Tag Archive: AP Style


“The cab driver boasted that his daughter had just graduated. But then he admitted that her journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin had cost $140,000. Since journalism is an ill-paid job that requires no formal qualification, this sounds like a waste of money.” – The Economist, Universities challenged, August 31, 2013

cabdriver

Those are fightin’ words.

Doesn’t The Economist benefit from well-trained and clever journalists?

Should we just shut down all journalism and mass communication schools nationwide, if not worldwide?

Would the last J-school student be kind enough to turn out the lights?

This revealing provocative lead in which the Economist writer shared her/his intimate conversation with a Chicago area cabbie (so much wisdom is imparted in cabs) actually concerned the state of affairs of higher education. Namely, the upcoming federal Department of Education (DOE) ratings system in which colleges and universities conceivably will be judged for federal hand-outs based upon cost, graduation rate and how much students earn in their careers.

And you thought the Bowl Championship Series (BSC) metrics were Byzantine? Thank Darwin we only have to endure this system for one more year. The DOE standards/regulations could be with us into the indefinite future…which could be, forever.

Now that we have clarified the basic premise of the article, let’s go back to the notion that journalism is “ill paid,” that it requires “no formal qualification” and the implication that university journalism schools are a “waste of money.”

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Considering that I have two journalism-related degrees (one undergraduate and the other post-graduate) and I spent more than three-decades as a reporter (a few years) and as a public relations practitioner (a lot of years) and lately as a college instructor (a few more), I have a problem or two with the gross oversimplification exhibited by The Economist.

There is no doubt that college is damn expensive and not getting cheaper anytime soon. And yes, traditional Gutenbergesque journalism is in trouble. The business model doesn’t work anymore. Having acknowledged the obvious, these conclusions miss a major point: The global desire and yearning for instantaneous-and-accurate information on a 24/7/365 basis has never been greater.

The ability to tell the story, and to tell it well whether it be a reporter/editor, a public relations practitioner or advertising professional is in constant demand and cannot be effectively outsourced or offshored en masse.

The methods for telling, reporting and disseminating the story are changing. The world has moved from analog to digital. The demand for information outstrips the supply, and this trend is accelerating. This is an upward-to-the-right market.

And how will future journalism, public relations, advertising, social media and multi-media professionals learn these information development and dissemination skills? How about these supposedly “waste-of-money” journalism schools?

lecturehall

1.)  Writing effectively will always be in demand, particularly by those who can quickly come to the point, provide insightful analysis, and write professionally and skillfully, employing AP Style.

2.)   Understanding the concept of the inverted pyramid in which the crux of the story is in the lead and all the supporting information flows from there.

3.)   Determining whether a story is newsworthy (or not) for target audiences. Learning how to ask the What? When? Where? Who, Why? And How?, ascertain these answers and transmit a complete-and-clear picture succinctly to news transmitters, whether they are conventional or digital.

4.)   Grasping and using “Big Data” in the form of compelling infographics to quickly and efficiently present useful information to critical audiences.

5.)   Appreciating that social media is not monolithic. There is a distinction between “connections” and “friends” online. Yes, you can digitally self-publish in 140-characters or less. Blogging is alive and well. Social media can be radioactive as digital miscues are eternal.

6.)   Comprehending the societal and technological shift from two-way asymmetrical communication theory (one to the masses) to digitally enabled two-way symmetrical communication theory conversations (message receiver responds publicly to the message sender).

7.)   Gaining the skill sets to generate professional digital photos, audio and video and use state-of-the-art software (e.g., Final Cut Pro) for compelling multimedia pieces.

8.)   Garnering the knowledge of financial communications including relevant SEC disclosure rules and being able to distinguish between fiduciary responsibility and corporate social responsibility.

9.)   Overcoming glossophobia and becoming more confident in delivering presentations, particularly those that are conversational in style and using supporting graphics.

10.)  Securing the confidence to perform instinctively in a crisis communications setting, quickly develop relevant messages and ultimately protect an organization’s reputation and brand.

crisis1

There is little doubt that journalism, public relations, advertising, social media and multi-media educators, graduates and students can add to the Almost DailyBrett list of J-School attributes cited above, including cultural distinctions inherent in international communications.

What’s more important is that when one considers and weighs the skill sets that are being taught and learned, particularly in a rapidly changing technology landscape, the value of a solid journalism education is maybe as valuable as it has ever been.

Society’s insatiable demand for news and information has never been greater.

The Genie is simply not going back into the bottle.

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21584393-barack-obama-wants-degrees-be-better-value-money-universities-challenged

 

 

magnifying-glassWhat’s the difference between pubic relations and public relations?

How about the word “ass” as opposed to “as.”

One tiny little letter in each of these cases, but a ton of difference in context and of course, raised eyebrows.

