecting an appropriate photograph to accompany a story or to tell a story within itself.

          The next section of chapter eight discusses proper ways for a public relations professional to interact with photographers. The first thing to do is select the appropriate photographer for the job you need them to complete. It is also important to have the agreement with the photographer documented in writing. Planning ahead saves time and money when thinking about a photo session. When editing a photo cropping an retouching should be considered and it is vital for a PR professional to know when and where to use these editing tools.

        There are also ethical considerations to keep in mind when altering photographic images. Editors must be sure not to alter the original image too much in order to keep it professional and real. This chapter provides so much useful information for PR professionals (or future PR professionals such as myself) to keep in mind when selecting and editing photos to accompany their stories.

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Chapter 7 Reading Notes

July 1, 2010 at 3:29 am (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          The seventh chapter in our Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques textbook is all about creating news features and op-ed. The beginning of this chapter specifies the difference between a news release, which emphasizes the timely disclosure of basic information about situations and events, and a feature story, which can provide additional background information, generate human interest, and create understanding and in a more imaginitive way. Basically, news releases utilize the skill of logic and feature writing requires more creativity.

          This chapter also says that feature writing is considered to be “soft news” rather than “hard news” and are not as time sensitive. They serve the purpose of entertaining, giving consumer tips, and additional background information. The text states that feature stories can come in a variety of types, but all of them have the potential to serve the purposes of:

  • Providining more information to the consumer
  • Giving background information and context about organizations
  • Providing behind-the-scenes perspectives
  • Giving a human dimension to situations and events
  • Generating publicity for standard products and services

          The next section in chapter seven deals with planning a news feature. Creative thinking plays an important role in feature writing. A public relations writer must think about how something lends itself to feature treatment. They must also determine if the information is newsworthy and interesting to a particular audience. It is also important to be sure that the feature helps achieve some organizational objectives.

          Before submitting an article to a magazine, some editors require that you give a proposal that outlines the entire feature and explains why it should be published in the magazine. The following points should be included in a proposal:

  • Tentative title of the article.
  • Subject and theme.
  • Significance. Why is the topic important? Why should readers know about it?
  • Major points.
  • Description of photos and graphics available.

          Chapter seven in our textbook provides many useful tips for a public relations professional to keep in mind while writing a feature story. I plan to use what I have learned from this text and apply it to my professional career in the future.

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Chapter 6 Reading Notes

June 30, 2010 at 12:13 am (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          Chapter 6 in our  Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques textbook deals with preparing fact sheets, advisories, media kits, and pitches. All of these are examples of basic publicity tools that are regularly prepared and distributed to encourage and facilitate media coverage.

          Fact sheets are one-page background sheets about an event, a product, or even the organization. These may be distributed with a news release or they can even be a part of a media kit. A fact sheet for an upcoming event, for example, may contain headings specifying:

  • The name of the event
  • Its sponsor
  • The location
  • The date and time
  • The purpose of the event
  • The expected attendance
  • A list of any prominent people attending
  • Any unusual aspects of the event that make it newsworthy

          A media kit, which is sometimes referred to as a press kit, can contain a vast array of materials including news releases, fact sheets, and even photographs and are often assembled to introduce new products or services and major events. Many organizations find it more cost-effective to distribute this information via CD’s, e-mail, and online newsrooms. Electronic press kits (EPK’s/e-kits) are more versatile than tradistional printed media kits because they can include multiple pieces of information in a variety of formats. 

          Media advisories are used to let assignment editors know about a newsworthy event or an interview of opportunity that could lend itself to photo or video coverage. Making a pitch consists of writing effective memos and e-mails that will persuade reporters and editors to cover your product, service, or event.

          The chapter wraps up in discussing a proper follow up for your pitch. I think this is very important for a public relations writer to be familiar with because it is essential for developing a professional relationship with clients. Following up on a pitch that you have made to an organization shows them that you have a genuine interest in developing news with this organization.

