Basic Tips On Writing Releases

JohnLandsberg
January 4th, 2012

    The area’s most-read blogger, Tony Botello of Tonyskansascity.com, recently reprinted a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
   It is a classic example of executive egos getting in the way of a quality release that would help make the media’s job easier—which should be its goal.
   First, it should be called a “news” release and not a “press” release because some TV and radio people think a “press” release is something written for newspapers.
   Secondly, a news release should be organized in the same basic way as a news story with the key facts in the lede.
   Sorry, but U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips making an announcement is not newsworthy at all.
   Have you ever heard a newscaster say, “US Attorney Beth Phillips, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today…?”  For a TV and radio item just announcing her name and title would take up half the story.
   The prime newsmaker is Denny Ray Hardin, the person who was found guilty of being involved in a $100 million fraud. He should have been the initial focus of the release. 
    The next information then should have been the Judge who made the ruling and the potential sentence he could apply in the future. At that point the prosecutors who actually did the tough work in the courtoom should have been mentioned.
    After those facts have been presented a vanity quote from Phillips would be appropriate:
   “The attorneys in our office did a superb job of presenting the facts and helping to protect the public from predators like Denny Ray Hardin,” says Beth Phillips, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
   The rest of the release can outline the specifics of the case.
    Here was the actual release that was issued:
    
     KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Kansas City, Mo., man was convicted in federal court today of creating false obligations and of mail fraud as part of an attempted $100 million fraud scheme.
     Denny Ray Hardin, 52, of Kansas City, was found guilty of 21 charges contained in a May 5, 2010, federal indictment.
    Hardin produced and issued numerous “Bonded Promissory Notes” (BPNs), which are completely fictitious financial instruments that Hardin claimed to be backed by an account with the U.S. Department of Treasury. Hardin falsely claimed that he was authorized by the U.S. Department of Treasury to produce and issue the worthless documents, which he claimed had monetary value and could be used to eliminate debt.
     Hardin claimed to have produced and issued more than 2,000 bonded promissory notes, totaling more than $100 million, from September 2008 to September 2009, for himself as well as for his girlfriend, his daughter, and many customers who paid a fee. Hardin created the notes on his computer and used them to attempt to discharge student loan debts, to purchase a car and a house, and for other personal items and debts. Hardin charged purchasers of the notes a fee – initially $100 per note, which was later increased based on the amount of debt Hardin falsely claimed to be discharged by the note.
     Hardin falsely claimed that he was authorized to issue the bonded promissory notes because he was a private banker. As part of his scheme to defraud both the individuals for whom he created BPNs and the creditors to whom he issued BPNs, Hardin claimed that he had created his own private bank – The Private Bank of Denny Ray Hardin, which operated out of his residence.
     Hardin defrauded customers by selling them BPNs with the false promise that these fictitious instruments can discharge debts. Hardin defrauded creditors by presenting them with worthless BPNs.
     Hardin operated a Web site for the purpose of marketing BPNs to potential purchasers. On his Web site, Hardin claimed that BPNs had been accepted by various institutions, which was false. Hardin marketed this scheme by spreading false stories to make his fraud sound legitimate and to try and force creditors into accepting BPNs through threats of legal action.
    As part of the fraud scheme, Hardin would mail a BPN to creditors, along with various other documents that included a letter from Hardin stating that the account had been paid in full by the note. When he was notified that the BPN had been refused as payment, Hardin threatened the creditor with a lawsuit.
     U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner found Hardin guilty of 11 counts of creating fictitious obligations and 10 counts of mail fraud at the conclusion of a bench trial that began Monday, Sept. 12, 2011.
      Under federal statutes, Hardin is subject to a sentence of up to 25 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 for each count of creating fictitious obligations, a sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $1 million, for each of the four counts of mail fraud affecting a financial institution, and a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000, for each of the remaining counts of mail fraud. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
     This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian P. Casey and Patrick D. Daly. It was investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Education – Office of Inspector General, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
########

(John Landsberg is the president of Bottom Line Communications, a Public Relations firm based in Leawood. He is also an adjunct professor of marketing, sales and public relations. www.bottomlinecom.com. Please credit this site when reprinting.)

Leave a Reply

  • TRUMP IS THE ONE DOING AN NFL END ZONE DANCE

    There are few things more sacred to the public than the National Football League.  The NFL has been able to grow by leaps and bounds while raising prices for fans, TV viewers and many taxpayers without question.  It was dubbed “America’s game.”

    As an example, a 30-second spot in the recent Super Bowl went for $4.5 million.  And that doesn’t even include the costs to actually create the ad.

    The majority of NFL owners are not just millionaires.  Most (18 out of 32) are billionaires.

