Category Archives: Writing

A Great Teacher

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A Great Teacher

BY MADISYN TAYLOR

Water is a great teacher that shows us how to move through the world with grace, ease, determination, and humility.

 

The journey of water as it flows upon the earth can be a mirror of our own paths through life. Water begins its residence on earth as it falls from the sky or melts from ice and streams down a mountain into a tributary or stream. In the same way, we come into the world and begin our lives on earth. Like a river that flows within the confines of its banks, we are born with certain defining characteristics that govern our identity. We are born in a specific time and place, within a specific family, and with certain gifts and challenges. Within these parameters, we move through life, encountering many twists, turns, and obstacles along the way just as a river flows.

Water is a great teacher that shows us how to move through the world with grace, ease, determination, and humility. When a river breaks at a waterfall, it gains energy and moves on, as we encounter our own waterfalls, we may fall hard but we always keep moving on. Water can inspire us to not become rigid with fear or cling to what’s familiar. Water is brave and does not waste time clinging to its past, but flows onward without looking back. At the same time, when there is a hole to be filled, water does not run away from it in fear of the dark; instead, water humbly and bravely fills the empty space. In the same way, we can face the dark moments of our life rather than run away from them.

Eventually, a river will empty into the sea. Water does not hold back from joining with a larger body, nor does it fear a loss of identity or control. It gracefully and humbly tumbles into the vastness by contributing its energy and merging without resistance. Each time we move beyond our individual egos to become part of something bigger, we can try our best to follow the lead of the river.

 

Email Cover Letters: Five Steps To Getting Yours Read

Email Cover Letters: Five Steps To Getting Yours Read.

Email Cover Letters: Five Steps To Getting Yours Read

First impressions count and, in many cases, your first impression is your email cover letter.  When sending a cover letter via email,  the same rules apply as to a paper cover letter.  If you are answering an ad, make sure your read the instructions posted by the employer/recruiter.  Follow these instructions exactly.  If you don’t, your cover letter might not make it into the company’s system or your email may be eliminated.

Image of Email Cover Letters: Five Steps To Getting Yours ReadWhen you send an email cover letter, consider:

1.  The Subject Line.  It’s important.  Unless noted in an ad, don’t put the job number here or leave it blank.  Market yourself using the job title and a few descriptive words.

2.  The Format.  You should follow the format of a paper cover letter.  Include a salutation using a person’s name, if possible, blank lines between paragraphs, and a format closing with your signature information.

3.  Keep It Simple, Short and Concise.  Most hiring managers scan cover letters and want the pitch delivered quickly – 150 words or less.   Sentences should be short, 40 characters is ideal according to research.

4.  Be Specific.  Highlight your skills/abilities that fit the position.  Use words for the ad or job description.  Keywords are a must.

5.  Send a Test Message.  Email the message to yourself and a friend to make sure the formatting works.

Always doublecheck the spelling of names as well as the whole document for typos or grammar mistakes.  Don’t rely on spell check.  Your cover letter should make the reader go to your resume for more information.

Follow the rules to make a good first impression.

Malaysia Airlines: A Lesson in Crisis Management

Malaysia Airlines: A Lesson in Crisis Management.

Happy Monday!  Interesting article about how  not to deal with a crisis following the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.   — Pete E Cento, Cento Marketing Group #CrisisManagement

 

Malaysia Airlines: A Lesson in Crisis Management

Image of Malaysia Airlines: A Lesson in Crisis ManagementBy David E. Johnson,CEO, Strategic Vision, LLC

If ever an airline has suffered from bad press it is Malaysia Airlines.  The airline has suffered two of the biggest air disasters in history in a period of four months – MH370 (which has yet to be found) and now MH17 shot down by a missile over Ukraine by Russian backed separatists.  Even before these twin disasters, the airline was suffering severe financial losses.  Its crisis response to the disappearance of MH370 was one of the worst in history (with no cohesive communications plan and showing a lack of sympathy for the family members of the lost passengers).  Now with this latest disaster, the questions are can the brand survive and what does it need to do?

Short term, the brand is being helped by the media coverage over the downing of MH17.  The focus is not on Malaysia Airlines but rather on Russia and the separatists who are presumed to have shot it down.  As outrage mounts over the tragedy and the way the Russian backed separatists are allowing access to the wreckage and the victims’ remains, mention of Malaysia Airlines has been in passing.  Also working in the airline’s favor is that with acts of terrorism, most people are willing to focus their attention and anger on the perpetrators rather than the airlines.  For instance after 9/11, neither United Airlines nor American Airlines suffered any brand damage despite the fact that it was their planes that were hijacked.

Additionally, Malaysia Airlines seems to have learned from its mishandling of the MH370 crisis.  This time they promptly revealed all the information they had available when MH17 disappeared.  The airline’s social media carried the same message that was being given officially.  The company also announced that they will be fully refunding anyone who booked a flight on the airline but no longer feels comfortable traveling on it.

So short term, the airline is surviving and has handled the crisis adequately.  Yet the real test for Malaysia Airlines will be in the days and weeks ahead.  As the stories begin to shift from the crisis in the Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, the West’s response to Russia, and such, the focus will shift again to Malaysia Airlines.  All the stories about MH370 will resurface and criticism about the airline will be intense as will scrutiny.

