Posts Tagged ‘media style’

How to Get the Most Out of Your Public Relations Internship

Monday, April 21st, 2014

How to Get the Most out of Your Public Relations Internship Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuceAfter my junior year at college, I had an internship at a film production company. It was an excellent learning experience, in that I learned a lot about both film production and the way the office world works. Looking back seven years later, there are a lot of things I wish I’d prepared for and known to make the most of my time there, lessons that can be applied to aspiring PR pros who might be stepping into a PR internship this summer.

Write a lot

Writing is a pretty critical skill in PR, and the only way to improve is to keep writing. If your organization has a blog, write for it. Depending on your organization, you may only get to post once a week, or even less often, so practice delivering multiple pieces of content per week by keeping your own blog. While you may not be sending out your own pitch emails, practice drafting them anyway and ask someone to provide feedback.

You should also become familiar with the concept of a corporate style guide and practice writing in accordance with it. Since most corporate style guides are based upon  a media style guide, familiarize yourself with the most important ones.

Ask questions

Lots of them. Don’t understand what your manager or co-worker asked you to do? Clarify. Need help? Ask. Don’t worry about looking stupid (you won’t) – remind yourself that not asking leads to mistakes down the road. Here are some good questions to ask during the interview or on the job.

Also, ask colleagues and your manager about what they’re doing – you’re there to learn, after all, and there’s only so much you can learn by just observing. Asking questions not only gives you a cache of knowledge for the future, it makes you more of an active participant in the organization. If you feel like your office mates aren’t available for questions on a daily basis, write down your questions and ask for a small chunk of time – coffee, lunch, or just a meeting – when you can ask those questions. Just don’t be afraid to ask for that time.

Do the grunt work

Being an intern generally doesn’t involve a lot of intellectually stimulating work – most of the time, it involves a lot of tedious – okay, boring – but necessary work. Don’t fall victim to the “I didn’t give up my whole summer just to file papers and do the Starbucks run” line of thinking. Yes, you did “give up” your summer for that (newsflash: once you graduate, the concept of summer all but evaporates), but to get the knowledge you came for, you need to look beyond the short-term boredom of a menial task to the greater context of what’s going on around you.

What are the workflow processes like? Which aspects of other people’s jobs do you find most interesting? How do things function outside of the classroom? How are your office mates communicating with journalists and audiences? How are they responding to praise, complaints, or crises? Just because you’re doing some grunt work doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn.

Don’t get caught doing nothing

If you finish your work early, don’t sit around waiting for someone to give you more. Ask your manager or office mate what you can help with, or, even better, if you see that some work you think needs to be done, run it by your manager with a quick, “It looks like ____ needs to be done. Is that something I can help work on?” That shows you not only take initiative, but also ensures that you’re not creating more work down the line by doing something incorrectly or that doesn’t actually need to be done.

Manage your brand

It might be tempting to share with your office mates your social experiences, but resist that temptation. You want to be known as the professional intern, not the party intern. Remember that you are building and managing your personal brand with every person with whom you come into contact.

Know you know nothing

That’s not to say you should go in forgetting everything you know, but that you should go in with an open mind with a very eager willingness to learn. The actual practice of PR will probably be different than what you imagined it to be, so go with the flow and don’t get flustered when you encounter unknown territory – that’s what internships are all about.

A Guide to Media Styles

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Is your writing up to style guide snuff?Most professional writers get itchy when they see typos, grammatical errors, and incorrect punctuation. When I was an editor and journalist, I ignored or deleted press releases that were poorly written, filled with errors, or totally irrelevant. Other media professionals do the same thing, so you need to make sure your material doesn’t fall into that same black hole.

Writers adhere to their outlet’s official style guide, so PR professionals crafting material for the media need to be familiar with the basics of the most common style guides. Understanding these style guides – and even learning some of their guidelines – can only improve your writing, which can only improve your chances at piquing an editor’s interest.

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White

The Elements of Style is a manifesto for clear, effective writing. Packed with helpful guidelines and grammar rules, EOS was first published in 1918 and most recently updated in 2000. EOS covers rules of usage, principles of composition, misused words and expressions, and style tips. At only 103 pages, it’s accessible and necessary for anyone who ever writes anything.

EOS quick tip: Omit needless words. Instead of “He is a man who knows what he’s doing,” write “He knows what he’s doing.” Once you start looking, you’d be surprised how many words are unnecessary.

The Associated Press Style Book and Briefing on Media Law

Since its debut in 1953, The AP Stylebook has become the industry standard for newspapers, magazines, and other journalism media and is excellent tool to have in one’s PR belt. Updated every year, the stylebook’s most recent edition is nearly 500 pages, which diminishes its day-to-day practicality for those who aren’t copy editors. But the guide’s ubiquity means it’s particularly important to grasp the basics and employ them in your writing.

AP Stylebook quick tip: Capitalize formal titles when they appear immediately before a name. For example, “President Fitzwilliam Grant will seek a second term.” Don’t capitalize the title if it appears between commas, like “Fitzwilliam Grant, the current president, will seek a second term.”

The Chicago Manual of Style

The Chicago Manual of Style, or CMOS, is, like AP style, one of the most widely-used style guides in the U.S. CMOS is used primarily in the publishing industry. First published in 1906 and last updated with its 16th edition in 2010, CMOS has a section dedicated to citations, making it particularly useful to those in the academic and research fields.

CMOS quick tip: Access to the CMOS Q&A section is free (unlike AP’s Q&A section, which requires a subscription), so you can check out some of the rules without purchasing the guide, though rules differ from the AP’s.

The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage

The Gray Lady has her own style guide, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. Initially created in 1950 (three years before the AP’s guide), the guide’s most recent print edition was published in 2002, but editors at the paper use an online version that is frequently updated but not available to the public.

NYT Manual quick tips: The New York Times uses courtesy titles before a person’s last name, for example, “George Smith went to Washington. Mr. Smith is a senate page.” In AP style, that would read “George Smith Went to Washington. Smith is a senate page.” The New York Times also writes “e-mail,” though AP did away with the dash in 2011.

House Style

Many publications, companies, and organizations have their own house style guide; those I have seen are all based on AP style. Those who write any public content for their organization should know (and update) their house style guide and enforce it. If the organization has a copy editor or designated writer, ask that he or she provide a copy of the style guide to all employees, and that everyone is alerted to any changes.

What does your company use? How do you decide which style points to follow?