blogging

To Be, or Not to Bee?

By Jennifer Kuenzer, TrizCom PR

Let's eat, grandma.jpg

I am a staunch proponent of the Oxford comma. I am rabid about the proper use of their/ there/ they’re; too/ to/ two; and you’re/ your. I bristle when I see “at” at the end of a sentence. But I do not call myself a “grammar queen” or some other variant – because I work for a company that employs a terrific editor (Hi, Allison!) who looks at my work and tells me where I have made errors according to the AP Style Guide, the resource used by the national media, as well as more general grammatical errors I incurred.

Even without being a grammar queen, I have always felt using proper language and grammar is important. I read Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss when it came out in 2003 and applauded almost every page. But I am not grammar or punctuation-perfect and still find myself mixed up on occasion. So many rules! I often turn to grammar websites. There are many, and while they do serve similar purposes, they communicate in different tones. I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorites. Each of the following sites has something about them that sets them apart from the others. But all have the same goal in mind – making you a better writer. Because whether you are writing a casual blog or putting together a formal proposal for a client, grammar counts.

The New Yorker: Comma Queen

The New Yorker’s Mary Norris hosts a series of short videos, clearly titled and cleverly presented, on everything from when to use affect vs. effect to pronouns for your pets. For any professional who finds themselves stuck on a rule they forgot or never quite learned in the first place, Comma Queen is a great and entertaining way to refresh your knowledge base.

Grammar Girl

This award-winning site is incredibly accessible. You can find it on all the social media sites. You can subscribe to the RSS feed or the podcast. You can even download the Grammar Girl app on your phone. Mignon Fogarty is the magazine writer, technical writer and entrepreneur behind Grammar Girl. Her lessons are short, easy to recall, easily put into practice and aimed at making you a better writer.

Oxford Dictionaries

The Oxford Dictionaries website has an uncluttered, easy to navigate grammar section. It’s all there and right at your fingertips: grammatical terms, proper grammar explanations and handy grammar tips. Coupled with the dictionary and a synonym finder, it’s an invaluable one-stop resource.

Grammarly

Another award winner, Grammarly is a grammar platform that can check your documents in real time, offering not only corrections to spelling and grammar, but also word choice and style mistakes. There is also a plagiarism checker that compares your uploaded texts against over 8 billion documents. It’s no replacement for an editor (nothing is), but it is a solid tool that will help you improve your writing.

Edited by Allison, who deleted the Oxford commas according to the AP Style Guide. Sigh.

Stealing Focus

By Dana Cobb, TrizCom PR

HIYA, ONLINE BLOG WORLD! I don’t know about most of you, but I am woefully unsophisticated when it comes to technology. For being in the field of communications, something about technology befuddles me.

What I do know is what I hate. Pop-ups. Pop-ups that steal focus. It’s like being photo-bombed right on your computer screen. A bit of trivia for you: “Stealing focus” is actually the technical term for when a program window spontaneously appears in front of others.       

It’s annoying, intrusive and literally can slow operating systems to a halt. Stealing focus came to the forefront with the introduction of Windows XP in 2001. It has been determined that focus stealing can be due to malicious programming by developers or buggy software or operating system behaviors that need to be fixed.

Roger from Fix It Fast Computer in Dallas told me that “It’s not possible for Windows to block all programs from stealing focus and still work properly. The goal here is to identify the program that shouldn’t be doing this and then figure out what to do about it.”

Now I’m not going to get all esoteric here on a blog, but that seems like some universally good advice.

You see, the implications of stealing focus are often not felt by the stealing but rather the audience.

We, as consumers, citizens and somewhat intelligent human beings, have seen focus stealing become rampant through the media that we utilize every day on behalf of – and sometimes, in spite of – the client or organization we work for. We are competing with malicious “programs” and buggy “software” (or in our case “who”) trying to steal focus.

But here’s the thing:

You don’t need to steal focus if you can just arrange for someone to give it to you.

Yup. It’s that simple.

You don’t need to steal focus if you can just arrange for someone to give it to you.

