It’s not what you know … or is it?

What is media relations really? Is it having access to an Internet-database of thousands of reporters and editors worldwide? Is it maintaining strong relationships with local, regional and even national media contacts? Or is it scouring the newspapers, magazines, Internet sites, TV stations, radio stations and all the other outlets out there, until you find a reporter you think would be perfect for your pitch?

To answer that, let me take you back to Auburn University, in the Haley Center for Rick Smith’s Mass Communications class.  On the very first day of this 8 a.m. class, Rick said, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know. Now, I, and your other professors will teach you the ‘what,’ but it’s up to you to find the who.” It didn’t hit me that day, but today I understand media relations is a compilation of the ‘who’ and the ‘what.’

The ‘who’ is obviously the reporters, editors, anchors, blog writers and hosts. As PR pros, it is our job to know to whom we are pitching our ideas. Schroder PR prides itself on having strong media contacts. Now, that’s not to say that on my first day at SPR, Chris called all the reporters he knew and had them come greet me at the office. I did – and am still doing – the legwork, too. I have met reporters and editors through the firm and my colleagues, through clubs and organizations in which I am involved and even by Tweeting them a request to meet for coffee! I also utilize our subscription to the database of thousands of reporters to find which beats reporters cover and how they liked to be contacted. If we get a new client in a realm in which I’m not familiar with the reporters covering that beat – I turn to the ‘what.’

Part of the ‘what’ is knowing what the ‘who’ is writing. As Bailee wrote in “Reader of the News,” we are constantly reading publications, websites and any other news sources out there. Only once did I make the mistake of pitching to a reporter whose work I had never read. It was about a month into my career at Schroder PR, and I blindly pitched a reporter at the AJC. I basically told him that I hadn’t seen a lot of stories about construction lately and he should write one about my client. He (very politely!) told me he was disappointed that I felt like he had not written about the field, when he had just completed a three-part story about Atlanta construction. Like I said, only once did I make that mistake – I was mortified. Fortunately, I learned from my mistake and now read and pitch said reporter frequently.

Another part of the ‘what’ that I’ve learned at SPR is having a complete story and messaging. We know what is and is not interesting, and so do reporters. Don’t pitch reporters with weak or boring subjects, especially if those boring subjects aren’t timely! Watching for trends gives you the ability to possibly “latch” your pitch on a topical news event – just make sure you stick with your client’s branding messages!

Lastly, I think the ‘what’ is also ‘what could go wrong, will probably go wrong.’ It really doesn’t matter if you’ve taken all the right steps, know every single reporter in the world and read nonstop – there are still going to be those times when your story is trumped by another news event. As you’ve read in our part of our crisis series, like “Unfortunately, we’re easily reminded that crises occur daily”, crises are inevitable, and that’s what the reporters, producers and editors will need to cover. So, I guess part of the ‘who + what’ can be luck and following up. I don’t send a release and then call them to be sure they received it – please, please – don’t ever do that. But, I do follow up with reporters that show interest in stories.

So, does Schroder PR get hired for media relations based solely on our relationships with reporters? No. Do we get hired because we subscribe to every eNewsletter and paper, and read/watch/listen to as many outlets as we can? I don’t think so. I think we understand that media relations is, simply put, not only about who, but also about what you know.

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Why That Journalist Isn’t Responding to You

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Jan Schroder, Editorial Director of Schroder Public Relations and Managing Editor of Travelgirl magazine.

Yes or no. Why don’t they just respond to me?

That’s one of the top complaints PR people have about journalists and it’s no wonder. We all hate to be ignored – just ask that poor boiled bunny in “Fatal Attraction.” You spend time crafting a great pitch and sending it to them. So why can’t they just send an email telling you whether they are interested or not. It just takes a few seconds, right?

As someone who works in both journalism and PR, I can tell you exactly why they are not responding to you. And what you can do about it.

