Do Your News Releases Follow These Simple Guidelines?

If you’re reading this, it’s because you know a news release can be more effective than an ad in promoting your business.

Prospective clients or customers realize ads are biased. It’s obvious you’re trying to sell something. But readers will view a well written and timely news release as unbiased, factual, and credible – enhancing your public image.

The downside? There’s no guarantee your news will be published.

Use these guidelines to increase the chances that you’ll read about your business in tomorrow’s paper.

What Makes an Effective News Release?

Most important: Is it news? You should be able to answer at least one of these questions with a “Yes.”

  • Is it timely? Can you use words like today, yesterday, early this morning, tomorrow?
  • Is it local? Does it have some connection to someone in your community?
  • Is a celebrity involved? Will a well-known personality appear at your event?
  • Is it relevant? Are readers interested in your topic? Is it useful to them? Is your story tied to a current event or holiday?
  • Is it unique? Is your event unusual, unexpected, or even weird? Has one of your staff accomplished a unique or noteworthy public service?
  • Is there conflict? Does the story involve conflict and/or the resolution of conflict?
  • Does it have an emotional appeal? Will the story elicit readers’ sympathy or other emotional response?
  • Is the consequence significant? Do your business goals and activities have social consequences? What would be some negative consequences if you didn’t do what you do?

To increase the chance your story will be published:

  1. Write an irresistible headline that piques curiosity, makes the reader want to read on.
  2. Include the relevant points – who, what, where, when, and why – in the first paragraph.
  3. Write the story in third person, and make it about people – with brief quotes from one or two.
  4. Provide all relevant information, but keep it succinct. Editors and reporters receive a lot of story pitches and may not read beyond the first couple of paragraphs. If they want more detail, they’ll ask. You hope they do!
  5. Include company information in a last paragraph – who you are, what you do, how to reach you, and your web address.
  6. Be sure the press release is free of typos or errors that will cause an editor or journalist to dismiss you and your news as unprofessional.

Using photographs

Photographs increase interest in your story and give your release an extra advantage.

Two tips here:

  • Remember that action shots are more effective than posed shots.
  • Include a caption with the correct spelling of names and a sentence explaining the event (including who, what, where, when, why).

Often – because of matters beyond your control – lack of space or lack of attention on the part of a reporter or because of more immediate news – your release won’t be printed.

Don’t give up. Just keep asking the question, “Would anyone care about this?” If the answer’s “Yes,” then you’re doing them a service by sharing your good news.

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You might need a white paper if…

  • You want the reputation as a thought leader or expert in your field.White Paper Screenshot
  • You want to introduce a new product to prospective customers.
  • You need to show that you understand a problem or challenge and why you have the best solution.
  • You want to help a potential buyer justify the purchase of an expensive product.
  • You’d like a marketing tool that generates leads quickly – and can also be used long-term.
  • You don’t want to hope people will see your website or blog to discover what you offer.
  • You want to increase readers for a newsletter.
  • You need something to mail or e-mail to a prospective client who has inquired about your service or product.

What is a white paper?

A white paper is an in-depth report that contains information about a product or a service, used to persuade potential clients to consider buying a product or service. A white paper Continue reading

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You might need a brochure if…

  • A business card doesn’t give enough information to explain what you do.
  • You’d like to clarify what you do beyond an initial introduction.
  • You wish you had something to give or mail to those who ask about your business.
  • Photographs or graphics explain what you do better that words alone.
  • You deal with prospective customers in person. Handing them a brochure right then, right there, is much more efficient than sending them to your website.
  • You have prospective customers who don’t spend a lot of time online or may even be Luddites.
  • You’re invited to present a speech about your business. Offering a brochure to your audience reinforces what you have said.
  • You sell several products or services. You can develop brochures specific to each product.
  • You want to build credibility. It can cost next to nothing to create a website, while investing in a slick four-color brochure establishes your stability.
  • You have a story to tell. A brochure isn’t the same thing as a case study, but it could include a short story or testimonials from satisfied customers.

7 Ways to Use a Brochure

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You might need a case study if…

  • You offer a service or product that solves a problem.
  • A success story would help show the benefits of donating to your cause.
  • You want to establish your expertise, your integrity, your dedication to good customer service in a credible way.
  • Your product or service saves your customers money, time, or anxiety.
  • You’d like to demonstrate how your technical product works in its practical use.
  • A customer’s or beneficiary’s unique story begs to be told.
  • You believe in the power of stories.
  • You want a document that you can use in a dozen ways.

A Baker’s Dozen Ways to Use a Case Study

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What Does a Copy Editor Do?

The first thing a copy editor does is prevent sentences like this from being published:

“Even though her husband is the chef, Melissa says she enjoys cooking herself.”

or this:

“Music is one thing the women share in common with each other.”

