Category Archives for Writing

How do you write a press release?

Press releases are not news.

The best press releases read like invitations for a news story rather than the news story itself. They include enough information that can be used “as is” for a short news brief and yet also hint at bigger features.

Remember that bloggers, journalists and other influencers are creators. Keep it simple so that the people using your press release have room to make the story their own.”

Some companies use press releases and blog posts interchangeably, but I recommend keeping the two types of communication separate.

Every press release contains 10 elements

To make it easy on a journalist, make sure that every press release contains 10 elements:

the traditional

  • who,
  • what,
  • when,
  • where, and
  • why, that any news story contains

plus:

  • at least one good quote,
  • a contact person for the journalist to talk to if they need more information,
  • a date for publication,
  • good audiovisuals and
  • a clear delineation between public information and private information for the journalist to use.

Public and Private Portions

Press releases include two parts: a public portion and a private portion. The public portion can and should be used as a news brief. The private portion includes information that helps build a relationship with the author of the press release and the news media, bloggers or other influencers. Press releases that provide enough information for creators to do a bigger story build trust.

Unlike all other written material, writers of press releases want the public portion of their press releases to be copied as is. These items are the single exception to the plagiarism rule. They enter the public domain immediately.

Publishing the private portions of press releases, however, breaks trust. Journalists who release stories before an embargo time, or publish the names of media contacts to the general public won’t get access to press releases in future.

Who

Who are you and why should a journalist believe you? Who does the news your press release features affect?

These are the two who elements that go into the private and public portions of press releases.

Who are you and why should a journalist believe you?

Press releases must clearly come from a credible source.

Business letterhead from a registered company helps make this clear, especially if it includes a public address, public websites, director names and public registration numbers so a journalist can check who runs the company, who owns the property it uses and other such tests of credibility.

Creators, solopreneurs and students without business letterhead can establish credibility by linking to published work or providing a CV or resume for further information.

Who does your news affect?

The public title or first line of a news release should make it clear whether the news affects a single person, a collective or a group of people in the wider public.

Later in the press release, you’ll outline who else is involved in your story. If you quote others, provide clear source information so that a journalist can follow up easily. Consider a joint press release to save journalists time.

Make sure that your press release format doesn’t raise more questions than it answers.

What

Why should the public care about your news?

Make sure your press release makes the public interest clear.

Journalists serve the public interest first. They’re looking to inform, entertain and inspire readers. They don’t aim to improve shareholder value; they don’t want to help private companies sell products; and they don’t want to start trends, even if that sometimes happens. Think of news as accurate gossip. Describe your story the same way you’d tell it to your next door neighbour.

When

Make sure the date and time of your news is extremely clear. Include the year please. Press releases have a sneaky habit of reappearing after they’re stale.

If your news covers multiple times and dates, it’s worth including a full list. We all make mistakes with dates and times. Check the calendar twice.

Where

List the full address with rooms and directions as necessary.

Yes, these days many of us have smart phones, but our applications don’t always steer us properly. The CBC building in Montreal, for example, has an official address of 1400 Boulevard René-Lévesque East. If you’re driving there, however, using the address 1058 Rue Wolfe instead will prevent you from getting lost.

Why

Why is your news important now? Where is the urgent need to inform the public? Why should people think about this issue now? The media cover the present. You can write a press release about something in the past or future as long as you clearly identify why people need to learn about it now.

Quotes

Include one or many good quotes from experts to show the human side of your news. Ideally, you’ll quote the person who cares most so that the public will also care.

Journalist Contact

Provide an email, text and mobile phone number for a person that a journalist can interview about the story. They’re on deadline. Make sure that someone can be reached.

Date for publication

Journalists love to know about stories before they can be made public. Tell them the date that they can publish by saying something like: “for immediate release” or “embargoed until 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 4, 2019.”

Good Audiovisuals

Provide high definition photos, audio or videos via link to an online folder or using a USB key.

Public/Private Delineation

Make sure your press release separates the public portion from the private portion clearly. I use the old-fashioned  -30- from the telegraph days, but others use hash tags or a private note.

