Getting your news out: In brief

??????????????????O???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????If your business or organization has news to report or an event to promote, you have a vested interest in getting the word out effectively. Based on 25 years of writing, receiving, and editing news releases, here are a few tips for reaching your intended audience.

We’ll start with a very basic news release — something that will end up as a news brief in print or online or a short announcement on the air. How to construct a more detailed press release — one the media can actually use — will be covered later.

1. Email is the best way to submit news to media outlets; you can find email addresses on a newspaper or TV station’s website. Also look for a “Contact Us” or “Send Us Your News” link.

2. Keep it short, complete, and businesslike. If you’re announcing/promoting an event, all you need is two or three sentences.

Here’s an example of a fundraiser announcement:

The Dirty Nails Garden Club will hold its seventh annual plant sale fundraiser 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 9 at Central City Park, 123 Whatever St. Several varieties of petunia, begonia and geranium plants will be available for $7.99-$12.99. For more information call (000) 000-0000 or visit http://www.dirtynails.org.

This fulfills journalism’s required four W’s and the H: Who (the garden club), what (the plant sale), when (10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 9), where (Central City Park), why (fundraising for the garden club) and how (people can find out more by calling the number or visiting the website provided). Leave out one of these, and the recipient may contact you for the needed info. However, he or she may well just delete it rather than take the time.

Here’s a business example:

Acme Auto Parts Corp. will hold an open house 1-4 p.m. April 18 at its new location, 5555 Commercial Road. This is Acme’s third Fort Wayne-area location and has an expanded selection of windshield wipers. Free windshield wiper inspections will be available at the open house on a first-come, first-served basis. To learn more, call (000) 000-0000 or visit http://www.acmeautoparts.com.

3. Good photos catch my eye and help spark reader interest. If you have a really good photo or two from last year’s garden club sale or of the new store, include it. In the email, include the names of all people in the photo, from left to right, if you have them.

4. If you are sending your email to more than, say, two or three addresses, send the message to yourself and put all of the email addresses in the bcc field. The more people on your email list, the more important this is. Don’t make your recipient scroll down past a long list of other recipients to get to the actual message.

Coming up: Build a better press release.

Write from the heart

“It’s surprising what you can hear in the silence of a relationship with someone who has passed,” Kathy Curtis writes in “Invisible Ink: The Journey Beyond Words” (2007).

Kathy kindly gave me this book (Word and Spirit’s first review copy!), which basically continues an epistolary conversation with her mother. The two had written letters back and forth for years. “There was nothing profound about what we wrote,” she says in the prologu51Qf-OTJR8L._AA160_e. “We just wrote.”

Then Kathy’s mom was diagnosed at age 60 with cancer. The letters stopped as the two of them, along with the rest of the family, coped with pain, morphine, grief, palliative care and, three months later, her death.

Despite her mother’s physical absence, Kathy began to write to her again. Being accustomed to channeling her experiences into creative endeavors, she knew putting this difficult journey into words would be therapeutic — but she didn’t know how much strength she would gain from doing so. “I also didn’t know that I would begin to get a sense for what Mom’s spirit might want to say back to me,” she wrote.

The letter from Kathy to her mom details their final three months on earth together, from her mom’s cancer diagnosis to the hawk that flew with the funeral procession. Anyone who has cared for a loved one in the dying process will be able to relate to the pain, frustration, and sweetness described here. Then comes the energy shift — of the person as he or she moves to the other side, and of those left behind as they navigate life without that person. Or is their loved one still there in some way . . . but how? How would they know? Is anyone, especially a parent, ever really gone?

Kathy and her father and sisters began to inexplicably sense their mother’s presence — they’d suddenly smell her perfume, see her in a dream, or see a cardinal and just know something out of the ordinary was happening. Then a lost ring had Kathy looking up at the sky while gardening and saying, “OK, Mom, I know you can help me more now than ever — help me find the ring!” Seconds later, there it was on top of a pile of compost.

This story segues into the next part of the book, in which Kathy’s mom has her say. In our logical and linear world, it may be hard to believe that someone who has died is still present and communicating with us. That is, until experiences like these make us tune out the world’s chatter (and our own) long enough to listen.

Kathy’s mother describes witnessing her own funeral, her delight at still getting letters from her daughter, and her own feelings about her illness and passing. There is growing wisdom and perspective from this higher plane. There are references to her dancing days in high school — poodle skirt, saddle shoes and all.

Naturally, she devotes significant attention to her family’s grief, offering comfort and the assurance of her continued love and presence. “I’m glad you drove down to Indianapolis to spend Mother’s Day with Dad,” she tells Kathy. “It was nice to see you in church, especially knowing you wouldn’t have gone if it weren’t for me. (I might even get some extra points for that around here. Ha!)”

Mom also firmly counsels her daughter to let go of her own expectations about how her mother’s earthly life should have been. “I know you mean well, but it’s not for you to say what purpose my life had,” she says. “There’s more to my story than you’ll ever know, and goodness knows, you’ve got enough to figure out about your own life.”

And the hawk that flew with the hearse? Birds are messengers, Mom explains. They travel between worlds: “All you have to do is pay attention and open your heart, and whatever message they have for you will find its way in.”

Time in a bottleneck

“The Time Keeper,” by Mitch Albom (2012)

Who divided up the days into hours, the hours into minutes?
How could they really be that smart?
Who divided up the minutes into seconds?
They must have had a broken
Must have had a broken heart

— Joan Osborne, “Who Divided”

In Mitch Albom’s latest novel, we meet the guy who divided the days into hours, the hours into minutes, and so forth. He ended up with a broken heart.

Young Dor, living at the dawn of humanity’s history, invents numbers and counting. He mitchalbom.comfigures out how to mark the passage of time with a shadow, stick, and stone. As he grows older, marries his beloved Alli, and has children, he becomes consumed with catching shadows and measuring water. He invents the first clock and calendar.

That’s when it gets complicated.

His childhood “frenemy” uses one of Dor’s sun sticks to try to defeat the gods and gain power. This forces Dor and Alli into exile, leaving their children in the care of others. When Alli dies, an anguished Dor ends up imprisoned in a cave where he will not age a moment. The only thing he can do is listen, for eternity, to the voices of everyone on earth asking for more time.

Well, not quite eternity. After thousands of years, Dor (aka Father Time) is freed with a magical hourglass and a redemptive mission to help two particular people understand the gift of time. Sarah is a teen girl of high intelligence and low self-esteem. Her sense of time crumbles along with her heart when the boy she likes does not like her back (or even treat her with basic decency or respect). Victor is a self-made billionaire who is used to getting what he wants. When his cancer is deemed untreatable, he seeks immortality in science — by making secret plans to have his body frozen for revival centuries later. Sarah and Victor don’t just need Father Time’s intervention. They need each other in ways they’ll discover only when the paths of all three converge and difficult choices are required. The last part of the book is somewhat reminiscent of Scrooge’s life review in “A Christmas Carol.”

Time happens. It passes. It’s a gift from God, and a precious one at that. At the same time, it’s an earthly construct. Or more accurately, its measurement and manipulation are our doing and not God’s. That’s what Albom seems to say in this fast-moving (or did it just seem that way?) read.

Albom, like me, comes from the world of newspaper deadlines. Much more rides on time in fields such as emergency medicine and firefighting. Apart from this — what if we let go of our need to cram as much activity or accomplishment into every minute, hour, or day as possible? Or our need to treat time as if it doesn’t matter because we think we don’t matter? We might find peace we didn’t know was possible in this lifetime.

“All in God’s time.” It’s a tough concept in an impatient age . . . but definitely worth considering.