The sentences are grammatically correct, but the first is not what the writer meant to say – and the second uses twelve words that repeat a similar concept three times: share, in common, and each other.

In short, the primary goal of proofreading or editing copy is to make the writer look good. Continue reading

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Are You Recruiting or Attracting?

magnetismI love how a change in the words you use can change your whole attitude.

Think of the words recruit and attract.

The word recruiting hints at going out into the world to promote your service club, your weight loss support group, your book club. While you’re recruiting, everyone you meet is a potential member. It’s like you’re on a mission, raising an army, or enrolling people in your cause.

But attracting? It’s drawing people in, pulling them toward you, catching their attention, being a magnet.

When you recruit, you hunt them down and bring them in. When you attract, you create such a desire they come in on their own. Your goal remains the same, but your attitude could mean all the difference in achieving your goal: increasing your membership.

So how do we attract new members to our service or nonprofit organization? Think about how kids make friends. It may be that basic.

  • Share your candy.

School friendships often begin when a child shares her candy, her lunch, or her table in the lunchroom. In the same way, share the good things that are happening in your club.

Is your next guest speaker a cancer survivor? Invite a friend who has undergone or is undergoing the same struggle. Have you invited a local political candidate to speak to the group? Invite a friend or acquaintance who has an interest in local politics.

[This implies that you know program topics ahead of time.]

  • Invite them to your house to play serve.

The next time you plan a service project, invite a couple of acquaintances to join. They may even feel flattered. You’re implying they care about clean highways, feeding the hungry, or helping the local hospital foundation achieve its goals. If they agree to help, they’ll begin to form relationships with others in your group. They’ll begin to “get” what the group is all about and may want to be part of it.

  • Make a good first impression.

If your meetings lack structure or are boring, visitors won’t come back. If in their busy-ness your members ignore visitors, they won’t be back. Time is too precious to spend on unprofessional, unfocused, or unproductive meetings with strangers.

  • Tell your story.

Friendships grow as kids – and adults – get to know each other beyond their names, members of their families, and what they do all week. Be able to express what led you to this particular service club. Why do you stay? What are the perks?

  • Don’t be clingy.

If they still keep their distance after you’ve included them in your plans, let them go. Not everyone’s a good fit. If they are a good fit, they’ll stick around.

And that may be the strongest reason of all for attracting instead of recruiting. If they’re attracted to your group, if they feel comfortable among your members. you won’t have to work to involve them or to keep them.

Recruiting versus attracting. What a difference one word can make!

What do you think? How does changing this one word change your attitude? Have you seen this switch in attitude work?

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Seven Easy, No-cost Ways to Publicize Your Nonprofit


Little Money, Little Timetime and money

We don’t always have the time – or the money — to publicize our philanthropic organizations in all the ways the media experts say it should be done, i.e. creating and maintaining a website, putting together media kits, having a constant presence on Twitter.

Maybe we have the time and expertise it takes to set up the website, but what volunteer has the time to maintain it, much less keep up with a blogging schedule?

Volunteers with that kind of expertise are usually busy with jobs that pay their bills. Besides, a constant reliance on such a volunteer can soon lead to burnout.

Putting together a media kit with the recommended thumbnail biographies, statistics, testimonials, press clippings, photos, and brochures can also be overwhelming.

Here are some easy tools you can use to publicize your nonprofit that cost nothing except a little time.

1. Press releases

The best publicity is free publicity. Send a short e-mail to a local reporter, requesting coverage of an upcoming event, news of your organization, or an interesting story about one of your members. Local newspapers are always looking for local stories, and a journalist covering your story gives it credibility that expensive advertising can’t. Time to write the e-mail? 15 minutes.

2. Nonprofit Facebook page

Create a Facebook page for your nonprofit. It’s a nice, easy, casual way to stay in touch with members of your group and others who might have interest in your cause. Set-up time? Maybe 30 minutes for someone familiar with Facebook. Maintenance: 15-30 minutes a week.

3. Your Facebook profile

Frequently mention your involvement in your nonprofit. At your next meeting, decide on a day when all your supporters will display the same cover photo on their Facebook pages. If the day relates to your cause – World Malaria Day [April 25], or World Autism Awareness Day [April 2], for instance – so much the better. Time spent? None. You’ll be on Facebook anyway. Might as well use that time for a good cause.

4. You-Tube videos

Check to see if your nonprofit has a You-Tube channel, or search You-Tube for videos that illustrate the importance of your cause. Once a week or so, share videos on your Facebook page. Time? 15 minutes a week.

5. Twitter

Publicize your interests on Twitter. If you already have a Twitter account, begin following people in your nonprofit and in other nonprofits that have a similar cause. Simply re-tweet their messages. You might also share insights you’ve learned from your experience with nonprofits. Time spent? 5-10 minutes twice a day.