Sample Press Releases

I love Blue Met’s press releases. They’re never more than a page and they include everything you need without too much. Most of them aren’t public, but here’s one that’s on their website about the appointment of their board chair.

Santropol Roulant, a local non-profit, has wonderfully-clear press releases. See the one about their new elevator here.

The Canadian Alliance on Mental Health also produces very clear press releases, something that’s got to be a challenge considering how many partners they have. Check out their latest local champion award winners here.

Public companies have to be very careful to make sure that their press releases fulfill public market regulations as well as informing people. CP Rail makes the most complicated news easy to read. Check out their latest debt offering.

Templates

I think press releases are better when you just answer the questions above clearly, but many templates for news releases exist, including those by CanadaOne, Coschedule, Forbes, Hubspot, and  Wikihow.

 

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La Cadie before Evangeline

Ten generations before I was born, and for at least three generations before that, my French-speaking ancestors settled in Port Royal on the Annapolis River.

They probably arrived as colonizers in 1603. That’s when France’s King Henri IV set up “La Cadie” between the 40th and 46th parallels south of the Saint Lawrence River. For a good idea of how they lived, visit the Port-Royal National Historic Site.

Just before, or just after, the birth of François Allard III, his parents left the region for Quebec.

I imagine they refused to swear allegiance to the British monarch.

For at least three generations, French settlers like them fought with local Mi’kmaq people against British settlers in New England. Throughout the years, many cross-border conflicts and trade ship privateering occurred. The worse early incident led to Port Royal’s destruction by fire in 1613. It was rebuilt and skirmishes continued for a century, with the French and Mi’kmaq remaining strong.

Siege of Port Royal

The siege of Port Royal in 1710 marked the beginning of the end of French dominance in the region.

On October 5, 1,880 British and New England soldiers arrived at Goat Island just south of Port Royal in five warships with accompanying transport and bomb galleys. First, they blockaded supplies, food and water from getting into the town. Then they began moving men and equipment into the Annapolis River to get ready to attack the fort. One transport capsized killing 23 men. After that, they moved more carefully, landing safely.

Canons attacked the fort for a week. By the end of the day on October 12, the French gave up. The terms of surrender were signed the following day.

According to the University of Moncton researcher N.E.C. Griffiths, surrender terms said:

that the Inhabitants within Cannon shot of the Fort of Port Royal, shall remain upon their estates, with their Corn, Cattle and Furniture, During two years in case they are not Desirous to go before, they taking the Oaths of Allegiance & Fidelity to Her Sacred Majesty of Great Britain.” [1]

Over the next three years, Port Royal became Annapolis Royal and La Cadie became Nova Scotia. Sometime during this period, my family shed their maritime roots for landlubber status.

1714 Acadian Census

The 1714 Acadian Census shows a family headed by François Allard living in Port Royal with his wife, one son and two daughters. If these are my ancestors, François was either a second son who came later or his birthdate is wrong.

More likely this was a different family.

According to my grandmother’s records, my nine times great grandfather Jean-Baptiste Allard and his wife Anne Elisabeth Pageau had François III on February 3, 1719.

It’s hard to figure out why her records show him as the third person to hold the name “François” with his father clearly identified as Jean Baptiste. She does show his grandfather as Jean François but his great grandfather’s name was Jacques. He doesn’t get it from the other side for sure. The men in Anne Elisabeth’s family were Thomases going back at least two generations.

When did they move to Quebec?

My grandmother’s notes show François III’s birthplace as Port Royal, although I found a family tree online that shows a man with the same name born to parents with the same names in Charlesbourg, Quebec.[2]

Either way, by the time François III got married in November 1741, he and his wife Barbe Louise Bergevin definitely lived in Charlesbourg, Quebec. Their daughter, Marie Louise Allard, would be born on November 3, 1742, at Notre Dame de Quebec. Any links to the shores of the Annapolis River were lost forever.

