Tag Archives: writing

Tips for Writing More Compelling News Stories for College Websites

Higher Education News StoriesI see this all the time. Universities who intend to showcase their school via “stories” on their website, who end up posting award, achievement, and event announcements instead.

It’s often a fine line between writing a dry announcement because the administration requests it and writing a compelling news story that will generate interest from media outlets and social media posters, as well as spark the interest of prospective students and their parents.

What can you do to rev up your news stories on your website and make them more compelling?

Start with the headline. Think about the stories you like to read online. What would be more interesting to read—a story with the headline “Student Receives XYX Fellowship,” or “XYZ Fellowship Winner Studies New Technologies for Wind Energy”? Use a more descriptive headline, but still try to keep it concise. The headline can help you focus the story.

Focus on people and their stories. Avoid writing about “things”—events, awards, etc. Instead, write about people. When a professor wins an award, don’t write about the award. Write about the professor. Who is the professor? What is the professor passionate about? What did she do to win the award? Why did the professor do what she did? What is unique or interesting about this professor, her teaching style or her research?

Find a fresh angle. The angle is key in writing compelling stories. Challenge yourself (or your staff) to identify what is unique or compelling (i.e. why someone else would care to read the article) and focus the story around that angle.

For example, if your college always posts the same story each year—perhaps a story on fall enrollment or a story on spring commencement—try to find new angles each year. For fall enrollment, tell the amazing story of one of your new students or create a photo-style feature of students moving into the residence halls and use captions to tell the enrollment story.

Differentiate between events and news. Know what constitutes a news story or a Calendar of Events listing on your website.

The headline for a recent “news” story on a college website was “Gospel Choir Christmas Concert.” This website also has an Events section on it homepage. Where should information on this concert go? Should the information have been placed in an Events listing instead of the News section? The headline isn’t very descriptive (for example, is it just announcing the event or is it giving you some other background or behind-the-scenes information about the event?).

If the main purpose of a post is to give the details of an event, consider posting it only in your Events section. If there’s a story behind the event you want to tell—perhaps how students are preparing for a concert—then the story would be a news story.


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. She frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics. Twitter: @DanasCreative

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Best Blogs for Freelance Writing Newbies

Freelance BlogsWhen I first started freelancing I turned to blogs of men and women who had “been there, done that” to get advice on starting my freelance business. Today, I continue to read many of these blogs to stay inspired and to be up-to-date on the conversations others in my field are having.

If you’re a newbie freelancer, here are a few blogs I have found useful and you may, too:

1. Make a Living Writing. This blog by Carol Tice was a great help when I was first starting out, especially her posts about setting freelance rates, what different markets pay, and transitioning to a career as a full-time freelancer.

2. The Renegade Writer. When I was a summer editorial intern at Family Circle magazine, I remember fact-checking articles written by Linda Formichelli. I enjoyed her articles, and afterward I started seeing her byline in tons of places. I wanted to write for magazines like she did. When I was considering quitting my day job and becoming a full-time freelancer, I read Linda’s books The Renegade Writer and Query Letters That Rock (both co-written with Diana Burrell). I started reading Linda’s blog, too, which has even more practical advice for freelance newbies.

3. The Well-Fed Writer. Peter Bowerman’s The Well-Fed Writer was another book I read before getting the courage to make the leap to full-time freelancing. The book is kind of a no-nonsense guide of how to land copywriting work, and the freelance rate information in here was yet another super-helpful resource in helping me to determine my freelance rates. His blog has equally great advice.

4. MediaBistro. This site has lots of blogs, based on your interests in the media world, but what I found even more helpful than the blogs here were the site’s How to Pitch articles for tips on pitching story ideas to different magazines. It helped me land an article assignment from a magazine I hadn’t written for before. In my opinion, the MediaBistro subscription fee is well worth it.


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics.

Amazing Faculty Work and Personal Stories Create Impactful University Magazine Articles

Higher Education CommunicationsWhen I was asked to write a couple of articles for the summer edition of Mount Mary Magazine, the magazine issue theme intrigued me: raising women’s voices. For the articles, I had the opportunity to speak with several Mount Mary University faculty about the work they and their students do to help give women a voice and to strengthen women’s voices in the community and the world.

