What do these guys expect for $10,000 per month?

“What do these guys expect? They’re paying us only $10,000 per month.” Those are the words I heard from an executive at a large PR firm complaining about his difficult client.

In essence, the client felt like he wasn’t getting any solid results. And the executive felt like the client wasn’t worth his time.

I was at a PR conference and our company was brand new and tiny. My first reaction was shock:

Wow. Here’s an executive who looks at a $10,000/month contract as an annoyance — a distraction from his mega clients.

My next reaction was wonder and amazement:

How had this PR firm become so successful that it could charge its clients five times what I was charging while delivering inferior service?

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Copy Editor’s Corner | Comma Wars

Whether you call it a serial comma or the Oxford comma, mentioning it is bound to stir up a debate – and since Chicago Manual of Style recommends that extra comma in a series and the AP Stylebook does not, the sides often break into book editors vs. newspaper and magazine editors.

Why does it matter? Why can’t we just pick one and stick with it? As simple as that seems, there are instances where one solution really is better.

This is a classic example pro-Oxford folks use:

The most influential people in my life have been my parents, the Pope and Indira Gandhi.

Wow! Your parents are the Pope and Indira Gandhi? Wait – the Pope has children? The silly thing about this example, of course, is that everyone knows the Pope and Indira… READ MORE

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PR Tips | Op-eds: The perfect meeting collateral

Congratulations! Your op-ed was published in today’s Gotham Daily Planet. Now what?

An op-ed’s impact doesn’t have to end the day after it’s published. In fact, you can make an op-ed hit a component of your standard sales pitch — whether you’re selling products or ideas.

An op-ed hit establishes your credentials as an expert. So put that newspaper validation to work!

Say that your firm makes wireless heart monitors. Including in your sales packet a reprint of your op-ed on how to best fight heart disease can show a potential client that you’re actively participating in the national conversation on cardiac care — and lend additional credibility to your pitch.

The same is true if you’re trying to influence public policy. Whether you’re lobbying a city councilman for more affordable housing in your community… READ MORE

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What’s in a bucket of ice water?

A month ago, few Americans knew anything about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — commonly called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” Even fewer would have imagined they’d soon be dousing themselves with freezing water.

But then the ALS Ice Bucket challenge happened. The campaign went viral on social media. Ordinary citizens and celebrities alike joined in on the action. The ALS Association received $70 million in donations in the past month. Compare that to their $2.5 million haul last August — a 2700 percent increase.

The challenge wasn’t dreamt up by any crafty PR specialist at the ALS Association — it started organically as a social media fad. But savvy PR professionals can still take away valuable lessons from the campaign’s success.

1) Peer pressure works. Most people who took the ice bucket challenge have no personal connection to the disease… READ MORE

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PR Tips | To argue effectively, write clearly & concisely

Dave Barry’s “How to Argue Effectively” recently came across my desk. Although the satirical essay was published more than 30 years ago, it’s as biting and hilarious today as it surely was back then.

In the piece, Barry lays out five rules to “win an argument on any topic, against any opponent.”

I spend more than half my time reading and editing op-eds. And one rule, in particular, jumped out: Use Meaningless But Weighty-Sounding Words and Phrases.

Op-eds are short. With only around 700 words to make your argument — with lots of evidence, ideally — there’s no room for fluff. Extraneous words should be cut. Jargon should be avoided. Writing should be clear, tight, and unambiguous.

In other words, there’s no room for “meaningless but weighty-sounding words and… READ MORE

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PR Tips | How to start designing a website

How do you begin a massive web design project? To outsiders, it often seems like such a huge and subjective task that they’re simply overwhelmed. But there is a roadmap to web design, and, if you follow it closely, you’ll find that designing is really just a series of steps that will eventually lead you to a shiny new website that you’ll love.

To get you started, here are the first four steps.

Step 1: Know your audience.

Who do you want to come to your website and why? This is the question you need to answer before doing anything else. Before you even think about content and layout, you first need to know your visitors. Only then can you develop a site that will appeal to them.

Step 2: Define

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