Student news releases offer more fluff than a marshmallow factory: This week’s teachable moment

February 14, 2010

I’ve decided to pick on the students in my “Media Relations and Publicity” class this week. I know they’ll be good sports about it, and I won’t call them out by name.

The problem: I’m unhappy with some of the news releases they’ve been writing this semester. It’s not the writing quality or mechanics that bothers me. The target of my ire is fluff — the fluff that oozes into their work in the form of vacuous, self-serving quotes.

Take last week’s assignment as an example. Students were asked to write a news release to draw local food writers to a story about a restaurant opening. While the story is one I made up for the assignment, it’s based on a real place. Read the rest of this entry »


Darth Blogger’s Holiday Writing Rant

December 21, 2009

Confession: Christmas isn’t my favorite holiday.

Before you “scrooge” me, consider that Christmas follows one of my two busiest times of the year: finals week and finals week. You bake cookies and trim trees; I grade papers. When I could be choosing meaningful gifts for the people I love, I’m coaching the next generation of PR pros, and occasionally evicting a few from the business. It’s a dirty job, but… Read the rest of this entry »


Book Review: ‘Putting the Public Back in Public Relations’

August 31, 2009

If you’ve spent any time reading the PR bloggers in the past two years, you won’t gain a lot from “Putting the Public Back into Public Relations.” You’ve heard it all before. And while PPBPR could be useful to an audience of late adopters, I still can’t recommend it, even to the novices.

Here’s my rationale.

solisPPBPR, by Brian Solis and Dierdre Breakenridge, sets out to explain “how social media is (sic) reinventing the aging business of public relations.” It purports to tell us what’s wrong with public relations, and how social media will fix it. But the problems addressed in the book really aren’t with public relations at all.

The “aging PR business” described in PPBPR is a process of one-way marketing communication centered on pitching stories to media gatekeepers. That’s called publicity, and it’s simply one of many tools used (and abused) by marketers, publicists, and PR folks, too. Read the rest of this entry »


Teaching students how to write good*

June 5, 2009
Read it sometime -- if you have the patience.

Read it sometime -- if you have the patience, or if you care.

Fixing online communication one post at a time

Someone should step up and rip the blogosphere a new one. Someone should tell the millions of bloggers, plus the tweeters and Facebookers, that good writing still matters. Those who work in communication-related fields should pay special heed.

But I’ll warn you: It won’t change a thing.

I’ve ranted on the bad writing in this space for nearly 3 years, and I’ve done it in classrooms for more than 2 decades. Posts about writing always draw traffic and comments, but with each post I am preaching to the converted.

Bless all of you who still care about good writing. Your numbers are dwindling. Read the rest of this entry »


I think, therefore I stink — at persuasive writing

May 12, 2009

thinkerNo one cares what you think.

I tell my students this all the time. If you want your bosses and clients to take you seriously, make your case logically and make it with conviction. Don’t start off with: “In my humble opinion…”  People don’t follow your counsel because you “think” you’re right. They follow you because you’ve made a persuasive case based on solid evidence.

A persuasive communicator isn’t tentative. I learned this 35 years ago in a college course called “Argumentation and Debate.” I also learned the value of research — hours and hours of research — from which my team assembled the facts and stories to support our position. Read the rest of this entry »