Category Archives: Clear Communication

The Agony of Delete: 3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Content

The Agony of Delete: 3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Content.

Happy Tuesday!  Informative article by Susan Young, CEO Get in Front Communications, Inc about how to clean up your writing in three easy ways.   — Pete Cento, Cento Marketing Group, 07-15-14

 

The Agony of Delete: 3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Content

Image of The Agony of Delete: 3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your ContentBy Susan Young, CEO,  Get in Front Communications, Inc.

Here’s an unscientific poll that I want to share with you.

More than 80% of people who write press releases, blog posts, bylined articles, and white papers admit they struggle with how to edit content.

I’m happy to offer a few suggestions on how to approach the editing process:

Image of The Agony of Delete: 3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your ContentWrite the main purpose on the back of a business card. In one or two sentences, summarize the reason you are writing. This brings clarity, which (usually) leads to brevity. If your purpose is too long for the business card, rip it up and start again. It must be clear in your mind before you begin to write.

Dissect your words and sentences. Slowly read each sentence, one at a time. Then read the next one. If you removed one of the sentences, would your story change? Each sentence must build off of the previous one, adding value to your story. This practice can significantly shorten your content and change the flow of your message. Translation: Cut the crap.

Consider your reader. Your word count will drop when you remove self-serving information that will be irrelevant–or annoying–to your audience. And don’t bother with jargon or rhetoric. Write to offer solutions to your reader’s challenges. Solve, don’t sell.

Finally, the words ‘very’ and ‘that’ should be used sparingly, if at all.

 About the Author: Susan Young is an award-winning news, social media, PR, and communications professional with 26 years of experience.  Her new book, The Badass Book of Social Media and Business Communication” [Kindle Edition] was recently released.  She works with organizations that want to use digital platforms to increase their visibility, credibility, and revenues. Susan’s company, Get in Front Communications, provides consulting and coaching on all things communication. Her latest accomplishment: Being named one of the ’75 Badass Women on Twitter.’(@sueyoungmedia)

Eight AP Style Mistakes Frequently Found in Today’s Press Releases

Eight AP Style Mistakes Frequently Found in Today’s Press Releases.

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of PR tips tied  the AP style guidelines. To read “PR Pros, Journalists Tackle Latest AP Stylebook,” click here.

Image of Eight AP Style Mistakes Frequently Found in Today’s Press ReleasesBy Luke O’Neill, Editor, Business Wire

Associated Press style has been in the news recently, at least for journalists and public relations professionals, after announcing a rash of controversial changes. As you know, it is important for PR, IR, marketing and communication professionals stay abreast of AP style, and its iterations, so you can relate to the media on their level, write cleaner press releases, increase message adoption, and simply sound cool.

Of course, you must consider the style preferences of your company or clients, but you also have an obligation to the media – the end user – to craft a well-written story. With that said, we at Business Wire see our share of AP style blunders in press releases. Here are eight of the most common style bloopers to avoid:

  1. Image of Eight AP Style Mistakes Frequently Found in Today’s Press ReleasesCapitalizing job titles after a person’s name – a no-no… AP recommends that you onlycapitalize a title used before a person’s name, not after. The AP’s titles entry is long but worth a look since this is such a common element found in press releases.
  2. Dates and times – eliminate redundancies. Too often, we see dates written as “Wednesday, June 4, 2014” when writing simply “June 4” would suffice. Also, write dates as “June 4” and not “June 4th “ and times as “9:30 a.m.” and not AM. Always be careful with EDT vs. EST; simply using ET is a nice failsafe.
  3. Trademark symbols – avoid them. Trademarks and other symbols are not, and actually never have been, meant for use in PR and news copy. Remove these symbols to make it easier for reporters to utilize your releases.
  4. Percent vs. % – in most cases, spell it out. Standard AP style suggests you write out “percent” in news releases, while utilizing the % symbol in tabular information such as financial tables.
  5. Entitled vs. Titled – Can you spot the difference here?  The survey was titled “Top 100 AP Style Gaffes.” Let’s just say you’re entitled to make a few mistakes, just not AP style mistakes. In short, do not use “entitled” to refer to the title of something.
  6. Acronyms come later – when referring to organizations: Do not put an acronym in parentheses after the first reference to the organization. Easily recognizable acronyms, by themselves, can be used on second reference without spelling out the organization’s name a second time.
  7. The dreaded –ly – avoid hyphenating these words: Do not hyphenate a compound modifier when using adverbs that end in-ly, such as commercially-available products. The correct style is commercially available products, no hyphen.
  8. Write it out – don’t use shortcuts when referring to numbers: As the AP points out, spell out numerals one through nine and use figures for 10 or above.

