Tag Archives: journalism

From particle physics to parts of speech

What a universe we live in.  And now we’re one step closer to understanding how it all began.

This was the big news out of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, for people who think about things like why matter has mass (hint: it’s not because you supersized your meal). We’re talking really big. As in the Big Bang theory of our existence.

It’s a Higgs boson or at least looks like a Higgs boson to be scientifically accurate. It’s the key building block to, well, everything – what the universe is made of and how it works. Rebecca Boyle’s blog in POPSCI simply explains this discovery so we all can get “Higgsy” with it.

ATLAS Experiment © 2012 CERN

I love science. In seventh grade I aspired to become the next Madame Curie, complete with a lab in the basement of my family’s home in Germany. My dad, a Major in the U.S. Army, was stationed in Frankfurt to continue his quest to help save the world. I had ideas of doing something for the universe. Not unlike my life as a fourth grader when I made a Paper Mache solar system. There was space to explore even if the gravitational force caused Jupiter to drop from my bedroom ceiling and roll across the carpet.

And then I discovered a power very different from gravity or proton smashing. It was the power of words. Literature class. Tenth grade. Words could move, dance, provoke thought. They gained mass and power as the sticky surface of creative thinking pulled them together into paragraphs and chapters. A literary boson field.

I left my gumdrop DNA model and headed to the language laboratory to diagram sentences and better understand what makes them work. I discovered Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style a little book with a big lesson in writing.

The Elements of Style is emphatic. Write with vigor. Use active voice. Create sentences that are vivid, specific and concrete.

Consider Strunk’s Rule 17: Omit needless words. “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

White refers to rule 17 as “sixty-three words that could change the world.”

In 2011 TIME magazine named The Elements of Style one of the 100 best and most influential nonfiction books written in English since 1923 (the year TIME began). My yellowed, dog-eared copy has followed me from newsrooms to my office at Franco – a loyal golden word retriever. TIME’s 100 list also included A Brief History in Time by physicist Stephen Hawking.

How perfect – parts of speech honored alongside particle physics.

Both world changers.

Do you have a favorite proton or pronoun? Particle or participle?

Maria Leonhauser is president of Franco Public Relations Group. She can be reached at leonhauser@franco.com. Connect with Franco PR Group on Facebook and Twitter @FrancoPRGroup.

Taking the leap from journalism to PR: 4 tips that translate

Photo by sskennel

Everyone finds his or her own path to the PR world. For me, the road was winding. My career began not in public relations like many of my co-workers here at Franco Public Relations Group, but in journalism.

I found my way into the public relations field after more than a decade of covering news and entertainment here in Detroit. Over the years I worked with talented PR pros both locally and nationally and more than a few suggested I try my hand at public relations.

In 2009, I finally took that leap and joined my first agency. Not a day goes by that I don’t still use the skills I learned in journalism school and mastered in the newspaper business. Four of the skills that translate into the day-to-day work we do in public relations include:

  • Master the art of writing – Strong writing skills will take you far in any career, but they are especially important when communicating with reporters, drafting press releases and sharing your clients’ visions clearly and concisely with the appropriate audience.
  • Research and interview like a pro – In PR it is crucial that you gain the trust of your clients and the media, and that you are proficient in seeking out the most newsworthy information to promote. A good reporter has honed these skills by researching and interviewing trustworthy sources. A smart PR pro knows how to use them to her advantage.
  • Be a walking AP Style guide – Editing copy is just as important as writing it. In PR you’ll be expected to know AP Style as well as any reporter. By creating media materials with all of the elements a reporter needs, written in a style adopted by the industry itself, you’ll have an important edge over the competition.
  • Deal with deadlines and switching gears – In the agency world you could be answering one client’s question one minute, posting to a social media site for another client the next and pitching the media on behalf of a third client just seconds later. You have to know how to balance and complete multiple tasks on tight deadlines and with finesse. Having a reporter’s background can help. When you’re used to finishing multiple stories on the fly and finding the appropriate sources at a moment’s notice, the busiest PR circumstances are much more manageable.

Those are just a few of the ways my reporting background serves me well in business. Can you think of other skills that translate from journalism to PR? We’d love to hear about them. Share your thoughts in our comments section.

Stephanie Angelyn Casola still carries a reporter’s notebook. She is a senior account executive at Franco PR Group. Reach out to her at casola@franco.com, @StephCasola on Twitter or Facebook.com/StephanieAngelynCasola. Call 313.567.5048.