Yes, you have heard that journalists get a lot of email and that’s their answer to why they don’t respond to all the pitches they receive. Maybe that just seems like an easy excuse.

Let’s just do a little math here. A lot of journalists, me included, receive more than 300 emails a day. Let’s say we spend 15 seconds looking at one to see if it’s relevant to us, then another 15 seconds responding to the sender that we’re not interested. That works out to a whopping 2.5 hours a day that we have accomplished nothing towards getting our work done.

Another thing to remember is that most journalists are working with constant deadlines – some up to three or four each day with online updates. They have to remain focused on meeting those deadlines. And that can mean less time to respond to pitches such as yours.

This was a hard reality for me to swallow. I was raised as a well-mannered Southern girl who promptly writes thank-you notes following every occasion. Why honey, it would just be so rude and tacky not to! So I initially tried to respond to everyone who emailed me. Then I realized I could either take the polite route and nicely answer everyone. Or I could take the professional route and actually get my work done.

That’s just the reality, I’m sorry to say. So what can you do about it?

Do your homework before you send out a pitch. If you are targeting a few journalists in particular, spend a few minutes checking out their publications and what types of articles they write. Read their listings on Cision or on whatever database to which you subscribe. Follow them on Twitter – they may give an indication on what stories they are working. I work for a women’s travel magazine and in the past few days have received pitches about a cigar-smoking package at a hotel and pants for garbage cans.

Don’t take it personally. Remember that old “Sex and the City” episode when Carrie counseled Miranda on why her date didn’t accept her invitation to come up to her apartment. “He’s just not that into you,” she said. A simple concept in the dating world and one that is applicable in the business world as well. If a journalist is not responding, chances are good that he or she is just that into your pitch. It’s not personal.

Follow up, but only to a point. Yes, it is possible that in that massive, relentless sea of emails journalists receive, your perfect pitch got overlooked. But how you should follow up varies by each journalist. That’s the tricky part. I don’t mind a follow-up email asking me if got their press release or the occasional (short) phone call. But a lot of journalists would rather pick up a hissing rattlesnake than answer a follow-up phone call and they will more often than not respond poorly.

I wish I had a magic solution. Journalists and PR folk may often have an uneasy alliance. But we need each other to do our jobs.

I’ll close by paraphrasing a line from the bestselling novel spawned by that ”Sex and the City” episode by Greg Berendt, “He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys.”  (I switched out the word men for journalist.) “When it comes to journalists, deal with them as they are, not how you’d like them to be.

Jan Schroder is Editorial Director of Schroder Public Relations and Managing Editor of Travelgirl magazine.

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Social Media Gaining on Search Engines

How did you find this blog?

An analytics report for this site will show you were most likely brought here by Google, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. If not one of those, perhaps it was Yahoo, Pinterest, or Google+.

A year or two ago, the traffic directed from social media channels couldn’t hold a candle to what search engines were bringing in to websites. Now, Facebook and Twitter are juxtaposed with Google and Yahoo for top site referrers. It seems the totalitarian structure of the Internet is changing and social media may be a viable contender to overtake the search engine throne.

A recent post by Buzz Feed titled “Where did all the search traffic go?” explores changes in website traffic. BuzzFeed tracked traffic referrals to more than 200 publishers in their network that include more than 300 million people globally. They found that traffic from Google dropped more than 30 percent from August 2012 through March 2013 and search engines in general dropped by 20 percent in the same period.

BuzzFeed's graph illustrating traffic sources

BuzzFeed’s graph illustrating traffic sources

While search-engine-directed traffic decreased, site traffic did not. Traffic from all social media channels combined grew by 25 percent for the site. In March 2013, BuzzFeed found that Facebook sent 1.5 times more traffic than Google – the largest increase they have ever seen.

