Saturday, November 18, 2017

When Bad Punctuation, Spelling and Grammar Happen to Good People

 I'm delighted for these students but to paraphrase the words of Inigo Montoya, "This headline does not mean what they think it means."

For heaven's sake, where was the copy editor? Managing editor? Reporter? Anyone?

What ever happened to reading your work before hitting "send" or going to print?

It seems that more and more, people are making grammar and spelling errors that are funny to many, cringe-worthy to multitudes, but also embarrassing for the perpetrators; in many cases, they show an ignorance to rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation that should have been mastered throughout 12 years of school, not to mention college or grad school after that. It's getting so bad that HubSpot ran a blog article about this back in June. In fact, there are a lot of web pages dedicated to these writing snafus and I just found this Pinterest page devoted to these bloopers.

This need not be. Thanks to the internet, there are plenty of sites to use for doing a quick check on spelling (American vs. British English, online dictionaries) as well as grammar. Journalists and public relations/news release writers use the AP Style manual (I just looked to make sure it was in there, and yes, firsthand as an adverb or adjective is indeed one word!). Publications have editors and proofreaders (well, they should have them) as do ad agencies.

Have you read the wonderful book, "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation" by Lynne Truss? Please do. Do you check Go ahead, I dare ya. Or have a friend or trusted colleague read over your work before it's published. Please. There are plenty of resources available if you're not sure, folks—but if you are a writer, please, in the name of all things sacred, learn to spell and punctuate correctly, and check your work before it's printed, published or recorded.

Here's another goody for you, from a local restaurant:

Now, I know the owners meant that the place was "formerly" Giovanni's, since they changed the name (the tip-off). They did not mean that it is "formally" known as Giovanni's as in, "officially" and then misspelled "formally." I'm sorry, but the Grammar/Spelling bitch inside me says this is simply not acceptable. A friend of mine who is a printer said that printers may sometimes bring up suspected errors to clients if they have the time to do so (if they actually recognize the error, right?) but often they assume it's how the client wants it. I sure wish this restaurant owner's sign printer had noticed the error and corrected it.(I have fingers crossed that "cappuccino" is spelled correctly on the menu and that, here in New Jersey, the restaurant does not serve "expresso" but that's for another day.)

I believe we can partially blame spell checking programs for this social ill. I mean, why bother to learn how to spell when the computer will (not always) correct your mistakes? I also blame the societal meme about how no one has time to read anything, everyone is skimming, blah blah blah de blah ... I don't believe it and it shouldn't matter. That said, I would like to know who was able to read and decipher this nugget:asdf.jpg

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Note to Techno Dinos: Don't Worry, You Can't Break Social Media

To all you late adopters who somehow managed to get through decades in advertising and public relations without tackling social media, here's a comforting thought: you won't break it, so go ahead and try it.

Recently, I had a tutoring session with a colleague, a PR pro, who is not using social media in any way. Knowing that I manage various social media accounts for clients, she hired me to create pages on two platforms for one of her accounts, and post there on behalf of the client. After a few days, we decided the time was ripe for getting her acclimated to the world of Facebook and Twitter, where the client's pages now reside.

Word of caution to younger readers: Please remember that not all of us grew up as "digital natives" and even navigating a computer or making the most of certain software can be a challenge for some ... so don't judge.

However, if you categorize yourself as a techno dino who only uses what you need when you need it, have difficulty learning computer skills, or shudder at the thought of rising to the challenge of logging into multiple accounts and platforms and engaging there, relax. Remember, you can't break social media.

My friend and I sat down at her computer and began at the primordial ooze tank of understanding where to go online and then signing up for an account. Interestingly, we discovered there were phantom accounts in her name or under her email address already there (on both networks) from several years ago. We got around that, set up new accounts and got rolling.

First, I explained the difference between profiles and pages. Then on to the images; profile pictures ("yes, those always stay that small") and cover images ("they're like billboards") were explained and we uploaded a Facebook profile pic (nothing yet on Twitter).

Account names got done and the descriptions were easy, since she works in public relations and is a good communicator.

