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.
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(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.)

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  • IS THERE A LIMIT TO NUMBER OF HITS NFL BRAND CAN TAKE?

    Don’t look now, but the carefully managed image of the National Football League continues to take major hits after the likes of San Francisco back-up quarterback Colin Kaepernick (and now other players) are deciding to disrespect the National Anthem by sitting/kneeling while it is being played.

    The NFL, which has wrapped itself in the American flag and patriotism for decades, might be facing its largest branding/image issue ever.  It has successfully withstood players committing murder, rape, domestic violence, child abuse, dog fighting, et al, but the current issue slaps the military and police in the face, which goes to the heart of its loyal fan base.

    Colin Kaepernick

     

    During a recent pre-season game Kaepernick (left) knelt during the Anthem while the San Diego Chargers were holding a “Salute to the Military” night.  The NFL seems impotent to take action due to political correctness.

    The Dallas Cowboys wanted to put stickers on their helmets to honor five policemen who were gunned down.  However, the NFL demanded the helmets could only be worn at practices and not during pre- or regular-season games. However, Kaepernick has even started wearing socks that portray the police as pigs.

    However, Kaepernick has even started wearing socks that portray the police as pigs.

    The NBA, according to broadcaster Dan Patrick, demands its players stand for the National Anthem or face fines.  So far that seems to keep the players in check.

    This Anthem flap follows on the heels where it was revealed the NFL actually had charged the military (taxpayers) to perform at stadiums over the years.  In fact, the NFL charged the Department of Defense $5.4 million to honor soldiers during games (link) the past four seasons.

    Although the NFL had to return some of the money after the scandal was revealed, it still did not factor in the millions of dollars in expenses for jets to fly over stadiums prior to games.

    “Our standard line was we were flying over stadiums as part of training exercises so it didn’t cost taxpayers any money,” a retired Navy pilot who has flown over several stadiums revealed to Bottom Line. “That was BS.  Do you really think you would fly training missions over stadiums with 80,000 people?  You fly them in unpopulated areas.”

    So far many media outlets (including USA Today and ESPN)  seems to be supporting the players under the guise of free speech.  However, in this politically charged election year, the majority of fans and social media pundits seem to be responding in the opposite direction.

    Presidential candidate Donald Trump weighed in on the Kaepernick controversy and suggested Kaepernick might be better off leaving the country if he is so dissatisfied with it (link). As expected, Hillary Clinton is trying to play it safe and not comment on the Anthem issue. Ironically, Kaepernick has remarked that he believes she should be put in prison (link).

    The NFL might be the most powerful league in sports, but the constant barrage of negative publicity could eventually take its toll.

    As long as sponsors and advertisers continue to shell out money the NFL will continue to thrive.  Only when the NFL is hit in its pocketbook will it take action.

    Until then–and only then– the fans can boo all they want and nothing will change.

     

     

     

    Published September 2, 2016 at 10:46 am - No Comments Don’t look now, but the carefully managed image of the National Football League continues to take major hits after the likes of San Francisco back-up quarterback Colin Kaepernick (and now other players) are deciding to disre ...

  • 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 ...