Meanwhile, Acadians in Nova Scotia refused to swear allegiance to the Queen of Britain. Wars continued in the region until 1758. The expulsion of the Acadians, which began in 1755 and continued until the British Conquest, led to Longfellow’s famous poem about Evangeline and Gabriel.

By then, my ancestors were well-established in Quebec.

We have none of the deported Acadians in the family; only people who originally settled La Cadie.

[1] Griffiths, N.E.S. (2005). From Migrant to Acadian: A North American Border People, 1604-1755, ISBN 978-0-7735-2699-0. University of Moncton, McGill-Queen’s University Press. p235.

[2] https://www.nosorigines.qc.ca/GenealogieQuebec.aspx?genealogie=Allard_Francois&pid=70804

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Can the Lachine East Consultation Restore Trust?

Hundreds of people spent Sunday afternoon on February 24 talking about the 50- hectare plus Lachine East Development at the Maison du Brasseur.

“Finally we have the developers, government and citizens all in the same room,” said Lachine Mayor Maja Vodanovic. “Now we can create the neighbourhood of our dreams together.”

Montreal’s public consultation office (OCPM) organized the open house and information session as the first part in a process that will continue through April 7. This is the first time that a borough and the city have asked for a public consultation prior to a private development plan submission.

Three Commissioners

Three commissioners will be in charge of a report due out next summer. Marie Leahey, a coordinator from the Régime de retraite des groupes communautaires et de femmes, leads the commission. She is joined by cultural manager Danielle Sauvage and Les Tourelles Milton Park cofounder Joshua Wolfe.

Hopes remain high for what might be built on the former industrial land over the next twenty years. Several of the organizations that want to be involved in the project staffed tables during the open house.

Imagine Lachine East

One of them contained people from a new non-profit association called Imagine Lachine-Est, which wants to ensure that the new Lachine East development becomes an eco-district. More than a hundred citizens have joined so far. UQAM urbanism professor Jean-Francois Lefebvre serves as their president.

“I started working with the group as part of an internship, but I’ve been volunteering with them ever since because I really believe in this project,” said Imagine Lachine-Est coordinator Charles Grenier. “Eco-districts are the hope for the future.”

Grenier handed out pamphlets inviting visitors to the group’s Lachine-East summit. Organizers have added a series of talks in English to make sure that everyone who wants to learn about eco-districts can do so. The summit takes place on Saturday March 9, from 9:15 until 5 at the Guy-Descary culturel complexe, 2901 boul. Saint-Joseph. For more information, visit their website.

 

Revitalisation Saint-Pierre

At another table were Inass El Adnany and Vincent Eggen from Revitalisation Saint-Pierre. They asked visitors to complete a survey about their vision for a bicycle path to link Lachine and Saint-Pierre through the former industrial area.

Villa Nova

Yves Comeau from Villa Nova stood in front of his table to talk to everyone passing by. He said that the company looks forward to continuing to develop its land, despite the clean-up costs, which turned out to be much higher than they once anticipated.

We carted truckloads of contaminated soil from the property,” said Comeau. “There’s going to be a lot of clean-up necessary on the rest of the land as well.”

Tensions between the government and Villa Nova have eased since tests discovered that the land had not been properly decontaminated despite receiving certification from the Quebec Environment Ministry. The borough itself tested the land after Vodanovic raised concerns. City, borough and company discussions got so heated that the company went into bankruptcy protection while the clean-up took place.

During that same period, co-owner Paulo Catania faced fraud charges. They were dropped last May. A month later, Catania made more positive headlines with his announcement that half of the Villa Nova units on the Jenkins property sold within six hours of coming onto the market.

Comeau said the company remains confident they’ll be able to duplicate that success on the rest of their property.

Questions to OCPM

During the information session that followed the open house, residents expressed concern and hope. One resident asked how the borough could protect local heritage if they couldn’t stop the recent Dominion Bridge demolition. How does the city justify building 4,000 units in a sector that has few transportation options? How much community and social housing will be built? What about schools, day cares and grocery stores?

The next sessions during the OCPM consultation may answer some of those questions. Anyone interested can sign up for small group design workshops at two different libraries.

