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How to Write E-mail and Memos

22 Apr

Simply by having a Facebook, Twitter and E-mail account, one can be overwhelmed with text to read. Imagine what public relations personnel feel each time that their inbox AND voicemail box is full.

When composing an e-mail, memo or the like, be brief and avoid all extra rambling.

Follow these guidelines:

  1. Clarity
  2. Completeness
  3. Conciseness
  4. Correctness
  5. Courtesy
  6. Responsibility

When writing an e-mail, make sure that you language is not too formal or too similar to spontaneous conversation. Always be as brief as possible.

The format should be as follows:

  • Subject line
  • Salutation
  • First sentence or Paragraph
  • Body of Message
  • Closing

Memos should always be specific and straight to the point.

The format of a memo is as follows:

  • Date
  • To
  • From
  • Subject
  • Message

Ch. 14 of:


The Internet and the New Media That it Brings

19 Apr

“You have 10 to 12 seconds to ‘hook’ an Internet surfer onto your Web site, or else they’ll click onto something else,” said Gordon MacDonald.

Some characteristics of the Internet’s new media are:

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

Some helpful tips for writing on the Internet are:

  1. Write the way you talk
  2. Have one page per concept
  3. Use a lot of bullet-point lists
  4. Don’t overuse hyperlinks within narrative text.

Chapter 12 of:

Sharing News With the Media While Befriending Journalists

10 Apr

Ch. 10-11 Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques

The primary ways of distributing news to media outlets are as follows:

  • e-mail
  • online newsrooms
  • electronic newswires
  • mat distribution companies
  • photo placement firms

When sending news via e-mail, be sure to:

  1. Write a descriptive subject line, not just FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
  2. Do not attach files unless requested because of the risk of viruses
  3. Place useful information at the top of the news release
  4. Use bullet points for key points
  5. Don’t make your reader scroll because that means it is way too long
  6. Don’t let the person see who the e-mail was sent to because they wouldn’t want to see other reporters addressed.
  7. As with any other news release, spell check, grammar check, punctuation check. NO ERRORS ARE ACCEPTABLE!

Photo Placement Firms such as Newscom provide high-resolution photos for registered journalists and editor to choose from.

At times news releases that are e-mailed may be accompanied by a link to a photo on Newscom that illustrates the story.

Building Relationships with Journalists

It is important for Public Relations Professionals to build relationships with the journalists they work with because humans are not alway in work mode. Relationships require a human aspect. Talk about something other than your product or your company!

Friction between PR people and Jounalists

On the PR side:

  • Too much hype
  • Not doing homework on subject
  • Being nuisances

On the Journalistic side:

  • Sloppy/biased reporting
  • Name-calling
  • Tabloid sensationalism

Things to be aware of:

  1. It is inappropriate to invite a reporter to lunch unless you plan to discuss a potential story.
  2. Don’t ask a journalists when the story will be used because they probably don’t even know IF it will be used at all. It is also annoying to be asked that.
  3. Don’t make a reporter’s phone ring off the hook.
  4. Don’t give extravagant gifts. Stick to the value of a T-shirt or coffee mug, etc.

“If it’s worth over $20, I can’t accept it. If it’s worth under $20, it’s crap and I don’t want it.”

-AP editor in response to a question asked by  PR personnel


Writing for Radio and Television

2 Apr

Radio News Releases:

They are shorter than regular news releases because generally, radio announcements take either 30 seconds or 60 seconds.

Of course, they are written differently as well. They consist of easy-to-read sentences so that the reader does not stumble or scramble the words or phrases.

Some examples are:

  • The tickets will be on sale for five dollars. (As opposed to $50)
  • Check out Whitney Gonzalez’s Blog at WHITNESS-ZERO-SEVEN-DOT-WORDPRESS-DOT-COM (Instead of
  • He resigned rather quickly (Instead of he quit quite quickly)

Make sure you read your radio news release out loud before sending it out.

Video News Releases:

The wording of a VNR is rather similar to the RNR but for VNR’s you will need:

  • Soundbites of natural sound or statements.
  • B-roll to display while the reporter describes the news.
  • 90-second voice over

A downside to VNRs is that the prices range from $20,000 to $50,000.

For more notes on Writing for Radio and Television, refer to Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques:

Selecting Publicity Photos & Graphics

1 Apr

Publicity photos serve to add interest and easy explanations for readers. By simply including a photo in an article, the readers automatically become attracted to the reading.

