Information on your Midterm Exercise

    Your midterm exercise is just another release assignment, but it's your opportunity to find out how well you have been absorbing the material in the lessons, and whether you have benefited from comments and edits on your PR writing. It is valuable preparation for the timed final exam you will take in the final week of this course.

    The midterm is good practice for your final exam. But you will find it very much like a regular press release assignment. You will write a message planner and press release, plus two delayed leads within the 3-hour span of your classroom experience.

    How do you take the midterm online? Easy. You have your choice of three options. Email me no later than Monday March 16 to let me know which option you'd like:

    • Come to a computer in our classroom on Tuesday, as usual, and check your email for midterm information. Complete your midterm between 12:30 and 3:20, and return to me by email.
    • Stay home -- or go to Starbucks, etc. -- and check your email at 12:30 for midterm information. Complete your midterm from any location, before 3:20, and return to me by email.
    • If you have a strong preference for another time, let me know by email, and you may take your midterm at a time of your choosing, after the noon class time (not before).

    Your midterm exercise consists of

    You have already had an opportunity to study the Press Release Checklist, and you know "How I Grade a Press Release" from the information you found in the "Examples" link (some of which is reprinted below). In the lesson material you have all you need to do a thorough self-edit of your work. Self-editing is very important to your success as a PR writer, and in an online course it's especially necessary.

    When I grade your midterm, I give about 25 percent weight to the Message Planner. The Writing Process is one of the most important objectives of this course, and if you have skimped on the Key Ideas, or skated on the organization of paragraphs, or missed the point on the angle or message or 5 W's, that will affect your grade -- usually by one grade point (a "B" turns into a "C") -- or worse.

    Grading the press release itself is a matter of looking at five main elements. Grading written papers is less scientific than teachers like to admit. Here is what I use as a guide to evaluating your press release.

    1. In your headline and lead, is the PR message clear and compelling?
      • This is what your client cares about
        and it's key to the success of your PR strategy

    2. In your headline and lead, is your news angle sharp and irresistible?
      • This is what the editor cares about
        and it's what you need to make your story news

    3. Are your 5 W's and key ideas organized effectively?
      • This is what the reader cares about...
        poor organization = unreadable copy

    4. Do you use a convincing journalistic style?
      • Press release writing is journalism... you should
        read newspapers so news style becomes natural

    5. Are the basics in place -- grammar, sentence and paragraph mechanics?
      • Poor grammar signals a lack of professionalism ...
        misspellings = automatic drop of one grade point

    Take a look at your press release drafts with these points in mind. How does your work compare? What can be improved? clarified? made stonger? You must learn to be your own best editor, and by now you should be clear on what we're looking for in an effective press release.

    Alton Miller