Looking to create a stronger relationship with today’s journalists?  Correcting these small mistakes in your press releases will help reporters and other key constituents read, adapt and share your news.

About the Author:  Luke O’Neill, formerly a newspaper reporter and copy editor, is an editor at Business Wire Boston. He has nearly 15 years of communications experience and a master’s degree in journalism. 

CEOs Under Attack? A Lesson in Corporate Communications from GM & Apple.

CEOs Under Attack? A Lesson in Corporate Communications from GM & Apple.

Editor’s Note:  With media focus on GM CEO Mary Barra and Apple CEO Tim Cook, CommPRO reached out to our community to get their commentary about diversity in the c-suite.  

By David E. Johnson,CEO, Strategic Vision, LLC

First it was Matt Lauer on The Today Show asking General Motors’ CEO Mary Barra if she could handle being a mother and CEO and was she selected as the CEO of General Motors because the company wanted a “maternal presence”.  Next it was Apple’s Tim Cook on CNBC, being publicly outed as a gay man.  The social media response towards the media was that of outrage and disgust with these incidents.  Yet in both incidents the media stood by the interviews.

Why is this?  What should corporate communicators learn by this and put into practice in response?

The first question is easy to answer.  Despite strides made by women and minorities, the corporate boardroom is still largely dominated by white men whose ages range from the 50s to the 60s.  The corporate mindset is to not shake things up and interviews are about the company not about the CEO’s personal life.  Likewise despite the transformation in America regarding the LGBT community, the corporate boardroom remains largely untouched in this category.  Yet this is changing, as is the concept that a CEO’s personal life is largely not part of a company’s story.

Image of CEOs Under Attack?  A Lesson in Corporate Communications from GM & Apple.This is no longer true.  Consumers are buying the story of a brand and also that of the storyteller – the CEO.  Consumers expect not only to know the brand message but also the story of the CEO, President, or Chairman of the Board who communicates the brand message.  This means all aspects of a CEO’s life is subject to media scrutiny.  Additionally, as this happens those who do not fit the corporate stereotype of old will find they are under greater media interrogation.

Is this fair?  No.  But it is the nature of our society, with a far more intrusive media operating, 24/7, social media, and citizen journalists with blogs.

Corporate communicators need to understand this changing dynamic and help affect a change in the corporate culture of companies.  Corporations need to recognize that society has changed.  The fact that a woman can be both a CEO and mother is no different than a male being both a CEO and father.  Indeed, in this post recession society, many mothers are now the primary wage winner and the father is the stay at home parent.  Corporations need to reflect and understand this dynamic.  As they do, the media questions will begin to change.  But for this to happen, the companies must reflect in their leadership and their culture the changes that are occurring in society.

Executives need to know that their lives will be examined under a microscope.  The best thing to do is address personal issues proactively.  Cook’s sexual preference should never have been outed on a national interview but the better course would have been for Cook to address this long before this, very much as football player, Michael Sam addressed his sexuality.  Sexuality will continue to attract curiosity until corporate cultures reflect the changes we see in society.  For this to happen, corporate communications must work in tandem with the executive leadership in conveying the message and new culture.

Yes, Mary Barra and Tim Cook seemed under attack this past week.  Not because of anything they had done as CEOs but rather because they don’t resemble the CEOs of old, just as America doesn’t reflect the nation it was in the 1990s.  For others who will resemble Cook and Barra, following in their footsteps, the challenge must be to communicate to the media and consumers that it’s a new culture in the boardroom.

 

 About the Author:  David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision, LLC, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at www.strategicvision.biz.

Your Name: 5 Reasons To Change It On Your Resume

Your Name: 5 Reasons To Change It On Your Resume.

