What made me want to visit Alabama

Martin Luther King Jr. / AP file photo

I’ve never wanted to go to Alabama. Until now.

I started reading “A march into history” by Scott Vogel of The Washington Post because of the subhead, believe it or not:

“Alabama women who lived it help give a 21st-century spirit to the civil rights struggle.”

The black-and-white photo showed only males, so I was intrigued by the idea of a story about strong women previously unrecognized by history.

It’s an article about why you should visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute museum and research center. But in several strokes of pure genius, Vogel treats it like a feature story.

Instead of, “The museum features the desk at which Martin Luther King wrote his plans for the bus boycott,” you read, “She shows King’s office in the basement, then allows me a peek – not part of the public tour – at the blond wood desk on which he planned the Montgomery bus boycott.”

You’re there, taking “a gut-wrenching trip” through history that the writer makes personal.

Think about Vogel’s approach the next time you write a press release or newsletter article.

Here are three links to the same story, in case one doesn’t work:

Indianapolis Star

Seattle Times

Miami Herald

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Pare down your employee newsletter

At Ragan.com, Mike Klein makes a case for paring down or even eliminating company newsletters. How many of us have gotten, or written, company newsletters we don’t bother to read because we don’t perceive them to have value – and thus not to be worth reading?  

My favorite line from Klein’s article: “A key problem with many newsletters is that they tend to publish unattributed information as fact” (otherwise known as the “because I said so” approach).  My favorite quote: “George Bernard Shaw once said, ‘The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’” 

I’ve seen employee newsletters that seem to be little more than venues for people who can’t otherwise get published. The employees of Wayne County, N.C., were subjected to this type of newsletter in February. Although the monthly newsletter’s mission is to “acquaint its readers with personnel from each department within the county,” the editor used one-fourth of the space to provide a history of Valentine’s Day and President’s Day, one-fourth for anniversaries, one-fourth for birthdays and just one page for an employee profile.  

And we haven’t even mentioned the clip art. 

Have you ever gotten an employee newsletter you didn’t read?