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How To Write a Great Headline

how to write a headlineYour headline is the most important element of any article you write. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself what happened right before you clicked through to read this post. If you’re still reading this post, you’re either bored, very polite or you want to learn how to write a great headline and you believe I’m going to deliver on that promise for you. For me, the purpose of a great headline is to get the reader to read what you’ve written. For others, it’s all about the click. I’m going to assume that most Journalistics readers care more about the former.

So how do you write a great headline? I’ll get to that… but first, a quick story… In one of early journalism classes, our professor used to make us read all the headlines in The New York Times throughout the week. Why? Because The New York Times employed the most talented journalists. It was great advice honestly – it’s amazing how good some of those headlines are, and how instructive that exercise has been in teaching me the art of headline writing. I encourage you to try this exercise for yourself. For the next week, read the headlines of the print version of The New York Times’ front page. You’ll notice a couple of things. First, I’ll bet you find more than a few articles you want to read. Second, I’ll wager you learn a new word or two – those journalists have pretty incredible vocabularies. [Read more…]

The Top 12 Journalistics Posts of 2012

Our top posts for the year post has become a tradition at Journalistics. While some might think an annual rehash of posts is a weak attempt at squeezing one more blog post into the year, well, we’d have to agree with you. Regardless, it’s a great way to showcase the most popular content from the year for new readers – and it’s a great opportunity to get your feedback on the types of content you’d like to see more of in 2013. As you review our top 12 posts from 2012, we hope you’ll take a couple of minutes to comment on the post – either offering your feedback on posts from this year, or chiming in on what you’d like to see from Journalistics in 2013. [Read more…]

The Journalism Movies Post

journalism moviesI’ve wanted to write a journalism movies post for about two years now. I scrapped the idea the first time, because I was thinking more along the lines of writing a “best journalism movies” post. Even if I had succeeded in developing a sexy algorithm (oxymoron?) that yielded an objective list, it would still be wrong. My logic was flawed. I don’t think you can make a list of the best journalism movies ever made, because it’s too subjective.

For starters, what is a journalism movie? Is it a movie about journalism, like All The President’s Men, or would a journalist character be enough, as is the case with Superman? Then there’s the question of films like Capote or The Help, which don’t meet the former criteria, but have elements one could argue are representative of professional journalism. Would these films be worthy?

Then there was the issue credibility in recommending any films to watch. I’m not a film critic. I’m not a journalist. And for the most part, I haven’t seen all the films I would put on the list. Then it hit me – you probably haven’t seen a lot of these films either. Why not just put together a thoughtfully assembled list and let you decide which films appeal to your interests? I relied heavily on @journalistics‘ Twitter followers for suggestions, and thanks to them (and some research into the topic), I’ve come up with roughly 30 journalism-related films. Most you’ve seen, but my hope is you discover one or two on this list that you didn’t know about.

I’ve tried to provide a little background for each film on the list. Where possible, I’ve included tweets from our followers about the films – as an added thanks for their contributions. The list includes some great Oscar-nominees and winners, some incredible documentaries and a few less respectable works I’m mixing in there for the heck of it.

I view this post as a work in progress. It won’t be complete until you chime in with your suggestions for films I overlooked, or your opinion on the films you’ve seen on this list. The goal of this post is to help some of you discover a journalism-related film you didn’t know about before reading this post. If that happens, please let me know.

Without further adieu, here’s that list of journalism-related films I cam up with. Brace yourself, the post comes in just under 4,700 words. [Read more…]

Surviving in a Pay-to-Play World

Most PR practitioners quickly learn that the wall protecting editorial integrity from the influence of paid advertising can be, like the Pirate Code, “more of a guideline than an actual rule.” For better or worse, at a great number of well-known and respected media sources, advertisers are often given preference in coverage. Media ethics forbid this, but advertising packages often come with editorial opportunities, access to journalists or advertorials. Paid stories disguised as editorial.

Despite denials and indignation from journalists, money does talk at many print, electronic and online media sources; often in direct relation to the financial health and business prospects of its corporate owners. These quid pro quo arrangements are never in writing, and typically are communicated over a lunch with a publisher or sales rep who, with a smile or a wink, assures the client or agency that, “I have no influence over editorial…but I’ll see what I can do.” The more reliant the media outlet is on ad dollars, the thinner the line between advertising and editorial.

Trade and professional associations are not burdened with an obligation of intellectual honesty akin to that of the Fourth Estate. But it’s safe to assume association membership expects that guest speakers and “experts” featured on the agenda of their organization’s annual conference will be selected on the basis of experience, insight and presentation skill. A small number of these groups do restrict vendors from agenda participation, but at most industry conferences, any outside 3rd party can purchase a prominent place on the program agenda…and many of those presentations are poorly disguised sales pitches.

This sale of “thought leadership”– market visibility with inherent credibility – is neither a recent development nor a crime that deserves a congressional investigation. Pay-to-play is a fact of business life, and to deal with this reality, PR and marketing professionals can either:

  • Use the market advantage that deep-pocketed companies have over their (limited budget) client or employer as a convenient rationalization for their inability to generate (unpaid) thought leadership; or they can
  • Stop whining, get creative, and lacking economic resources, promote bona fide content and foster personal relationships as currency to generate thought leadership.

