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COM 300 - Writing in Communication (3 CREDITS) Spring 2016 Office Hours: By appointment Email: rkrichardson@wsu.edu MATERIALS & ...

Thursday, March 31, 2016



For these weeks, we will:
  • Watch the award-winning documentary "Art & Copy"
  • Learn the basics of ad copywriting, including creation of headlines, sub-heads and call-to-action copy.
  • Learn about "value propositions"
  • Continue to review AP style
  • Press release writing assignment - due April 1
  • Ad copy assignment due April 15
  • Read the following chapter:
    • 20: "Journalism and Public Relations"

Video: Art & Copy

Today in class, we'll watch the video "Art & Copy."

This film focuses on the work and wisdom of some of the most creative and influential advertising professionals in our time. Be inspired by the masters of persuasion who share the tips and tricks of their craft in this outstanding documentary.

Creating Good Value and Unique Selling Propositions

Are you familiar with the concept of a value proposition or unique selling proposition (USP) in advertising?

Per Wikipedia: 
The USP is a marketing concept first proposed as a theory to explain a pattern in successful advertising campaigns of the early 1940s. The USP states that such campaigns made unique propositions to customers that convinced them to switch brands. The term was developed by television advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates & Company.  Today, the term is used in other fields or just casually to refer to any aspect of an object that differentiates it from similar objects.

These are clear statements that help consumers identify the unique and most appealing value of your product or service.

They explain:
  • How your product/service solves problems and/or improves a situation
  • What benefits can a consumer expect from use of and/or exposure to your product
  • Why is your product a better choice vs. your competitors?
Thus, writing a good value proposition or USP can be tricky unless you are clear on what your audience is looking for!

Some great resources and examples:
Can you think of an example value propositions for the following brands?
Remember: A value proposition or USP is NOT the same thing as a slogan! 

Advertising Assignment - Due April 15

Congratulations! Your agency is handling the advertising for a new restaurant!

Using the information provided in the link below, students will need to create an advertisement that includes art and copy (headline, sub-head, body of text) for presumed placement in The Seattle Times daily print newspaper.

For the artwork, you may use Photoshop or an electronic paint/photo program or simply cut-and-paste the ad together on paper using photos and printed text. There are several free image sources that you can use to procure your graphics, including Creative Commons Image Search.

As a disclaimer, please be aware that some of the best ads actually have very little copy! We'll review some examples in class. However, this exercise is about ad copywriting -- so we'll use a strategy that has at least a paragraph of supplemental ad copy to your design and layout.

As a supplement to your mock ad, you should also turn in separately a brief description (2-3 paragraphs) of your marketing challenge and strategy.

See the link below for the full assignment:

Writing Ad Copy

When writing ad copy for a print or web outlet, you'll want to consider how much space you have to work with. Your character count and copy length will be greatly determined by the design and layout of your ad.

In print, your copy typically includes the following:
  • Headline
    • A short, eye-catching burst of copy that usually is no more than one line 
    • In some cases, it may even be a fragment of a sentence or clever phrase 
  • Subhead (optional)
    • If room allows, this is a secondary headline that adds more context to the headline
  • Body of text 
    • This is longer explanatory text (if room allows)
  • Call-to-action
    • What do you want someone to do? Call a phone number? Visit a website?  Click a link for more information? 
Don't forget that the ad will also likely include a logo, product shot and/or other graphics and photos. How will the copy be positioned relative to the images? What about white space? Make sure your ad isn't too cluttered with images and text by ensuring that there is adequate white space to add "breathing room" for your design.

Related Link:

Creating Great Ad Copy

D&AD has assembled a few videos that will help you improve your writing:

First, we'll start with clarifying what a copywriter does:

Learn how to fine-tune your writing in under one minute:

Here are three award-winning examples of writing for advertising:

Examples of Ads (Print & Web)

Looking for inspiration? Check out these links to example print and web-based ads:

Thursday, March 10, 2016



For these weeks, we will:
  • Review the hard and feature news/press release format
  • Practice writing ledes for press releases
  • Discuss and identify problematic press releases
  • Re-write of second story (optional) - due March 11
  • Complete your third writing assignment - due March 11
  • Press release writing assignment - due April 1
  • Read the following chapter:
    • 20: "Journalism and Public Relations"

News Release Assignment


Using the information provided in class, please write an original news release about Women In Need Victim Services (WIN). For this assignment, you should also include an appropriate headline to accompany the actual release. If you feel it is helpful, you can also write a sub-headline (optional).

