October 11, 2008

Know your audience

Got the letter at the bottom of this feed in my capacity as the international correspondent for a subscription-based newsletter that covers the fertilizer industry.

This flak sent me a note soliciting an interview with someone who wants to revive the concept of thrift.

Now this is nice feature writing stuff. But hardly something the guys and gals in the fertilizer industry need to read.

Which now gets me to my point...

For the PR students, pay attention to your audience. Remember that you are pitching your idea to an editor or reporter to reach a larger audience. That means you should a.) know the correct name and title of the editor/reporter, b.) know the beat of the reporter, and c.) know and understand AP style and the concept of the inverted pyramid.

Why are all these important?

If my name is spelled wrong or my title is wrong I have no faith in the material being presented. The person sending it to me did not do enough to even make sure the easiest of verifiable facts were correct? Forget about it.

Why am I as a fertilizer/commodity reporter getting material for a fluff piece on developing a concept of thrift?

And -- now here comes the old drumbeat -- AP style is what journalists know and trust. It is a form of direct and clear writing. The rules are complicated -- as is proper writing -- but not so convoluted as to be difficult. You want my attention? Write to me in a manner I understand and can deal with. Declarative sentences with action verbs win out over long-winded passive sentences any day.

And just so people don't think I only complain about flaks. The errors this PR person made are the same ones journalists need to avoid.

  • Is the name right?
  • Is the title right?
  • Is this the right person I should be talking to for this story?
  • Is there someone else better I should talk to?

So now, here is the pitch about a subject my publication WILL NEVER cover.


Dear Mr. Kubiske:

If the readers of Green Markets are like many Americans, they are probably tired of hearing the increasingly dire news about the looming financial crisis; however, readers may well be hungry for information on how best to weather the recent financial downturn. David Blankenhorn, founder and president of the Institute for American Values, has been calling for a revival of thrift and has written the definitive report on the topic which David Brooks called “one of the most important think-tank reports you’ll read this year.”

David has also just published Thrift: A Cyclopedia which presents a fascinating pictorial history of our nation’s thrift campaigns of the past 200 years. Drawing on a range of historical documents, Blankenhorn illustrates how our nation has pulled together in the past to revive the core value of thrift. These documents give us not only a look into the history of thrift but they also give us insights into how we might reintroduce a core value at this critical time.

David also makes for a great interview – he’s very engaging, very articulate, and he’s full of fresh new ideas about American culture and our economy.

Just let me know if you’d like to get in touch with him or see a review copy of his new book, Thrift: A Cyclopedia – it just came out this month and I’ll attach a press release for it below.

I hope to hear from you,

Sharon Kelly

Publicity Coordinator

Templeton Foundation Press


Phone: 484.531.8380

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