What I found were amazing faculty! The faculty members had very personal stories that impacted the professional work they do, and the women that they teach.

  • Dr. Kristen Roche, the MBA program director, witnessed early in her business career how gender may impact job titles given to employees with the same experience. She now is passionate about helping students learn to negotiate in the workplace for better pay, benefits, and jobs.
  • Rachel Monaco-Wilcox, chair of the justice program, became a lawyer after being frustrated about the lack of help available for certain populations. Recently, she founded a free legal clinic, Legal Options for Trafficked and Underserved Survivors (LOTUS), to help human trafficking victims and other survivors of crime. She’s also revolutionizing justice education by focusing Mount Mary’s program on a survivor-informed perspective of justice.
  • Dr. Jennifer Peterson, assistant professor of communication, discovered how misconceptions about AIDS and HIV impacted women and their voices during a research project in grad school. As a professor today, she teaches her students, particularly students studying health communication, to find a cause they are passionate about, as well as to ensure all people’s voices are present in conversations about health topics.
  • Dr. Bruce Moon, chair of the Art Therapy Department, overcame his turbulent teenage years by engaging in art. He’s spent his career helping others cope with their feelings and life struggles through art therapy.
  • Dr. Lynn Kapitan, director of the Professional Doctorate in Art Therapy program, began her career as a public school art teacher and ultimately become an art therapist. She travels to Nicaragua each year for community-based art therapy research, which helps women survivors of domestic abuse participate in projects to develop their voices and leadership skills.

To read more about these amazing professors’ stories and work, see my articles on pages 3 through 9 of the Mount Mary Magazine Summer 2014 edition.


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics. Twitter: @DanasCreative

College Marketing: The One Question to Ask When Writing Student and Alumni Profiles

QuestionsThe most common articles Dana’s Creative Services writes for college and university alumni magazines, websites, and blogs are profiles. Some students, faculty, staff, and alumni open up immediately and share tons of details, while others are men and women of few words.

After reading an article on “secrets to stronger feature articles” in a recent Writer’s Digest magazine issue, I came up with an idea for a question to start profile interviews. So far, it’s worked wonders to capture great details about the lives of alumni and for getting great background information on what motivates faculty to research and teach in their chosen field.

The first time I tried asking this question at the start of an interview, I learned about many of the major moments in my interviewee’s life. The student, who was a retired military veteran in his mid-50s enrolled in an online degree program, told me how visiting an orphanage on a community service mission during his military years led to his decision to pursue an online degree in social work. He also told me how an experience at age 11 contributed to his decision to pursue a degree in social work, too. I learned all of this—and more—because of one question.

So, what was this seemingly magic question? I asked him, “How did you get to where you currently are in your life journey?” Try it the next time you write a profile. Or let Dana’s Creative Services interview a student, faculty, or alum from your story idea list and write the profile for you.

Image credit: Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics.

Editor’s Perspective: 3 Common and Easily Correctable Writing Mistakes

Editing checklistA large portion of the work that Dana’s Creative Services does involves editing other people’s writing. Through editing work for various clients over the years, Dana has noticed many common mistakes that writers at all organizations make. Whether it’s a book project or a marketing brochure, the same mistakes occur.

A quick proofread of the initial draft is all most clients need to correct these common errors (and possibly reduce editing time and cost). So to help clients improve their first drafts, Dana is sharing the three most common writing mistakes and how to easily look for and correct those errors:

Spelling errors. This may sound like the most obvious mistake—even too obvious—but Dana sees spelling errors all the time. Run a spell check of your document before submitting it to an editor. Because spell check isn’t 100 percent accurate, Dana also recommends quickly scanning the document to catch any glaring spelling errors that spell check doesn’t catch.

Too many spaces. Most editorial styles usually require one or two spaces between sentences, but Dana often sees two or more spaces between sentences or even extra spaces at the beginning of paragraphs. These extra spaces can easily creep in, but it’s simple to remove them, too. Just do a Find and Replace in a Microsoft Word document. In the Edit menu, select Find, then Advanced Find and Replace. Insert spaces into the Find field, and then put the correct number of spaces in the Replace field.