 

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Clown Class

By Jennifer Kuenzer, TrizCom PR

I taught myself to juggle. Really juggle. Not because I decided it would be fun to frustrate my uncoordinated self by tossing, tracking and catching three beanbags through the air in a continuing circular pattern, but for a circus skills class I was taking. After weeks of what felt like constant failure, not only did I learn how to juggle, but I also learned how to take a fall and to ride a unicycle. Yes, those are all stunts, but the fundamentals of clowning taught me how to keep my cool and be ready for anything in my day-to-day life. Consider:

I’m fine. Totally fine.

I’m fine. Totally fine.

  • Pratfalls. How to get knocked on our keisters and get up again like nothing happened. The big secret is to remain aware: anticipate, relax and keep your knees bent. You get knocked down and you fall into it, and treat it like a bounce. Before you know it, you’re back on your feet. Sometimes you get a little bruised, but it’s nothing you won’t recover from. Real world application: If you anticipate change, you’re more prepared for it when it comes. So you fall into it. You make the necessary adjustments to deal with whatever happens, you “keep your knees bent,” meaning you stay flexible, and a great bounce back makes everyone think maybe you had it planned all along.
Me for the first two weeks of the unicycle unit.

Me for the first two weeks of the unicycle unit.

  • Riding a unicycle. It’s all about balance, obviously, but it’s also about knowing the importance of support. Without my fellow clowns, I would never have been able to get on the unicycle in the first place, and without a nice strong wall, I wouldn’t have been able to stay up long enough to find that balance, let alone use it to propel myself down the hall and wobble make my way back up again. Real world application: Finding your balance takes time, patience and support, but it pays off big-time in team morale and personal strength.
I never did get to this level. Few do.

I never did get to this level. Few do.

  • Juggling. You start with one ball. You pop your wrist and send that ball from one hand to the other. Catch, release, catch, release. Add the second ball, repeat. Add the third ball. And fail for weeks while you try to keep all three in a rotation where you are aware – at all times – of where each ball is as you keep them in motion. The first time you get a good rotation going, you feel on top of the world! And before you know it, you drop them and you’re back to square one. This is the danger zone: you want that success again so badly that you get frustrated, push too hard and go too fast. The key? Focus and breathing. Recognize it is a process. You will drop a ball. Pick it up, start over and don’t beat yourself up. Frustration will only slow you down, and you want to get to where you can move from beanbags to hoops, to bowling pins, to steak knives(!). Real world application? Easy: focus, breathe and don’t rush. You’ll get there faster than you think.

No joke – some of the best experiences I’ve had in the professional world had a groundwork laid in clowning. So if you’re feeling frazzled or stuck, why not grab a few beanbags on the way home and teach yourself to juggle? Fine, maybe you already know everything about focus, breathing and patience; maybe you just need new way to de-stress that really works, and juggling does … Especially once you get to those steak knives.

 

Why Heroes For Children Is My Passion - In Honor Of National Childhood Cancer Month

By Jo Trizila, President & CEO of TrizCom Public Relations

Every person, every business has a reason for choosing their nonprofit partner. Let’s face it: one has to be choosy when picking a volunteer activity (whether it’s a board of director’s seat, charity gala volunteer or organization volunteer). We have only so many hours in the week that we can spare outside our family and work commitments.

I met the founders of Heroes for Children when I was a young 30-something-year-old with little financial resources but I did have connections and nonprofit experience. I took a meeting with Larissa and Jenny, Heroes co-founders, to see how I could help them. The timing wasn’t good, and I was already over committed to other projects – but I never forgot about them. Years would pass, jobs would change, situations altered and now I find myself on the board of directors for the second year and Heroes for Children has become TrizCom’s one and only pro bono account.

Heroes for Children provides financial and social assistance to families who have a child with cancer. Sometimes we help pay mortgage payments, give gas cards, pay for a prom dress, give a 6-year-old a birthday, supply a teenager a laptop so they can keep up with friends and schoolwork while undergoing treatment, or it might even be to pay the expense of banking a teenager’s sperm cells so one day he might be able to have biological children of his own. Unfortunately, we are also the organization that families come to when they have lost a child and need help laying them to rest.

