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Writing Tip: Design your words

 

Writing Tip: Design your words

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Writing Tip: Design your worYou probably recognize good graphic design when you see it – even if you can’t explain it. Good design isn’t limited to images. It applies to writing, too. The way you arrange the words you write is important.

Good design is about aesthetics. It’s also about communication. Good graphic design helps tell a story. If it doesn’t do that, it hasn’t done its job – even if it’s aesthetically pleasing.

Words tell stories, too. And the way you arrange them on the page matters because good text layout helps your words tell your story more effectively.

The rules of typography are detailed and complex for those interested in exploring them in depth. But there are a few simple things you can do to help your words tell your story. Here are some of them:

  • White space is important. It keeps the text on the page from feeling too dense or heavy. Cramming too many words on a page makes your writing less readable. How much white space do you need? There are too many variables to cover here. But on a standard page, I like to leave margins of at least an inch on all sides. And leave a blank line between single-spaced paragraphs (bulleted lists are an exception).
  • Limit the fonts you use. Avoid the temptation to use all those fancy and unusual fonts available on your computer. Properly used, they can add zip to a document. Most of the time they just get in the way. A good rule of thumb: Limit yourself to one or two common fonts per document. If using two fonts, be consistent in how you use them: Sans serif font (like Arial) for headings, serif font (like Times New Roman) for body type, for example. If you want to use one of those unusual fonts, pick one that fits the message or mood you’re trying to convey.
  • Be consistent. Headings, subheads and other type elements should be consistent. They should help your readers understand what’s important, what goes together, how your story flows. Don’t use 14-point italics for one subhead and 12-point bold for another, for example.
  •  Limit the use of underlined, bold and italicized text. Underliningbold and italics are useful ways to emphasize certain words or phrases. They can’t do their job if you overuse them. Ditto for using different colors of type for emphasis.
  • Eliminate widows and orphans. In the world of typography, widows and orphans are lines and words stranded by themselves at the top or bottom of a page or a line at the end of a paragraph. Whenever possible, avoid leaving a single word by itself on a line at the end of a paragraph. And avoid stranding the first or last line of a paragraph by itself at the top or bottom of a page. Not always possible in electronic documents because line lengths and page breaks often aren’t under your control.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

————-

Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Writing tip: Two spaces or one?

 

Writing tip: Two spaces or one?

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

KeyboardWhen I learned to type as a high school freshman, I learned to put two spaces after each period.

I stuck to this practice until this article changed my mind a couple years ago. Since then, I’ve been a one-space-after-periods guy.

When editing, I used to add a second space after each period if the writer didn’t. Now I delete the extra spaces of writers who use them.

Journalist Farhad Manjoo, author of the article that changed my mind about two spaces after periods, blames the practice on the manual typewriter.

“The problem with typewriters,” Manjoo says, “was that they used monospaced type — that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. . . . on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. . . . Because we’ve all switched to modern fonts, adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it.”

“Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong,” Manjoo asserts. Until a couple years ago, I argued exactly the opposite.

I’m not ready to call two spaces after a period wrong. But I’ve switched to one. And it’s better.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

————-

Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: The missing ingredient

 

Storytelling Tip: The missing ingredient

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: The missing ingredientA lot of people leave a key ingredient out when they’re telling their story: Preparation.

World-class athletes, actors, musicians and other performers all share one thing in common: They spend many, many hours studying, preparing and practicing before they step in front of the public to perform.

I’ve heard world-class musicians say they feel like they lose their edge if they miss even a day or two of practice. These are people who are among the best in the world at what they do. Are you better than that when it comes to telling your story? Me, neither.

Here are three questions you should always ask yourself as you prepare to tell your story:

  • What’s your objective? What do you want to happen as a result of telling your story? Do you want us to buy something, do something or believe something? What is it? Be specific.
  • Who’s your audience? Unless you corner the market on air so we all have to do business with you to breathe, the answer is not “everyone.” Be specific.
  • What’s your headline? What’s the one thing you want the rest of us to hear, understand and remember? Be able to say it in about 15 seconds or less.

If you’re putting your story into writing, your headline needs to be the focus of what you say. Your headline is what you want us to remember. Everything else is there to add texture and depth.

If you’re delivering your message in front of an audience, even if it’s an audience of one, you also need to practice, practice, practice. Practice until you can deliver your message so it doesn’t sound memorized or rehearsed.

And, of course, editing is also an important ingredient of any good story. What you leave out is as important as what you put in. Be ruthless when editing your material.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

————-

Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Dolls for Daughters Golf Tournament: Play Hooky for a Good Cause

 

Dolls for Daughters Golf Tournament: Play Hooky for a Good Cause

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Dolls for Daughters Golf Tournament: Play Hooky for a Good CauseEverything that’s fun, tastes good or feels good is sinful, fattening or bad for you it seems.