Additionally, over the past 12 months, BuzzFeed’s “Dark Social” traffic increased by 52 percent. “Dark Social” is a term that was coined in The Atlantic last year that refers to site traffic directed from a text message, instant message, email, etc. that can’t be tracked like a mainstream social media platform. It may not be traceable, but it’s social traffic.

Despite the impressive numbers, the increase in traffic from social media doesn’t mean search engines are obsolete. Increased social traffic proves the influence social platforms can have on users and implies that users’ online experience can be directed from friends and connections on social media as much as it can from highly intelligent Google robots.

If you need more proof than BuzzFeed’s analytics and presumptions, look no further than the introduction of Facebook’s Graph Search. With users spending increasingly more time on social media, Facebook took the user experience one step further allowing users to search for answers based on their network of friends’ online activity and behavior. The new feature makes it easier than ever for social media users to connect and base their answers – and decisions – on their social community.

As BuzzFeed put it, “We aren’t hunting for content as much as we are foraging from what’s right in front of us.” Whereas people may have once been led to food blogs by searching for a recipe and ingredients online, they are now led by their friend’s Facebook post, Pinterest board, or tweet. Similarly, you were most likely directed to this blog from Facebook, Twitter, or an email than from typing in “public relations blog” as a Google search term.

That’s not to say you wouldn’t have found this blog if you typed that in – but in the world of social, people may be taking less time to type in search terms and decide to read what’s sent to their inbox or included in their newsfeed.

- Bailee Bowman

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Some people may run from investigative reporters … but I think they’re nice.

At a recent event, I had the opportunity to speak with Fox 5 I-Team Investigative Reporter Randy Travis. You may have seen his stories on the air – a lot, like the one below, resulting in doors being slammed in his face or people running from him.  Personally, I enjoyed our conversation. He even gave crisis communications advice, which happened to be the same advice we give to our clients!

Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Or click here to read the whole story.

Crisis communications is needed in each industry. Unfortunately, preparing for a crisis isn’t on the top of the to-do-list, usually until you’re smack dab in the middle of it. When the news crew comes to ask questions, no one is prepared and – as seen in the video above  – some people’s first instinct is to run away or say the dreaded, “No comment.”

At Schroder PR, we offer Crisis Communications Support for our clients. We train them to be prepared for reporters, negative social media attention and even internally, with employees and other stakeholders. We’ve handled all kinds of crises, for existing and new clients, and while we can support you in most stages of the crisis, it is in your best interest to be proactive.

While talking to Mr. Travis about which kinds of stories he likes to work on and about the story that earned him the Atlanta Press Club Awards of Excellence nomination, I told him that we frequently referred to his work in our crisis management presentations. He seemed surprised! As we were talking more about it – the drink line was very long – I told him some of the advice we frequently give clients.

Then it was my turn to be surprised. He relished the advice we gave and asked me to continue spreading the word. If you thought reporters liked having clips of persons-of-interest driving off in their Mercedes or running into dark rooms and slamming the doors … well they do. However, they also want to hear your side of the story and, when they do hear a well-planned, logical response, often present a much more balanced story, if they air the story at all.

If you’d like more information about how you can start being proactive with crisis management, or just to hear the advice that Randy Travis thought was so excellent and fitting, give us a call.

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Social media proves it not only connects, but can be a matter of life and death

The horrendous news events that transpired over the past week unfolded before our eyes on the very same online channels that may have brought you to this blog. It is a reminder of the still underestimated impact of this digital medium.

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Schroder PR Account Coordinator Bailee Bowman

If you’ve watched TV news in the past week, you saw the constant coverage of the devastating Boston bombings as well as the tireless pursuit of the bombing suspects. If you were on social media this past week, you saw the same thing – but at a faster pace.

The Boston bombings have topped the charts as an example of how a tragedy can play out on social media. Online users kept each other updated to the second on the events and, as new information was available to reporters and Boston-area spectators, new information was posted on social media.

