An Executive Director's point of view


December 24, 2014: Misinformation

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
When publishing association historical information, always be sure that what you publish is correct.

Solicit the same info from more than one person and review documents that were written at that time. Individuals often remember events differently, and they don't always recall facts correctly - even when they were involved in the reported activity.

Once you publish something, it will be cited countless times in the future and be treated as an accurate accounting of what occurred.

So, get it right.

July 17, 2014: Do fonts matter?

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
Yes, they do.

Read about it here - and don't miss the part about the "gutter test."
Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
A newspaper reported that somebody had developed a "staff" infection. The correct term is "staph" infection. ("Staph" is short for "staphylococcus").

That is not a minor error. It shows that the writer didn't know the proper term and that nobody checked what had been written.

Before you publish anything - a blog comment, email message, newsletter article, etc. - proofread it and make sure the words are used correctly and that spelling and grammar are correct.

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?
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