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For PR, does AP Style still matter?

In Uncategorized on February 23, 2015 at 9:24 am

Starting about the time Noah sent out his, “Ark 1.0 Offers Hope, Segue to Earth 2.0,” one of the basic rules of press release writing has been to adhere to AP Style.

The thinking has been two-fold: First of all, doing so would promote consistency. No more arguing about how to use commas in a series, no more debates about who gets a “Dr.” before his or her name. Check the Stylebook. End of debate.

Second – and perhaps most important – doing so would put our releases in the style preferred by the people receiving them. Most newspapers are pledged to AP style, and reporters and editors who see our releases have tended to be pretty darned dictatorial about the best way to abbreviate states and whether “statehouse” is one word or two.

In other words, adhering to AP Style allowed you to write with confidence.

Lately, though, that confidence has been shaken. These days, a quick read of daily newspapers reveals not only style deviations from paper to paper, but also inconsistencies within a single publication. What once would have been considered a gross violation of the sacred AP Style now seems to be shrugged off as inconsequential nitpicking.  What once would have earned a rookie reporter a smack on the knuckles with a pica pole now is ignored.

Why? Let us count the reasons:

  • Centralized copyediting, which takes copy review from a local desk to a remote location.
  • The rush and hurry of today’s journalism, which requires not only copy for print editions but also blogging, Tweeting, posting and commenting – not to mention video appearances, radio shows, etc.
  • The dumbing down of writing in general, which seems unlikely to recover from the everything-is-OK style of the digital world.
  • And … well, you get the point.

So, with all of that in mind, should PR types give a darn about AP Style? I, for one, argue that, yes, we should. It still will help us remain consistent with what we deliver. It will allow us to be confident that, should our copy fall into the hands of some copy desk dinosaur, it will appreciated. It will allow us to be assured that, should our releases simply be reprinted as submitted (a once-unthinkable event now considered routine), they will be readable.

And, finally, it will give us the satisfaction of knowing that SOMEONE is upholding high standards.

What social media won’t do for you

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate, social media, Uncategorized on May 24, 2010 at 7:35 am

You’ve no doubt heard a lot about what social media can do for your life or your business. Build it, maybe. Improve it. Transform it.

In fact, if you listened to all of the hype, you could be forgiven for thinking social media can do just about anything. But it can’t. So, to offset the endless hype about what social media can do, here are four things it won’t do.

Social media won’t substitute for a strategy. Social media is a tool. It’s one of the things you use to implement your strategy. It’s not a strategy. Before thinking about how you can use social media, think about what it is you’re trying to achieve and consider the best ways to achieve it. Perhaps social media will be a part of your strategy.

 

Social media won’t substitute for a message. Yes, once upon a time the medium was declared to be the message. But, face it: Without a message, you’ve got nothing to put into the medium. If you don’t have anything engaging to say, no one will listen – no matter what media you use to say it.

 

Social media won’t substitute for a brand. You’ve heard it over and over, but sometimes we forget these sorts of things. Your brand is not your organization’s name, a product name, a slogan or logo. It is, indeed, the complete experience a customer has with you. As such, social media will help you build, establish and connect a brand, but it won’t substitute for a brand.

 

Social media won’t substitute for a purpose. Even if you started Facebook, founded Twitter or came up with whatever is next, social media is not your purpose. Know why you exist or no magical media will make you worthwhile. Or interesting. Or successful.

Keep social media in perspective. It’s a great tool that can help some businesses succeed. For other businesses, though – those that don’t have a strategy, a message, a brand or a purpose – it will be a drain on resources and an unnecessary distraction. And, ultimately, OK, sure: It will indeed transform those businesses. In a bad way.

Big lessons from small business

In Business Class, uhm, Uncategorized on May 14, 2010 at 7:57 am

More than once or twice in recent days, I’ve found myself at lunch tables and on bar stools talking with fellow small business folks about the ups and downs of the economy. And again and again, I find myself recommending the same book: Bo Burlingham’s 2005 work, “Small Giants.”

In that book, Burlingham presents a group of companies that, as he put it, “choose to be great instead of big.” From a Michigan recording studio to a Silicon Valley HR firm, and from a New York restaurant group to a San Francisco brewery, the companies Burlingham examined had made conscious decisions not to grow.