Comma placement. AP style omits the comma before the word “and,” while Chicago Manual of Style retains the comma before “and” in a series. If you know your organization’s style, you can do a Find and Replace for , and if you want to remove it, or a space and the word and ( and) to find instances where it may need to be added.

Of course, any editor (including Dana’s Creative Services) is happy to correct these mistakes for you—and also help you perfect your copy to best speak to your target audience.

Image credit: digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics.

Impressive Iowa Businesses

Newsletter writingEach time I write newsletter articles for Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS), I am constantly impressed by the work being done at Iowa companies and by CIRAS.

In the latest issue, I had the opportunity to talk with a door and lock company that continues to grow after more than 100 years in business, a deicing product company that’s working on a revolutionary product, three companies that are improving their online presence after attending an internet marketing boot camp, and Lean business leaders who have created an organization to support each other in developing and implementing Lean processes and practices.

Check out the amazing work by CIRAS and Iowa companies in the recently published winter edition of CIRAS News. (See my articles on the cover and on pages 4, 7, 12 and 13).

New Hope for Young Cancer Patients

Magazine ArticleDr. Nicole Longo, internist and onco-fertility point person at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Philadelphia, says throughout her career she has started to see a new trend: her patients are getting younger and the kinds of cancers they have are more aggressive.

Each year more than 100,000 people under age 45 are diagnosed with cancer in the United States. The National Cancer Institute estimates that there are nearly a half-million cancer survivors of reproductive-age. As the cancer patients doctors treat become younger, there is a growing concern about what a cancer diagnosis means for the patients’ future ability to have a family and a normal life after cancer.

Because of this, CTCA is now implementing a program to proactively help these young patients not only cope with their cancer diagnosis, but also to discuss how treatments will impact their future fertility.

Learn more about this new program in “Giving New Hope to Young Cancer Patients” from the February 2014 Wisconsin Woman magazine.

 

Celebrating Dana’s Creative Services’ First Anniversary

Work Anniversary CupcakeOne year ago today I took a leap of faith, quit my day job, and started freelancing full-time. As a person who is an innate planner, I wondered how I would handle not always knowing which project was coming up next. My one-year experiment has turned out better than I ever imagined.

I am grateful for all the wonderful new clients I have met and all the clients I have worked with on projects ranging from magazine articles, newsletters, higher education blogs, higher education website content, higher education marketing materials, and a nonfiction book.

Thank you to my clients for making the past year great. I look forward to continuing to serve you in the coming year, as well as developing new relationships with new higher education communication and magazine and book publishing clients.

Image credit: Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pet Therapy Helps College Students Relieve Stress

beagleDuring my time as a recruitment marketing manager at Mount Mary University, I was intrigued by the animal-assisted therapy (also sometimes called pet therapy) students got to experience each semester, usually right before final exams.

Pet therapy has become a popular stress relieving activity that higher education institutions offer to students. Just this fall, I’ve seen many universities, including Mount Mary, Marquette University, Colorado State University, Indiana University-Bloomington, and more, tweet about their pet therapy events on campus.

When asked about the popularity of pet therapy on college campuses, Sarah DeLone, education program director at the Monroe County Humane Association in Indiana, says VIPaws (the local therapy dog group in her area) has been making more visits to Indiana University-Bloomington this year than they have in the past. In fact, they were on the campus four times this fall.

You can see more about the Indiana University-Bloomington animal-assisted therapy events (including photos from the events) in my recent My College Guide blog post. For more information on pet therapy, DeLone recommends checking out the Pet Partners website.

New University Research Findings on Causes of Autism in Children

Brain, Child magazineAutism is a disorder that affects 1 in 88 children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But unfortunately, not a lot is known about what causes autism. That’s where university researchers come in. Three new university research studies are shedding light on possible causes of autism.

Read my article about the researchers’ findings on possible causes of autism in the Nutshell column of Brain, Child magazine‘s Winter 2014 issue.