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Writing and Publishing

The Dark Side of Press Releases — Part 2

Monday’s blog about the misdirected press releases generated a lot of interest, both in the form of official blog comments, as well as email messages.

Sara, who works in the public relations industry — and sends me good press releases — emailed me her thoughts:

“…love your blog – and cannot believe what utter rubbish press releases you receive! We work so hard to ensure that our clients’ releases are going to the correct journalist, and feel dismayed and disappointed that other agencies cannot be a little more astute when it comes to selecting publications to target!”

From my perspective, I concur that Sara and her company (Berkeley PR) do an excellent job in properly targeting press releases and do so in a professional and helpful manner. I am sure that if everyone functioned with similarly high standards that I would have had no examples to share in Monday’s post.

She further theorized that

“Press releases and other articles are simply distributed to every website and journalist…in the world with the hope that the copy will by syndicated to other sites with embedded hyperlinks – which in turn should help the natural search rankings.”

So then, if my blog had included links to the culprits’ websites, I would have been doing exactly what they wanted. I wish I could say that I’m too smart to fall for that, but this time it was just dumb luck.

By the way, I had so much fun sharing outrageous headlines with you on Monday that I think I’ll do it again sometime.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Misdirected Press Releases Seem A Lot Like Spam

After yesterday’s column mentioning press releases that were poorly targeted, I made a list of the headlines sent my way recently. None of them have anything to do with what my magazines cover. Even though the summer months are light for news submissions, I still received quite a few. For some of them I am not even sure what they mean. Here is what I received this week in a 48-hour span:

  • Free Portal for Telemetry Applications
  • HRchitect Consultant Named IHRIM Member of the Year
  • Farmers Insurance Group® Puts Some‘Bite’ In Automobile Insurance In Michigan
  • Fujitsu Named Finalist for NXTcomm Eos Award
  • Conmio and TietoEnator build mobile Internet Service for Finnish mobile operator
  • Unified Communications Magazine Honors Interactive Intelligence with TMC Labs 2008Innovation Award
  • ET Can Now Phone Home
  • IP5280 VoIP Provider named finalist for Best Company to Work For in Colorado
  • 3 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Kids and Cell Phones
  • Exanet & Datrox Bring Revolutionary Storage Technology to Media & Entertainment Companies
  • Detroit Area Foreclosures Slow In May 2008
  • India and China Becoming Major Centers of Pharmaceutical R&D
  • AutoTrader.com Named “Innovator of the Year” During Verint Systems’ 2008 Customer Conference
  • Wireless Mundi Receives International Patent Application on Integrated Voice & Data Communication
  • DataCore Software Partner Interware Systems Makes DataCore the Foundation of Its Total Enterprise Virtualization Practice
  • Three Sequencing Companies Join 1000Genome Project
  • PerfectSoftware® and the workplace HELPLINE® announce strategic partnership
  • Fujitsu Announces Connection-Oriented Ethernet Transport for their Packet Optical Networking Platforms
  • Perfect Software to offer expert employment law advice through its HR and Payroll software.
  • Social Software Frequently Lacking in System / Administrative Services

If you’re a bit perplexed by these headlines, let me give you one more thing to contemplate: Someone was paid to write and email them to me. What a waste of time and money.

[Read more curious headlines]

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

That “New Shower Curtain” Smell May Indicate Presence of Toxins

Each day I receive a plethora of press releases. While some are exactly the information I seek to share with readers of Connections Magazine and AnswerStat magazine, others are more broadly targeted, and too many are complete mismatches. Consider the numerous email missives I’ve received to save the manatees or promote Michigan Special Olympics. Although both are great causes, they do not comprise the news my readers crave. Even more off course are the many pleas to promote a “hot” indie band or club. Oddly they are always from out of state.

Someday I will share a few of these random headlines, but today I want to zero in on a specific one from yesterday: “Toxic Ties to ‘New Shower Curtain Smell’ Evident.” It seems that the Center for Health, Environment & Justice is taking a stand against shower curtains made of PVC. They announced a call-in press conference for this morning.  I’ve never experienced a phone press conference (actually, I’ve never experienced any in-person press conference) so I thought I’d check it out.

These guys came across as rank amateurs. They started late, were unprepared, the technology confused them, the online information was not online during the call, and the audio was so choppy as to be unintelligible. Sadly, I learned nothing about the dangers of PVC shower curtains — only the dangers of bungling a live press conference.

