An Executive Director's point of view


April 25, 2017: Flash or content?

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
Know your audience preferences when designing publications, and be sure to strike the proper balance between flash and content.

Don't be seduced by flash. Your publication may end up like a cocktail table book or magazine that looks pretty but is agonizingly difficult to read.

Here are some problems to avoid:

1. Copy that is a hodgepodge of short blurbs and images, as if it had all been dropped on the page and printed without first being organized.

2. Long titles and intros printed in all capital letters, which makes it more difficult to read.

3. Little or no distinction between editorial and advertising, so one may be mistaken for the other.

4. Paragraphs on the same page - and in the same article - in different colors and fonts. It looks like a mess.

5. Columns that are too wide.

6. Or, columns that are much too narrow.

7. Photos and images standing out more than articles.

8. And printing them over text, so the text cannot be read.

9. Little boxes of text scattered across photos and pictures - seemingly unconnected to anything.

Visuals should enhance the appearance, not dominate it.

If you actually want people to read the content, don't go overboard on the flash.

June 29, 2016: Just the (real) facts

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
A recently published book about a Chicago neighborhood listed the wrong date for the election of an Alderman on whose staff I served. And I found other factual errors in the book, as well.

Unfortunately, those types of mistakes are not uncommon.

Sometimes, they are the result of an absence of fact checkers.

But those errors may be allowed to exist because some authors or publishers just don't think it matters.

The adage, "You can't believe everything you read," is becoming truer every day.
Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
If you are considering replacing your printed publication with an online version (which is not always a good idea), don't gently ease into it.

If you decrease the number of printed and mailed issues, reduce the size of each issue, or divide specific types of information between print and electronic publications, people who like print may get used to not reading everything they used to read.

So, when you make the switch, many will have already learned how to get along without you.

If you go ahead with the switch (and, presumably, you will have determined that doing so will be worthwhile), do it while people still value the publication and rely on it.

Make them think that reading the online version will be a necessity, not merely an option.

April 27, 2015: Publishing mistakes

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
It's too easy to make mistakes when reviewing publishing contracts. Hire an attorney to review them for you.

April 17, 2015: Write good

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
Here is the lead article from a major newspaper:

"Officials say a suspect seen beating a man with four others hit a 23-year-old Columbus police officer with a vehicle Wednesday near Matilda Lane Apartments."

Did this person use the four others to beat the man?

Lesson learned: If an association displays poor writing in its published works, many people will assume the same, low level of professional expertise exists in the group's other programs.

December 24, 2014: Misinformation

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
When publishing association historical information, always be sure that what you publish is correct.

Solicit the same info from more than one person and review documents that were written at that time. Individuals often remember events differently, and they don't always recall facts correctly - even when they were involved in the reported activity.

Once you publish something, it will be cited countless times in the future and be treated as an accurate accounting of what occurred.

So, get it right.

July 17, 2014: Do fonts matter?

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
Yes, they do.

Read about it here - and don't miss the part about the "gutter test."
Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
A newspaper reported that somebody had developed a "staff" infection. The correct term is "staph" infection. ("Staph" is short for "staphylococcus").

That is not a minor error. It shows that the writer didn't know the proper term and that nobody checked what had been written.

Before you publish anything - a blog comment, email message, newsletter article, etc. - proofread it and make sure the words are used correctly and that spelling and grammar are correct.

September 02, 2013: Advertising snafu

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
Everybody makes mistakes - but not like this one.

A recreational facility ran a full page, four-color ad in the magazine of a metropolitan daily, and included pictures of six events it would be hosting in the coming months.

The ad displayed the name of the facility, but not its address nor the town in which it was located. The telephone number did not include the area code, despite there being six area codes in the metro area in which the publication circulated.

The web address did appear, but that's not enough. Other information should still be complete and correct.

I wonder if anybody proofed the ad before it was published.
Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
It's usually association members - often different ones on each article in each issue. And associations like it that way. They don't want the same bylines displayed repeatedly. They want to showcase their members and make it clear that everybody is welcome to write for their publication.

But is that always the best practice?

Many members are poor writers and must be heavily edited. Others have difficulty meeting deadlines. Some submit already written articles that may not fit the editorial schedule of the publication.

Quite a few editorialize instead of report.

Sometimes, associations establish general themes and select volunteers to identify specific topics within those themes for articles. Those volunteers may also recruit people to write the articles.

But volunteers often choose topics because they want to write about them. Or, they recruit experts who state their views without reporting the opinions of practitioners. Those comments may be suitable for sidebars but aren't always appropriate for complete articles.

It may be better for associations to recruit a pool of volunteers who can be given assignments and will write what they are told to write about.

Volunteers can be chosen because of their writing abilities and can be tested on small articles. If they write well, report well, and meet deadlines, they can be assigned feature articles or even be given regular columns.

Publishing quality content may be more important than showcasing members.
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