An Executive Director's point of view


September 02, 2013: Advertising snafu

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
Everybody makes mistakes - but not like this one.

A recreational facility ran a full page, four-color ad in the magazine of a metropolitan daily, and included pictures of six events it would be hosting in the coming months.

The ad displayed the name of the facility, but not its address nor the town in which it was located. The telephone number did not include the area code, despite there being six area codes in the metro area in which the publication circulated.

The web address did appear, but that's not enough. Other information should still be complete and correct.

I wonder if anybody proofed the ad before it was published.
Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
It's usually association members - often different ones on each article in each issue. And associations like it that way. They don't want the same bylines displayed repeatedly. They want to showcase their members and make it clear that everybody is welcome to write for their publication.

But is that always the best practice?

Many members are poor writers and must be heavily edited. Others have difficulty meeting deadlines. Some submit already written articles that may not fit the editorial schedule of the publication.

Quite a few editorialize instead of report.

Sometimes, associations establish general themes and select volunteers to identify specific topics within those themes for articles. Those volunteers may also recruit people to write the articles.

But volunteers often choose topics because they want to write about them. Or, they recruit experts who state their views without reporting the opinions of practitioners. Those comments may be suitable for sidebars but aren't always appropriate for complete articles.

It may be better for associations to recruit a pool of volunteers who can be given assignments and will write what they are told to write about.

Volunteers can be chosen because of their writing abilities and can be tested on small articles. If they write well, report well, and meet deadlines, they can be assigned feature articles or even be given regular columns.

Publishing quality content may be more important than showcasing members.

May 07, 2013: Font wars

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
"The best font choices are the ones where readers don't notice the font..."

Check it out.

April 29, 2013: Deceptive subject lines

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
Don't mislead recipients when slapping titles on email messages.

Don't imply something that turns out not to be true.

But don't be so bland that your messages are deleted without being opened.

Here are some tips for selecting the proper subject line to get people to open your emails.

April 24, 2013: Get the facts right

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
When reporting on the activities of associations, industries, individual members, or anything else, get the facts right before making announcements, proclamations, or reports.

In its obsession to report alleged "news" about the Boston Marathon bombings, the New York Post published incorrect information and even posted pictures of "suspects" who had nothing to do with the attack.

Other media reported inaccuracies, as well.

Don't do that in association publications. It's better to publish nothing at all than to publish what is not true.

April 04, 2013: The role of a newsletter

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
An association newsletter, whether print or electronic, is a promotion for the organization. It should portray those aspects of the group that are most likely to appeal to members, prospective members, and other important audiences.

A newsletter is not the place to conduct vitriolic debates. That drives people away. It gives the impression the organization is chaotic, disorganized, lacking direction, and home to mean people.

Diversity of opinion should not be hidden, but it should be displayed as rational discourse about issues important to the organization and its audiences, not as an internal street fight.

Competing ideas can take the form of pros and cons, point/counterpoint, or other formats that recognize the value of divergent viewpoints but retain respect for the organization and its members.

Whatever you choose to communicate in your organization's newsletter, be sure it offers a positive view of the group. The goal should be to attract people, not to drive them away.

February 19, 2013: Death of the fact checkers

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
A reporter from a local newspaper once asked me for the address of a local business. When I said I didn't know and I'd have to look it up, he replied, "that's OK. We're not known for our accuracy."

Fact checking has gone downhill since then.

Today's Chicago Tribune posted a picture of former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson's neighborhood office, stating it was in the Norwood Park neighborhood, which is nowhere near his district. A street sign in the photo displays the real location.

A published account of American politics twice identified former U.S. Rep. Charles Diggs as a Chicago congressman, when he actually represented a district in Detroit.

A book about Illinois facts incorrectly stated that Pope County is in the northeastern corner of the state, but it is really at the southern tip of the state.

Unfortunately, it seems like facts don't matter anymore, so why bother checking them?

February 15, 2013: What's the real story?

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
A recent news item revealed that city workers in Tel Aviv, Israel, painted a handicap zone around a legally parked vehicle, had it towed, and fined the driver for parking there.

What the workers didn't know was that a security camera across the street had recorded their wrongful deed.

The driver posted the video on her Facebook page and it went viral. The driver's fine was waived and the city's Mayor issued a public apology.

But why did the crew do this? Was it a racket to shakedown motorists? Or did they target this driver for some reason? The news item didn't say.

The video was the news, the activity was not.

When printing newsletters, alerts, blog posts, or other communication, explain why certain events happened. Otherwise, your story will be incomplete.

January 27, 2013: Is it an ad or an article?

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
"The reader needs to know what is an ad and what is not an ad," says the editor of The Atlantic Magazine, following a brouhaha about the publication's controversial foray into the blurry area between advertising and editorial.

Readers generally trust editorial copy more than advertising. Anybody can tout their own products, but a third party recommendation carries much greater value.

So, many companies have created advertorials to fool readers into thinking that advertising is really editorial copy.

Bottom line? Clearly distinguish between advertising and editorial copy. Your credibility may suffer if you don't.

January 13, 2013: Print vs e-book

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
A Pew Research Survey noted that while the percentage of adults who have read an e-book increased over the past year, nearly 90% of e-book readers continue to read physical volumes.

Digital reading tilts heavily toward fiction, especially thrillers and romance novels. It's not as popular for weightier fare.

So don't expect e-books to replace printed books. They'll merely provide readers with another choice.
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