6. Instagram Photos

At your next meeting or special event, snap a picture of the activities with your smart phone and use the free Instagram app to upload it to your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, or Flickr profile. Time? 5 minutes maybe?

7. Google Alerts

Google has made it easy to set up an alert for news items on your nonprofit or your cause. Share the items via your Facebook profile or your group’s Facebook page. Set up a separate G-mail account for the alerts, and check the account once a week for the most engaging news. Time? 10 minutes, if you don’t agonize over the “best” choice.

How Do You Know It’s Working?

Decide on the kind of response you want in the next month or two or three. Facebook friends commenting on your posts? Re-tweets? More engagement from organization members?

How about one or five years from now? You might want to see a certain percentage increase in donations or an increase in membership or in community involvement.

An ultimate goal might be that when you mention your organization, people immediately know your cause. “Oh, yeah! You’re the ones who work with parents of autistic children!” Or, “Aren’t you the group that’s trying to eradicate malaria?”

Best yet, when people hear news or come across people they know with challenges like malaria or autism, they come to you as the expert in knowing how to help.

More suggestions? What effective, no-cost, easy ways have you used, or what strategies would help you notice – and then care about – a particular cause?

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How your personality affects your success

Many years ago, when we lived in Chicago, we took a stranger into our home. Gayla had come to the area to visit her son, who was in prison. (I don’t remember the nature of his crime.) She stayed with us only a few days, but her influence still remains. In gratitude for our hospitality, she offered to give our church ladies an impromptu presentation of her program on the four different personality types as defined by family counselors Dr. Gary Smalley and Dr. John Trent.

The Four Temperaments

They had re-labeled the four temperaments that Hippocrates had identified as choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and melancholic with corresponding images that were more fun and more easily understood: the lion, the otter, the golden retriever, and the beaver.

This week I’ve been watching the GreatWorkMBA conference – a five-day conference designed to encourage us to do not just good work, but Great Work – work that is meaningful beyond just increasing the bottom line or receiving a paycheck.

Fascination and Synergism

On the second day, Michael Bungay Stanier interviewed two business influencers who spoke of even more ways in which we interact. Sally Hogshead introduced 49 different combinations of personality that define how we fascinate others – hold their focus, engage them.

In a later session, Les McKeown, author of The Synergist and The Predictable Success,  described three different roles within an organization: the Visionary, the Organizer, and the Processor, and how we all fit into one or more of these roles.

These organized approaches to interaction and corroboration reminded me of that seminar long ago with Gayla – and how it changed the way I viewed co-workers, family members, friends – any members of a group that need to function in a healthy way.

Hogshead and McKeown reminded me that we’ve all been given different gifts. If we recognize and use our natural inclinations well and recognize, respect, and use the natural inclinations of others, we function together for the good of all – a concept known as synergism: “the interaction of two or more agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.”

Personal Application

The various personality tests indicate I’m a combination of golden retriever/beaver (Smalley), phlegmatic/melancholy (Hippocrates), and Alarm-Mystique (Hogshead). The result of McKeown’s test surprisingly labeled me as naturally synergistic.

If that’s true – and of course I like to think it is – as a quiet, methodical, introvert who nevertheless enjoys small group interaction, I don’t envy or resent those outgoing types who seem to fill the room just by entering it. I also don’t wish that everyone would be more like me.

Rather, I celebrate our differences. I begin to understand how useful it is when we all recognize our strengths and weaknesses and work together to accomplish the good for all.

Opposites Enhance

I remember Gayla distinctly as part lion, part otter – flamboyant, emotional, talkative, direct, and forceful. She was the exact opposite of my golden retriever/beaver combination. Yet 20 years later, though I barely remember what she looked like, she continues to help me become a better version of myself.

How does your personality affect your success?

If you can identify your own patterns, your own personality and those of your co-workers, family, or members of your group, you’ll understand why you’ll never be like them, and they’ll never be like you.

For instance, if you’re a natural lion – forceful, competitive, seeing people only as a means to an end – you’ll make yourself stop and listen to the loyal, sensitive golden retriever. If you’re the retriever, you’ll rejoice in the energy and vision that the otter brings into the room. If  you’re the playful, visionary otter, you’ll respect the work ethic and the organizational abilities of the analytical beaver.

Together, you’ll form a complete package and achieve synergism. Your success together will be greater than anything you could have done separately.

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Comma Corrections–Did I Do It Right?

And does it matter?

Following are some isolated sentences I corrected in recent proofreading gigs. What do you think – was it right or wrong for me to make the change?

CommaCorrection No. 1

Abe’s got some good ideas and a passion for fairness, but isn’t quite sure what to do with himself.

As I understood it, you use a comma only if the conjunction (but) is connecting two independent clauses (two complete sentences). “Isn’t quite sure what to do with himself” is not a complete sentence.

According to the 15th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style,  I was right – sort of.

