JOURNALISM 370 APRIL 25,2011 LAW AND FEATURE WRITING
HOW CAN YOU GET SUED • Wri?ng misleading press releases • Making misleading or false product/service claims • Crea?ng front groups • Insider trading • Invasion of privacy • Misrepresen?ng earnings • Conspiracy
REAL WORLD BACKGROUND I WISH I KNEW WHEN I WAS IN SCHOOL • The key is avoiding lawsuits. • You may be legally correct. It might not maXer. • Lawsuits are costly…even if you win. • Waivers are your friend. • WriXen correspondence is your friend • When in doubt, ask.
Libel and Defama?on • Here’s how you prove it. – Statement was broadcast or published. – You can ID who wrote it. – Actual injury occurred…that includes losing cash. – Publisher was negligent or acted with malice.
Libel and Defama?on • Diﬀerent proofs required for “public ﬁgures” • Corpora?ons are considered public ﬁgures • Truth is defense against defama?on charge
FAIR COMMENT… GET OUT OF TROUBLE CARD • Opinions are protected as long as cri?cism is done with honest inten?on and a lack of malice. • Protects cri?cal comments of execu?ves • Protect yourself when wri?ng cri?cism – Accompany opinion with facts on which it’s based. – AXribute quoted opinion to an individual – Review context of surrounding language for defama?on
AVOIDING DEFAMATION SUITS • #1 rule: Watch your language • Choose innocuous language when talking about personnel issues – We wish them well in their future endeavors. • Avoid unﬂaXering representa?ons of compe?tors
INVASION OF PRIVACY • Employees don’t waive their right to privacy • Employee newsleXers – Avoid anything that might embarrass employees – Focus on organiza?on-‐related ac?vi?es • Photos of employees – Implied consent for “news” use, not promo?on – Maintain photo records
INVASION OF PRIVACY • Use of photos/quotes in publicity or adver?sing – Need signed consent to use photos or quotes in promo?onal materials • Media inquiries about employees – Only provide conﬁrma?on of employment, ?tle and job descrip?on, date of employment beginning and end – Don’t provide address, marital status, number of kids, job performance or salary – Serve as liaison between reporter and employee • Employee blogs – Prohibit comments about other employees and conﬁden?al product informa?on – Employee guidelines for virtual online communi?es
COPYRIGHT LAW • Protec?on of “ﬁxed” works in any “tangible medium.” Yes, this includes digital. • Work is automa?cally copyrighted the moment it is “ﬁxed.” • Work can be formally copyrighted through Library of Congress, but registra?on isn’t required for protec?on
COPYRIGHT LAW HOW TO BE SAFE • Fair use allows you to quote part of a copyrighted ar?cle, but brief enough not to harm the original work • Social Media makes this an evolving jungle. • When in doubt, ask. • When in doubt, have a waiver.
COPYRIGHT LAW HOW TO BE SAFE • You can’t copyright ideas. • You can copyright the expression of those ideas. • Copyright your PR content. That’s why you hire lawyers.
COPYRIGHT LAW • Fair use – AXributed quoted material that is brief compared to the en?re work – Permission required when used for promo?on. • Photography – Photographers retain ownership of their work – Nego?ate use carefully • Work for hire – When working as an employee, copyright belongs to organiza?on • Digital material protected by copyright
TRADEMARK • Trademark is a word, symbol, or slogan iden?fying a product • Trademarks are proper adjec?ves • Trademarks should not be pluralized or used as verbs • PR plays an important role in protec?ng trademarks • Unauthorized use of celebri?es is misappropria?on of personality
PEOPLE WHO CAN MAKE YOUR LIFE MISERABLE • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – Regulates adver?sing – Protects consumer from decep?on – Look for unsubstan?ated and misleading claims
PEOPLE WHO CAN MAKE YOUR LIFE MISERABLE • Securi?es and Exchange Commission (SEC) – Monitors publicly traded companies – Monitor public disclosure and insider trading – Disclose in a ?mely fashion anything that might aﬀect stock value
PEOPLE WHO CAN MAKE YOUR LIFE MISERABLE • Federal Communica?ons Commission (FCC) – Licenses radio and TV sta?ons – Assures airwaves are used in public interest – Ruled on VNRs • Food and Drug Administra?on (FDA) – Oversees promo?on of drugs and cosme?cs – Provides guidelines for publicity on health care • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) Regulates alcohol promo?on – watch claims about health beneﬁts
LET’S AVOID A LAWSUIT • You’re doing PR for Costco. • The VP has just been ﬁred for embezzling money. • The media calls you asking for informa?on. • What can you tell them?
