Thursday, February 23, 2017

Reflection, Unit 3.2

Photo from Pexels
After writing our first news releases last week in PR writing, we moved onto learning how to write and use other tools in our PR toolbox: media advisories and pitches. Shorter than news releases, these two tools can be equally as challenging. 

We began by looking at media advisories. No longer than a page in length, advisories just give the who, what, where and why of an event to invite reporters to cover. Advisories are meant for journalists and not the public eye, which alters somewhat the way we write them. 
They are meant to be brief and to the point. Instead of writing them in paragraphs, they usually have a short lead paragraph giving some details and then followed by bullet points of who, what, where and why. It sounds simple enough, but you must know what information is important enough to include since these are basically invitations to journalists and not news releases. 

Right after media advisories were media pitches. Pitches are similar to advisories but are usually meant for a small number of reporters if not just one. They take the form of an email, replacing the former pitch letter. These are about more than inviting a reporter to cover an event. They are about building a mutually beneficial relationship with a certain reporter. As such, it is important to be personal when writing a pitch email. 

Pitches are much shorter than advisories. You must get to your point at the very beginning. Equally important is your subject line, which must intrigue a reporter to open the email and read the pitch. Subject lines must be short, fewer than 60 characters. Your tone must be friendly yet professional when writing the body. Make sure your topic is interesting enough to pique the interest of your reporter. Following up is a must, meaning call the reporter or meet with them in person. 

You must anticipate the reporter's needs when writing a pitch. This goes back to creating mutually beneficial, two-way relationships with the press. A short, personal pitch with an intriguing topic can go a long way when trying to get some coverage for a public relations event. 

In these assignments, I learned even more about the importance of discriminating against information. I also thought about the needs of the journalist who is the target audience of these two tools. 

Writing effective advisories and pitches is probably the next crucial skill after writing good news releases. We must learn how to persuade journalists to cover events. How is the public going to know about our initiatives if we can't get journalists to spread the word?

I forsee using these skills quite a bit in the future. Like I said previously, it is imperative that we know how to write advisories and pitches as future public relations professionals. After all, media relations is a significant part of the daily work of a practitioner. 

Starting Photoshop

Photo from Pexels
Last week in public relations publications, we finished our letterhead based on our business card. This wrapped up our section on InDesign. Now, we are transitioning into Photoshop.

Tuesday's class was about learning the basics from We watched a video lecture series on how to do some really useful, common operations in Photoshop. Having had a class over graphic design and being involved in photo-editing, I had what I thought was a decent knowledge of Photoshop. These videos didn't so much contradict that, rather they taught me more efficient ways of editing pictures, removing objects from photos and blending photos. 

I didn't finish the videos in class, but I did that evening. is a great learning platform. I think students at the University of Oklahoma are very lucky to have free access to those lectures. 

For Thursday's class, we had a guest speaker from OU's department of admissions and recruiting. The guest speaker told us about what goes into the department's strategy in reaching potential OU students. 

The strategy they use is very interesting. It consists of three stages. The first one is where they try to get young, prospective students aware. The next one comes when perspective students are juniors and seniors when they are thinking about applying. They use their messaging to get these students to apply. The final stage is where students have applied and now they are about to commit. 

GIF from Tumblr
We learned about the different costs associated with printing direct mailers and postcards. It is actually cheaper and more efficient to stick with regularly-sized objects. I thought it was interesting that OU has switched to sending acceptance boxes instead of acceptance envelopes. I wish I would have received one when I applied to OU during my sophomore year at Eastern Oklahoma State College. 

These two class periods were to help get us ready for our next project, the direct mailer, which we will design in Photoshop. I feel like I have a better understanding of Photoshop and how to specialize messaging for specific target audiences. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Reflection, Unit 3.1

Photo from Pexels.
We got to put our learning from the last unit into action this unit in PR writing by crafting our first news releases. 

Before actually writing our releases, we looked at the proper format of a news release. The top of the release should contain release instructions and contact information of the point of contact for an organization. It should be single-spaced.

Next, the headline, centered and single-spaced, should be right before the first graf of the release, summarizing the information in the reader is about to read and intriguing the reader to actually read the release. 

Now, the first graf should follow the headline. This graf, the lede, should summarize the important information in no more than 30 words. A dateline featuring the city of publication and the date should precede the lede. This graf and succeeding grafs should be double-spaced. 

All grafs should be indented. The second graph is the bridge. This links the lede with the body of the release. The "why" and the "how" are good subjects for this graf. 

Following the bridge is the rest of the body. Information should follow the inverted pyramid, with the most important information at towards the top and the least important towards the bottom. 

If the release is more than a page, a "-MORE-" symbol should be at the bottom center of the first page. On the subsequent pages, the writer, slugline and page number (written in the form 2-2-2-2, for example) should appear at the top left corner of the page, single-spaced. 