Following the bombing, more than 500,000 tweets with the hashtag #BostonMarathon were collected by a research group from Syracuse University and geotagged by location. The research team found approximately 200 tweets sent from the scene of the Boston Marathon bombings between 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. ET.

The #BostonMarathon map allows users to click specific areas of the city and display.  what was being tweeted from there. See the full map: Tweets from Boston.

The #BostonMarathon map allows users to click specific areas of the city and display what was being tweeted from there. See the full map: Tweets from Boston.

Photos of the crime scene circulated on social media channels and vigilantes-of-sorts began to identify suspicious individuals. When Watertown, Mass., police hunted down a confirmed suspect, journalists and residents live-tweeted the police activity from the scene and kept their viewers/followers informed of every move.

This saturated, unfiltered coverage eventually led to as much, if not more harm than good. Social media users made false accusations after examining photos and made up false headlines to try to take the lead in reporting. Those watching the situation unfold from afar experienced an information overload from reporters and bystanders who were revealing police tactics and possibly putting in danger a successful arrest of the suspect.

Suddenly, the medium that served as a watchdog, alerting the country of tragedy, became an unpredictably wild dog in the overall story. Social media has had a tremendous impact on previous events, but this time the FBI intervened. In a press conference, the FBI warned the country that only official information released by its organization should be considered as credible and to assume that all other information was not.

Maybe you weren’t aware of social media’s impact before, but with the FBI stepping in to dispel rumors, it is clear this digital medium had unleashed more power than the ability to tell friends, family and followers what you are eating for lunch.

At Schroder PR, I manage social media accounts for a number of clients. While I’m writing a press release or blog post such as this one, I also have an Internet window open on my computer screen and, out of the corner of my eye, I watch the aggregating of our clients’ social media feeds. In fact, it was with such a glance out of the corner of my eye a week ago Monday that I first saw the word “bombing,” breaking the news to me of the terrorist attack.

The impact of social media isn’t new or surprising to PR practitioners. So it is still somewhat surprising – although very welcomed – when clients ask us why it’s important to be on social media.

In future social media presentations, I’ll remember to refer to this past week to demonstrate the impact social media channels can have. It was an example of not only how powerfully social media can engage others but also how quickly the unfiltered medium can take a turn for the worse. As we tell our clients, social media needs to be managed and we are able to train our clients on the importance of a successful crisis plan.

While social media started out as a means to engage friends and family, it’s incredible reach has since been utilized by businesses, organizations and government officials to harness the innate desire of the public to communicate with others.

The diversity, reach and opportunities social media provides are everything PR practitioners dream about. Statistical research tells us that you may have found this blog post through the same search engine or social media channels that broke the news of the Boston bombings.

While many are still skeptical of the importance of social media in our lives, it is irrefutable that social media played a major part in our nation’s coverage of last week’s terrorist attack. That proves to me that the same channel of communication that drives traffic to business blogs such as this one, is also giving people vital information that could be a matter of life and death.

 - Bailee Bowman

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Reporting vs. Writing

A friend once told me there are two types of journalists: those who care about the story, and those who­­­ care about the writing. Very rarely do the two overlap.

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Cara Hebert, Media Relations specialist at Schroder PR

In journalism school, I cared only about the story. I assumed editors would always fix my writing, but the story could make me famous. Too often, to break the story as soon as possible, I left eloquence by the wayside.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To some extent, journalism needs writers such as this.

But after working at a newspaper for two years, I realized journalism schools are pumping out people by the hundreds, who care only about the story. Everyone hopes they have the next big scoop, but very few actually have the means to write it. (And those who do are too expensive for newspapers to employ.)

The story was always important, but impact was often lost in translation with grammatical and structural errors. I read stories where the reporter didn’t know the difference (or just didn’t care) between the words were and we’re,, affect and effect, ex. and i.e., and so on. But worse, I read stories where the reporter spelled a single person’s name differently 10 times.

I find it hard to imagine that John Updike or Gay Talese ever made such grave errors.

