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Sweating the Details

By Joseph Priest, Corporate Writer, Syniverse

In the corporate world, it can be nerve-racking. For nonprofits, it can directly determine funding. And for those of you at agencies, you especially know the drill. Writing proposals to win new clients and accounts can be painstaking and pressure-filled. At the same time, though, making sure the grammar and style in proposals are flawless is crucial. In an article in this month’s Public Relations Tactics, I discuss six common errors that can arise in these situations and how PR pros should be on the lookout for these.

 I would love to know if any of these errors are ones that you often face. And I would love to know if there are any you would add to this list. Please let me know at joseph.priest@syniverse.com.  

Sweating the Details: 5 Steps to Better Business Proposals

It may be the most important document in public relations: the new-business proposal. Whether you work for an agency, a corporation or a nonprofit, a focus on winning new business is a standard part of doing business.

But putting together new-business proposals can sometimes be anything but standard. Oftentimes it involves team efforts that require integrating a range of information about capabilities and experience, recruiting the right colleagues to provide insights to address certain business challenges, and rushing to compile all this information in snazzy booklets under tight deadlines.

Not surprisingly, many grammar-and-style matters can fall through the cracks when this many people touch this much information under this timeline.

In my role as an editor over the past 15 years, I’ve developed my own list of errors that are prone to arise in these situations, and below are six of the most common to be on guard against.

Mistakes in new-business materials are embarrassing, unacceptable and, of course, detrimental to business. Regardless of how much time you have to pull together a proposal, it’s important to always sweat the details and not settle for anything less than perfection.

1. Would you or will you?
When you describe a proposed course of action, you can use the conditional verb tense (would) or the future tense (will): Our team will start by developing an influencer program to identify the leading players in this space who can best spread the word about Company ABC’s message. The conditional tense is less assuming while the future tense expresses stronger intent, but either is OK. However, it’s easy to inadvertently jump back and forth between these two tenses and create a sloppy-reading section. Remember to keep this verb-tense choice consistent throughout a proposal.

2. Mr., Ms., Last Name or First Name?
When you describe the talents of your team in the bio section of proposals, it’s easy to alternate from a formal style (Mr. Joseph Gillis) to a casual one (Joseph) to one in between (Gillis), depending on how a bio was originally written or what style seems most appropriate for a prospect. Although the use of the first name tends to be a more common style nowadays, be sure to choose one style and stick with it in all the bios.

3. A Company Is Only One
When including case studies in a proposal, a common pitfall in describing past work is to refer to a corporation with a plural pronoun: When Company XYZ launched the product, they needed a way to raise awareness. This reflects the informal conversational style of referring to a person or company in a plural form. In writing, however, remember that a corporation is a singular entity and should always be referred to with the singular pronoun “it.”

4. Parallel Structure
Proposals are usually chock full of bulleted lists, so remember the most common error with bulleted lists is a lack of parallel construction. This error not only presents a grammatical issue, but the abruptness of it can read as sloppy thinking, as this example shows:

We offer a range of services to help clients gain media coverage in these ways:

  • Develop a full-scale media strategy with measurable objectives
  • Relationships with reporters of top-tier media
  • Write content, including news releases, fact sheets and byline articles
  • Media monitoring and coverage analysis
  • Provide media training for a number of interview situations.


As you can see, the second and fourth bullet points read inconsistently by not starting with a verb. Remember, if the first bulleted item is a noun, the rest of the items should be nouns. If the first item is a complete sentence, the rest of the items should be as well. Each item should be a continuation of the first bullet point.