I have stayed awake late at night trying to figure out how to do more for Heroes. I have wept because of our kiddos with Heroes. And I have never smiled more than with the work we do with Heroes. In short, my passion lies with Heroes for Children, and it is deeply personal.

When I was 13 years old, in the middle of my 7th grade year, I developed a brain abscess that was considered inoperable. My parents had just changed insurance and the company denied coverage, stating the abscess was a preexisting condition. Following emergency brain surgery and months in the hospital to treat the abscess, I contracted hepatitis. After the hepatitis, I developed aplastic anemia from a drug given to me to treat the brain abscess. The only cure for this disease was a bone marrow transplant. At the time, 1985, there were only two hospitals in the United States doing this “experimental” transplant, and we were lucky enough that Baylor Hospital was one of the two. Once again, insurance denied coverage – this time because the transplant was “experimental.”

As a 13-year-old, I had no idea what stress my parents were absorbing. As a mother today, I simply don’t know how they faced each day. The brain abscess was inoperable, and I was told that my odds of coming out of surgery were very, very slim due to the location. My odds of surviving an experimental bone marrow transplant were just as low. Bills upon bills upon bills piled up. I was critical most nights, and either my mom or my dad would stay with me while still trying to run their travel agency business and care for my younger brother. To help, they flew my grandmother in to stay with me during the day. My poor brother was left with friends for most of 1985.

During the darkest days come some of the brightest memories. Our church at the time, First Presbyterian Church of Richardson, unbeknownst to us, took up a special collection one Sunday. They came to the hospital and gave my parents a check for a couple thousand dollars with no strings attached. My parents, to this day, say that it was like someone handed them a million dollars. I have experienced firsthand how the generosity of others impacts a family’s life.

So fast forward 30 years. I feel like I am able to give back to the hundreds of strangers who helped me and my family back in 1985. No one ever wishes a child to be sick. No one ever plans for a child to be sick. But thank God there are organizations like Heroes that families can turn to in their darkest days.

I think what hurts me the most is that we are not able to help every family that needs us. There is so much more we can do. Our average gift to a Heroes’ family is a mere $750. There have been times when we lose one of the kiddos we’ve helped and it literally takes a little piece of your soul each time. These are the days when I crawl into my sleeping daughter’s bed and hold her tight.

Cancer SUCKS. It SUCKS even more when it happens to an innocent child. Cancer doesn’t care if you are black, brown or white. It doesn’t care if you are a millionaire or if you are living below the poverty line. It doesn’t care if you have insurance or you don’t. When a child has cancer, it is a crisis for the entire family. Your normal life is now turned upside down, and you have a new normal to learn. A life of treatments, short-term and long-term side effects, tests, procedures, transplants, trials, caregivers for your other children, and the list goes on and on and on.

You hear this all the time: you really don’t understand a parent’s love until you become a parent, and boy, no truer statement has ever been made. A parent’s love is unlike any other love I have known. You are your child’s protector, you are her fighter, you are his voice, you are her nursemaid, and when you can’t be…. well, that’s the definition of true, honest, gut-wrenching, hopeless pain. At Heroes, we frequently hear stories that a mom or dad lost their job because their boss made them choose between spending the night with their scared, terminally ill child vs. coming into work. Or the mom who had to move to a major city so her baby could get treated and still had to figure out how to pay her mortgage/rent back home.

So this is why I support Heroes for Children. No family should EVER have to fight this alone!

When you go home tonight and are in the middle of evening chaos (trying to cook dinner, answering the cell phone, telling someone to get off the iPad and do their homework, letting the dog out…), stop for one minute and imagine if today, you were one of 43 families who were told that your baby has cancer. What would you do? Would you be financially prepared for such a diagnosis? Would you have a network of supporters? Would you be stable enough to fight this battle? Honestly, I don’t think I would be – but you do what you have to do for your children. What I do know, my first call would be to Heroes for Children. 