Your Name: 5 Reasons To Change It On Your Resume

Image of Your Name: 5 Reasons To Change It On Your ResumeAccording to new research in the “European Journal of Social Psychology,” using middle initials can make you seem smarter to people.  In fact, adding more initials continues to boost the perception that you are smarter.   How you present yourself on your resume starts with your name.   Are initials the way to go?  Or should you use a first initial or spell out your entire name?   In the past, first/middle/last name was the formula to follow.  Today, there are many more options:

1.  If you go by a shortened version of your name (Jon/Jonathan, Bob/Robert) use that on your resume.

2.  If you have a common, John Doe, type of name, add your initial or your whole middle name.

3.  If you prefer to use your middle name, go with  J. Victoria Smith.

4.  Junior, III etc. can seem pompous to some hiring managers, so drop them from your resume.

5.  It’s perfectly acceptable to shorten a hard to say name, to use initials or to add a nickname in quotes.

Your resume is your marketing piece.  It should reflect who you are.  When filling out a job application form, use your formal names and suffixes.  Otherwise, be your name!

GM CEO Barra’s Crisis Management Failure – What NOT To Do During A Press Conference

GM CEO Barra’s Crisis Management Failure – What NOT To Do During A Press Conference.

Editor’s Note: Crisis communications expert David Johnson shares his latest analysis of the ongoing GM recall crisis.  To gain more insight on the situation, click here to read David’s post, “GM’s Crisis Management Scorecard.”

Image of GM CEO Barras Crisis Management Failure – What NOT To Do During A Press ConferenceBy David E. Johnson,CEO, Strategic Vision, LLC

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors has been attempting to give a new face and brand identity toGeneral Motors since taking her position.  In her initial response to a crisis that had resulted in 13 acknowledged deaths and the recall of over 2.6 million vehicles, Barra had scored high marks with the media, stockholders, employees, and consumers by showing empathy, taking responsibility, and reaching out to all key stakeholders in her initial response.  That is why her announcement of the results of an internal investigation that led to the recall and her answers to reporters’ questions seemed lacking and unable to shake the crisis.  In many ways, Barra, the new face of the automaker resembled the old General Motors.

What did she and General Motors do wrong with the press conference and her answers to reporters regarding the company’s internal investigation?

 

Twittiquette: Keep Your Tweets Professional And Personable

Twittiquette: Keep Your Tweets Professional And Personable.

 

Happy Wednesday!  Interesting article today from Luke O’Neill, editor at Business Wire Boston, about the importance of being professional and personal when composing a new tweet. Your words can come back to haunt you when you least expect it. — Pete Cento, The Cento Group 

POSTED ON MAY 6, 2014 IN SOCIAL MEDIASOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS & TRENDS | 0 COMMENTS

Image of Twittiquette: Keep Your Tweets Professional And PersonableBy Luke O’Neill, Editor, Business Wire

This is why we need to master Twittiquette

She flew thousands of miles from London to Cape Town, South Africa, but sadly her tweet traveled much farther.

The story of Justine Sacco is well known in public relations circles. She’s the former PR executive who sent an inappropriate tweet last December and boarded a long flight apparently with no Internet access. Her tweet went viral in a bad way.

Once Sacco’s tweet was exposed, Twitter users perused past tweets and found other offensive posts. At the time, her Twitter profile in part read “troublemaker on the side.” Evidently this day it was her troublemaker persona taking center stage. Then, abruptly, her Twitter account was terminated – and so was she.

Sacco’s story could happen to anyone regardless of the industry; but PR pros are in the public eye more than others and so are their blunders. With Twitter, be professional and personable, but most of all be careful.

In assessing the Sacco fallout, a CNN story observed: “The incident was a glaring reminder that every word uttered on the Internet can be heard by seemingly everyone on the Internet, sometimes with serious consequences.”

Image of Twittiquette: Keep Your Tweets Professional And PersonableIntention vs. Interpretation

You may intend a tweet to be snarky, funny or whatever, but readers may interpret it differently. It’s best to be clear and straightforward rather than sarcastic or jokey while also not being vanilla. A balance needs to be struck. Like an email, a tweet’s tone can be tricky to decipher since no one can see you roll your eyes after a sarcastic jab.

Another quandary within Twitter is your personality might not always match your “professionality,” but it’s still important to stay genuine and not contrived. And yet with some forms of PR, it’s OK to have an edge, you just can’t have that edge be too sharp.

“Whether your Twitter account is work related or not, you’ve got to keep it professional,” Peter Stringer, senior director of digital media at the Boston Celtics, wrote in an email. “If you work in PR and don’t understand that one misguided tweet can potentially bring down a reputation, brand, company or your career – whether you have 10 followers or 10,000 – I would suggest you find another line of work.”