So, I’m looking forward to a guilt-free day of playing hooky from work on June 14 to play golf.

Why don’t you join me? It’ll be fun.

I’ll be playing in the third annual Dolls for Daughters golf tournament at The Ridge at Castle Pines North in Castle Rock.

If you haven’t heard of Dolls for Daughters, it’s the brainchild of Jessica Bachus who turned the loss of a daughter six years ago into a cause that makes Christmas a little happier for thousands of needy girls and boys every year. Last December, more than 3,000 needy kids received new toys along with new books, toothbrushes and other goodies at Dolls for Daughters’ annual Toy Shop.

So think about it. For $175, you get: A chance to take a day off from work. Play one of Colorado’s premier golf courses. And make Christmas happier for more than 3,000 kids.

What could be better? Prizes. Lots of them. For example, there are some club-level seats for a Colorado Rockies baseball game. Worth 500 bucks, I’m told. They were donated by Bachus & Schanker, the law firm where Jessica’s husband works.

You can also win tickets to a Denver Broncos football game plus an assortment of loot provided by Comedy Works, Reserve Casino, Canongate Colorado, Denver Zoo, JP Lizy, Oogave, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, Howl at the Moon, Blake Street Tavern, Blues Jean Bar, Rocky Mountain Laser, Ocean Prime, Woody Creek Bakery and Cafe, Tootsies, Dr. Lee Weisbard (she’s a dentist who’s offering to help you whiten your teeth), Vine Street Pub, Brad Nicol, Four Leaf Chopped Salads, Luigi’s Italian Restaurant, Big Bill’s New York Pizza, Renzio’s, Pots Tea Cafe’ & Market, Salsa Brava, St. Bon’s and Melalecua Sun Pack.

Still not enough? Angel Tuccy and Eric Reamer will be broadcasting their Experience Pros Radio Show live from the tournament, which means you’ll have a chance to be on the radio and mention your business. KB Digital Designs will be taking photographs. And there’s a free lunch.

So, now the offer is: A chance to take the day off from work, spend the day playing on one of Colorado’s premier golf courses, help make Christmas happier for more than 3,000 kids, get your picture taken, get a free lunch, have a shot at getting on the radio and have a chance to win some great prizes. Well, except for the baseball tickets. I’m going to win those. That’s my plan. My plans don’t always work out. Sigh.

You’re considering it, but you’re a lousy golfer. That’s okay. So am I. It doesn’t matter. They’re doing a shotgun start at 8 a.m. That means everyone starts at once. And it’s one of those best ball scrambles where you hit your ball into the weeds and then everyone on your team hits from the fairway where the showoff good golfer on your team landed.

The law of averages being what it is, you’ll eventually hit at least one shot that qualifies as the best ball and you get bragging rights about how your shot was better than the one by the really good player(s) on your team. That one shot is worth the price of admission. Trust me. Been there, done that.

Now that you’ve decided to play, go here to sign up. You can also become a sponsor, which will make you feel even better about yourself and help those kids out even more.

AiO TV has already signed up as the Presenting Sponsor with a generous contribution of $7,500. For $5,000, you can become a Gold Sponsor, which includes two foursomes, shirts for each of your golfers and all kinds of advertising opportunities. For $2,500, you can join Dynalectric as a Silver Sponsor, which includes two foursomes, shirts for each of your golfers and other stuff. For $1,250, you can join Mike Miller CPA, Filsinger Energy Partners and Jones & Keller as a Bronze Sponsor, which includes one foursome with shirts for each of them and other stuff. For $300, you can join Benson and Case, FreeSpirit Concepts and JerryBrownPR (that’s me) as a Birdie Sponsor. For $150 you can join Centennial Leasing and Sales as a Par Sponsor.

And for a cool $1,000,000 we’ll name the tournament for you for life and let you play Santa Claus at the Dolls for Daughters Toy Shop in December.

Storytelling Tip: Be a Generous Tipper

 

Storytelling Tips: Be a generous tipper
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s Storytelling Tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show
Listen to the Radio Version

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Be a Generous TipperDevelop a reputation for being a generous tipper and you’re almost certain to get great service and a lot of attention whenever you visit any of your favorite establishments where the staff knows you and relies on tips.

Develop a reputation for being a generous tipper when telling your story and you’ll develop a following among people interested in what you do — and you’ll enhance your reputation as an expert in your field.

We’re all looking for ways to improve. And one of the ways we do that is by paying attention to tips from experts who offer advice about how to do things we want to learn how to do or become able to do better.