5. Watch Your English
If you’re working on a proposal team that includes both British-English and American-English speakers, be sure to choose one kind of English as the standard and designate a native speaker who can act as a final authority in proofing the use of that English, be it British or American. Although these two kinds of English are generally interchangeable, enough differences exist to cause misunderstandings. Here are just a few issues:

  • In American English, periods and commas are always enclosed in closing quotation marks. In British English, however, only those punctuation marks that appear in the original material are enclosed in quotation marks. American English: “I won’t go,” Norma said. British English: “I won’t go”, Norma said.
  • Americans write the abbreviations Mr., Mrs., St. and Dr. with a period. Britons usually, but not always, write such abbreviations as Mr, Mrs, St and Dr, without a period.
  • In British English, collective nouns that represent groups of people generally take a plural verb, unlike American English. British English: The government are on the right course. American English: The government is on the right course.
  • There are a number of words with different spellings or meanings in each language. Here are just some frequently used words related to public relations to keep in mind, with the American-English word given first and the British-English word second: programprogrammecentercentrecolorcolourperiod (the punctuation mark), full stopanchor (a television news anchor), presenteradadvert.


6. One or two?
Finally, this may seem nitpicking, but inconsistent spacing following the end of a sentence does make a difference. For the record, correct spacing after a punctuation mark ending a sentence is one space – not two. With the large number of people who contribute to proposals, it’s likely that this inconsistency will crop up. Try to enforce the one-space rule. To be sure, this is a minor style issue, but it’s the same as if black text were used in part of a proposal and gray text in another part. It’s small but noticeable. Any inconsistency you can eliminate will make the final product better.

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Who is Peter Shankman?

Our August 18 program, Customer Experience Is Key: Radical New Ways Of Thinking With Peter Shankman, will feature popular author, entrepreneur, speaker and worldwide connector Peter Shankman. He’s a best-selling author, focusing on the customer economy. He’s the founder of Help a Reporter Out (HARO), the world’s largest source/journalist matching tool, and he runs the ShankMinds Business Mastermind Community, as well as Faster Than Normal, a leading ADD/ADHD podcast, focusing on the benefits of being gifted with ADD/ADHD. But if you're still questioning whether or not to attend our event, here are 12 questions to give you more insight on this incredible speaker.  

Tickets are still available to our Aug. 18 event with Peter Shankman. To get yours, click here.

1. First news publication you read in the morning?
news.google.com

2. First job?
Sweeping up fruit at a fruit-stand

3. Most influential career mentor? Why?
Reese Schonfeld - helped found CNN with Ted Turner - Taught me that if I want something, I can't let anything stop me from getting it.

4. Key to superior customer service? Which brands are doing it right?  
Listen. Pay attention. Empathy. Starwood Hotels, Skratch Labs, Safe Catch tuna, Eternal Spring Water

5. Besides ADHD, what’s another superpower of yours?
Sarcasm

6. Top social media, marketing or customer service pet peeve(s)?
Not responding. 

7. Most rewarding accomplishment in your career?
Selling Help a Reporter Out, and the emails I get thanking me for my ADHD podcast.

8. Advice to your 20-year-old self?
It's going to be better than expected. Stay the course.

9. Job you would pursue if you weren’t the ShankMind?
I'd like to own a moped rental store on a Greek Island somewhere.

10. Favorite movie?
Back to the Future, Midnight Run, Point Break (the original)

11. Favorite vacation?
Phuket, Thailand

12. Any three dinner guests?
I'd love to see my grandmother and grandfather again. I'd pair them with Gary Carter, of the 1986 NY Mets. Would be a fun dinner.

 

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PRSA Tampa Bay Launches New LinkedIn Page

By Liz Taylor

Our new Company Page on LinkedIn makes it easier than ever for you to share PRSA Tampa Bay posts with your network to spread the word on our events, programs and important news.

Visit our page now and click Follow in the upper right corner. Then click the arrow next to the Follow box to share our page with your entire network.

While we’ll maintain our PRSA TB Group Page, our Social Media Team launched the Company Page because LinkedIn doesn’t enable group members to share posts outside a group.

What’s the difference between our company and group pages? 

Go to our Company Page to view and share our club updates on events and programs with your LinkedIn and Twitter networks. You can also comment on public discussions there.

