Top Ten Takeaways for Lesson Three

(This is all you need to know to meet your Sunday deadline.
Click on each link below and read for further instruction.)

  1. This lesson continues our focus on the Message Planner: The message planner is at least 25 percent of your grade on each assignment, so it's important to get it right. This is where I am able to follow you as you think through the development of each assignment.
  2. Message Planners are developed in a circular fashion. No part of it is fixed or finished until it's all been massaged into shape. Sometimes I start by writing the message first -- and then circle back to fine-tune the 5 W's. Sometimes I start with the angle first. And I'm always mindful of the reinforcing relationship among three elements -- Why, or How, events unfold)... and the Angle (the Sixth "W")... and the Key Ideas. And of course, all this meandering always brings me back to a compelling Message. Use the "Next" and "Again" buttons at right to cycle through the all-important "5th W"

  3. Who: The students of Westland CollegeClose >>
    What: are launching a food drive, to feed the homeless
    Where: here in Turtle Bay
    When: on January 14
    Why: to gain recognition for the college
    ...or: to respond to factory closing
    ...or: to show students can make a difference
    ...or: to provide families with free meals every week
    ...or: to give city officials a kick in the butt
    ...or: to give meaning to the college motto

  4. Never settle for the first "Why" that comes to you. PR writers and creative strategists work their way through their ideas and insights like detectives. There are many candidates for Why, but sooner or later the best strategies develop. You will consider many alternatives, but you must settle on just one -- otherwise your message will wander.
  5. Wrestling with the "Why" will help you come up with the best news angle. You already know what what editors consider newsworthy. Now, picture that crusty editor who listens to your pitch and then says "So What?" You need to anticipate all his skepticism and convince him of all the reasons why your story is just right for his front page -- with a photograph ... a color photograph!
  6. Don't skimp on your Key Ideas. Wrestling with the "Why" will also automatically generate lots of material for your Key Ideas. Put down everything that occurs to you. Use my sample Message Planner as a model for this. I will usually return your assignment for additional work if it does not develop enough key ideas -- a sure way to detect that you didn't give the assignment enough time.
  7. The Outline of Paragraphs is where you organize the flow of your ideas. Your lead paragraph (based on your message) will give the story in a nutshell. But then you'll need a marching order of paragraphs, each one advancing one of the key points to support your message. The outline is the key to the logic of your pitch, the blueprint for your inverted pyramid.
  8. Every release needs a compelling Quote. But where do quotes come from? I thought you'd never ask. Click at that link to learn more.
  9. Different types of press release call for different types of press release leads. -- like the feature release assignment due Sunday at midnight. Most of the time you'll use the basic Summary Lead, but there are times when you need to know how to use the delayed lead. So study this section well.
  10. Thinking visually is a skill you can learn, and it's more than ever important in our digital age. Spend some time coming up with whatever it is you might visualize as the best "visual" for your story. For example, if your story made it to the front page of the newspaper, what would be a good photograph to capture it. Or if you were planning a press conference for TV coverage, what would work best for your setting? The other piece I skipped is the headline. This is a good exercise for every assignment. It will help you come up with a slogan, or a logo, or a bumper sticker, or a T-shirt -- all examples of PR writing, believe it or not. Ironically, the right phrase can wind up being the most important takeaway for the audience you're trying to reach. When PR strategists begin a working session on a PR issue, very often the opening words of the meeting will be, "Okay, what's the headline?"
  11. Your third assignment is to write a feature press release, with message planner, about a festival in the Lowden Park neighborhood of Turtle Bay. They are trying to promote a neighborhood festival so you're writing for a Chicago audience, to help increase their tourist activity, by wooing Chicago families to make the drive down. Here are links to the press release format and the message planner -- put both in the same file: PRW-yourname-Feature. Experiment with one of the delayed leads. Here's the link to the facts of the story

  12. When you have chased down all the links in the "Top Ten Takeaways," click on "Continue" below for Lesson Two details, before beginning this week's writing assignment.