Recently, I made the switch to PR and it hasn’t been easy. I crossed the fence, as they say, to the “dark side.” I am now the pitcher instead of the catcher. While there always will be a great divide between journalism and PR, I think both sides can agree on the importance of story telling.

Previously, I operated under the same notion as many other journalists and thought PR was just a series of twists and spins that covered the reality of the hidden story. I foolishly overlooked the search for truth in the PR profession. Since switching, I’ve  discovered the lessons that PR has to offer.

Similar to journalists, good PR professionals research their stories to the fullest and put the most important facts first. I’ve always heard of spin, but I haven’t witnessed it yet. What I do see is the search for great storytelling. Both journalism and PR hope to stay relevant by focusing on timely and newsworthy stories. Both strive for the utmost transparency.

The main similarity I discovered in both PR and journalism is presentation is everything, whether it’s a story or a pitch. A respectable article loses credibility if a top source is spelled wrong or if it contains multiple verb tenses in the same sentence. The story is important and the grammar and structure should honor that.

Whether or not either side acknowledges it, PR and journalism have a symbiotic relationship. PR professionals hope to coax a story while journalists try to write a fair one. Writers in both fields strive for the perfect balance of story and style. It’s hard to attain and easy to blame the counterbalance.

Both industries look at the other’s job as easier. But, done well, neither is.

— Cara Hebert

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Visiting PR clients in person should be an easy task, but sometimes it takes that old Southern charm

Common sense would tell you that clients who hire you as their PR consultant would want to meet with you face-to-face on a regular basis, but we’ve learned that isn’t always the case. Sometimes you just have to knock on their doors – several times – and take food.

I’ve found the magic mostly happens when you are meeting with clients in person and we have many clients who enjoy meeting regularly. It’s after those unscripted moments when we agreed to discuss one topic, but migrate to another, more interesting one that we sometimes walk away with more creative assignments than when we entered.

We have even been hired for projects by some clients whom we’ve never met, as they were located in other cities or countries. For them, occasional phone calls, emails or even a video conference supplanted the need to meet in person.

And then we have had clients who were just to busy to meet.

One hired us to launch several campaigns and paid us for months before they were able to meet with us. We were handcuffed, not able get started until they provided us needed information, in person. My team huddled weekly, devising creative ways to break through our client’s schedule.

Suddenly I remembered back to the 1990s, when I used to publish a printed neighborhood newspaper and PR firms would, unannounced, appear at our downtown Atlanta office door with press releases, product samples and, more often than not, tasty food. Reporters and editors love to eat, but they don’t like to feel they are being “bought” with food. But this being the South and we being gracious, the editorial team would quietly meet with the visitors, impatiently paging through their documents while the advertising and production staffs devoured whatever goodies they brought.

“Food,” I told my PR team in the huddle. “We must take them food.”

So we got up early the next morning and went by our neighborhood Einstein’s Bagels and ordered a dozen hot bagels, cream cheese and coffee and charmed our way into the office of the marketing contact who had proven especially elusive.

For other clients who were equally reluctant to meet but were located in suburban office parks, we offered an upgraded version of that same strategy. These two clients were always too busy to meet, continually refusing our requests to go out for coffee or lunch or to join us at a weekend Falcons football or Braves baseball game.

PRedsLogoSo on two separate occasions, we called our buddy Chip Garner, who cooks up what we think is the city’s best barbecue and brunswick stew over at Pappy Red’s on the Westside of Atlanta and ordered lunch and blackberry cobbler with tea and lemonade for several dozen employees who we knew were working away inside my clients’ offices. We gave the clients one day’s warning and showed up early, filling their buildings with irresistible aromas. One by one, the employees wandered in and grabbed lunch. Finally, the handful of executives whom we had specifically targeted drifted in and sat down with us for nearly 45 minutes, talking about how we could get things back on track.