You can also present a written or verbal submission to the commission. Written submissions are due in March. Hearings will take place during the first week of April. To register, go to the website.

Note: This article appeared on pages 1 and 11 of the February 27 issue of the West Island Edition of the Suburban.

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Freedom to Read Week in Canada begins today

It’s awesome to be able to celebrate Freedom to Read Week, which begins today.

See this in video here

Do we still need this kind of celebration? Isn’t censorship dead in Canada?

Not all. Did you know that politician Victor Doerksen and 810 others tried to get John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” banned from all Alberta schools in 1994?

Of Mice and Men sits among 30 works that have been challenged in Canada over the last 35 year of this event. You can read the entire list on the Books and Periodical Council Freedom to Read Week website.

Reading about such things surprises me, but it shouldn’t. People are always trying to impose their taste on others.

Canadian creators, librarians and schools set up Freedom to Read Week events to celebrate and encourage the right to freedom of expression. It has taken place in Canada for the last 35 years.

This year, it begins on February 24 and ends March 2.

Initiated by Creator Association Representatives

Freedom to Read Week operates as a project by a committee set up by the Books and Periodical Council. The Council represents creator associations across Canada, including one I’m in, the Professional Writers Association of Canada.

Freedom of Expression matters a great deal to all of us.

At the same time, we do not condone hate literature, something that is illegal in Canada.

Defining Freedom of Expression can be difficult. The Books and Periodical Council uses a joint statement written in 1997 and reaffirmed in 2017 to do so. Here it is:

What is Freedom of Expression?

Freedom of expression is a fundamental right of all Canadians, and freedom to read is part of that precious heritage. Our Committee, representing member organizations and associations of the Book and Periodical Council, reaffirms its support of this vital principle and opposes all efforts to suppress writing and silence writers. Words and images in their myriad configurations are the substance of free expression.

The freedom to choose what we read does not, however, include the freedom to choose for others. We accept that courts alone have the authority to restrict reading material, a prerogative that cannot be delegated or appropriated. Prior restraint demeans individual responsibility; it is anathema to freedom and democracy.

As writers, editors, publishers, book manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and librarians, we abhor arbitrary interpretations of the law and other attempts to limit freedom of expression. We recognize court judgments; otherwise, we oppose the detention, seizure, destruction, or banning of books and periodicals – indeed, any effort to deny, repress, or sanitize. Censorship does not protect society; it smothers creativity and precludes open debate of controversial issues.

Challenged Works

The list of challenged works that someone in Canada deemed offensive includes many works. A diversity of cultural expression works about gender identity, multiculturalism and panoply of other politically-sensitive issues appear.

The nonfiction books among them include:

  • 100 Questions about Islam,
  • Bad Medicine: A Judge’s Struggle for Justice in a First Nations Community,
  • Banksters and Prairie Boys,
  • Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America,
  • La première fois,
  • Lethal Marriage,
  • Noir Canada: Pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique,
  • The Importance of Muhammad,
  • The Star Weekly At War,
  • The Valour and the Horror,
  • The Wars,
  • Three Wishes,
  • Under the Gun: Inside the Mohawk Civil War,
  • Waging War from Canada,
  • Within His Keeping: God’s Embrace of Your Life, and
  • Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Sexual Fantasies.

Demeaning and Profanity

Of Mice and Men fits right in.

The 811 people who signed a petition presented to the Albertan legislature in 1994 claimed that Steinbeck’s classic book “demeans or profanes the name of God and Jesus Christ.”

I can’t argue about the profanity. Consider the following quote from paragraph 62 on Saturday Night.

“I seen hunderds of men come by on the road an’ on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an’ that same damn thing in their heads. Hunderds of them. They come, an’ they quit an’ go on; an’ every damn one of ’em’s got a little piece of land in his head. An’ never a God damn one of ’em ever gets it.”

Not sure how a quote from a fictional character demeans God though. Nor do I agree that that would be a reason to ban a book anyway.

Steinbeck’s work expresses an intense period in American history. It’s also extraordinarily well-written.