Is it me and my friends went to the movies or my friends and I went to the movies? Hint “me” is always an object of a sentence. The “me and my friends” version I hear way too many times for comfort.

Some blog posts are harder to right than others.

Make that some blog posts are harder to WRITE than others.

As I finish the process of reviewing dozens of graduating senior public relations portfolios and grading final two-page executive memos, I am constantly reminded about the vital skill associated with the attention to detail.

If you want to succeed in public relations, marketing, investor relations, brand management, advertising, events planning etc., you must sweat the details. The client’s name must be spelled write…err right.

That’s an imperative.

The Microsoft spell checker is useful, but it fails to recognize when the wrong word is spelled correctly.

Trust me the client will clobber you for even one letter being out of place or not capitalized, particularly for a proper noun. The hosting service for Almost DailyBrett is WordPress, two words jammed together with the first letter of each, capitalized. Did you note that DailyBrett is not two distinct words, but two words married to each other and capitalized?

Nike is spelled NIKE. The same is true for NVIDIA. Facebook is not FaceBook. Do you want to misspell the company’s name for Mark Zuckerberg? Trust me even after a disastrous IPO, he still has the requisite amount of nanoseconds to note the misspelling.

Did you hear about the near miss of two planes in the air over DFW?

What is a “near miss?” It’s a collision with tons of flames and falling debris.

And yet that is NOT how we think about a “near miss.” Sometimes these wrong words sound right, and yet they are still wrong.

Ever hear about an untimely death? Sure you have, but when is a death ever, “timely”?

When I was toiling in the trenches for 10 years for LSI Logic, I was once asked by executive management why we wrote our news releases, advisories, contributed articles, briefing sheets in a particular fashion. I replied that we prepared them using AP style. That answer quickly ended the discussion. AP Style is the gold standard for Journalism, whether one is enamored with the wire service’s reporting or not.

Alas, I still have to repeatedly correct the use of over ten million dollars (three AP-style errors in just one little phrase) instead of the correct, more than $10 million.

Think of it this way: the horse jumped over the fence and five is more than four. If you remember this rule, you will never get it wrong.

Who is the subject, and whom is the object. (And you thought The Who was a classic rock band)

I could go on into infinity, but I will resist the temptation.

As educators in professional schools of great universities, we are preparing our students to succeed in a brutal job environment. Public relations and advertising agencies, corporate PR shops, non-profits, events planning firms are being besieged by graduating seniors seeking out jobs, internships and even informational interviews. These newly minted graduates are looking for any and all ways to earn any amount of legal tender.

Are these students writing tweet-style cover letters? Are they writing these letters directly to the hiring manager or to a machine that will swallow them up, never to be seen again? Are they starting these letters with, “To Whom It May Concern?” Please, no.

When it comes to their curriculum vitae (if you don’t know what the Latin stands for, look it up), are students listing their academic credentials first or their directly related work experience no matter how meager? Graduating seniors need to immediately transition themselves mentally to being professionals.

resume1

Do you (student) work well with people? Are you going to tell a hiring manager just that? Please don’t with sugar on top.

What is the Return on Investment (ROI) in she or he “works well with people” statement? Why would any employer spend precious SG&A dollars for someone who works well with people? What’s in it for the employer?

A student must differentiate herself or himself. Tell the perspective employer what you have done and what value you bring to the party.

Think of it this way: the tweet-style cover letter is used to quickly (about 4.3 seconds for recruiters…but who is counting?) entice the employer to read the resume.

The resume or curriculum vita (CV) is intended to secure an interview.

The interview leads to a job offer.

The job offers lead to an HR packet being overnighted to your domicile.

Even with that plan, you still have to be ready for an employment curve ball. What if you were asked to either submit a LinkedIn URL or a CV? Which one would you choose? Think of that choice as a one-and-zeroes binary code, social media trap.

And if you don’t have a LinkedIn URL, get one pronto.

And when you do, sweat the details of your Linkedin page…err LinkedIn page.

https://www.apstylebook.com/

http://www.linkedin.com/

“People who are able to do something well can do that thing for a living, while people who are not able to do anything that well make a living by teaching.” —  Literary critic George Bernard Shaw

shaw

Sorry George.

The vast majority of decorated public relations pros are accomplished when it comes to bloviating and pontificating. They thrive on using PowerPoint and their clickers. Most of all, they love the stage and the spot light. These are all talents.

They counsel executives, choreograph communications campaigns, train presenters to face the media and others, and once in awhile they even get into a fight with a reporter…if that is what the job requires. They have oodles of experience spanning a decade or two, maybe even three.

They know the intricacies of public relations and communications. Their instincts are refined and proven. Their careers span the globe and may even include tenures in politics, government, corporate and/or agency work.