Go to our Group Page to share posts, ask questions and engage in private discussions with our Group community – now 930 members strong. If you’re not already a member, simply send a request to join.

Please help increase awareness of PRSA Tampa Bay and our many programs and benefits by engaging with us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Our social media team is working hard so that you can easily stay up to date and share our news with your networks. If you have questions or suggestions about our social media strategy, please contact Crystal Lauderdale.

 

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Tampa Bay Shines at Sunshine District Conference

By Mary Haban, APR

If you work in the field of public relations, you probably remember the exact moment it happened. What started off as a career that sounded like fun, was quickly taking shape into something you actually loved. And somewhere in between all those press releases, pitches and crisis communications episodes you’d rather forget, something magical began to take hold. This passion for the profession we all call public relations became your true calling and you couldn’t wait to share it with everyone you knew.

That’s what motivated more than a dozen PRSA Tampa Bay members to make the journey down to Miami for the 2016 Sunshine District Conference.  And it’s where they would communicate and collaborate with practitioners from across the state, gleaning valuable knowledge that would make them even more engaged in the craft they so love.

The video storytelling session takeaway - one minute of video equals one million words.

This year’s conference, aptly named, “Many Platforms, One Voice” raised the bar on learning, providing the perfect mix of storytelling, social media, branding, internal communications, crisis and so much more. What’s more, it proved to be the one conference many said, offered something for everyone, from those just starting out, to the most seasoned practitioners.

The stunning view from Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay provided the perfect backdrop for this year’s conference.

And while the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay may have been the backdrop for this action packed conference, it was our talented members that shined the brightest.  In fact, many took home highly coveted Radiance Awards, including Tampa Bay’s own Angela Walters, APR. As she took the podium to accept this honor, she shared what this moment meant to her.

And the winner is…Angela Walters, APR beams after her big win for Trailblazer of the Year.

“I’m humbled and honored to be awarded the PRSA Sunshine District Trailblazer of the Year. These amazing PR professionals have become my mentors, confidants and life long friends. I couldn’t be more blessed to have you all in my wolf pack. A special thank you to my PRSA Tampa Bay Chapter family for nominating me.”

Mary Haban, APR congratulates Angela Walters, APR on her amazing win.

To see the full list of Radiance Award winners, click here.

Robyn Felix proves it’s possible to win big, taking home two Radiance Awards.

And if you’re looking to take the ultimate PR plunge, don’t miss next year’s conference hosted by the PRSA Jacksonville Chapter, who plans to take the entire event on the high seas. 

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Let the Games Begin: Correct Olympics Terms

By Joseph Priest, Corporate Writer, Syniverse

The Olympics are almost here, and each biennial competition seems to draw bigger and bigger media coverage than the one before. This summer’s event promises to figure prominently in our communications, and it will be helpful to know some of the ins and outs of writing Olympic terms correctly. To help us navigate these words, below are a few guidelines for some of the most common Olympic terms that we’re bound to come across in the next few weeks.

In addition, the AP Stylebook has created a special 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games topical guide that provides  specific guidance on Olympics terms as well as some helpful facts and figures.

Enjoy the games, and go, USA!

Olympics and Olympic - Both the noun and adjective should be capitalized in nearly all references. Here are the spellings for some common terms (these spellings also apply for the Paralympics and its related terms):

  •          Olympic Games
  •          Summer Olympics
  •          Summer Games
  •          Olympic Village
  •          Olympic flame and torch relay
  •          Olympic opening ceremony
  •          Olympic closing ceremony.


“Olympics” can be lowercased on the rare occasions when it’s used in a generic sense: video-game olympics, arm-wrestling olympics.