At the end of the story, one should include an end-of-story symbol in the form of "-30-" or "###". 

The boilerplate, which usually includes organization information and other contact information, comes after (though it can come before) the end-of-story symbol. The boilerplate should be single-spaced. 

After examining the format of a press release, we were to look for a press release online, mark it up showing its different parts and upload a picture of it. I chose a release from the Sonic fast food chain. The release was missing several elements discussed in this unit, but there are many ways to formulate a news release. It all has to do with company preference. 

Now, we wrote two releases. The first one was a general release for the Tipton Children's Home in Tipton, OK. The release was to give pertinent information about the home. The second release was to be about a Bikeathon event the Children's Home was to host. 

Out of both releases, I would say the first one was the most difficult to write. It was difficult to find a news element to stress. The next hardest part was arranging the information from most important to least important. I structured my release to give some background information while stating the main mission of the home first and then adding other information that is not so important. I am fairly satisfied with my final release. I know there is room for improvement, but that is the point of this class. 

The second release was much easier since we had an easily-identifiable news element to stress with the event. I structured it to give the what, where, and when towards the beginning. I saved the details about how to register for the event toward the end since this is a call to action. I was always told that, when writing a news release, to keep that information at the end to entice the reader to finish the release. 

I feel like I can differentiate the importance and relevance of information better now since completing my releases. I can now identify the format of a news release and stick to it. I feel like I'm getting better at my self-editing skills because I often had to change the structures of my sentences to increase flow and to help conciseness. 

I expected to do this assignment relatively early in the course because news releases are the backbone of the public relations industry. These releases not only help our skills in writing news releases, but also our public relations writing skills in general. 

This assignment is the cornerstone of our future careers as public relations professionals. Of all PR tools, this one is the most important. It is crucial that we know how to write these. A large part of our jobs will consist of media relations, and if we don't know how to communicate with the media about the news of our organization, then we probably shouldn't practice public relations. 

Interview with Syatt Wtanford

Air France Logo from Solar Decathlon
Wyatt Stanford: So, Wyatt. What did you do this week in public relations publications?

Syatt Wtanford: This week, we created a letterhead based on the similar design elements from the business card we designed last week.

Wyatt Stanford: Excellent. How do you think you did?

Syatt Wtanford: I think I did this assignment very well. I felt like I really had a good grasp on InDesign and the basics of appealing design. This was a quick assignment because of that. I was able to finish the main part of the design in the first class of this week. I did add my letter content on Wednesday, but that was just to see how the letterhead would look in use. I, being a perfectionist, had to write the letter in French.  Other than that, getting the letter itself designed was a very quick process. 

Wyatt Stanford: Great. What was the first step in your process?

Photo from MaxPixel
Syatt Wtanford: I began by looking at my business card and determining which elements I could carry over to keep with the brand identity and to ensure consistency. I decided to keep the tail fin design I incorporated on the back of my business card. I also kept the font I used on my business card, for the letterhead itself and the body copy. The logo with the the wing logo was a must have. 

Wyatt Stanford: What happened next?

Syatt Wtanford: I sketched a few concepts going off several letterhead layouts I found on the web. In class on Tuesday, we all critiqued each others work in a "speed date" way since it was Valentines Day. One side of the room critiqued the other and vice versa. 
I got some very helpful, constructive criticism. I ultimately chose a design with the main logo at the top along with contact information and the tail fin and slogan at the bottom of the page. 

Wyatt Stanford: Wonderful. What happened in the physical design process? 

Syatt Wtanford: I laid out my letterhead. put a place holder at the top where I wanted the
Air France Letterhead
logo and contact info to go. I then imported my tail fin design and slogan from my business card. After playing with the spacing at the top, I was content with the design.

Wyatt Stanford: How did incorporating the body copy go? 

Syatt Wtanford: It went really well. I wrote a letter from the CEO in French, of course, thanking a donor for their contribution in the company's latest fictional campaign of helping people combat malaria and desertification in countries in Subsaharan Africa. After I completed the letter and shifted the text boxes accordingly, I was satisfied with the final product.

Wyatt Stanford: What was the final day of the assignment like?

Syatt Wtanford: Quick and efficient. I changed with my margins a little and fixed other issues. I got some feedback from my instructor and then proceeded to implement the suggested changes. I finally submitted the project.

Wyatt Stanford: Then what?

Syatt Wtanford: I am now having this written conversation with you. On my blog and in my head. We should probably stop before someone notices. 

Wyatt Stanford: Good point. It was nice talking with you. 

Syatt Wtanford: Likewise. A bientôt

Wyatt Stanford: A bientôt

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Here's My Card

Photo from FeelGrafix
After acquainting ourselves with the finer points in InDesign in PR pubs last week, we began and submitted our first design assignment this week, a business card for a brand of our choosing. 

