In the public relations courses that I’ve taught over the years, it seems as though one of the biggest struggles for the students is writing using Associated Press style.

Why is learning AP style so important? PR practitioner Sandra Hernandez offers this:

PR writers really need to know the things that make them effective. I learned to write in AP in college, because it was necessary to pass the class. I continued to write in AP because I found that what I send to media had a better response rate when written in AP. 

To help students learn more about AP style, I sought feedback from a variety of public relations practitioners and faculty members, trying to come up with a list of what PR writers REALLY need to know (cold, without even looking in the AP Stylebook) about AP style.

The most helpful advice came from colleagues on PR OpenMic, a social network for PR students, faculty and practitioners. (See the individual responses I received in the PR OpenMic PR Writing Discussion Forum.) Additional helpful advice came from colleagues on Twitter, including Kristie Aylett and Claire Celsi.

The most important (and sometimes confusing) parts of AP Style for PR writers are:

  • dates (especially when to abbreviate)
  • addresses (especially when to abbreviate)
  • names (when to use titles, etc.)
  • numerals (when to spell out, when to use digits)
  • datelines (which cities need to be identified with their states)

Many PR writers can also benefit from brushing up on standard grammar. My favorite site for general grammar advice is Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Girl. Consider subscribing to Grammar Girl’s podcast through iTunes.

Additionally, I found several websites that help my students with AP Style see my Delicious bookmarks on AP style, and I posted a Quick Guide to Associated Press Style

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How to Study for Final Exams

On April 24, 2009, in Nixon's Classes, by Barbara Nixon

Proving What Was Learned by DennisSylvesterHurd.Last fall, I led a First-Year Experience class for freshmen at Georgia Southern. One of the biggest stresses for freshmen is their first or second round of final exams.

It seemed timely to repost what I shared with them about how to prepare for a final exam.

[Reposted from Making Connections: Facebook & Beyond, November 21, 2008]

Final exams are approaching on college campuses around the world. Finals can be stressful, even for the most prepared students. Here are some tips to help you succeed:

Preparing for the Final

  • Find out what your entire final exam schedule is so that you’ll know how many finals you will have on each day.
  • Prepare a written schedule for yourself indicating when you will study for each test. Leave some time in your schedule for exercise and relaxation, too.
  • If the professor offers a study guide, use it.
  • If the professor offers a review session for the exam, go to it.
  • Know if the final is comprehensive (covering everything since the beginning of the semester or quarter).
  • Find out what kind of exam it will be. You’d study differently for a multiple-choice (Scantron) final than an essay (blue book) one.
  • If the final will be taken online, find out if you have to go to a specific computer lab on campus at a specific time, or if you’ll be allowed to take the final on your own computer. Also find out how many chances you will have to take the final. Assume it’s just one chance unless you hear differently from the professor.
  • If you have your previous exams available, scour the exams for things that you think will be on the final. Flag your notes by highlighting or using Post-It notes.
  • Don’t pull an all-nighter. (Though some people are successful with studying all night and then taking a test with no sleep, I wouldn’t recommend you try it for the first time on a final exam.)
  • Calculate your grades in the class. Determine what score you will need to get the grade you’re hoping for in the class. You may discover that you can’t possibly get an A, no matter how well you do on the final, but to get a B, you only need to get a few questions right.
  • If you’re an auditory learner, record yourself reading your notes aloud, then play the recording back several times. (You can use the free online service Utterli for this; simply register with Utterli and then call your assigned phone number with your cell phone to start the recording.)
  • If the exam is an open-book exam, this does not mean that you don’t have to study at all. In fact, one of the most challenging exams I ever took as an undergrad was an open-book essay exam.
  • ADDED ON NOV 22: Consider creating a detailed Final Exam Battle Plan.

On the Day of the Final

  • Eat a meal and drink water.
  • Don’t overdo it with the caffeine.
  • Know what to bring with you to the final. Do you need a blue book? A Scantron? (And if you need a Scantron, which kind do you need?) A pencil? A pen?
  • Are food and drinks allowed in the classroom where your final will be? Sometimes, the rules are different for exam days than other days.
  • Even if you don’t usually wear a watch, take one with you to the final. It’s unlikely you will be able to look at your cell phone during the final.

During the Final

  • For a paper-based exam, read through the entire final exam before you start answering any questions at all. This way, you will know what you’re facing.
  • If the final is an online exam, find out if you can revisit questions, or if after you click past a question you cannot go back to it again.
  • If you’re using a Scantron and you skip a question to finish later, make sure you’re answering your questions next to the correct answers. (When I took my GRE to get into grad school, I skipped a question on the first page of the booklet, but never skipped a number on the Scantron. When I realized it, I only had 10 minutes to go back and put the answers with the correct questions. Talk about stress!)
  • Keep a close eye on the time you have allotted.
  • Some students benefit from answering the most difficult questions first, while others do better completing all the easier ones. Do what works for you.

After the Final

  • Do not share with other students what was on the final exam. In most universities, this is a violation of the honor code.