Olympiad - This word is often mistaken as a synonym for “Olympics,” and for this reason it’s best to stay away from “Olympiad” altogether. An Olympiad, in fact, is a period of four years that begins on Jan. 1 of the Olympic year. Each Olympiad has been numbered consecutively in Roman numerals that go back to the 1896 Athens games. This year’s Olympics are the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, which began on Jan. 1 of this year.

games - This is a confusing one. “Games” should always be capitalized when used after “Olympic,” but AP style says to lowercase “games” when it’s used alone to refer to the Olympics. However, this is curiously a practice that many major media do not adhere to. Moreover, style guides for such publications as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times conflict with AP style and say that “games” should be capitalized when used alone. The AP’s guideline is the most sound of the two practices and based on a standard capitalization rule, in which the shortened form of a proper noun is lowercased if it’s understood or often used that way as a common noun. (For example, the Empire State Building is properly referred to in shortened form as “the building” but not “the Building”; but an event with a title like 2016 Coast to Coast Rockfest is correctly referred to in abbreviated form as “Rockfest,” because “rockfest” isn’t a commonly used noun. In any case, with the dissension between the AP and other media, writing either “Games” or “games” when this word is used alone is fine: Kim is going to the Games in Rio.

Rio - Acceptable as a first reference for the city, provided that the full name, Rio de Janeiro, is used somewhere in the story, according to AP style. However, in less formal communications, I recommend not even worrying about spelling this out a single time since “Rio” is so common and well-known that there is little chance of it being confused with another name.  

medalist - This word is spelled with one “l” in American English, but two in British English.

medals - The names of Olympic medals are not capitalized: Michael Phelps won four gold medals and two silver medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

events - Likewise, the names of Olympic events should not be capitalized: Ryan Lochte won the men’s 200-meter freestyle in London.

Carioca - This is the name for a resident of Rio.

 

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Member Spotlight: Jenny Blevins

Member Spotlight: Jenny Blevins

Jenny Blevins is a marketing coordinator at Franklin Street, has been a member of PRSA Tampa Bay for more than five years and is the 2016 chapter treasurer, and, in college, held several positions in PRSSA for the University of Nebraska at Omaha chapter, including membership chair.

First news publication you read in the morning?
The Tampa Bay Business Journal. It’s local, and I love reading the “7 ways to start your day” with my coffee.

First public relations job?
My first job was with HNTB, an architectural and engineering firm, at its corporate office in Kansas City, Missouri. It was so interesting to learn about how bridges and tunnels are planned and designed.

Most important career mentor?
I have a few, but I would have to say that my mother and father, who are both doctors at a teaching hospital, have taught me so much about continuing education and never giving up.

Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?
The improper use of “their,” “there,” and “they’re,” and the improper use of the word “therefore.”

Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?
When I was in college with PRSSA, my team won the National Organ Donor Awareness competition – which was a lot of fun and a lot of work! I also have had the pleasure to work with many talented writers and reporters across the world.

Advice to new public relations professionals?
Dip your toes in everything until you find out what you really like, because I found that even when I am not writing articles, press releases or blogs, my writing skills still come in handy for so many other things. Also, it’s OK to be a jack of many trades, and being able to wear many hats is important in our industry because our roles change so often!

Job you would pursue if you weren’t in public relations?
My family owns a scuba dive center in South Tampa, so I would have to say that I would be a dive master off Truk Lagoon or somewhere exotic. With my upbringing and love of sea life, I would also consider marine biology.

Favorite movie?
I love the classic Audrey Hepburn movies and musicals, but I also have the guilty pleasure of watching Labyrinth, with David Bowie, at least once a year.

Favorite vacation?
Recently, my husband and I went on our honeymoon to the springs up in North Florida, where we camped for five days and dived and kayaked. It’s really awesome to live somewhere with such diverse wildlife and so many state parks.

Any three dinner guests?
My three dinner guests would have to be Bob Marley, Robin Williams and Gene Wilder.

Me (left) off the coast of Jupiter, Florida, on a shark dive where we later encountered a nine-foot scalloped hammerhead!

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PRSA 2016 International Conference Scholarship

The PRSA 2016 International Conference is a great opportunity to enhance your personal and professional network, while engaging with some of the world's most influential companies and organizations that call Indiana home. Connect with thousands of colleagues and more than 150 industry experts from all career levels, sectors, work environments and industries for three days of practical insight and networking.