     

    One would be hard-pressed to even consider that the NFL’s popularity would ever wane.  It wrapped itself in the American flag, patriotism and all that was good in the culture.  Many teams began games with giant-sized flags covering the entire field.  The National Anthem was sung by a host of celebrities.

    Military flew jets overhead at the start of games compliments of taxpayers.

    The first chink in the NFL’s armor occurred when it was revealed the league was actually charging the military for many pre-game rituals.  The military had paid $10.4 million of taxpayer money to show its patriotism.  When that was revealed the league reluctantly returned $723,000 (link) .

    During this entire time the league began switching cities in an effort to raise more and more revenue.  Loyal fans in Cleveland, Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis were dumped like yesterday’s garbage.  Years of loyalty meant nothing to the NFL.

    But then the millionaire players decided to make political statements (the average NFL salary is $1.9 million).  They decided to disrespect the flag, veterans and those who love the U.S. by kneeling during the National Anthem.

    They might even have pulled it off except for President Donald Trump.  Trump, who may be able to read the American public better than any President in history, let it be known he felt players should not disrespect the flag and the country where they earn a living.

    The athletes, coaches and owners, who felt they were above criticism, doubled down and more players began kneeling, or sitting or riding an exercise bike during the Anthem.  Athletes in other sports blasted Trump, with LeBron James, a high school graduate himself, calling the President “a bum.”  Virtually all sportswriters supported the players and their “Freedom of Speech.”

    Trump didn’t back down one iota.  In fact, he doubled down and asked fans to boycott games.  He threatened to pull many tax exemptions owners have received.  He sent his vice president to a game, and when the players began kneeling, he left the stadium.

    As NFL ratings plunge (Monday night’s game plummeted to a season-low) the Dallas Cowboys’ owner is now demanding his team stand for the Anthem.

    Thursday night NFL ratings are also declining.  This means the league may find itself doing “make goods” to advertisers to make up for not delivering ratings as promised.

    A CNN poll noted the President is winning the fight. “Trump got what he wanted: More Republicans (87%) and Independents (48%) sided with him than not. Heck, even 21% of Democrats are with him on the NFL issue. Even 24% of people who disapprove of the job he’s doing overall see this issue.”

    Trump’s approval ratings as president have been dismal.  But he does have a unique way of speaking to the public and to the average folks who have simply allowed the NFL to bully them for years.   Finally, someone was speaking for them, and they took action.

    Trump may not be the greatest communicator on earth, but he knows how to communicate with his base.  He knows what issues will resonate with the public.

    As far as the NFL goes, Trump might be the only one doing an end zone dance these days. If the NFL doesn’t take action against the players soon the viewers who refuse to watch NFL games may never return.

    Published October 13, 2017 at 2:10 pm - No Comments There are few things more sacred to the public than the National Football League.  The NFL has been able to grow by leaps and bounds while raising prices for fans, TV viewers and many taxpayers without question.  It was dubbed & ...

  • TRUMP IS SIMPLY AWFUL AT MESSAGE DISCIPLINE

    If you are a professional communicator you have likely worked with all kinds of executives on a variety of messages.

    Some are natural communicators who can virtually repeat your finely tuned key message points effortlessly.  They are a joy to work with.

    However, to some (most) communications is a challenge.  Some simply cannot communicate effectively.  Media interviews are dreaded.  (“The media are out to get me!!”)

    It might be best to find someone else in the organization to handle those duties, if at all possible.

    President Donald Trump can be a very effective communicator.  The operative word is “can.”  He would be an absolute nightmare to work with to provide a consistent, clear message on virtually any topic.

    Unlike most top executives, Trump has virtually no message discipline.  Executives, particularly at public companies, realize that virtually every word they say in public can potentially impact their company’s stock price.  It is a talent Trump does not have.

    “Message discipline is the concept that politicians and other public policy advocates should talk about what is relevant to achieve their aims, and not allow themselves to be sidetracked either by their own thoughts or the questions of press or audience.”  (Wikipedia)

    Most communicators would never, ever let a top executive Tweet out his/her own personal views on various topics.  In fact, if an executive sends out a Tweet at most companies you can bet it has been reviewed by a variety of people ahead of time.

    Whenever Trump goes off-script during a speech he is in trouble.  His aside during a recent speech about football players kneeling during the National Anthem has caused a nationwide furor.  He does this on an almost daily basis in making his communications team apoplectic.

    Why does Trump continue to get himself in trouble communicating?   First, it is probably his ego. He has been successful in business shooting from the hip, and it has likely worked effectively before in business settings.  As President not so much…

    Secondly, his style worked as he toppled 16 other opponents (the largest field ever in a primary election).  Remember how he labeled each opponent?  “Little” Marco Rubio?  “Low Energy” Jeb Bush?