For the families we help and for the thousands we simply don’t have enough money to help, please consider a recurring $25 gift a month with our Heroes for Children from The Heart Monthly Giving Circle. Think about it – that’s less than six Starbucks coffees a month. Your donation will help fund a computer, a mother’s groceries, a dad paying to keep the electricity turned on. It makes a real difference. We see it every single day. Please go here: http://www.heroesforchildren.org/get-involved/from-the-heart-monthly-giving-circle/.

TrizCom PR is proud to donate Heroes for Children public relations. Here are a few of our favorite Heroes’ stories:

You may be thinking, why is this blog on a public relations site? Well, part of our job as PR folks is to tell our client’s stories to targeted publications. You read this entire blog post, yes? Your awareness and consideration is higher for Heroes for Children than it was before reading the story, yes? This is true because you read a story. Storytelling is a great tactic in any public relations strategy.

At TrizCom PR we tell our clients that an effective story has transparency, is authentic, has a human interest angle, provokes emotion and contains visuals.

As the king of marketing, Seth Godin, says, “Marketing is storytelling.”

Everyone has a story. Let us help you tell your story.

#TrizComPR #StoryTellingandPR #MarketingIsStorytelling

An editor’s viewpoint from both sides

By: Allison Pless, TrizCom PR

I can’t speak for other editors, and this may just be a weird quirk on my part, but one of the things that I enjoy about editing is the wide variety of topics I get to read about. I also appreciate a well-written piece.

Whether you’re with a PR firm or are an individual writing your own press releases, don’t skip on editing.

That means, at the very least, having someone other than the person writing the release look it over. You can catch some obvious errors that way, such as an extra or missing word in a sentence or an incorrect word choice (for example: here, hear).

As a former editor of a community newspaper who received dozens of press releases and media alerts on a weekly basis, I quickly learned which PR agencies or individuals sent items that I wouldn’t have to spend much time on. Often times, I was primarily editing to make the information fit in the space we had.

What makes a difference to an editor? Following are my top pet peeves:

  1. Have your work edited. If you’re the writer, does your PR agency have someone who is responsible for checking written materials before they’re sent out or posted? This isn’t exclusive to press releases and media alerts. Don’t forget about websites and other digital media. It only takes one misspelled word, a missing word, etc., to create a potential problem.
     
  2. It’s not one and done. After an editor has reviewed your release, read it to see what edits were made. Not just for grammar and punctuation, but also wording changes. A sentence may be edited so that it reads better or makes more sense. Most importantly, it may be corrected to meet AP style guidelines. If you have standard language that is used for a particular client in everything that goes out for them, make sure you incorporate those changes into future work. Don’t keep sending an editor pieces that need the same wording changes over and over. If necessary, explain to the client why their wording was changed. Top Peeve
     
  3. Be natural. What you write needs to be easy to read and comprehend. Think approachable. It isn’t necessary to sound stiff and formal and use wording that doesn’t come naturally in everyday speech. While you want to avoid lengthy run-on sentences, paragraph after paragraph of short, choppy sentences doesn’t flow either.  
     
  4. Too much information. Find the balance between including enough information to gain someone’s interest and sharing too much. As a rule, a three-page release is going to be too long. Most news is written with Joe Q Public in mind, and an overload of detail is a turnoff

An editor is tasked with making sure your written words are grammatically correct and properly punctuated, that they convey your message in a clear manner. Failing to have releases and alerts edited, and sending out sloppy work, could make the difference in whether your news is even given serious consideration. The devil is in the details.

Allison is the editor for TrizCom Public Relations

From national industry leaders and Dallas-Fort Worth’s largest companies to startups and growing enterprises, TrizCom PR provides public relations and social media services to a wide variety of businesses encompassing startup, healthcare, lifestyle brands, B2B, energy, tech, entertainment, food/beverage and beyond. TrizCom PR has a dynamic track record of local, regional, national and international media placements on behalf of its clients that, if monetized, would equal hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2014 and 2015, TrizCom PR has been named in the top 25 of PR Firms by Dallas Business Journal. TrizCom PR is a Certified Woman Owned Business Corporation (NWBOC). For more information on TrizCom PR call 972-247-1369 or visit www.TrizCom.com.

Allison’s contact information:
O: 972-247-1369
E: Allison@TrizCom.com