advertising 101

A few things to remember as you create your advertising campaign:

Advertising goals

This may be a two-part process. One part is to decide what feature you want to emphasize in your campaign. This can be challenging as there are likely numerous things that are great about your product. But what will you choose to emphasize in this specific advertisement? And why?

The second part of this is to consider what you hope to achieve by this campaign. Ultimately we’re hoping the audience will want to buy our product, of course, but by what means will we make this happen? Do we want them to trust our company/ product? Do we want them to think we’re environmentally sound? Do we want to make them laugh and be comfortable with us when they’re ready to buy? Any of these might alter the way we approach our campaign.

Think about the audience and what that means

As we discussed numerous times already this semester, our audience plays a key role in our writing. What pace, humor, or word choice will best suit the needs of this audience? How will knowing the audience and its fears, likes/ dislikes, goals, passions, etc. impact the type of advertising we choose?

Knowing the audience well- and carefully implementing this knowledge in our writing, tone, and approach  will influence the success or failure of our campaign.


The success of our campaign may also be influenced by seemingly basic things like spelling, structure, and format. Be certain that you’re making an effort to understand and implement the correct format for radio versus television writing.


Remember this product/ service/ company is likely not the only game in town. Who else is seeking to access and win your customers? How have they done so? Have they been successful? What does your company have that they don’t have? These can be the often hidden, but key, elements to a successful advertising campaign.


Some other thoughts include the following:

  • Understand the company well, its goals and previous ads
  • Have a strong idea of the financial side
    • This will influence many areas of your work
  • Ask which celebrities might endorse this product
    • How can you use them effectively, and to the greatest benefit?
    • Can your company afford a celebrity?

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it does provide a good starting point for the successful advertising campaign. Consider your plans for your campaign in light of the aforementioned ideas. Do you need to revise? Now’s the time!


Journalism 101

As we move into the field of journalism, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you read news critically, and as you begin to write:

  1. News writing has a different focus. Pay close attention to what makes a story ‘news’ as you read or experience those stories from reputable sites and sources.
    1. This will also help as you decide what story you will cover.
  2. News writing is organized differently. Read with a critical eye. Stories are straightforward, language is as neutral as possible (objectivity is a struggle in terms of word choice, but it does matter in your reporting methods- so be careful)
    1. 1-3 sentences per paragraph
    2. The direct summary lead is one sentence at the beginning of the story- and it is not a headline (that is the title of the piece). Know the difference.
    3. Organize information in descending order of importance.
  3. News writing requires sources for all information (but obvious, common knowledge)
    1. Know what makes a good source (see research and interviews information)
      1. Use sources appropriately
      2. Don’t take words or information out of context
      3. Be honest
  4. No ‘ta-da’ ending necessary
    1. Ending with a quote or throwaway line is usually a good idea
      1. Helps with editing and also for the skimming reader (they won’t miss anything)

Consider these as you read news critically, as you write- and especially as you edit- your news article for class. If this is your first time writing a news piece, it may feel frustrating to do. Understand that this style is unique- you aren’t writing an essay, report, or broadcast piece.

And as  Edward R. Murrow used to say, ‘Good night, and good luck’.

narrative nonfiction fun

A media audit is an opportunity for you, the writer, to express just one of the ways in which the media has influenced your life. Here are some thoughts that I might consider if I were engaging this assignment myself.

  1. Books- what books have I recommended to others or what books/ stories led me to read more of an author’s works? How did they make me feel then and how do they make me feel now?
  2. TV- what tv shows did I watch to remain culturally aware (everyone else was talking about it so I thought I should watch too)? What shows have I, as an adult, grown nostalgic for and now revisit? What is it about those shows that draws me back?
  3. Movies- What movies do I and my family or friends quote? When and how (online, theater, home) was I exposed to this film? Why do I return to it now? How did this film impact my life?
  4. Music- What is on my playlist now? How did I find these artists or songs? What music would play on the soundtrack of my childhood?