There was a time when newspapers were bigger and had more writers that I could count on seeing at least one “tips” story in any paper I picked up — “how to,” “five ways to” and so on. And while there aren’t as many of these stories as there once were, you’ll still find a lot of tips in newspapers, magazines and online.

The reason news organizations like stories that offer expert advice — tips — is they know their audience likes them.

So, follow their lead. Be a generous tipper when telling your story. If you offer good advice about things the rest of us want to know, you’ll get our attention. And you’ll build your reputation as an expert at what you do.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 11:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Storytelling Tip: Keep it fresh

 

Storytelling Tip: Keep It Fresh
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s Tips for Telling Your Story on the Experience Pros Radio Show
Listen to the Radio Version

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Keep it freshHas your message gotten stale? If so, it’s time to freshen it up.

My favorite bread gets stale in a day. Bananas are pretty dicey after a week. And, despite jokes to the contrary, even Twinkies had a shelf life. So does your message.

Good storytellers pay attention to how their audience reacts. They want to know which parts of their story resonate with their audience and which parts don’t. And what works today may not work tomorrow.

The fact is most businesses evolve, including yours. Your audience is evolving. And what you say about your business needs to evolve, too.

Some businesses update their messages weekly or even daily. This week’s sale will be old news by next week. For others, once or twice a year may be often enough.

How often do you need to change your story? That depends on you, your business — and the people you’re trying to reach.

If your business changes quickly and often, your message needs to change quickly and often. If your business doesn’t change, or the changes happen slowly, you probably don’t need to change your message very often, either.

But, just like Twinkies, your message does have a shelf life. Don’t let it get stale.

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 11:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Merry Christmas | Jerry’s Christmas Rant

Merry Christmas

 

Decembrrr 2012

Merry Christmas. Or, Merry Cliffmas if we don’t make it to the 25th. Keep reading. I’ll explain.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Christmas is a sneaky holiday. It sneaks up on me every year. And it’s done it again.

Every year is the year I’m going to get everything done early — presents bought and wrapped, cards addressed and mailed, Santa tied up and threatened with a shave and a stricter diet until he agrees to give me whatever extravagant thing is on my current wish list. Sorry. Skip that last item. I didn’t mean it, Santa. Got carried away.

But every year I wake up one day to realize that, despite my good intentions of getting everything done early, I’m late once again and frantically trying to catch up.

One consolation this year: There may not be a Christmas. We’ll be celebrating Cliffmas instead as we all go over the Mayan Cliff on December 21. Of course, I’m posting this on the day we’re supposed to go over that cliff. So, if we did go over, I think it went more or less unnoticed.

There are two ways of looking at this (more, really, but I’m trying to keep this letter reasonably short or at least not too unreasonably long): I don’t have to rush to get all those Christmassy things done by Christmas this year since there won’t be one. On the other hand, with the Mayan Cliff looming, maybe that means I have to have it all done four days earlier than usual. Maybe I’m even later than I thought.

Some may say my own procrastination and avoidance are to blame for Christmas — and now Cliffmas — sneaking up on me every year. But, since I refuse to accept any responsibility whatsoever for my perennial lack of readiness, I choose to place the blame where it clearly belongs: With Christmas itself. Part of the reason I’m comfortable doing this is that I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who experiences the whole Christmas-is-here-and-I’m-not-ready-how-could-that-have-happened thing.

But I’m a PR professional. So, I’ve decided to put my expertise to work providing some professional help to raise the visibility of Christmas so it can’t sneak up on us again next year. I’m going to start a PR campaign for Christmas.  (Note: I’m a professional. Do not try this at home.)

We’ll start with a parade. I’m thinking Thanksgiving Day. Something to watch while the turkey’s in the oven getting ready. Or getting ready to go in the oven to get ready. New York City. Big balloons. A major department store as the sponsor. National TV.

Lights. Lots of lights. Bright, festive. We’ll put them on houses. Offices. Government buildings. Everywhere. I like lights. This will be really cool.

An official Christmas-shopping-season kickoff. We’ll do it on the day after Thanksgiving. We’ll call it Black Friday. But we’ll actually start it on Thanksgiving Day, which means it should really be called Blackout Thanksgiving Thursday. Over time, we can move it up more and more. Eventually, it will happen early enough that all the adults on their way to bang down the doors of their local stores in a frantic rush to be the first in line for the annual Christmas buying binge will push the kids out trick-or-treating right off the sidewalks. They don’t need all that candy, anyway.

TV specials. Lots of TV specials, including a bunch of corny tear jerkers we’ve all watched before but always put a lump in our throats and a tear on our cheeks near the end.