Well, actually, they chose not to grow by the traditional definitions of growth — by expanding beyond basic operations, for example, or by going public, merging or being acquired. All of them, however, would no doubt say they grew in other ways. And, by their measures, all seem to count themselves as successful. And, in pursuing their own definitions of success, they offer lessons for any business — of any size.

Consider this overview of the factors Burlingham says contribute to small firms’ mojo and decide for yourself.

 Choice. Recognizing that you have options beyond the usual paths to success, and, as a result, going a different way.

 Resistance. Choosing to resist the “obvious” paths to growth.

 Roots. Having an intimate relationship with geographic location — your city, town, county or region.

 Community. Maintaining intimate relationships with customers and suppliers.

 Family. Building intimate workplaces, where employees are like family.

 Variety. Organizing your business in an imaginative way, without feeling bound by typical structures.

 Passion. Having a leader with passion for the organization and what it does.

In various formula and measures, these factors combine to create a bigger, perhaps-less-tangible piece that Burlingham describes as a firm’s “mojo.” In the Jim Collins vernacular, this is most easily compared to a firm’s “hedgehog” … others might describe it as an organization’s  “DNA.” Regardless of what you call it, though, it’s that special thing, that unique quality, that defining aspect of an organzition that makes it stand out.

The thing to understand is that your firm’s “mojo” might not be the product you make so well, or the service you provide better than anyone else — it might be the process by which you make that product, or the way you provide that service. The trick is to identify that mojo and build on it … often discovering you can expand that mojo in ways you never imagined, to grow in ways you never thought possible.

And why is this notion so important these days? Because in times of marketplace upheaval, pursuing growth for growth’s sake seldom works. Instead, focus on your mojo in order to develop your organization’s true strength. Then you’ll not only survive tough times, but, when times are better, you’ll grow … in the ways that you choose to define growth.

While I was away

In Connecting to Communicate, social media, uhm, Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 at 9:30 am

Forgive me, social media world, for I have sinned. It’s been weeks since my last blog post.

I won’t bore you with the whys and wherefores. But I will, uhm, enlighten you with some lessons learned.

  • Those darned cobbler’s kids. I had never heard the story about the cobbler (for you young’uns, that’s a shoemaker) whose children went shoeless because he was so busy making shoes for others until I worked in an agency — where we routinely struggled to maintain our own marketing/communications/website/etc. because we were so busy working for our clients.  It’s easy to let it happen, as I’ve learned in the past few weeks. The lesson? It takes perseverance, energy and focus to maintain your own social media efforts when you’re busy advocating for your clients.
  • A life of its own. Interesting thing: Even though I’ve not posted anything new for a couple of weeks, the graph showing hits on my blog still fluctuated daily. Granted, traffic was slower than usual, but it still jumped up and down from day to day, even without new info. The lesson? The conversation will take place, with or without you. It’s certainly better to be a part of it.
  • You’ve got to feed the beast. One reason I wasn’t blogging? I wasn’t reading as much national and marketplace news. And so I had nothing fresh or timely to talk about. The lesson? Social media demands freshness. Stay in touch or you won’t have anything to say.
  • Somebody might notice. A couple of people commented on my silence, wondering what was up. The lesson? You might not realize it, but some people are actually paying attention.
  • A lot of people won’t notice … or care. Beyond the few people who mentioned my absence, there are quite a few others who have read my posts in the past but, apparently, didn’t notice my absence. They never wrote, never called, nuthin’.  The lesson? It’s a short-attention-span world. Keep up or you’ll be forgotten.
  • The world didn’t end. Nobody died because I missed a few blog posts. No wars broke out. Nobody’s business went belly-up (granted, the Dow did a 1,000-point drop-and-bounce, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t my fault). More important: Our business didn’t go belly up, our clients got what they needed, and the sun came up every morning. The lesson? Social media matters, but it’s not critical to anybody’s existence.

My intent, of course, is that this will be the beginning of re-engagement … that I’ll pick up where I left off and have something worthwhile to say every few days. And that you’ll forgive me for my absence.