    His stunning election victory versus a superior-financed Hillary Clinton cemented that fact.

    It is tough to argue with the communications success he has enjoyed in the past.

    Will Trump change his communication style in the future now as President?  It is doubtful since it has worked in the past.

    His communications team will just have to continue to cringe as he goes off-message on a daily basis.

     

     

     

     

    Published September 25, 2017 at 3:40 pm - 2 Comments If you are a professional communicator you have likely worked with all kinds of executives on a variety of messages. Some are natural communicators who can virtually repeat your finely tuned key message points effortlessly.  They ...

  • MR. PRESIDENT: UNFILTERED TWEETS MUST END!!

    Since the presidency of Donald Trump began in January the public has had a unique view in seeing how many, many executives act when their true remarks/feelings/views go public. Unfiltered.

    It is often not a pretty scene.  It’s like the old joke where you really don’t want to know how sausage is actually made.

    Trump, in his effort to show “transparency” to the public, has been sending unfiltered, unedited Tweets out on a random basis since he began running for President.  They can come at any time of the day or night, and often seem to follow the “Ready, Fire, Aim!!” theory of communications.

    His latest missives aimed at C-list TV personalities MSNBC hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough have totally derailed a series of recent legislative successes (LINK).  Not only that, but his Tweets have actually enhanced the couple’s standing.

    Communications professionals around the globe have been left scratching their collective heads and wondering, “In his wildest dreams how did he ever think talking about Brzezinski’s facelift would be a good idea?”

    I have been in top-level corporate meetings literally hundreds of times.  If the public was privy to many of the actual discussions they would be stunned.  After one meeting where the company president repeatedly stressed the need for diversity I heard him casually remark to the HR director as we were leaving, “Okay, does that cover my ass legally now if we don’t hire minorities?”

    It is impossible for President Trump to have an overall coherent communications message when he is shooting out Tweets from the hip.  His staffers end up spending all their time and effort trying to clean up the most recent mess he created rather than focusing on any type of overall communications strategy.

    Someone needs to stress to the President that his personal, off-the-cuff,  tweeting must stop.  If he won’t heed that advice he should at least agree that someone must read his Tweets before they go out.

    The days of unfiltered Tweets from the President must end.

     

     

     

    Published July 1, 2017 at 7:59 am - One Comment Since the presidency of Donald Trump began in January the public has had a unique view in seeing how many, many executives act when their true remarks/feelings/views go public. Unfiltered. It is often not a pretty scene.  It̵ ...

  • EX-KCTV ANCHOR KAREN FULLER FILES LAWSUIT

    Regular viewers of KCTV were stunned in February 2015 when long-time anchor Karen Fuller was suddenly yanked off the air at the Meredith-owned station.

    After all, Fuller, 47 at the time, had been a staple at the CBS station for 12 years. Viewers were accustomed to her entering their living rooms on a regular basis and were shocked at her departure.

    In April, Fuller revealed to Bottom Line (link) that her departure was not her decision. Sources say she had requested 15 seconds of airtime to thank her loyal viewers, but instead was yanked mid-shift and escorted out of the station.

    In August 2015 we reported she had landed a new position as an anchor at the Sinclair Group’s KGAN in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.   It should be noted Kansas City is the 31st largest TV market in the country; Cedar Rapids 88.

    The Kansas City Star has now broken the story that Fuller is now suing her former parent company over age and gender discrimination.  She filed suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., against the Meredith Corporation.

    “Fuller alleges in the suit that the company has created an ‘age ceiling’ for its female anchors but not for male anchors,” the Star reported.  “Women age out in their mid- to late 40s. The company does not enforce the same age-related job requirement for male prime-time anchors.

    “The company’s strong-arm behavior assaulted her dignity, cast aspersion on Ms. Fuller’s many years of hard work, professionalism, and loyalty to her job, and took away Ms. Fuller’s ability to say goodbye to co-workers, friends and viewers,” the suit alleges.

    Fuller’s case is being handled by R. Pete Smith, chairman of the Kansas City-based law firm of McDowell, Rice, Smith, and Buchanan.

    Bottom Line has learned Fuller was given the green light to sue Meredith in March following an EEOC investigation of possible systemic issues with age/gender at other Meredith-owned stations.

     

     

     

    Published June 8, 2017 at 8:06 am - 2 Comments Regular viewers of KCTV were stunned in February 2015 when long-time anchor Karen Fuller was suddenly yanked off the air at the Meredith-owned station. After all, Fuller, 47 at the time, had been a staple at the CBS station for 1 ...

  • COURIC TRICK SHOWS VALUE OF RECORDING INTERVIEWS

    It has been called “appalling journalism.”

    That might be considered a positive comment regarding an editing trick inserted into a documentary on gun ownership that has come to light.

