Here is some feedback on your assignment for this week's lesson. For this assignment, I asked you to write your first "real" press release -- based on my guidelines -- along with a media alert. Most importantly, you tried your hand at your first message planner.
For this first release, this is your collective feedback. If you were in my classroom, I would have each student read his or her release aloud, and we would critique them together. Then you would rewrite them based on what you learn from that discussion. In this online class, this "collective feedback" is the equivalent of a classroom critique. It makes sense because so many students make the same types of mistakes on their early assignments. On future assignments I will assume that you get it and are ready for more detained individual comments on your work. For this assignment, you are expected to read Lesson Three carefully and take responsibility for self-editing.
This page is a guide to the main points of Lesson Three: There were three main problem areas:
Message Planner: The message planner represents the pre-writing, the planning, that you do for all your PR writing. Most students did not do a good job on this. The biggest problems were:
5W's not clear. Remember, this is where you do the "casting" for your story. Who is the "star?" What is he or she or they doing that is worth writing about?
Angle not sharp. This is what editors care about. Your mother might like the story, but if an editor doesn't think it's news it won't see the light of day.
Message not compelling. If your message was not, essentially, the 20-second sound bite that "says it all," then it wasn't a good message.
Key Ideas skimpy. Look at my example -- I fill a separate page with Key Ideas.
Generally lame. That is, the rest of the Message Planner was just not complete because the student didn't spend enough time thinking through the release.
Media Alert: Some students didn't understand the difference between a Media Alert and a Press Release. It's more than a question of format. The basic principle is this: a Media Alert is mailed out in advance of a press conference. It gives just enough information to convince a news director to send a reporter and camera crew (or a newspaper reporter and photographer).
Press Release: This is not a news alert. It does not say "there will be" a press conference. The press release is, essentially, the story that you want to open the paper tomorrow (the day after the press conference) and read, as a result of your successful press conference. It is not about the story, it is the story.
There are several examples for you to look at in Lesson Three. Study them carefully and take them to heart. They are your models for the kind of work I expect as we move forward. They set the standard, and provide the answer to that urgent question, "What does he want from me?"