Nevertheless, at one of the clients, the president never did actually sit down with us or eat our lunch, though he did stand nearby and chatted amiably with us until he was called away for a phone call. As the rest of us enjoyed our blackberry cobbler, I told the marketing executive I’d prepare a plate for the president and take it to his office so he wouldn’t miss out on the good Q and Stew, but she warned me not to bother.

“He doesn’t eat,” she said. “He just works.”

And on that day, at least, he also met – with us.

– Chris Schroder

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In PR, we are always looking for the next big thing. After the past few weeks, I’m convinced you are looking at it.

Public Relations professionals are ever diligent about placing their clients in forums that best present their offering to a potential customer audience. We especially appreciate a platform that allows us to control our clients’ message. And we are always vigilant about ensuring our clients are aware of new communication platforms that are emerging – it seems – each day.

While social media gets a lot of the attention these days, the best PR work is usually seen in a longer form such as blogs, essays, white papers, columns and op-eds. Add to that list this relatively new medium you are now reading.

I’m referring to Thought Leadership, these sponsored content columns presented on the right side of SaportaReport’s Weekly Update and on each page of its website. It’s a relatively new concept that positions brands and clients alongside entries from respected journalists, providing an opportunity to attract an ever increasing audience.

SaportaReport introduced this new concept in January 2012 and so far, it’s proving to be a very successful new platform for several participants – including our own PR firm. I know firsthand that two of the Thought Leadership sponsors are experiencing spectacular growth this year and, while their success might be attributed to several smart marketing investments, I believe the consistent presentation of their views in these columns is adding a great deal of impact and value.

Last week, I received a call from a prospective client who had been considering hiring a PR firm for years, but had never made the move. When he opened up the SaportaReport Weekly Update and read the journalism columns, his eyes wandered over to our PR column. He clicked through, read through several past weekly entries, picked up his phone and called me to invite me in to talk later that same afternoon. We had a very productive meeting and he’s now considering a proposal to engage us on an annual basis. All because of our Thought Leadership column.

It’s not the first time this has happened. Another prospect called a few weeks ago and said his firm had been considering engaging a PR firm so when he asked his team for recommendations on whom to call, his colleague had just received his Weekly Update, saw our firm’s name and recommended it.

If you are a PR firm and seek to ensure your clients are taking advantage of new opportunities, I strongly recommend you to present this new emerging platform. Not only do your clients get to share an audience of 14,000+ recipients of the Weekly Update and 50,000 unique visitors to the SaportaReport website – they can “own” a topic exclusively.

This exclusivity is especially attractive to our clients who mine for consumers each day in competitive industries and find that writing a weekly column in Thought Leadership offers them an unfettered opportunity to present their offering directly to potential clients.

As SaportaReport grows in stature and influence, your clients’ opportunities will as well. So take the lead and explore this new medium for your clients. Secure their topic before a competitor does. I believe you’ll agree, it’s the next big thing.

For more information about Thought Leadership opportunities for your client, contact Cara Hebert, cara@saportareport.com or Jeff Cochran, jeff@saportareport.com. Or contact me at chris@schroderpr.com.

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We are into interviewing season, but much of our intelligence is gathered before we ask the first question.

Although we interview qualified candidates for our PR firm year-round, our email inboxes get especially full this time of year as another class of public relations students approach graduation time.

Much of our intelligence work on prospective teammates is completed by just looking at the documents a candidates initially sends us.

When a résumé comes in by email, our fingers linger above the delete button, ready to press it should we find any of these items in the included documents:

Typos and grammatical errors: If the candidates can’t properly edit the first document they send us, they’re toast.

Signs of mass email distribution: If the email or letter is addressed to “Hiring Manager” or “HR Department” or “To Whom it May Concern,” then we know the candidate never researched our company before pressing “send.” So we press delete.

Self-centeredness: If their introductory narrative is all about what a job at our firm can do for the applicant and his or her career, then we figure another firm can accommodate their needs.