Please note that the handout might include more information than needed in the final release that you create. You are to use the provided information as source material, but do not cut-and-paste the information directly into the release as the wording must be your own. You will need to re-write the provided info and assemble it into a news release. Pay special attention to the lede, which should reflect the newsworthiness of the announcement so that the media will recognize the value of the release.

Want to use a formatted press release template?  Microsoft Word also has templates available. See this link for a few.


WORD COUNT: Approximately 400 words

Problematic Press Releases

The links below represent two pages of a recent press release that was sent a few years ago by a real PR company. I was shocked to find that it contained at least one grammar and/or spelling error! It also has some AP Style problems. Proof read this release for any problems and tell me what you find!
So, what makes a BAD news release? CopyPress has rounded up eight ridiculous examples of press release fails. Take a look at these examples so that you don't make the same mistakes!
Here are some examples of problematic press releases cited in the above article:

Introduction to News Releases

Are you familiar with the news release format? PR practitioners typically issue a news release to journalists and other audiences when they have an announcement or significant news development for their client.

A good press release requires that you quickly and clearly communicate the news value of your company's announcement to the media outlets that you target.

Something to always consider: How will a journalist judge your release if they are very busy? Imagine that the recipient has dozens of press releases a day. How will your press release stand to be perceived as valuable by the journalist to the news beat that they cover?


If your announcement is "hard news," then the traditional news lede approach may be appropriate. This means that the key W's should be present in the first sentence or two of your press release: who, what, when, where and (sometimes) why. Sound familiar? You might recall this approach from your journalism classes.

Some examples:


What if your news announcement is lightweight and/or fun? "Soft news" announcements that target columnists, magazines or feature-oriented publications may be better communicated through a more feature-style approach to your writing. This means that you can include playful, creative and/or descriptive details for your lede. You'll still need to convey important "news" near the lede -- but the first two sentences might not necessarily contain all the basic details. BE CAREFUL with this approach as you do run the risk of the release being perceived as frivolous by many journalists.

Some examples:


In determining what style of lede to choose, consider the content and context. What type of info are you trying to communicate? What is the context in which it will be received? Which approach will be more likely to be successful considering the style of media outlet you are targeting? What is the NEWS VALUE (if any) of the announcement?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016



For these weeks, we will:
  • Continue to review and practice "summary ledes"
  • Review how to best integrate quotes and sourced information into our writing
  • Learn a bit about cultural sensitivities in language and writing
  • Begin your third writing assignment (draft due March 4; final copy due March 11)
  • Read the following chapters:
    • 2: Selecting and Reporting the News
    • 7: Basic News Leads
    • 8: Alternative Leads
    • 9: The Body of a News Story
    • 10: Quotations and Attributions
    • 11: Interviewing
    • 17: Feature Writing

ASSIGNMENT: Feature or News Writing

For the third graded writing assignment, students can choose to do a NEW story in either the FEATURE or TRADITIONAL NEWS format. The same standards and criteria apply to this assignment as before. Please note that this third story does not have a re-write option.

First draft due Friday, March 4. 

Multicultural Awareness in Writing

It's time to "check yourself"! While most of us have no intention to discriminate against others, there may be times that your personal world view or experience differs from those of other communities. In fact, it isn't uncommon for some words to have very different meanings across various ethnic and/or cultural communities.

As a responsible communicator, it is important to be highly aware of the power of the words you choose in your writing. The lecture above exposes some common complications and challenges faced by writers as they construct their content in our (thankfully!) diverse world. For your reference, there are many helpful and informative multiculturalism reporting resources that are worth bookmarking and reviewing: