An Executive Director's point of view
May 07, 2013: Font wars
Check it out.
April 29, 2013: Deceptive subject lines
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
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
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
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?
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?
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
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.
January 08, 2013: I don't read ads
I also ignore most newspaper and online ads. I never respond to offers and I delete email promotions without reading them.
I do clip grocery store coupons, use office supply coupons that are mailed to me (the store doesn't matter), and drug store coupons that are attached to my receipts. Those items have immediate, significant cash value.
Television commercials are often entertaining, but they would not prompt me to purchase a product (and a lot of those commercials are really stupid). I often switch stations or tune out when radio programs run ads.
And I don't read online news items if I'm forced to first view a commercial.
Ads that catch my eye are those I appreciate as a professional but not as a potential customer.
So, why do companies spend billions of dollars on advertising? Somebody else must be reading all those ads and buying the advertised products.
January 02, 2013: Proofreading tips
When proofreading copy for publications, mailings, web postings, or anything else, do it carefully.
1. Have copy proofread by people who were not involved in its preparation. They'll view copy as would a reader seeing it for the first time and are more likely to catch typos and grammatical errors.
2. Enlist the services of at least two (2) proofreaders. Have one person read for meaning and the other for spelling and punctuation.
3. When proofreading copy, it's helpful to read it backward - one word at a time. That will catch typos and spelling errors (which have become much more common as publications have laid off copy editors).
4. Remember to proof dates, times, page numbers, and other non-content items. Those are often overlooked by proofreaders and that's where many errors occur.
5. Utilize a proofreader who will recognize incorrect spellings or factual errors in names, locations, and substantive content.
6. When proofreading a blog posting or something short and you have no choice but to do it yourself, re-read the entire post each time you make a change, no matter how small the correction. Read it for both content and form. Don't rely on spell check. Words may be spelled correctly but not used in the way you intended.