Originally published on 9 December 2009 & featured in Ragan’s PR Daily. Updated on 20 May 2010. Updates are in italics.

Over the past few semesters, I had nearly 450 of my students blogging as part of their grades in public relations courses. And this semester, I have more than 75 more. Based on their experiences and mine, here are some tips for maintaining your blog (especially when it’s graded as an assignment):

  1. Your professor may require a certain amount of posts on specific topics and perhaps even a specific length. Follow these guidelines to a T. Refer to the assignment sheet/post often to be sure you’re doing what’s needed.
  2. There may be interim deadlines for your blog posts. Keep up. Even if there aren’t interim deadlines, blog throughout the semester. If you do all your posts toward the end (or even the day they’re due), it’s not to your advantage. It will appear as though you procrastinated. Your readers will likely not read more than a post or so a day, so piling a bunch into one day actually hurts your readership.
  3. Make an editorial calendar for yourself based on the blog requirements. Consider using Google Calendar to keep track of posts you intend to write and when they should be written. (Google Calendar can even send you text message reminders.)
  4. Stuck for topics? Ask your readers at your blog what they’d like to see, or ask your followers on Twitter for help. Read Ragan’s PR Daily and listen to PR podcasts for additional ideas.
  5. Proofread. This should go without saying, but since I’m saying it, it apparently doesn’t. Misspelled words and poor grammar significantly detract from your credibility. If you know you’re not a great speller, then write your posts first in Word, where SOME misspelled words and grammar errors show up more easily. Partner with a friend and proof each others’ posts, too. (NOTE: If you write in Word first, be sure to use WordPress’ “Paste from Word” feature, or else you will end up with some really ugly formatting.)
  6. Write in short paragraphs. Long paragraphs are really grey and hard on the reader’s eyes.
  7. Use photos licensed by Creative Commons to add visual impact to your blog. I recommend Compfight for finding images.
  8. One of the best ways to become a better blogger is to read & comment on others’ blogs, too. It’s not all about you. Once you start commenting on others’ blogs, you may notice that your readership will increase (because of people clicking on your name in the comment and finding your blog.)
  9. Change the name of your blog from whatever WordPress “gave” you as the default (which may be something like Bnixon13’s Blog) to something more professional and interesting. Though you cannot change the URL for your blog, you can easily change the name. And definitely change or get rid of the default tagline “Just another WordPress weblog,” which screams N00b.

Yikes! I promised you 10 tips, and I only gave you 9! I need your help. What’s one more tip you’d provide to round out this top ten list?

barbara_is_listening

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Tonight on Twitter, I saw a tweet from Milton Ramirez that pointed me to this presentation by Arun Basil Lal. Arun has some great tips here on writing good blog posts. The most useful information specifically about writing starts on slide 11.

It’s worth reading. Soon.

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For spring semester’s PR Writing courses that I’m teaching for Georgia Southern University and Southeastern University, I am augmenting my own content and our textbook with several courses offered by Poynter’s NewsU.

Here are the courses we’ll be using:

Each of the courses concludes with a quiz. Please have the quiz score come to my university e-mail account.

[UPDATE: Complete the NewsU quiz for the course by Saturday midnight during the week it’s assigned.]

Questions?

barbara_is_listening.

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“You only learn to be a better writer by actually writing.” Doris Lessing

In addition to traditional writing assignments (news releases, feature stories, etc.) in our PR Writing course, all students in my PRCA 3330 classes at Georgia Southern University and COMM 4333 class at Southeastern University will also create and maintain a blog as part of the course. This post explains the types of content I expect you to write about in your blog for PRCA 3330 or COMM 4333.

Please add a category for each type (listed below), and make sure each post is categorized appropriately. Each post for this class must have the category of “PRCA 3330” or “COMM 4333” along with at least one additional category. (If you do not categorize your posts with the name of the class, it will be much more difficult for me to find them.)

1. Reading notes – brief notes or key ideas from the reading assigned for that week’s class. Jot down 3-5 ideas that you believe are the most important & wish to remember. Be very brief, but write enough so someone who can’t read your mind understands what you mean and I am convinced that you actually did the readings. Remember to cite your source(s) when you paraphrase or quote materials from the readings; use a hyperlink to the book (either at the publisher’s site or at a bookseller like Amazon.com).

2. Topic of the Week – Together as a class, we will come up with a topic (or topics) each week for you to write about. You should have 15 of these before the end of the semester. See our TOW list (which will be updated weekly).

3. PR Connections – commentary, reflections and opinions about PR issues/examples that were not addressed in class. These can be responses to other PR blogs you read, links to interesting posts or articles, embedded YouTube videos, etc. You should write at least 10 of these during the semester.

4. Blog comments – whenever you comment on someone’s PR blog (whether it’s a PR professional or a PR student), add the comment to ONE post that you update throughout the semester so I can assess your online participation. Do this only for PR-related blogs. See Tracking Your Blog Comments for Nixon’s Classes for more information.

5. Personal – optional category. Use it for any posts not related to public relations.

You may add other categories and sub-categories of your choice. Please keep in mind that when I evaluate your blog I will pay special attention to the categories listed above, but I will not ignore other posts. I will perform a wholistic evaluation of your blog, looking for:

  • professionalism: Clear, correct, thoughtful writing
  • frequency: Sufficient posts in categories 1-3, posted throughout the semester. There will be at least four blog checkpoints during the semester.
  • linking: Identify other PR blogs (use PR Open Mic or my blogroll in my Delicious bookmarks as starting points) and link to them. Respond to others’ posts. Become a part of the blogosphere. Blogging should not be lonely.
  • readability: brief & concise writing style, use of white space, bold characters, images, bullet points

SUPER-IMPORTANT: In order for you to get credit for your blog, I need to know where it is. Tell me your blog address by completing this Google Form; do this no later than the end of January.