    Long-time NBC Today Show star and anchor at all three major networks, Katie Couric, now with Yahoo! News, is being severely criticized for highly questionable editing in her documentary titled “Under the Gun” after it was revealed an eight-second pause was inserted to make it look as if the people interviewed could not answer her question (LINK).

    Luckily for the individuals being interviewed, one person was wise enough to record the Q&A (LINK TO AUDIO). Otherwise, questioning the bubbly media icon would have been virtually impossible and fruitless.

    Couric was executive producer, host and narrator of the piece.  Anti-gun activist Stephanie Soechtig produced and directed it.

    In the documentary, a group of Virginia gun owners was asked by Couric: “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”

    Not only did Couric/Soechtig insert a pause (8-10 seconds), but they also inserted “B” roll of the gun owners taken before the interview even began.  There is little doubt the editing was clearly designed to make it look as if Couric’s tough question made them speechless and uncomfortable.

    Couric is now calling the edit an “unnecessary mistake,” according to an individual with knowledge of her thinking (LINK).

    In an official statement, Soechtig countered, “my intention was to provide a pause for the viewer to have a moment to consider this important question before presenting the facts on Americans’ opinions on background checks. I never intended to make anyone look bad and I apologize if anyone felt that way.”

    Couric now says she supports Soechtig’s statement “and am very proud of the film.” However, a few days later she admitted she regretted how she portrayed gun activists (LINK).

    However, the National Review and Washington Post now say Couric should be fired over the deliberate misrepresentation (LINK).

    This is a classic reason why at Bottom Line Communications we strongly advise clients to always record media interviews.  Without actual audio evidence (below) the Yahoo! crew would have denied inserting the pause.

    However, with the evidence journalism takes another huge credibility hit.

     

    Published May 29, 2016 at 8:30 am - 2 Comments It has been called “appalling journalism.” That might be considered a positive comment regarding an editing trick inserted into a documentary on gun ownership that has come to light. Long-time NBC Today Show star and ...

  • MIZZOU NEEDS CRISIS PLAN TO RESTORE IMAGE

    In Journalism circles, having a degree from the University of Missouri was often a ticket for success. It is not only the nation’s oldest Journalism school, it is also one of the most prestigious.

    When rankings for the best “J” schools in the nation are posted the University of Missouri is almost guaranteed to be in the Top 10 or Top 5.  However, that may have all changed due to the actions of a single media professor during the recent student uprising at the school.

    A Mass Media Professor, Melissa Click, is shown in a video asking for “muscle” to remove a student photojournalist, Tim Tai,  who was working for ESPN and in a public place.   It is a horrible act by a college professor and shows a total disregard for the Journalist’s First Amendment rights, which is against what the school has taught for decades.

    “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here,” says Click.

    A video of Click’s actions against Tai has gone viral and has well over 500,000 views (LINK) on a single site.  The New York Times has written an extensive story about her actions.

    What was once a sympathetic media for the protesters has now changed with the actions of students and faculty against them.

    Technically some have pointed out Click works in the Mass Media Division of the Department of Communications in College of Arts & Sciences, which is separate from the J-school.  However, she is listed on the School of Journalism’s site (LINK), which tars the entire Journalism program whether it deserves it or not.

    Click had earlier Tweeted out that she she was looking for coverage of the event by Journalists.  Later on she is clearly leading the charge against other Journalists with total disregard for their rights to cover the event.

    With the resignation of the school’s President and Chancellor the University of Missouri is clearly being painted as a college where the inmates are running the asylum.   Rather than act like a Professor, Click and other faculty members have clearly shown they were behind the student protests against the administration.

    If the University of Missouri doesn’t hire a crisis communications team immediately its entire image for producing quality Journalism graduates could likely be tarnished forever. If the school was wise it already had a crisis communications plan in place for such an incident, but that is unlikely.

    The first move would be to remove Click. But that would be a stop-gap measure since a faculty member helping foment the disturbance was an indictment on all the faculty.  The school hired her, and whether tacitly or not, approved of her actions.

    A statement issued today by the Dean of the Journalism School denied she was part of the faculty and sounded as if her days as a professor at Missouri were numbered. Click has also been forced to apologize in an attempt to save her job and resigned her “courtesy” appointment to the J-School.

    However, a Kansas City reporter told BLC that the protesters are refusing to speak with local reporters and will only do interviews with national media outlets.  That is the kind of move that will turn sympathetic local media against them now and in the future.

    It’s a bad move.

     

     

    Published November 10, 2015 at 10:23 am - 5 Comments In Journalism circles, having a degree from the University of Missouri was often a ticket for success. It is not only the nation’s oldest Journalism school, it is also one of the most prestigious. When rankings for the best ...