With the media, succeeding in a pay-to-play world means two things. First, it means creating content that’s timely, tailored for the recipient and never delivered in a press release. Secondly, it means building good will with key journalists by consistently providing them with relevant information and ideas, regardless of whether it relates to your company or client, without any expectation of immediate return.

With public platforms, succeeding in a pay-to-play world mostly means advance planning. It can begin by attending the prior year’s event to get a sense of the organization’s membership, priorities and culture, and to meet the group’s leadership. Conference agenda development can start 9 or more months in advance of the event, so it’s important to be on line early with a topic likely to resonate with members. It also helps if your proposal features a dues-paying member of the sponsoring organization.

In both cases, succeeding in a pay-to-play world means managing internal expectations. From the outset, your CEO or client needs to understand that you’re running against the wind, and in exchange for that effort, you must be given permission to fail.

What do you think? Is there a separation between editorial and advertising? Have you experienced an instance where a magazine was more interested in your news after you became an advertiser? Do you completely disagree and believe journalism ethics are alive and well today? Let me know.

About Gordon G. Andrew

Gordon G. Andrew is managing partner of Princeton, NJ based PR and marketing communications firm, Highlander Consulting Inc. (www.highlanderconsulting.com). He has more than 25 years of experience on the corporate and agency sides of the business. He blogs at www.marketingcraftsmanship.com. Contact him at (609) 987-0200 or @gordonandrew.

5 Ways Journalists Can Use Twitter

Social media and journalism are becoming more and more intertwined, and while the debate rages on if social media is a part of the journalism industry, Twitter, Facebook and the like shouldn’t just be reserved for the marketers and brand community managers out there. There’s an even greater potential for journalists to leverage the power of networking with Twitter, but before you sail into unchartered territories, you first need to know how to navigate the waters.

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What They Don’t Teach You at Journalism School (A SXSW Preview)

Confession: I crashed the Stanford School of Journalism. I may never be a Knight Fellow in their Journalism program, but some of my ideas resonated enough for Ann and Katherine to not kick me out after they discovered my intrusion Feb 24.

Here is what I observed in the weeks leading up to SXSW. Here is what I’m paying attention to and here is how things might turn out. [Read more…]

How Is Social Media Not Journalism?

There’s no denying where most of us get news. Michael Jackson’s death, the Hudson River plane crash, Charlie Sheen finally going off the deep end: all things that I found out about first on Twitter. And with the political unrest spreading throughout the Middle East and Africa, Twitter has  played an integral role in telling those people’s stories when most of the traditional communication methods were blocked. (Now, there’s even a book about it.)

More so than just staying updated on current events, social media is one of the the only ways I — and I’m sure many others — get information about industry happenings. (It’s the only way if you consider Google Reader a part of social media.) Plus, it’s one of the only things that I  — and I’m sure many others — use to spread information. And it’s also one of the fastest-growing ways that companies are communications and interacting with their target audience.

But with big name brand fails happening more often than we social media junkies care to admit — Kenneth Cole uproar being the most recent that sticks out in my mind — it begs to answer one critically important question, one that should have been answered and addressed ages ago: Why isn’t social media a part of journalism?

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Surviving Facebook’s New Fan Page Photo Roulette

In typical Facebook fashion, they’re giving you about 4 weeks to ponder how you feel about the new Fan Page layout. Then, on March 10th, they’ll upgrade your page whether you “like” it or not. And while many of the updates are positive for page admins, there is at least one change that has the potential to rob you of control over your brand image. We’ll call it Fan Page Photo Roulette. And although it can be scary, there are ways to survive. [Read more…]

Newsroom Facebook Fans: Quality vs. Quantity

If we were talking about ice cream, I’d say quality all the way: I’ll take a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s over a gallon of Good Humor any day. But when it comes to Facebook Fans, this question of quality versus quantity becomes a bit more complicated. It seems that every brand in America is on a quest to simply gain as many fans as possible. Yet I keep hearing from newsrooms I work with that they’re concerned about “quality” fans too.  To be honest, my instant reaction was that they’re crazy. Newsrooms (and brands in general) should just get as many fans as possible, right? Maybe, maybe not.

There are at least a few arguments that support building a quality fan base and many more that support building a fan base simply for quantity. Here’s a look at both sides and how your station might be able to get the best of both worlds. [Read more…]

New Year, New You: 5 New Year’s Resolutions For Media Folks

We may already be well into the first week of January, but it’s not too late to decide on a New Year’s resolution. Better yet, it’s never too late to change your resolution to something that you could feasible see yourself keeping. As media folks ourselves, we know you won’t be able to last more than a week — tops — on resolutions to cut back on coffee or red wine, to stop bringing your work home with you, and to sit up straight at  your desk instead of crouching in your desk chair pounding away on your Macbook.

If you’re still scrambling to find a New Year’s resolution, here are a few ideas that are worth it being a new decade and all.

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