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Every now and then, you get stuck with the job of trying to get publicity for a project or event. After all, you’re the writer in the crowd and who can do it better, right?

 

Believe it or not, you can learn a lot in the process. To begin with, you don’t want to make an unfavorable impression. Here are a few notes:

 

        Do not write your press releases in all caps. It’s hard to read and when you’ve read pieces of paper all day, your (the reporter’s) eyes start refusing to take on anything that makes him work any harder than necessary.

 

        Don’t write in complicated prose that would take a college professor to interpret. (See another article in this blog about readability.) The rule is to write to the fifth to eighth grade level.

 

        Start your press releases with the date and time of the event rather than a flowery explanation about how hard everyone has worked or who gets credit for its success.

 

        Don’t call the reporter at home to “avoid bothering him (her) at work.”

 

        Don’t send in photographs of people shaking hands. These will immediately find a place in the round file (trash can). They rank just above photos of people accepting plaques. Both are preferable to photos of people signing proclamations.

 

        Don’t waste a reporter’s time with a half-hour of talk and then say it’s all “off the record.” In fact, never tell a reporter anything you don’t want printed. “Off the record" is an agreement between the reporter and the source, reached before the information is imparted. Do it only if you trust the reporter. Usually, reporters cannot be trusted to keep anything confidential without a compelling reason (national security is one).

 

        Reporters don’t write headlines. If you don’t like the headline on your story, don’t blame the reporter. Talk to the editor. That’s futile, too. The paper is already printed and unless the error is especially grievous, nothing will change.

 

 

(NCWritertoo is a retired journalist who worked as a writer for over 25 years. Email her at ncwritertoo@yahoo.com)