What makes a good photo?

More people prefer seeing a story through a photograph over reading the text of the story.

“Motion and still images are valuable.Somebody might not read the story, but they’ll recall the images.” -Amanda Watlington

One must keep in mind that photos will only be published by newspapers if they are high resolution images. They must have good contrast and sharp detail.

Factors to Consider When Submitting a Photo:

  • Show perspectives in the image so that viewers can know the size of the product.
  • Show product in the environment that it would typically be used in.
  • Always include a caption that explains the image.
  • Never include more than three or four people in a photograph. (Group photos can be tacky.)
  • The image should show action and avoid poses such as the grip and grin.

  • Tight images with minimal background look professional and focus on the subject.
  • Don’t include subjects who are wearing sunglasses

Writing Photo Captions:

A caption is the text below the image that describes the situation, introduces people in the picture, etc.

They are usually two to four lines long.

An extended version of a caption is used when accompanied by a photo in a Photo News Release.

Writing a Feature News Story and Op-Eds

24 Mar

Chapter 7

Four approaches to feature writing:

  • distribute a general feature to a variety of publications
  • write an exclusive article for a publication
  • interest a freelancer or reporter in writing a story
  • post feature articles on the organization’s website

Types of feature stories:

  • case study- details how an individual has benefited from the featured service or product.
  • application story- details how consumers can productively use the featured product.
  • research study- based on the research of an aspect of lifestyle or common workplace situation.
  • backgrounder- either focuses on a problem solved by a product or historical material which draws human interest.
  • personality profile – humanizes celebrities or CEO
  • historical feature- tell about anniversaries, major changes, centennials, and more.

Every good feature writer ask lots of questions and are very creative thinkers. Another way to get ideas for feature writing is to be influenced by current events.

The format of a news release is just like that of a news release when it comes to letterhead, contact, headline, and dateline use.

Photos and graphics are a must in feature writing. Computer-generated artwork that displays tables and charts in an appealing way are called infographics and attract the media outlet’s attention.

Feature stories should contain a plethora of quotes, concrete examples, descriptive words and information that is delivered in an entertaining fashion.

Op-Eds should only be about 400 to 700 words and factual. Op-Ed means “opposite the editorial page.” It is an opinion based article that provides factual information the supports that particular opinion.

For more notes see Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques by Dennis L. Wilcox, Chapter 8

Elements of Publicity Tool Kit

24 Mar

Chapter 6 Notes

A publicity tool kit consists of the following:

  • Fact Sheet
  • Media Advisory
  • Media Kit

All of  these help companies capture the attention of the media and persuade them to expose the company’s product, etc., to the public.

Fact Sheet

It is self-explanatory. It is a list of facts that provide a quick overview of the company of product and is easy to refer to.

A fact sheet for an upcoming event should include:

  • 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
  • unusual aspects of the even that make it newsworthy

A corporate fact sheet, or corporate profile, provides facts about an organization and should include:

  • organization’s name
  • products or services produced
  • organization’s annual revenues
  • total number of employees
  • names of top executives
  • markets served
  • position in the industry
  • other pertinent details

There are also fact sheets made for individual products. These should include:

  • nutrition information
  • production process
  • pricing
  • availability
  • convenience
  • how it serves a consumer need

Media Advisories

Media advisories, also known as media alerts, serve to alert editors of upcoming event that require media coverage. They are usually bulleted items detailing the time, date, location, etc. and are sent out a couple of weeks prior to an event.

The typical media advisory looks like the one below:

Media Kits

Another way to grab an editors attention is a media kit, also referred to as a press kit. A media kit provides general information about an event or product launch. There are many ways to be creative when making a media kit but the basic media kits include the following:

  • main news release
  • news features
  • fact sheet
  • background information
  • photos or drawings with captions
  • biographical materials on the senior executive, etc.
  • basic brochures

Some media kits may even include samples of the product and similar freebies in order for the editor to become familiar with the product and develop his or her own opinion about it.

A typical media kit comes in a 9 by 12 inch folder but some companies prefer to make a package or something that catches an editor’s eye. Electronic Media kits are also popular and usually come in a compact disk.

Here are images of a media kit produced by Kraken Rum:

For more notes on how to put together a publicity tool kit, check out Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques by

Dennis L Wilcox.