Some of my former students have explored everything from the Power Rangers to Little House on the Prairie and Adventures in Odyssey. What will you explore? And more importantly, what will you learn through this experience? I’m anxious to find out!

Welcome back!

Good morning, comm135A students! Welcome to your online class.

In this session you will get an overview of many types of media writing–and more importantly, you will gain practical experience engaging these kinds of writing yourself. Through this you will build a portfolio that should make getting an internship, and later a job, much easier. But even before that, the hope is that you will find your niche in our communication and visual arts major as you get a sampling of public relations, journalism, advertising, and more.

Some notes about our online class:

  1. You may work ahead as much and as fast as you like. The benefit of an online class is that you can go at your own pace. But, with that said, you also need to complete assignments as requested, as extensions will not be granted and late work will not be accepted.
  2. Do try to engage your classmates in conversation through Twitter and your blogs. It will make the class more interactive and fun.
  3. Use the rule of 3- consult your syllabus, assignment sheet, and then a friend (or two) before asking me a question you could have answered yourself. I’ve done  my best to make things clear- and for the most part, the answers should already be available to you regarding assignments and requirements. If something that is not clear or apparent should come up and you’ve exhausted the rule of 3, then please get in touch.

I am excited to ‘meet’ you and work with you this semester! Let’s write!

New ways of writing

One of the many challenges of writing for different media forms is so simple and clearly a problem that for some it goes almost completely unnoticed. That problem is, unfortunately, that each media form is typically a departure from other media forms- thus requiring a new understanding of audience, word choice, and worse still for new writers, new formats.

What exactly am I saying? So far this semester we’ve covered news articles, public relations, and narrative non-fiction, among other topics- and yet none of these has looked (in style, form, or approach) exactly like the others.

The point here is that for students of media writing, there is no room for lazy or sloppy approaches to the writing. A continued high level of conscientious work is required for effective media writing.

And so, as we switch gears yet again into teleplay and screenwriting, you’ll find that while these share a few characteristics with each other as well as public relations and advertising, they are unique forms of writing in themselves.

Be careful. Be concise. Be aware.

And through those notions you will BE an effective media writer.

In the thick of it… mid-semester angst and inspiration for the future

As we find ourselves at the mid-point of our abbreviated semester, inspiration might be waning. Not only have you just completed a rigorous fall semester, you’ve managed to also navigate Christmas (and are looking forward to New Years and possibly an on-campus intersession – or at the very least a spring semester)…all facts that may mean you’re staggering toward the finish line.


Lucky for you we’re at a point in the term where creativity will reign. With advertising, teleplay, and screenwriting on the horizon, there is much inspiration ahead. One of the distinct benefits of this class is that we touch on many subjects- though only briefly- and move on. So, if you didn’t find journalism or public relations to your liking, it’s okay.

In other words, there’s little room here for writer’s block or any other sort of writing frustration. If the deadlines weren’t enough, the changes in medium and method should keep COMM135 writers on their toes.

And if you’re feeling frustrated, stay with it! My hope is that you’ll find inspiration in the presentations, your fellow classmates, and the numerous examples we have been sharing (and will continue to  share) via Twitter. And further still, I do hope you find some form of writing that you enjoy and want to pursue once the class has ended. There are courses at GCC in journalism, public relations, screenwriting, and more.

So ask yourself if this class is just a chance to fill a requirement, or could it be a peek at future coursework and even a possible career path?

Happy writing!

Just do it

I’ll admit that going straight from one semester (and the stress of final exams) into a new semester is tough for me. I’ve scarcely finished grading exams and yet I have to find the energy to jump back into this teaching thing with both feet so that my online students get the same respect and attention as my in-class students from the fall semester.

And yet it’s not easy.

And I know you all feel it too.

You’ve barely finished studying and recovering from one semester (some of you may even still be working on that recovery part) and yet here you are watching PowerPoint presentations and listening to my voice try to convince you that writing is important and fun.