Now it’s your turn: What final exam tips do you have to share? Please let us know through your comments below (and also read the 20+ comments on the original blog post).


Photo Credit:

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Cancer Sucks :: Support Team Tommy

On April 23, 2009, in public relations, by Barbara Nixon

2008 Relay For Life Of West Clark County by dalechumbley.

Cancer is affecting hundreds of thousands of lives. I lost a very good friend, Theresa, to cancer on Saturday. My mom is a breast cancer survivor, yet is struggling with a second bout of lung cancer now. And my friend Tom is fighting cancer now, too.

Because of all this, I’ve joined Team Tommy, and I will be walking in the ACS Riverfront Fun Run next week. My husband Kevin and I will fly up to Green Bay so that we can support our friends and family members with cancer.

If you’re interested in sponsoring me for the ACS Riverfront Fun Run on May 2, please visit my Team Tommy page. So far, our team has received 95 gifts, raising nearly $4,000. Let’s try to get those numbers up . . . and help our friends fight cancer.

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Regardless what company you are working with or which newspaper outlets you are sending a news release to, there are a baker’s dozen items that should appear in most news releases.


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As we discussed in PRCA 2330, I will begin evaluating your blogs as of midnight on Thursday, April 30. Here’s a copy of the rubric (grading form) I’ll use when I review your blogs: Blog Rubric (Grading Form).

Please complete this final blog checklist to be sure you’re on track and have all the required elements in your blog. (It’s fine to complete the form more than one time.)


In today’s Introduction to Public Relations class, we watched a classic episode of the classic 1970s TV show “WKRP in Cincinnati” :: “Turkeys Away.” Though I paid to download the episode from iTunes, I just discovered it’s also available for free through Hulu.

In this episode, which was based on a botched promotion from a radio station in Atlanta, live turkeys dropped from a helicopter. Chaos ensues.

What can we learn about how NOT to do a promotion from Mr. Carlson’s fiasco? I’ll get the list started:

  1. Communicate with your entire team before launching a promotional campaign (or a turkey).
  2. Do your research! It’s best to learn ahead of time that turkeys don’t fly.
  3. Get permission before doing a stunt.
  4. Know what is considered news in your local market. Giving away turkeys for Thanskgiving wasn’t news. (But watching live turkeys plummet from a helicopter probably would be news.)
  5. Brainstorm for what could possibly go wrong before you proceed with a promotion.

What would you add to this list?


The Domino’s Effect: Looking Back

On April 21, 2009, in public relations, by Barbara Nixon

If you haven’t heard anything about Domino’s Pizza in the last week, you must have been taking a media and social media vacation.

Three reviews of how Domino’s reacted to this crisis are worth listening to (or watching, in Gary V’s case).

Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz discuss Domino’s for nearly half of their latest For Immediate Release podcast (The Hobson & Holtz Report – Podcast #441). Their commentary on Domino’s begins near the 13:00 mark.

Gary Vaynerchuk, in his inimitable style, shares his reaction to Patrick Doyle, President, Domino’s U.S.A.


And the folks from CustomScoop devoted the first third of their latest Media Bullseye Radio Roundtable to Domino’s.

What else needs to be said about Domino’s crisis?

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In Monday’s Introduction to Public Relations course, we will discuss getting into the news via news releases, media kits and more. Here are the slides I’ll use:

Getting into the News 

There are some notes to go along with several of the slides. To see these notes, please download the presentation from SlideShare.

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Electronic Friendship Generator Etiquette

On April 20, 2009, in social media, by Barbara Nixon

Thanks to Mitch Joel of Twist Image, I discovered this quaint little film about five etiquette rules on an “electronic friendship generator” called Facebook

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Domino’s Fights Back, Web 2.0-Style

On April 16, 2009, in public relations, by Barbara Nixon

Using the same social media tools that harmed them earlier this week (regarding the “Disgusting Domino’s People” YouTube video), Domino’s is fighting to earn back the public’s trust via YouTube and Twitter.

Here’s a video from Patrick Doyle, President, Domino’s U.S.A., responding to “video of (now former) Domino’s team members.” The original “disgusting video” is no longer available on YouTube due to a copyright claim from Kristy Hammonds Thompson. The offending and offensive former employees have been arrested and are facing charges.

UPDATE (April 16, 10:20 a.m.) Though Doyle’s apology sounds sincere and I believe it is sincere, I do have to wonder what he was looking at during the filming of the video. A TelePrompTer, perhaps? Eye contact with his audience, like David Neelman’s in his Jet Blue apology video from two years ago, goes a long way to help us relate better. (Thanks to Scott Monty for suggesting a comparison of the two video apologies.)

And earlier in the day yesterday, I discovered this tweet from @dpzinfo, the official Domino’s corporate Twitter account:


Now, if only Domino’s can regain the Twitter accounts of @dominos and @dominospizza; both of those accounts have apparently been twittersquatted.

DISCLOSURE: I worked at a Domino’s franchise in Auburn, AL, while I was in college.

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