Stringer manages the team’s main Twitter account with its 1.4 million followers. He said it’s vital for marketing and PR pros to respect their companies’ brand.

“In today’s day and age of personal branding, people are representing their employers, whether they know it or like it or not,” said Stringer. “And along those lines, if your name and company is associated with your Twitter account, people are going to make the connection.”

Disclaimers ‘Meaningless’

A growing sentiment among Twitter users is the oft-used profile disclaimer – “Tweets are my own and do not reflect my company’s views” – is not sufficient. After all, these disclaimers are not included in every tweet.

“A disclaimer in your Twitter bio is meaningless,” said Stringer. “They certainly don’t exempt you from having poor judgment. If an employee tweets something offensive and goes viral and creates a dust-up, like it or not, they’re a reflection of their employer. The employer will find itself under pressure to distance itself from that employee. You’re probably going to get fired.”

In addition, there seems to be some debate whether PR pros should even have their own personal Twitter accounts while also maintaining a professional client account.

Some bloggers have argued that PR pros should have just one professional Twitter account and keep personal interests off the grid. But others, like SHIFT Communications marketing analyst Amanda Grinavich, feel personal accounts can help PR pros connect with reporters and display interests outside of work.

“However,” she added in an email, “any time you are tweeting as a known employee of a company, people will associate you with that company. This doesn’t mean you’re tied down to speaking only about that client or brand, but it does mean any poor choices you make could fall back on the company. Overall, the balance comes down to using good judgment.”

In a blog, Grinavich pointed out: “We can’t really imagine how you can do your job in PR or marketing without using Twitter in your own way to learn about how things work on both sides of the coin – business and personal.”

Help is Here

Stringer added this social media caveat: “You’re representing yourself. Every tweet, selfie, blog is leaving a digital paper trail that will last forever. Our children’s children will someday read that subtweet that went viral when they Google us with their brain – or however that technology works in 2064.”

Lastly, a Mashable post has some helpful Twitter etiquette guidelines, including: Treat your Twitter posts as though your parents, grandparents and bosses were reading.

And ever delve into the recesses of Twitter’s help center? It’s chockfull of helpful hints and rigid rules. A couple lines stand out: “What you say on Twitter may be viewed all around the world instantly,” and “You are what you Tweet!”

Tweet tips: Five quick ways to maintain professionalism on Twitter:

1. Never post when you’re upset.

2. Don’t engage in a negative discussion until you have all the facts

3. Everyone is human.

4. If you would not say it to your grandmother or CEO, don’t tweet it.

5. Tweets are forever.

Feel like tweeting now? Why not tweet this article?

 

About the Author: Luke O’Neill is an editor at Business Wire Boston. Admittedly, he is fairly new to Twitter (@ONeillNews) but has a master’s degree in multimedia journalism and nearly 15 years of communications experience. 

Public Relations Is Not Nice

Public Relations Is Not Nice.

Good morning and happy Monday!  Interesting article from Jennifer Witter, CEO and Founder of The Boreland Group, Inc, about the essence of Public Relations and how we as PR practitioners need to better job of representing ourselves to our key audiences and the media.

 

Image of Public Relations Is Not Nice By Jennefer Witter, CEO and Founder, The Boreland Group Inc.

PR is not a nicety. It is an essential tool that, alas, many businesses overlook. We in PR need to do a better job of presenting ourselves to our key audiences. The perception, in part, is one that is shaped by the media, a la the Samantha Jones character in “Sex and the City,” who didn’t seem to do much work but seemed to have a glamorous work life, throwing parties and going to them. What is not depicted is the strategy, creativity and business acumen that one needs to be successful in this industry. And the ability to work long, hard hours for demanding, stressed clients. Or the stress we face – according to CareerCast, PR is one of the ten most stressful jobs in America (it’s ranked #6 this year; it was #5 in 2013).

What makes PR valuable? It is our ability to help shape a business’ image to appeal to its target market in a way that is authentic, honest and resonates with their specific needs.  We translate the brand proposition to the tangible – what is the valuethat the client offers, whether it’s a service or product. And, most of all, we work to get our clients their “unfair share of attention,” a critical element in an economy that is still in recovery and has contributed to an extremely competitive landscape.