To their credit, they did place a follow-up call to apologize for the audio problems and answer any questions. Figuring that I already wasted enough time on the failed press conference, I declined further information.

Still I wonder if I should be concerned about my shower curtains.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Adventures in Podcasting

A few months ago I starting listening to podcasts — and I’m hooked.  I know, podcasts have been around for a long time, but it was only recently that I had a compelling reason download and listen to some.  Having an iPod made all the difference, as the podcast could then become portable, untethering me from my computer.  I have filled my iPod Nano with an array of podcasts, with more recordings on my computer patiently waiting for space to be made for them on my trusty iPod.

All this got me to thinking.  As a publisher, why not branch out and try my hand at podcasting?  Unfortunately, my communication strength is in written form as opposed to the spoken word.  This produced a dilemma.  The solution seems to be pursuing an interview format, as opposed to a monologue.  That way, my part would be short and concise, with the interviewee comprising the majority of the recording.

The process would be simple and straight-forward: Find a relatively quite place, turn on the recorder, and talk.  There would be no edits, no pausing, and no “re-dos.”  This should result in a real and compelling dialogue that is honest and true — no sound bites, no twisting of what was said.

I put all this to the test.  At the recent ATA 2008 Washington Summit I recorded three interviews and have put them online on the official Connections Magazine podcast site. 

(They were initially added to the Connections Magazine newsfeed, newsfeed.connectionsmagazine.com, but in the future, I think I will just add them to the podcast site).  One of the podcasts was listened to more than 100 times the week it was posted.

Later this month, I will be attending the ATSI Convention and Expo in St. Louis.  While I am there, I plan to record more podcasts and will add them online over the summer.  I already lined up a few people to interview and am contemplating all manner of interesting and intriguing questions to ask them.

Whatever happens, I know that this will be a fun adventure — and I hope that many others will agree.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Upside Down Addressing

Although the new postal rates are now in effect, I have yet to learn how much more it will cost to mail my magazines.

Now there is another new postage rule for me to figure out.  It’s called “upside down addressing.”  Essentially, the USPS wants the mailing addresses on magazines to be printed upside down.  That is, if the magazine is turned upside down, the address should read correctly in the upper right corner.  I suppose that is to improve automation speed and aid in accuracy.  It will also look funny.

On my magazines (Connections Magazine and AnswerStat) I put the address on the back cover.  This is in part to keep the front cover unadulterated but also because that is how Connections Magazine was when I bought it.  The last thing I want to do is mess around with the addressing.  If the USPS can’t read the addresses, I fear having thousands of them returned to me “undeliverable as addressed.”  Even worse would be for an entire printing to be rejected at the post office.

Although “upside down addressing” can be done on the back cover as well, I’ve yet to see an example.  It’s safe to say that, be it on the front or on the back, a cover redesign of my magazines will be required.  The good thing is that I have a year before it has to be implemented.

Until then, join me in checking out addresses on mailed magazines and watch everyone switch over to “upside down addressing.”

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Travel Tidbits

I have returned from a phenomenal conference.  ATA knows how to put on a first-class event.  I was able to hear several great speakers (CNN’s Paul Begala, for one — he gave some cogent and compelling insight into the US Presidential race).  I saw old friends and made new ones.  I recorded three podcasts — the first one is already online.  Plus, I took over 400 pictures for Connections Magazine.  I am still processing everything — as well as trying to catch up — and will have more to share tomorrow, but first, I have a few sundry items to get off my mind:

Both airports (Grand Rapids and Washington-Reagan National) had constructions projects underway.  Am I imagining things or are airports more likely to be undergoing construction than not?

I struck out again with airplane food.  I think they’re trying to kill me.  The trail mix I ingested on the way there had 18% of my recommended daily allowance of fat — per serving.  The 4 oz bag contained 4 servings!  On the return flight I fared only slightly better with the Pringles (but they did taste good!)

The hotel was great; friendly and professional staff (who used my name whenever possible — and mostly pronounced it correctly, which is not common when I get away from SW Michigan) and smartly decorated and furnished rooms.  But how come the more you pay for a hotel, the more likely they tack on extra charges?  For a $70 for a room, there is free Internet and local calls (sometimes even long distance), the workout room is included and often a continental breakfast.  The room includes a coffee maker (not that I use it), a mini-frig, and sometimes a microwave.  However, when I pay 3 to 4 times as much, they charge for Internet and local calls (I heard of one hotel charging for room-to-room calls), there is no coffee maker, mini-frig, or microwave.  Breakfast is on your own — and expensive — while one visit to their exercise room is often more than the introductory rate for a month at the gym.  I don’t get it.