This assignment actually began last week, when we were instructed to make Pinterest boards for our chosen brand and competitor brands. I have always like the marketing of Air France, especially after their rebrand in 2015 when they updated their logo, produced new commercials, and published a new safety video which reflected the new brand focus. In addition, Air France changed its slogan to "France is in the air."  In addition, I am a francophile with a French minor, so I felt this was a good marriage of that passion and public relations. 

Once I had decided upon Air France as my brand for this project, I put together my Pinterest boards. One, of course, focused on Air France. I looked for as many of its publications and brand materials as possible, whether they be pictures from social media or passed branding. In the next board, I found branding from Air France's competitors, like Lufthansa, British Airways, Korean Air, Cathay Pacific, etc. With these two boards in mind, I began to form an image of what I wanted my business card to look like. 

Air France Logo from Solar Decathlon
In much of Air France's marketing, the company uses solid, bright colors and relies upon its main logo, the company name with the red wing graphic. A secondary logo is also used the hippocampe aillé, or winged seahorse, which has been an extensive part of the company's identity since its beginning. Its latest campaign depicts France almost in terms of chic stereotypes of French culture. For my initial design, I wanted the background to be a sky blue gradient. The main logo would be placed on the front side and a bled version of the winged seahorse logo on the back. The font needed to be a simple sans-serif to match other marketing materials. I also wanted to feature the company's slogan somewhere in the design. 

We began class Tuesday by setting up our InDesign document. I surfed the Internet to find high-resolution versions of the company's logos. I created blue gradients for the front and back. I then placed the main logo on the front in the upper right-hand corner of the card and the winged seahorse on the back, bleeding off the bottom left corner of the card. I then set up all my text boxes and putting in all the necessary text on the front, giving me an idea of where to place the text and which weights and sizes to implement. I initially wanted to use white in my text and the seahorse logo to evoke clouds in the sky. I placed the slogan on the back next to the winged seahorse. Class was over by the time I had my document set up. 

Wednesday, I worked on my project in my spare time. I found a font similar to the sans-serif used in marketing materials. I lined up my text in a logical manner, starting with a bold font for the name and using lighter fonts for position title and contact information. Heading the advice of my instructor, I did away with white in the design. Instead, I used Air France blue. I wasn't certain of how the gradient looked. I wanted to make it look like the sky, so I tried another gradient using pink orange to blue. When I had my business card basically designed, I stopped designing to get some feedback in the next class period. 

On Thursday, I began by asking my instructor his thoughts on my piece. He suggested using a solid color and rearranging my logos around. Working with that and thinking about the brand, I decided to do away with the gradient entirely and go with a plain white background to mimic the look of Air France's airplane livery. I also did away with the winged seahorse, since I couldn't find a natural way of incorporating it into the design. Instead, I substituted the seahorse with the design from the airplane tail fins. On the front, I changed the logo slightly, featuring the red wing across the front of the card and the "Air France" prominently close to the red wing. I wanted the red wing to take the eye to the contact information. After a little rearranging of the tail fin design and slogan on the back, I finally reached a satisfactory level with my project. 

I feel like this project was a successful first step into designing public relations publications. I am looking forward to our next project, the letterhead, which will be based on the business card. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Reflection, Unit 2.2

Photo from Pexels.

Photo from Pexels.
In this unit of PR writing, we looked at the basics of news writing. We started by examining news elements, followed by the ABCs of Journalism and finally finished with the two most important parts of a news release; the lede and the bridge. 

This unit was a very good refresher for me. I have had several writing classes in the past, but not one geared to public relations. The others taught me the basics of news writing and even touched on some PR. This was the first time I got an in-depth look at public relations writing. 

I learned some really helpful things this unit. The acronym SPICE COPPS -- suspense, prominence, immediacy, conflict, emotion, consequence, oddity, proximity, progress, and sex -- is a great way to remember the news elements. I previously learned about seven news elements and was a little unsure of what counted as news. This part of the unit greatly cleared that up for me. 

Switching to an PR slant, we looked at the Big Five values (consequence, interest, timeliness, proximity, prominence) and where they fit in public relations writing. We also learned about the ABCs of Journalism, which are the basic principles of news writing. I think it is very important to know how to write accurate, brief and clear pieces since journalists are our main audience in public relations. 

To write an effective, interesting piece, you must know how to structure your writing, especially when writing a news release, with which we studied next. This section was very specific on the finer points of writing a news release. The biggest thing that I got from it was the Dateweek tool. In my previous learning, I was never given a direct formula of expressing a "when" element in news writing. I will always rely on Dateweek, now that I know the proper way of stating a "when" element. 