So what should Malaysia Airlines do?

  1. Bring in an outside communications agency to work on the airline’s short-term and long-term branding and crisis response.  The airline has been reluctant to do so and it has shown in some of its responses.
  2. Select a spokesperson that can so empathy and address concerns that consumers and the media have about the airline.  This person needs to show not only the airline’s record of overall safety but how they have taken the concerns about the airline seriously and the steps they are taking to correct these issues.
  3. Malaysia Airlines needs to take out full-page ads in the newspapers in their top markets addressing the latest tragedy, expressing sympathy, and outlining where the airline will go from here.
  4. Having former passengers interviewed and used in promotions expressing their confidence in Malaysia Airlines.  One of the first things I noticed after the downing of MH17 was the support that many former passengers were expressing for the airline.
  5. Having a social media strategy that reinforces the message that is being given in the traditional media.

Malaysia Airlines is in an unenviable position.  It will take a strong cohesive crisis communications strategy and branding effort to change public perception but it can be done.  Don’t write off Malaysia Airlines just yet.

 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.

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. 

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

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

8 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 8 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 8 of the most common style bloopers to avoid:

  1. Image of 8 AP Style Mistakes Frequently Found in Today’s Press ReleasesCapitalizing job titles after a person’s name – a no-no… AP recommends that you only capitalize 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. 

 

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PR Pros, Journalists Tackle Latest AP Stylebook

PR Pros, Journalists Tackle Latest AP Stylebook.

Image of PR Pros, Journalists Tackle Latest AP StylebookBy Luke O’Neill, Editor, Business Wire

June 4, 2014

Earlier this year, The Associated Press style editors created quite a disturbance in the journalistic Force when they announced changes to their stylebook. AP style purists, myself included, were aghast.

The word “over” is now acceptable in all cases to indicate greater numerical value. Previously, the phrase “more than” was the preferred term. So you can now write: “Salaries went up over $20 a week“instead of “more than $20.”

The “over” vs. “more than” decision, announced at the American Copy Editors Society conference in March, reportedly elicited gasps from the audience. The reactions since then have ranged from outrage – some of it tongue-in-cheek – to a get-over-it mentality.

But that was only one of many recent changes, some of which were accepted more easily than others. One approved change was in the format of state names within articles. AP style editors announced in April that state names would now be spelled out within the body of stories to ensure consistency in domestic and international stories.

And, in case you missed it, the AP Stylebook 2014 print edition just launched May 28.

Style Matters

If the (over)reactions to the style changes has taught us anything it is that style matters and is deeply valued by news editors.

As we at Business Wire frequently discuss, public relations professionals who speak the media’s language continue to garner greater credibility among journalists. AP style is important for both writer and reader as it encourages consistency and clarity.

AP style is a “foundation to which communicators can refer when creating content,” Mark McClennan, senior vice president at PR firm MSLGROUP Boston and Public Relations Society of America national treasurer, wrote in an email.

It is important to note that although  AP ruled the word “over” as  acceptable to indicate greater numerical value – its usage isnot mandatory. You can still use “more than.” I suggest you turn a blind eye to the AP’s change and reserve “over” for spatial relationships.

The AP said “over” is acceptable because it evolved and became common usage. The change is noteworthy since it is a style element that appears so often in editorial copy.

In a blog, McClennan urged the AP to reconsider its “over” ruling. He does not agree with the reason for the change and encourages PR pros to keep using “more than.”

“I am very disappointed with the recent AP Stylebook changes,” said McClennan,. “AP was clear in many of these changes that they were broadening what is acceptable, not eliminating past practice.”

Getting Over ‘Over’

The Columbia Journalism Review noted that “over” has been in use for centuries when referring to quantities.

A Poynter blog noted the style change is a sign of the times – then the author threw this painful yet truthful haymaker: “As the volume of content available for consumption has grown, it seems logical that we have altered the precision with which we use our words…. And if you want to remain a relevant and effective influence, you cannot insist on enforcing standards that large numbers of people ignore or misunderstand.” Ouch.

Fred Vultee, associate professor of journalism at Wayne State University and an American Copy Editors Society board member, said he likes the “over” change.

“The best thing about the ‘over’ ruling is it doesn’t tell writers they should or shouldn’t do anything,” Vultee wrote in an email. “It just tells people not to worry about a colloquial usage that has made perfectly good sense for centuries.”

Vultee said he’ll still write “more than” in most cases. And he suspects most people he knows, who approve the “over” change, will also still write “more than.”

Create Your Own Style(book)

One way to ensure adoption of these changes is to create your own in-house stylebook featuring AP best practices particular to your commonly used words.

“A style guide is part of the rulebook for the conversations your organization has with its audiences, whether you’re in news or in PR,” said Vultee. “If a change in the rulebook helps you and your audience have that conversation more clearly, or if it fits better with your mutual understanding of how culture and society work, it’s a good change.”

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. 

What we think, we become. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world. – The Buddha

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