On the issue of the linens, they crossed the line.  A note card informed me that to “conserve water” they would not be changing the bedding — unless I called the front desk.

Lastly, I am perplexed.  What name do you use when the maid is a guy?  “Male maid” rolls off the tongue, but it’s certainly not politically correct.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Hope for the Flowers

By Trina Paulus (Reviewed by Peter DeHaan.)

In addition to all my varied writing functions (writing articles, websites, and blogs, publishing two magazines, and way too much editing) I also write an occasional movie review and book review—just for fun. Here’s one of my recent efforts:

Hope for the Flowers is a delightful allegory encapsulating messages on multiple levels and applicable to all age groups. It is a short book that can be read in about 15 minutes. It is simply yet effectively illustrated by its author Trina Paulus. As such, it can function nicely as a children’s book, as well as a clever and profound teaching tool for adults of all ages.

The story chronicles the life pursuits and relationships of two caterpillars, Stripe and Yellow, searching for meaning and purpose in their existence.  It is about struggle, yearning, single-minded focus, diligence, perseverance, making mistakes, enlightenment, letting go, and ultimately…well, let’s not spoil the ending.

Hope for the Flowers is definitely thought-provoking and contains worthy life lessons showcased in a thoughtful and memorable storyline.

Hope for the Followers has surpassed 2 million copies and celebrated it’s 25 year anniversary.

This book is a great addition to anyone’s library.  Buy two, one to keep and one to give away!

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

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Writing and Publishing

“R” You Ready?

After another post, considering how words are used—and misused—my thoughts turned to how words are pronounced—and mispronounced.

I, for one, have a “flexible” pronunciation style. For any word possessing more than two syllables, I am seemingly able to enunciate it in at least two different ways—sometimes within the same sentence. Amazingly, I have not had to practice this skill; it just comes naturally. In fact, placing emphasis on the wrong syllable occurs so effortlessly that when I try to avoid alternate articulations, I often invent a third utterance.

In this regard, the letter “r” is of special interest to me. When I was a lad, I pronounced “wash” by inserting an “r” in the middle, as in “warsh.” Most of the time this was’’t a big deal; I think there was a local predilection to “warsh” things.

However, at age 10, we moved a scant 15 miles west. There, nobody wanted to “warsh” anything; I faced all manner of ridicule and humiliation over my proclivity to “warsh.” Although it took a concerted effort, I was eventually able to lose the “r” and I began to “wash” like everyone else.

Other people habitually interject an “r” into idea, as in “idear.” This usage is as odd to me as my “warshing” was to my friends growing up.

Then there are those folks who have a penchant for dropping “r”s.  For example “car” becomes “ca” and “bar” becomes “ba.” For example, did you drive your “ca” to the “ba”? Personally, I admire the concise brevity of this approach, though I have yet to adapt that style.

It could be that the misplaced “r”s in the “cas” got used when they were “warshed.” There’s a certain symmetry here that I can appreciate.

Any “idear” where it’s extra “r” came from?

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Writing and Publishing

Writing Rightly

On my last post, I admitted a struggle with the writing process. Not so much with the end results, but instead with the speed of getting there. Therefore, I will be working on “writing rightly,” that is writing with efficient effectiveness.

Along with that, I have established some personal blogging guidelines for “writing rightly.”

My plan is to do three or four entries a week. In order to maintain a proper balance between work and play and service (this blog is a combination of all three), I will try to post in the evenings and only on weekdays. (Notice that this entry is not in the evening and the prior one was not on a weekday. This gives me two more goals to shoot for!)

Each post will be fairly short—about 200 to 300 words is the goal. I want each entry to be long enough to convey something of merit, but not so long that people bail out at the mere sight of its length. Personally, I do that often with articles I read and emails I receive; I want to spare you from that. Brevity is the watchword!

Lastly, though I will unashamedly plug businesses and websites that are meaningful or interesting to me, know I will not accept any payment or consideration to do so. This blogger cannot be bought!

Onward!

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.