Ads. We need lots of ads. From stores, online shopping sites and Lord knows who else. Some of them could even tell us there are only __ (fill in the blank) shopping days left until Christmas. That way we’ll all know exactly how much time we have left until Christmas. The reference to “shopping days” will be a quaint reminder of the olden days when stores actually closed on Sundays even during the Christmas shopping season. Of course, stores don’t close at all anymore. In fact, they’ve gotten to where you can order stuff up until about seven minutes before Christmas begins and still have it delivered on Christmas Day. I’m waiting until they get it to the point where I can order things a couple days after Christmas and still have it delivered on time. I think that’s just a couple years away.

We’ll give the kids a couple weeks off from school. Another reminder for those parents who still have jobs and can’t get time off that they need to learn to keep more balls in the air because Christmas is coming.

Well, you get the idea. There’ll be more to our PR campaign, of course. But those are the highlights. It’ll be so successful that Christmas won’t be able to sneak up on us next year, assuming we haven’t gone over the cliff before then.

If you’re still reading, you’ve probably had about all you can put up with.

So, let me wrap this up by saying all my grandkids got bigger and smarter and cuter again last year. I won’t bore you with the details here. If you care enough to really want to know, you probably already know some of the details. If you want more, give me a call (303-594-8016) and let’s chat. It’s friendlier than me including it in my annual Christmas rant. And my children (who aren’t children any more) continue to do well. So, do the women they married. I’m grateful for everyone one of them.

The coming year? Will there be one? We do have the Mayan Cliff to worry about. If there is a New Year, I predict my grandchildren will continue to get bigger, smarter and cuter (how do they do that?). I’ll continue to be boring as a stump. But my life will continue to be interesting because of all the interesting people I’m lucky enough to spend time with.

Merry Christmas. Or Cliffmas. Or whatever else you celebrate.

Jerry

Storytelling Tip: Get to the Point

 

Storytelling Tip: Get to the Point
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s Tips for Telling Your Story on the Experience Pros Radio Show
Listen to the Radio Version

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Experience Pros Radio

Today’s Experience Pros tip from JerryBrownPR

Today’s tip: Get to the point.

We live in a fast-paced soundbite world. And we’re trying to reach people who have lots of other messages competing for their attention.

Take too long to tell your story and your audience may not stick around to hear it.

Here are four tips for getting to the point.

Tip #1: Start with your main point

Don’t bury your lead, as we called it when I was a reporter. Tell us right up front what you want us to know and why we should care. Take too long to make your point and the rest of us are less likely to get your point.

Tip #2: Use shorter sentences and shorter words

Shorter sentences and shorter words make your writing easier to read. Easier to understand. And easier to remember.

Some statistics from the American Press Institute (API): When sentences average eight words, readers comprehend 100 percent of what’s said. At 15 words per sentence, comprehension drops 10 percent. At 19 words, that’s just four more words per sentence, it drops another 10 percent. And at 28 words per sentence readers will comprehend only half of what you say.

One trick for making your sentences shorter: Turn commas into periods. One place to look: Sentences with “and” or “but.” You can often put a period before the “and” or “but” and turn one sentence into two. You’ve said the same thing. But your message has more impact.

API also recommends using shorter words. One- and two-syllable words are easier to read, easier to understand and easier to remember. So, use shorter words when you can. Do instead of accomplish, for example. Buy instead of purchase. About instead of approximately. Google “use shorter words” for more examples.

Does that mean you should use only short sentences and short words? No. That’s boring. But your message will lose impact if you use a lot of long sentences and long words.

Tip #3: Delete redundant words

Say 12 cars instead of a total of 12 cars. Noon or midnight instead of 12 noon or 12 midnight. Say to instead of in order to. Google “eliminate redundant words” for more examples.

Tip #4: Edit what you write

Editing is important. Edit what you write. Better yet get a colleague or friend to edit your writing. Or hire a good editor if you can afford to. And be ruthless when editing your copy. Don’t fall in love with your writing. Fall in love with telling your story effectively.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 11:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros radio show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet.

Telling Your Story: Create a Moment

 

Telling Your Story: Create a Moment

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Telling Your Story: Create a MomentIf you want to be remembered, say something worth remembering. Timid messages are easily ignored and forgotten.

Your audience won’t remember all the “facts” you throw at them. If they remember anything at all they’ll remember the one most compelling thing you say. The more compelling and the more memorable, the more likely they are to hear it and remember it.

Far too many companies are timid when it comes to telling their story. And they focus too much attention on little details that have nothing to do with their success in telling that story.

So, when it’s time to tell your story start by figuring out how to create a moment for your audience. That’s the key to getting remembered. Everything else is filler.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

————-

Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

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Jerry@JerryBrownPR.com | 303.594.8016