Think I’m going to make a point of reading it to celebrate Freedom to Read.

Or maybe I’ll just read Travels With Charlie again. That’s my favourite non-fiction work of all time. Steinbeck wrote it too.

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Johanne Gervais Helps us Research our Ancestors

I had fun interviewing professional genealogist Johanne Gervais for this week’s podcast. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

Becoming a Genealogist

Our discussion began with the question “how did you become a genealogist?”

I became interested in genealogy while helping my husband who retired in 2008. He wanted to write a book about his mother’s family for his mother’s 90th birthday. So I was a little hesitant because he wanted me to do the research on his family. He knew nothing about his mother’s mother’s family past his grandmother. So I did all the research for him up to his third great grandparents including were searching for family stories finding the houses his ancestors lived in the actual establishments they worked in. His mom came from England, so researching his ancestors was a really a good excuse for us to take a trip to England. So we did some research there.

Visiting England

We went there to where his mom was born to the little villages where his ancestors lived. We actually knocked on the doors of these houses and asked for tours of the inside of the homes and the grounds outside. And these people were only too happy to show us around. So this type of research was fascinating. For me, it was like wow you know we can actually visit a home that his great grandparents lived in and see what they did.

After her husband retired, Johanne decided to retire too.

So I left the corporate world of information technology and dedicated myself to genealogical research.

Starting the Québec Genealogical eSociety

Eventually, she founded a new non-profit entity.

My local Geological Society was about an hour’s drive from my home … So I would spend two hours driving. Combined with the time I spent at the society, it was a full day. So that was always a bit of a dilemma for me. And I thought well there must be a better way. The society wasn’t always open when I wanted to do research. So I’m sometimes an early bird and sometimes I like to work late at night. The more I studied my problem, the more I realized that I couldn’t possibly be the only one having difficulty getting into the local society.

Who does it appeal to?

Johanne described her theory of “can’ts, won’ts and wants” to describe the ideal clients for the association.

The “can’ts” are those who can’t visit their local society because maybe it is too far away or isn’t open when they’re available.

“Won’ts” are those who won’t visit a society because it’s not really their cup of tea or it doesn’t heir fit their lifestyle.

The “wants” are those who want more than what the physical society can offer them. They want to have their society open when they’re ready to do the research.

Attracting the Next Generation

So began our discussion about how we might attract younger people to the world of genealogy.

I have four grandchildren, Tracey, and they are all teenagers. A couple of years ago, as I left to go into the to the society or to the archives downtown, my grandchildren would say “Nana why are you going to a library or the Archive Center? Can’t you just do that on your phone? Can’t you do the research through your iPad or your phone?”

This is the next generation that we want to share in our genealogical research. We want them to continue with that philosophy. No other problem was more clear in my mind. Hey wait a minute. There’s got to be a better way.

The Quebec Genealogical Esociety now has members from all over the world. They can access web sites and research their ancestors without leaving the comfort of their homes, and without having to spend hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars to hire a researcher to do it for them.

Membership

How many people belong to the Québec Genealogical eSociety and what do they get as members?

As of today, we have 212 members. And right now we have about 43 percent are French speaking. Tthe majority are Anglophone people who come mostly from the United States and from Ontario and the other provinces in Canada who wish to do their research and research on their Quebec ancestors.

I don’t want people to get the wrong impression here of why it created the society because people who live in the province of Quebec are so fortunate because we have such robust databases for birth records marriage records and death records. And most French-speaking communities have a local Geological Society. Almost every French-speaking community or community in the province of Quebec that I know of has a geological society in their community or very close by. So we are extremely fortunate in the province of Quebec. And my main focus was people living outside of the province of Quebec who could not get here because of  travel and/or the language barrier.

[00:25:21] So we will have a message board soon on our Web site where members can post their brick walls and ask questions to other members. So that’s we’re in the final testing stages right now with our software developer. That’s going to be up any day now hopefully by the end of February. So yeah it’s very exciting because I think for everyone who does genealogical research or our research and their ancestors all of us reach a brick wall somewhere sand they are always asking questions.