WHY WRITE A FEATURE IN THE FIRST PLACE • Features provide addi?onal background • Generate human interest • Create understanding in an imagina?ve way • Features are more sol in nature and not as ?me sensi?ve • They provide more informa?on, a behind-‐the-‐ scenes perspec?ve, and generate publicity • Features get more focus in Sunday papers.
LET’S PLAN A FEATURE • Is the subject worth a feature? – The subject doesn’t have to be human • Will it be useful to your target audience? • Does it meet organiza?onal objec?ves? If the answer to any of these ques0ons is no, consider another wri0ng style
LET’S PLAN A FEATURE • The bad news is developing a feature requires crea?vity • The good news is ideas are everywhere. • How do pitch a feature can be diﬀerent. – Distribute a general feature to several media outlets – Write an exclusive feature and pitch to a single person – Post the feature on your Web site
TYPES OF FEATURES • Case study • Third-‐party party endorsement • Applica?on story…How to use a product or service in a new, innova?ve way • Research study – Surveys or polls that examine things such as lifestyles
TYPES OF FEATURES • Backgrounder – A problem and how it was solved • Personality proﬁle – Humanize an interes?ng person • Historical piece • Milestones allow reﬂec?on on an organiza?on’s history
FEATURE ELEMENTS DIFFERENT THAN A NEWS RELEASE • Headline – Informa?onal headlines summarize – Allitera?ve headlines raise curiosity – You can rely more in emo?on and adjec?ves • Lead – Feature leads pique readers’ interest – You don’t need a summary lead – You do need to focus on what’s most important – What’s most important may not be facts
FEATURE ELEMENTS DIFFERENT THAN A NEWS RELEASE • Body – Features are longer than straight news releases – They’re meant to be read from beginning to end – They should include quotes, illustra?ons and other illustra?ve elements – The last line is almost as important as the ﬁrst line…
FEATURE ELEMENTS DIFFERENT THAN A NEWS RELEASE • Placement – Newspapers, especially sec?ons that are not ?me-‐ sensi?ve (e.g., lifestyle, food, automo?ve) – Specialty magazines are a beXer pitching op?on. – Blogs can be – Because a feature shelf life is longer, I would put your items on the web. – Pay to play publica?on
Let’s write a feature lead • The Florida Grapefruit Growers Associa?on has announced that this year’s crop is larger than last year’s, and greater availability will mean lower prices for the consumer.
Let’s write a feature lead • The na?onal oﬃce of tourism for Canada says the country is a good travel bargain because the Canadian dollar is weak against the American dollar.
WHY WRITE ONE? • Allow PR to reach opinion leaders • Op-‐ed authors are perceived as experts on the issue • Op-‐eds are exclusives OP-‐eds are controlled media. This is rare in media rela0ons and publicity
WHY WRITE ONE? • These can talk about policy. • These can promote events more blatantly. • You’re worried the reporter will screw the story up. OP-‐eds are controlled media. This is rare in media rela0ons and publicity
OP ED IDEAS • 750 words max for an op ed. • You need to have one main idea. • Hit it early, and don’t veer oﬀ course. • Short powerful sentences • You need facts to verify your claims.
OP ED IDEAS • Don’t say, “I think.” State it. – I thinks this is a bad idea. – This is a bad idea. • Don’t send out op eds in bulk. • Do call an editor to see if a paper takes them.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR DIFFERENCES • They are shorter (200-‐500 words) • You react to news and should state what sparked the leXer. • State the theme of your leXer aler saying why you are wri?ng • A leXer to the editor is a counter punch. An Op ed can be an aXacking punch.