Questions? Just let me know.

barbara_is_listening

NOTE: Many thanks to Dr. Mihaela Vorvoreanu at Purdue University, who allowed me to use her blogging guidelines from her PRinciples class. They were so well-written that I made just a few tweaks for my own class. Dr. V knows that Blogs Matter.

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Integrating Poynter’s NewsU

On December 22, 2009, in PRCA 3330, by Barbara Nixon

For spring semester’s PR Writing course that I’ll be teaching online, I will be augmenting my own content and our textbook with several courses offered by Poynter’s NewsU.

Here are the ones I’m considering so far:

If you’ve used NewsU courses in your college classes, I’d love to hear from you.

And are there additional NewsU (or other source) courses I should consider? I’m really hoping to find a good course on using AP Style, specifically.

barbara_is_listening.

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The 5 Rs of Prepping for a PR Writing Test

On December 15, 2009, in job search, writing, by Barbara Nixon

One of my former students at Georgia Southern University found out recently that the job interview she secured also involves a writing test. She asked for some advice on how to best prepare. So . . . here we go.

  1. Read several of the company’s recent news releases to get a feel for the company’s style.
  2. Re-read Strunk’s The Elements of Style. Though it was written long before most recent grads’ grandparents were born, its principles of simplicity and clarity still ring true.
  3. Register for one (or more) of Poynter’s News University courses, such as Cleaning Your Copy or The Lead Lab.
  4. Review your The Associated Press Stylebook 2009, and use Post-It flags to mark sections that are problematic to you. Maybe even take some of the online AP style quizzes.
  5. Refresh yourself on common editing marks. You may also be asked to edit a story someone else wrote.

What additional suggestions would you recommend?

barbara_is_listening

(Many thanks to John Kraft and Sherry Carr Smith for their suggestions.)

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Grammar Girl: My Superhero

On July 15, 2008, in public relations, by Barbara Nixon

Grammar Girl? She must be a superhero!” exclaimed my daughter Katey last week when she was peeking over my shoulder as I read some of my tweets.

After I finished laughing, I stopped to think about what Katey said. I guess Katey’s right: Grammar Girl is my superhero. Anyone who can take a subject that could be dry (at best) and turn it into an intriguing, humorous and award-winning podcast and then a book has done something amazing, something that most humans cannot do. That sounds like superhero work to me!

I’ve been a listener of Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Girl podcast for about six months now. My favorite episode of Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips is the one on when to use lay and when to use lie. My tendency had been to substitute a word rather than figure out the rule. Now I think I may understand it! (The true test of this will occur when I explain to my public relations students when to use which word.)

Wednesday evening, Katey and I are making a girls-only road trip to the Atlanta area to meet Mignon in person and have our copy of Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing signed.

To subscribe to the Grammar Girl podcast, visit the Quick and Dirty Tips website. You’ll be glad you did.

Take the Grammar Girl Challenge; it’s on the right sidebar of Public Relations Matters. Let me know how you did!

And finally, if you know what the punctuation mark is right under the letter G in “girl” in Katey’s poster, drop me a comment here. Hint: Look close; it’s not a question mark.

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Del.icio.us link for 2008-07-13

On July 12, 2008, in del.icio.us links, by Barbara Nixon
  • So few marketing and PR people write well. Many of the thousands of Web sites I’ve analyzed over
    the years and the hundred or so news releases I receive each week from well- meaning PR people
    are laden with these gobbledygook adjectives. So I wanted t
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We’re All Journalists

On May 19, 2008, in public relations, by Barbara Nixon

At a Poynter Institute seminar kickoff today, about a dozen faculty members from Statesboro to San Luis Obispo and from Miami Beach to Toronto gathered to discuss “Teaching Diversity Across the Curriculum.” In Poynter’s words, “If tomorrow’s journalists are to report and write about a dynamic, increasingly diverse society, they’ll need guidance in the classroom. Whatever the course, there’s a place for teaching diversity — issues of race, ethnicity and gender — across the journalism curriculum.”

What do journalists stand for? Here are many of the ideas we brainstormed, in no particular order:

  • Truth, justice & the American way
  • Accuracy
  • Ethics
  • Fairness
  • Completeness, over the long haul
  • Honesty
  • Self-awareness
  • Integrity
  • Mensch (a Yiddish term)
  • Currency (being current)
  • Relevance
  • Accountability
  • Power (as journalists, we have it and must use it wisely)
  • Power of storytelling
  • Understanding (by the journalist, of the people and their issues)
  • Balance
  • Principles
  • Love of storytelling
  • Love of writing
  • Love of reading
  • Transparency
  • Empathy

Do you know an excellent story when you read one? What makes a story excellent? Here are some of our thoughts. Again, these are in no particular order:

  • Transports you
  • Universality
  • Passion
  • Rich characters that you care about (even if you don’t like them)
  • It’s about people
  • Tension à resolution
  • Something new
  • Gripping, through use of quotations and anecdotes
  • Great words
  • Anticipation
  • Balance
  • Visuals through wordcrafting
  • Opens new vistas for us
  • Structure
  • Seamless scene setting
  • Sense of time and place
  • Compelling
  • Imaginative / creative
  • Permanence
  • Discipline

Seminar leader Lillian Dunlap shared a formula with us, which I’ve graphically represented below.

Stay tuned for more as this weeklong seminar progresses.

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