 

PRSA Tampa Bay is offering one scholarship for a member to attend the conference Oct. 23-25 in Indianapolis. To be considered, please complete the application by 12 p.m. on August 12. A selection committee from another PRSA chapter will choose the scholarship recipient and the winner will be notified by August 26.

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Watch Out For These Capitalization Errors

By Joseph Priest, Corporate Writer, Syniverse

Capitalization seems easy – basically, everything should be lowercase except the beginning of sentences and proper nouns – but within these guidelines is room for much variation and confusion. Here are some of the most common pitfalls in public relations writing that professionals should be on guard against.

Academic Majors
Someone can major in public relations, accounting or engineering, but not Public Relations, Accounting or Engineering. This can be a sensitive but important point to address with executives in writing their bios.

Compass Directions
Lowercase “north,” “south,” “east” and “west” unless they’re being referred to as regions:

  • I moved back north because I’m not originally from the South.


When an area is well-known as a region, capitalize it:

  • She traveled from Southern California to the East Coast.


This can be tricky to determine, though, and sometimes it’s necessary to consult multiple resources – such as a dictionary, a stylebook and even a local newspaper – to find out if a region like the western part of our state should be ‘’western Florida” or “Western Florida.” (The former is the most common usage.)

Company and Product Names
The capitalization of proper nouns is one of the most basic principles of English, so unless a company or product that uses creative capitalization is a client, names such as adidas or jetBlue should be written as Adidas and JetBlue. Likewise, company or product names that use all caps, like VISA or NIKE, should be written with just one capital letter, Visa and Nike, because the creative capitalization is considered a decorative element of their logos.

 

Names that don’t begin with capitals but introduce them within a letter or two, like iPhone or eBay, are OK to write in midsentence, but don’t begin a sentence with a lowercase letter. The sentences-begin-with-capitals rule supersedes all:

  • IPhones are on sale.


Job Titles
The basic AP style rule is that a title shouldn’t be capitalized unless (1) it’s used directly before a name and, importantly, unless (2) the title is a formal title, one indicating a scope of authority or professional activity. However, this formal title part can make this rule awfully complex. So after years of trying to clarify the complex nuances of this (as quick examples, “account executive Melanie Ralston” and “janitor Ray Nicolette” include titles that would be properly lowercased because they’re not formal titles), I’ve concluded that it’s the single most confusing one in PR and contradicts a basic instinct in PR – to accord status to organizational leaders. Consequently, in the interest of simplicity, this is what I recommend:

Media Relations
For media relations documents, such as news releases, follow AP style and capitalize formal titles used directly before an individual’s name:

  • I saw Chief Financial Officer Jackie Brown when she visited yesterday.


In other instances, lowercase the title:

  • I hope to see Jackie Brown, chief financial officer, when she visits.

 

Brand Marketing, Internal Communications and Corporate Communications
For these communications, including brochures, newsletters and blog posts, it’s acceptable and even advisable to capitalize these titles both before and after names:

  • Max Cherry, Vice President of Sales, traveled to Singapore to attend the conference.


New Updates: internet and web (ugh)
The usually sound Associated Press recently announced that it officially changed its spelling of “Internet” and “Web” to “internet” and “web.” As I recently wrote, I’m not in favor of this change and don’t find the argument for the lowercasing convincing, but I’m in the minority.   

Do any capitalization rules cause confusion for you? I would love to know.

 

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PRSA Sunshine District Conference: Day 1

A PRSA Tampa Bay team is down in Miami this weekend for the 2016 PRSA Sunshine District Conference, and they’re sharing on-the-scene reports. Here’s their recap of the first day.   

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Greetings from Sunshine District Conference 2016

Several members from PRSA Tampa Bay have headed down to Miami for the 2016 PRSA Sunshine District Conference this week, and they will be sharing on-the-scene video updates from the event. Here’s their first report!

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