More importantly for many PR practitioners, they believe their days of marketing a client’s product that they really don’t care much about to a journalist who cares even less will eventually come to a merciful end. There just has to be something else in life.

Isn’t there the prospect of having the summer off as well as winter and spring breaks? They can just imagine having all that time to walk through the cobble-stone streets of Europe, stopping at sidewalk cafés and solving the problems of the world over glasses of wine with their newly found infinite academic wisdom.

Why not impart your repository of knowledge to the next generation of communicators? Why not fire up the PowerPoint, making sure there are batteries in the pointer/clicker, and start teaching? Sad to say, it is not that easy. There is a reality behind the perception of academic glory. (Those with Glossophobia or believe the words of George Bernard Shaw need not apply).

So what is the reality of college teaching for those who think the grass is greener on the academic side of the fence?

● Your days of six-figure salaries with stock options and participation in an Employee Stock Purchase Program (ESPP) will most likely be in your rear-view mirror. Instead, you are taking a vow of relative poverty (VORP). There are exceptions to every rule, but they are just that, exceptions. If you want to make millions, you should stay away from academia.

● When was the last time you took the Graduate Records Exam (GRE)? My first time was 1980. My second time was 2010. After those twitchin’ experiences, one must contend with the 19-month-plus forced march that will hopefully lead to a Master of Arts, Master of Science, MBA etc.  Are you sure you want to do this?

● If you think SEC regs are restrictive, please allow me to introduce you to academia. There are a few ways, very few, to write academic papers. Instead of The Associated Press Stylebook, there is the APA style, which has as much flexibility as a crocodile after it grabbed hold of your arm. APA stands for the American Psychological Association. How come the irony does not escape me?

“…South America is located directly south of Central and North America (Fouts, 1971; Musgrave, 1990; O’Neill, 1994; Graziani, 1995; Smith, 1998; Harrington, 2001 ). And Europe is situated on the other side of the Atlantic (Clemens, 2004; Dixon, 2007; Masoli, 2009; Thomas, 2011)…” There are literally hundreds of thousands of APA-style pages written this way, waiting for you to read and somehow understand them.

● You don’t just waltz into the classroom and start imparting your wisdom to an appreciative student audience clinging to every word. There is this thing, called a syllabus. Just like Bernard Montgomery planned his military thrusts against the Desert Fox, your syllabus illustrates step-by-step, day-by-day how you will teach your class. Weeks will be spent before the first class devising your syllabus. Say goodbye to spring break and good portions of your summer and winter break (It may actually provide you with a tantalizing excuse to avoid relatives during the holidays…see Almost DailyBrett, “If They Weren’t Your Relatives Would They Be Your Friends?”).

montyrommel

● Each lecture needs to be planned. How much time do I have? What points do I want to make? What questions should I expect? How will I divide up lecture to refresh student’s minds? Think of how you start mentally tuning out after about 20 minutes. Students will do the same, but maybe even in quicker time. After answering these questions and more, it is time to devise your PowerPoint presentation.

● You will have office hours. You will hear about the lives of students, some with serious issues…and others with not so serious issues…but all sound as if personal Armageddon is right around the corner. You want to be fair, but firm as well. This is easier said than done.

● No discussion about teaching can be complete without a discussion about grading, more grading and still even more grading. This reality seems universal among academics. Never underestimate the literally hours and hours of time spent grading. There is a certain amount of bandwidth it will take to devise a grading rubric to hopefully impart some consistency into your grading. Personally I am a serial editor. I mark up all papers, and the more work I have to do, the lower the grade.

Once you have completed your grading, then it is time to return the documents to your students. The results of multiple guess exams should be easier for them to accept as one either answers the question correctly or not. Grading one-page memos, shareholder letters, portfolios, research papers is a subjective exercise. Always take cover and fix bayonets when you assign a B+ or even worse, an A- to a student’s work. She or he is so close, yet so far from the Promised Land. Expect a challenge here and there. Be prepared to defend your decision with a smile on your face, but don’t anticipate a smile in return.

And always be prepared for the “Rule of One.” At least one student will literally hate your guts and will make that point unequivocally clear in your quarter-end course evaluation.

Certainly, I did not exhaust all of the issues (e.g., cheating, plagiarism, dominating students) that will come before you if you decide to traverse the yellow brick road of academia. Should you do it? I humbly opine that teaching is a great way to give back to the public relations profession by preparing the communications choreographers of tomorrow. At the same time, you need to be prepared for the largely inflexible new world of academia in which change comes at glacial pace.

There are many logical reasons to bypass this opportunity. There is an equal amount of illogical reasons why you should take the plunge as well.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Bernard_Shaw

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/if-they-weren%e2%80%99t-your-relatives-would-they-be-your-friends/

Spain is the champion of the world when it comes to football, futbol, fussball, soccer or whatever you want to call it.