Trust me. It is.

To make the most of our time I’d like to encourage you that while you might be tired and struggling to find the inspiration to do so, writing daily–whether on your blogs, class work, or even a letter to a friend or a fun Facebook post, will make you more adept at using language well to communicate your thoughts, ideas, and maybe even to persuade others to consider a new perspective or insight.

So, let’s do it!

Remember that while it is important for communicating in your future career paths, writing can also inspire, entertain, and even draw us closer to our families and friends.

How will you use writing today?

Time to refresh

As we enter the mid-semester lull, it’s easy to feel weary and focus on the next break rather than the important work at hand. But if we give in to the notion of fatigue, we may undermine what has been, thus far at least, a productive semester and find grades slipping quickly to levels that will make rebounding difficult.

In terms of writing, such fatigue can mean we drop into patterns of repetition that make our work feel stale. It’s happened to the best of us. When we’re in this state, finding the right word doesn’t matter as much and establishing a valid point is practically irrelevant. Writing with a focus of just getting the assignment done on time leaves little room for creativity, insight, editing, or revision. It also means we are likely to turn in work that at the start of the semester might have been considered a first draft.

The best advice for such a situation is to revisit your syllabi for each course where writing is required, and make a plan to begin pieces earlier than you need to (trust me, you’ll thank me). This will not only leave time for editing (and surviving weird computer glitches), but more importantly will allow you to make stronger points within your paper, have more creativity and stronger, more effective word choices, and -even more exciting- higher grades when the work is complete.

Making time in your schedule to plan, write, and revise will benefit your work overall and will make you more confident on assignments. Now, take a few minutes and see what’s on your agenda for tomorrow. Is there any writing you can start today?

Concluding thoughts…

Well, Comm135A students, we made it. At times I wondered if I could do it- coming straight out of grading finals and straight into a new online semester, and yet –here we all are! Kudos!

As a parting gift, I’d like to say a few things:

First, thank you for taking the course. I do hope you’ve enjoyed it and gleaned some knowledge that you will take with you as you move forward with your career- whether at GCC or in the ‘real’ world. In covering numerous topics, there was hopefully something that mattered to you and motivated you to write well and write often– or maybe even to try writing something new.

Second, please stay in touch. Your blogs were insightful and interesting, and I liked working my way through them. It’s a great way to learn about you and your writing. Perhaps this is a skill you will consider maintaining as a connection to your writing self, to this course–and ideally, it may be a great foray into connecting your interests and career aspirations with opportunities to write about them.

And finally, all the best to you as you go forward into whatever is next for you- be it an internship, a full semester of classes, or your first job. You are all talented individuals that it has been my honor to get to know through this course. Thank you for your patience with me.

Please let me know if I can be of service to you in the future.


-Dr. M

Press Releases

Learning to write press releases is one of the key skills in our course. Time and again, former students tell me that learning to write releases helped them become more marketable to future employers, and some have noted that when working at an internship, they were given more opportunities because they were capable of writing releases.

Some things to keep in mind when writing a release:

  • It is not acceptable to use information from someone else’s work in your release without giving the source appropriate credit. This is called plagiarism and will quickly and effectively render a writer who engages in such practices out of work and future opportunities.
    • To avoid this situation, it is always best to do your own research, interviews, and writing. This will give a fresh perspective on the information and protect the writer from plagiarism accusations.
  • Format is important- including contact information clearly, a thorough ‘about’ section, release date, and end mark will give the piece and the organization from which it is coming a relevance and validity it might not otherwise have.
  • Think of the release as ‘free advertising’- a chance for your organization to control the angle of the story as well as what the audience should know and focus on as it relates to the story you’re writing. Use sources and information wisely and carefully.
  • A well-written and honest (and clear!) release is more likely to be printed without being altered than one that is not. Write well.

Use the opportunities in this class to practice the skills of release writing. They may become important to you in the near future.