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Chapter 5 Reading Notes

June 29, 2010 at 11:42 pm (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          Chapter 5 of our Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques textbook deals with writing news releases. The first part of the chapter discusses the importance of news releases/press releases in publicity programs. I was extremely suprised to find out that between 55 and 95 percent of all news releases sent to media outlets are never used. I was not suprised to read that there is a massive competition for the attention of reporters and editors.

          News releases are so effective because they create awareness about ideas, situations, services, and products. They are also cost effective; according to the text, almost any organization can create and distribute news releases at nominal cost compared to the cost of advertising.

          There is also much to do when planning a news release. The creator of the news release must consider the selection of paper, word processing, and the style to be followed when writing. It is important for a public relations writer to complete a planning worksheet before writing anything. The planning worksheet should answer these basic questions:

  1. What is the subject of the message? What is the specific focus of this release?
  2. Who is this message designed to reach?
  3. What is in it for this particular audience? What are the potential benefits and rewards?
  4. What goal is the organization pursuing? What is the organization’s purpose?
  5. What do you want to achieve with the news release?
  6. What key messages should this news release highlight? How can they be tailored to the format of a specific publication and its readers?

          There are also many different types of news releases including announcements, spot announcements, reaction releases, bad news, and local news. It is also important for a public relations writer to remember the basic parts of a traditional news release. The first page of a news release is usually printed on an organization’s letterhead, followed by contacts, a headline, a dateline, the lead, the body of the text, and a description of the organization.

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Chapter 4 Reading Notes

June 12, 2010 at 6:36 pm (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          Chapter 4 in  Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques covered how to find and make news. Public relations programs seek to provide information to the media in hopes that it will be published or broadcasted to their target audience. The book defines the resulting coverage of this information as publicity and the pr writer who creates and places these stories in the media is commonly referred to as a  publicist. In order to be an effective publicist, these three things are important to remember:

  1.  Be thoroughly familiar with traditional journalistic news values.
  2. Know where to find news and how to select the angle that will be most interesting to journalists as well as the public.
  3. Come up with creative publicity tactics that effectively break through a forest of competing messages to be a good problem solver.

          I am still on the fence when it comes to what career I would like to embark upon, but becoming a publicist sounds so interesting to me and this chapter really opened my eyes to what that job entails. Publicists do have a few obstacles to overcome when generating news and coverage in the media. These can include media gatekeepers, the incredibly shrinking news hole, the fact that traditional mass media is now fragmented (which means that it is no longer possible to reach the larger public through a single medium), and information overload. Overcoming these obstacles can be difficult but the text suggests several steps that can be taken to make your efforts more effective:

  • Understanding news values
  • Targeting the right media with your information
  • Thinking continuously about the interests of the readers or listeners
  • Keeping in mind the objectives of the client or employer
  • Exercising creativity in thinking about how to present information that will meet the requirements of media gatekeepers

          This chapter also covers the basics of what makes news; this consists of timeliness, prominence, proximity, significance, unusualness, human interest, conflict, and newsness. Chapter 4 also tells us that there are two main sources from which to find news, one of which is internal news sources which includes familiarizing yourself with the organization you represent by examining important papers, periodicals, clipping files, and other published material. The other is external news sorces which could be any newspaper you read, event you attend, or website you regularly visit and they can give ideas on how to get your organization into the news. News events can be used to create publicity it is extremely important for a PR professional to read, listen to, and watch the news for events and situations that may affect your organization.

          Creating news, as discussed in chapter 4, starts off with brainstorming sessions that encourage everyone to express any idea that comes to mind. Special events, contests, polls and surveys, top 10 lists, product demonstrations, stunts, rallies and protests, personal appearances, and awards are the ways to create news that are listed in the text. Without publicity it would be almost impossible for public relations programs to exist and it is important for any PR writer to be familiar with what makes a story newsworthy in order to gain attractive attention to your organization.

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