Are communications pros, particularly those working in the high-tech space, the champions of the world when it comes to redundancy?

And does this insistency on replicating in the opening paragraph what is already readily available in (usually too long) boilerplates telegraph to the world an inferiority complex?

And do the architects of these monuments to marketing and branding overkill even for a nanosecond consider the plight of information-overloaded readers of these news releases: business reporters, trade editors, market analysts, investors etc?

In an effort to not pick on any company in particular, Almost DailyBrett surfed PR Newswire today (www.prnewswire.com) and reviewed the tech news releases in a search for redundancy. It did not take long for this beast to raise its ugly head.

“rVue Holdings, Inc.’s (OTC Bulletin Board: RVUE) subsidiary rVue, Inc., the leading demand side platform (DSP) for the Digital Out of Home (DOOH) industry with over one hundred eighty thousand digital screens across the country operated by over fifty network owners, announced today that…”

Let’s see that is 31 words with two or DOOH acronyms (ignoring the AP style of using numerals above the number nine) before the company even attempts to announce today’s news.

And after several paragraphs, we are treated to the company’s boilerplate:

“About rVue Holdings, Inc.

rVue Holdings, Inc., through its wholly owned subsidiary rVue, Inc., is an advertising technology company which provides the only demand-side platform for planning, buying and managing Digital Out-of-Home and Place-Based Media in its suite of technology. The Company’s vision and expertise in building rVue provides unrivalled capability for delivering the right advertising message to the right audience with pinpoint accuracy and creates substantial opportunities for the Digital Out-of-Home and advertising industries. rVue’s demand-side platform takes a unique approach to addressable advertising delivery, measurement and an extensive portfolio of intellectual property supports reporting. The Company’s innovations in content delivery solutions and intellectual property development in targeted demographic media is the foundation for a wide array of advanced advertising capabilities.  Digital technology has revolutionized media and rVue is making targeted addressable advertising, more efficient, more effective and more available than ever. Visit www.rVue.com for more details.” 

(Do you really think that we want more details?) 

For those of you scoring at home that is 148 words of mind-numbing type that includes everything and the kitchen sink in one boilerplate. So let’s see the company spent 31 words in the opening paragraph telling the poor reader essentially the same thing that it outlined in 148 words in the boilerplate…before the company even mentioned what is the real “news.” 

This practice can even border on the absurd. Consider the following release also posted today on PR Newswire: 

“Robert Corace, formerly Managing Director at Symphony Services, has joined Objectiva Software Solutions, Inc., a leading provider of software development outsourcing services with engineering based in the U.S. and China, as President…” 

First Objectiva told the planet where Robert Corace used the work and what was his title (six words), that he joined Objectiva, and then another 16 words repeating the company boilerplate, before announcing that he was going to be . . .  the PRESIDENT of the company. 

Did they actually pay someone to write this? How about just telling the world that Objectiva selected Robert Corace as its new president before going into his background and the company’s reason for being? 

To prove that we are not picking on rVue Holdings, Inc, Objectiva Software or the many other similar offenders, let’s take a look at how Texas Instruments handled its news release issued on the same day over the same medium, PR Newswire. 

“Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) (NYSE: TXN) today introduced the 12-bit ADS7924 successive approximation (SAR) analog-to-digital converter (ADC)…” 

Somebody in Dallas obviously understands the inverted pyramid approach to putting the news up front, not a lengthy and redundant diatribe. 

And at the end of the release, TI posted the following boilerplate: 

“About Texas Instruments

Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN) helps customers solve problems and develop new electronics that make the world smarter, healthier, safer, greener and more fun. A global semiconductor company, TI innovates through manufacturing, design and sales operations in more than 30 countries.  For more information, go to www.ti.com” 

Let’s see, TI began the release with 18 words of real news and followed it up with a confident 49-word boilerplate that provided just the facts, mam. 

The final score is 179 words in the opening graph and boilerplate for rVue and 67 words for Texas Instruments. So is rVue the winner or the loser in the eyes of editors, reporters, analysts and investors? 

Far too often we have seen smaller companies, particularly start-ups, that feel absolutely compelled to tell their story, and then tell it again and again, projecting insecurity instead of confidence. 

rVue Holdings, Inc is not Texas Instruments, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t use the same level of confidence to project itself to be larger than its actual size. 

In defense of PR pros, particularly those in complex tech, financial services and bio-tech segments, there is a tremendous amount of internal pressure being exerted to tell everything about a company’s story and then repeat the process over and over again. It is easier said than done to put the brakes on these well-intentioned, but misguided efforts. 

That’s why we need to be evangelists in preaching that in most cases, “Less is more.” 

PS: PR Newswire, Business Wire and other news release distribution services absolutely adore lengthy boilerplates and safe-harbor statements.

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