Verbosity: if a student in college can’t condense his or her brief history into one page, then we know they won’t meet our firm’s mission to develop “Clear Messages in a Cluttered World.”

Too standard of a format: if the résumé looks as if it was produced in a factory and uses the same old template, then we discern our candidate has little creative flair.

Too many fonts: some students seemed to have discovered the font (typeface) menu for the first time as they prepare their résumés. Fonts are meant to balance each other and to work in harmony, not to madly compete for visual attention. If you only had one font on your computer, it still provides for creative manipulation of features including size, alignment, spacing, kerning and variations of the big three: bold, regular and italic.

No Grade Point Average: If you are trying to hide it, it only causes us to have to ask for it. You don’t have to be top of your class as long as you have a logical explanation for what you did with all of your time in school.

Bad document name: If the résumé document itself is named “PR version,” then we know you aren’t focused on our industry, but instead are casting a wide net.

No work history: you don’t have to have internships with other PR firms, but having no work history at all is a sign we’ll have to train you on a lot of basics. We once had to advise a young employee of the value of showering before coming to work!

So that’s just a list of what we can discern from looking at the résumés. You can imagine what we find when we type a candidate’s name into Google! We’ll save that for another posting.

– Chris Schroder

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One of my favorite holidays: National Grammar Day

March 4th was National Grammar Day – did you not celebrate? The day serves as not only a celebration of language, but also as a day to raise awareness of what it means to write and speak well.

Schroder PR Account Manager Sarah Funderburk

I’ve written about my grammar qualms in a prior post in PR 101, but I think this day is cause enough to bring up a few more. At Schroder PR, we take an AP Style quiz before our staff meetings twice a month, so I’ll use some feedback from those to begin.

Firstly, adverbs have to be one of the most wrongly used parts of speech. For example, bad versus badly is surprisingly confusing. Sometimes I want to use “badly” because I think I need an adverb in my sentences, when I should simply be using, “bad.” For example, “I feel badly about that.” That sentence could be interpreted as meaning your sense of touch is bad. So, remember: when you’re sick, you feel bad. When you’re remorseful, you feel bad about it. Bad should not be used as an adverb, and it doesn’t lose its status as an adjective in a sentence such as, “I feel bad.” Such a statement is the idiomatic equivalent of, “I am in bad health.” (I’ll save, “I’m good,” and “I’m doing well,” for another day. )

Another mistake that I didn’t realize was so common until I was asked about it last week – using apostrophes in inappropriate places. I’ve noticed that people love apostrophes. Have you ever seen this: “90’s?” Why would the ‘90s be possessive? You should either write it as “the 1990s,” or “the ‘90s.” Apostrophes indicate possession or are used in contractions, but they do not denote plurality.

Who and whom are another example of words that are habitually interchanged, but it’s actually a fairly easy rule to remember. “Who” refers to the subject of a sentence, and “whom” refers to the object of a sentence. (Just in case you need a refresher: a subject does something; an object has something done to it.) Dr. Ed Williams taught my Journalism 1100 class at Auburn and taught us a trick. If you can answer the question with him, use whom. If you can answer the questions with he, use who.

Let’s try it. (Who/Whom) will we listen to tonight? We will listen to him. In this example, “Whom” is appropriate. (Who/Whom) will accept the delivery? He will accept the delivery. In this example, “Who” is appropriate.

I only have a few final thoughts before I let you get back to celebrating National Grammar Day. “Canceled” has and will always have only one “l.” The number of people who spell that one word wrong is absurd. And lastly, “adviser” is AP’s preference in all cases of the word. The “or” spelling should only be used if it’s in a formal title or recognized certification. I’ll bet that is the first time some of you have read that rule, but it’s in there.

Hope you all had a wonderful National Grammar Day! I can’t wait until next year! In the meantime, please share your list of annoying grammatical errors you see regularly.

- Sarah Funderburk

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