I could see that my colleague was overwhelmed by all the tabs, cards, text and images on the screen. All the while, I told her to take a deep breath and take it slow. Take the time to read what's on the screen -- the platform will tell you what it wants you to fill out if you just relax. I encouraged her to click, explore, check out other accounts ... because you can't break social media. Nothing will happen but you might learn something! Deep breaths! Go line by line ... it will get done and you'll have mastered another step. And don't forget, there's always the HELP tab.

We discussed posting in general, various types of content, and how to get other pages and people to engage. This led into a discussion about privacy settings. Lots of concern about who sees what. We set Facebook to very private, only friends can see posts. However, as we users know, it's all about getting more people to see, like and share those posts so if you have a professional page, don't be shy! But also don't be lax. Be sure to monitor the activity and address any negative activity happening on your feed. Remember, you're the boss (to a certain extent, at least).

Of course, it's also a good practice to retweet other users' posts when it's relevant, quoting the original tweet as well for additional commentary or context related to your field. On Facebook, helpful to share other people's content and tag, tag, tag (but not be annoying).

Ratings and reviews -- tricky -- depends on how open you want to be and perhaps what industry your business is in. The client's business is in a highly regulated field so for her client's page, we did not allow ratings and reviews (enabling ratings and reviews requires the admin to attention tp activity and the notifications on a daily basis and to address any review issues right away). I explained that we can open up the privacy settings later for her client and for herself when she is more comfortable. At least now, she can see how her client's posts look on Facebook and Twitter and check out interactions with the pages, which was the goal of the session.

We looked at other accounts, zoomed around to see other users' profiles, checked on some posts and got her comfortable. Her confidence rose a little bit with every click. She emailed me later to say that she felt encouraged enough to put up a cover image by herself on Facebook (bold step!). You see, you can't break social media ... but you can break into it at any age at any stage.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What to Do When that Reporter Calls

Communication is written, spoken and in many cases, unspoken (body language). There are ample opportunities to communicate well or poorly, to cast yourself and your business in a positive light or leave the other person wondering "what the hell?"

The one person you don't want scratching a head and wondering what's just happened is a member of the press.

Although I am far from an expert on crisis communications, I do know a thing or two about communicating with members of the press and how to handle a call from a reporter. That call may be in search of your perspective or information about your company (or client, if you are in PR) as it relates to a particular issue in your field or in your community. Or, it could be in response to a negative matter your business was embroiled in for one reason or another. Either way, keep your head on straight, keep your cool, and like the stalwart Joe Friday of "Dragnet" fame, deliver just the facts.

Appoint the right spokesperson
This should (must) be someone who is very articulate, fluid with public speaking, and who thinks on his or her feet. It's important that this person have a nimble mind and stay a step ahead of anticipated conversation or be able to respond quickly (and well) to a question or comment. If the CEO, COO or president is not a great speaker or not necessarily the person the journalist is trying to reach, your marketing manager, community liaison coordinator, or public relations officer is the one to take the call. It needs to be someone who can ...

Stay calm
That's not to say you should be robotic, but communicating with a journalist is not the time to get emotional. This person is writing a story and is requesting your input, not your hysteria or gloominess. Journalists are seeking facts for their stories and dispassionate discourse is a great way to get your point across. You can be friendly and conversational but stay on guard as well. This speaks to the importance of ...

Know your talking points

Be like a Scout and be very prepared in advance with your talking points. Write them down, rehearse them if you need to. Whether you are discussing the positives about your company or organization or the organization's viewpoint about a particular issue, be very clear, concise, and on message. Know your mission statement, think about the "About Us" page on your website and what it says about your company or agency, and know the stance on the issue at hand. If your organization was involved in some way and it was a positive participation, be proud of it and state why. If there was a misstep of any kind, acknowledge it, apologize, and move on with positive points because ...

This is your chance to get free press
And you don't want to blow it! This is an opportunity to show your organization in a good light with the public, stakeholders, or employees. Even one positive quote in a long story is a good thing ... and many times better than one negative quote anywhere! This is also an opportunity to start developing a relationship with the reporter or writer, who might tap you in the future for comments about a news story, which can position you as an expert in your field (more good press). Being truly helpful to the journalist--by staying calm, delivering your talking points well (in a manner that moves the story along a positive path), and engaging the caller in a way that shows you are a partner and not an adversary, you'll drive good media relations for your brand.

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