Research Consultant Services

What kind of work do you do?

So when I first when I first retired it was like OK OK now what am I going to do? I really like to do geological research. So I applied to various geological large geological firms in them in the United States—Ancestry, Legacy Family Tree and Genealogist.com.  Those three companies provide research facilities for people that want to hire them to do to research their families. So this was this was quite interesting because I received a lot of contracts

I still am working as a contractor for these firms but I really want to orient people towards doing their research themselves versus hiring a researcher. If they’re capable of doing the research themselves. So some people are not capable or are not that computer literate or are advanced in their in their senior years and don’t want to do it themselves.

But for the ones that are capable I really do encourage them instead of hiring me or that they’ll hire me for a couple of hours and else I’ll say here’s how you could do it yourself versus you know me spending 20 hours or more research in their tree for them.

Membership in Association of Professional Genealogists

We then discussed Johanne’s membership in the Association of Profesional Genealogists, an association that’s based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

I joined that association when I first started in 2009 in the early years just so I can learn more about how to professionally and research for a client and how to do my sources and how to write research reports. So I’ve been to Salt Lake City multiple times for the Association of Professional Genealogists conferences to learn more about how to improve my research skills.

Johanne and some of the other members are in the process of creating a Canadian chapter for the Association of Professional Genealogists.

We really don’t have an umbrella group in Canada to help genealogist research or to answer questions. You know if people in the in Nova Scotia have questions about how to research in Nova Scotia or you know British Columbia we don’t have an umbrella organization that can help genealogists in various aspects doing research in different provinces or doing a state researching which is forensic genealogy. That kind of thing. So we’re hoping that we can create an umbrella group for all of Canada where genealogists can join and then we can share our expertise and say okay here in Quebec this is what we do and somebody in Saskatchewan will say well in Saskatchewan you know here’s what we do.

Do you consider yourself a Canadian?

I think first and foremost I consider myself to be a Quebecker. I was born here in Quebec as were my two brothers. My parents were also born here but I haven’t lived in Quebec all my life because my dad was in the Canadian Armed Forces. So we grew up in various places across Canada. Recently my parents retired in Nova Scotia.

Truly I’m a Quebecker, but I do consider myself a Canadian.

Living in various towns across Canada really showed me the expanse of the country and how culturally diverse we are. We’re so open to different walks of life, from religions, politics and interests. Being in these different towns and going into different schools …I had to go to different schools and must have changed schools five or six times. People are so darned friendly to each other no matter what province or town we lived in.

Retracing her husband’s father footsteps during World War II

In 2011 or 2012, the couple dedicated a 47-day journey to follow her husband’s father’s footsteps during World War II.

We started from Pier 21 in Halifax where my husband’s dad’s regiment left to go to Europe and he actually didn’t go to Europe right away. The ship went to Iceland. So we went to Iceland we followed. We had researched the regiment in detail as to where they went and we followed exactly where the regiment went all the way throughout World War II. So we went to Iceland we went to Scotland we went to England and France.

His father became a prisoner of war and he spent three years in prisoner of war camp. Johanne and her husband went to Germany and Poland where his father was incarcerated for three years to visit the locations of the prisoner of war camps.

And what I wanted to say here is that in every country we went to once people we met knew we were Canadians. They embraced us as if we were long lost members of their family. It was just so emotional. And by embracing, I mean you know they actually physically hugged us and kissed us and said ‘thank you thank you’ for the role that Canadians played during the war. And they would invite us to their homes. They would show us around their town … it was so very emotional. And I’ve never felt ever so proud to be a Canadian.

Two Military Histories

Johanne’s husband, Michael John Laekas, wrote a book about his father and his father’s life during World War II. The couple also produced a book about three brothers who served during World War I

Note: This episode was brought to you by Kobo. If you’re a Canadian reader, and you want to join Kobo, you can use my affiliate link and get $5 off while getting me a $10 credit on my account. You can also order Michael’s books via the links below and I’ll get a commission.

 

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