We finished the unit with the parts of a news release; the lede, the bridge and the body. The lede serves as our attention-grabber. The bridge amplifies the story and gives the next important information, like names of people identified in the lede, the source of opinions, updates from a previous story and secondary facts needed in the story. The body is where everything else goes, like quotes. Here, I think the most important tip for writing quotes was emphasized: use quotes sparingly. Quotes should only be used when someone says something unique, when someone says something uniquely, or when someone important says something important. 

Overall, I feel like many things were cleared up for me. Now, I would like to know how to come up with impacting ledes that grab attention, which is my pitfall, and how to discern whether one piece of information is more important than the others. 

As future public relations professionals, we need to know how to communicate well on paper and how to pique interest. I always knew that writing accurately and concisely is paramount in public relations. This unit presented a good basic foundation upon which to build strong writing skills. Needing to know what is news and what isn't news is key, along with how to write the parts of a news release, since so much that we will be doing is writing news releases. 

After having gone through this unit, I can safely say that I am ready to pursue the next challenge of actually writing a news release. With this information, I am confident that I will be able to write a substantial news release. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Reacquainting Myself with InDesign

Photo from Pexels
After learning the basics of design last week, this week in PR Pubs we learned the fundamentals of Adobe InDesign. For me, this was a relearning InDesign and incorporating new techniques into my knowledge of InDesign. 

We started Tuesday's class by opening a new InDesign document. Our assignment was to recreate an annual report cover by following along with our instructor. The cover was a simple, clean design making use of shapes, graphics, fonts, and special effects. 

To begin the design, we had to think about the design three dimensionally. Since the background was solid gray, we first drew a solid gray shape around the page.  Next, we placed the graphic, since it was behind the shapes and text. After reshaping and resizing the graphic, we place the first rectangle across the page, from just below the top left corner through to the bottom corner. We then did the same with two more rectangles, arranging them in an intersecting pattern. We brought one rectangle to the front to match the original design. Now that our shapes were drawn, we created our type by drawing text boxes. We had to tweak the text settings, like the leading, kerning, font size, etc., to match the original. We finished the document by putting a drop shadow on a rectangle and a glare over the graphic. 

During this process, I used many skills from my previous graphic design course. My goal here was to learn shortcuts to speed up the creation of my future designs. I had learned a few shortcuts previously, but I rarely used them, instead, going the long way around when putting together a document. If I would have found this video, I would have used the shortcuts. 

Something that was new for me was learning InDesign on a Mac. All of my previous instruction was on a PC. I had to get used to using "command" and "option" in the shortcuts instead of "alt" and "control." It's a small difference, but it was something I had to learn to overcome.
GIF found on Tumblr
I was very pleased with our final product. I thought the original design was something that looked professional and that I would never be able to produce. This class period proved to me that I can create the same document. 

Our focus for Thursday was typesetting. Our assignment was to take instructions on how to create the front page of a newsletter and make the same newsletter, given the font, font size, and leading of each block of text. Before we started, we learned something that I had never done before: planning a document. I never the placeholder was there to help in mapping out a design. It was very helpful in our assignment. 

I began by placing my text boxes, trying to match the placement on the finished product. I then added all of my text to every box except the body copy, which I was saving for last. Next, I formatted all the text to how it was supposed to look in the final document. After moving around the boxes to get them in the right place, I finished by putting placeholder text in the body copy and modifying it to match specifications. 

I was very pleased with the final product. I'm glad I learned how to plan a document properly. I know it will be a very important skill in the future. I can't wait to start our first design assignment, the business card, next week. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Writing Effectively, Unit 2.1

Photo: Pexel

In this unit of Public Relations Writing, we learned about writing effectively. There are four ways to clean up our writing: 

- Writing with clarity: making sure our sentences have a word order that doesn't create confusion or ambiguity.

- Reducing clutter: being concise by using fewer words to express an idea.

-Sentence variety: using different sentence structure to reduce monotony in writing. 

- Sentence emphasis: Structuring sentences where the most important information is first if it is important, or delaying it to create suspense, depending on context. 

We were then challenged to create poor examples of each and provide ways of correcting them. 

Writing with Clarity:

Poor: Walking down the hallway, her papers were thrown in the trash. 

Better: Walking down the hallway, she threw her papers in the trash. 

Reducing Clutter:

Poor: At this point in time, he would like to hold a meeting with the board.

Better: Now, he would like to meet with the board.

Sentence Variety:

Poor: J.K. Rowling won the literature prize. J.K. Rowling is the author of the "Harry Potter" series. 

Better: J.K. Rowling, the author of the "Harry Potter" series, won the literature prize. 

Sentence emphasis:

Poor: The police chief said Monday the robberies have increased since last year.

Better: Robberies have increased since last year, the police chief said Monday.