From Section 6.34,

A comma is not normally used between the parts of a compound predicate – that is, two or more verbs having the same subject, as distinct from two independent clauses – though it may occasionally be needed to avoid misreading or to indicate a pause.

Right: Kelleher tried to see the mayor but was told he was out of town. Also right: She recognized the man who entered the room, and gasped.

And according to The Elements of Style by Strunk and White (1935), my standard favorite in matters of grammar, I could have left the Abe sentence as it was.

From page 5:

When the subject is the same for both clauses and is expressed only once, a comma is useful if the conjunction is but.

Correction No. 2

This will relieve you of the stress of planning the menu and your friends will be more than willing to help.

Without the comma, it looks like you’re stressed over planning not only the menu but your friends, too. You have to read the sentence again to understand these are two different statements.

Inserting a tiny comma makes all the difference.

This will relieve you of the stress of planning the menu, and your friends will be more than willing to help.

General rule: If you have to read the sentence twice in order to understand it, you need to change something.


Correction No. 3

Their clothing is sorted by color and by function, the colors create a rich rainbow around the room.

This is a perfect example of a run-on sentence (or comma splice).

You could correct this sentence two ways. I chose the first.

  1. Their clothing is sorted by color and function, the colors creating a subdued but rich rainbow around the room.
  2. Their clothing is sorted by color and by function; the colors create a rich rainbow around the room.

Bottom line: As controversial as comma use is among grammar geeks, they are simply a means of clarifying our written words. If the structure of a sentence is confusing, chances are there’s either an extra comma, a misplaced comma, or the need for one.

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Why You Can’t Count on Spellchecker

No doubt about it – English is a difficult language, especially when it comes to spelling.

I admire those who learn English as a second language – especially those who speak in languages like Spanish, where the pronunciation of vowels and consonants is consistent. No rhyming ways and neighs in their native tongue!

Those inconsistencies in English are one reason you can’t rely on a spellchecker, especially when it comes to homonyms – words that sound alike but mean different things. closest friends

Misused words – words Spellchecker doesn’t catch – can embarrass an otherwise knowledgeable  and proficient writer. Just one mistake – especially if it conjures up a comical picture – can be the only thing a reader remembers about your article.

A Matter of Trust

If the writer hasn’t paid attention to a simple detail like spelling, what else does he have wrong? Misused or misspelled words detract from your message.

Below are a few errors I caught recently while copy editing magazine articles. Some I saw for the first time; others seem to be frequent mistakes. I’ve changed the context.

duel and dual.

“I received a duel Master of Arts degree in English and music.”

Funny enough, both words involve two: A duel is between two opponents; dual indicates double.

reign and rein. I saw this confusion twice in as many days: one in an e-mail I received from a writer, the other a comment from a writer on a writer’s blog.

“Shorten your to-do list. Reign in your promises.” And the other: “Now either move aside and give me the reigns or get the job done yourself.”

I understand the confusion – both reigns and reins indicate control. But the first has to do with power over subjects in a kingdom. The other is the means by which you control a horse – or your promises.

loose and lose.

Be sure to renew your subscription. We don’t want to loose you!

Though they aren’t even pronounced the same – and are different parts of speech – I see this one often. And why not? Shouldn’t loose rhyme with choose? And lose with close?

Loose: adjective meaning free from anything that binds or restrains. Lose: verb meaning to suffer the deprivation of, with a vowel sound of oo, but the s pronounced like a z.

pallet and palate. What do you think? Does the following refer to breakfast in bed?

This zesty sauce provides the pallet with the distinct taste of lemon and pepper.”

pallet: A bed or mattress of straw; or a small, low portable platform. palate: the sense of taste

scared and sacred. This is simply a typo – but with all those low, round letters in the middle of the word, not always easy to spot.

“Their repertoire includes both scared and patriotic songs.”

site and sight.

“Even though they were in Colorado, there were no mountains in site.”’

Another common confusion. Sometimes I have to stop and think about this one. After all, a site (plot of ground) can be in sight (one’s range of vision).

closet and closest. What a difference an s makes! Again, a simple typo – but your spellchecker is not going to save you from this embarrassment.

They took a road trip with 20 of their closet friends.

So how can you prevent these mistakes?

  1. Read your piece slowly out loud. With the help of your ear, reading out loud helps you correct simple typos and notice skipped words that your brain supplies even when they’re not there.
  2. When you have even the slightest doubt, look it up. adds a “Can be confused” note below definitions.
  3. Ask a friend or colleague who has copy editing skills to look over your piece. A good copy editor will catch those misused words – and other oversights, too, such as web links that lead to nowhere, inconsistent spelling of proper names, and skipped words.

One job of a copy editor is to make writers look good. A second job is to make sure your message is as clear as possible. Correcting misused words helps to accomplish both purposes.

What are some words you see misused?

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