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Although whooping cranes are still endangered, the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wis., has worked to help the species bounce back.

Below is a video I produced on the foundation. Enjoy!

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Photo by [martin]/Flickr.com

Right now, I’m in the final stages of producing a public service announcement for a class at UW (disclosure: the project is unrelated to any topics I’ve written about locally in Madison).

I chose to shoot a video for the Madison Dental Initiative, a non-profit in town that provides dental services to Madison’s homeless population.

I’ll link to the video once it’s finished, but I thought I’d share what I learned so far. It took me a while to think in more “PSA-friendly” mindset. I’ve also had the entire fall to sit on the idea and carefully craft a message — a luxury I wish I had for other projects.

Here are some tips I’ve gathered over the past few months:

  • Know the psychographic details of your audience
  • Give people a problem to act on (increasing awareness isn’t useful unless you suggest a course of action)
  • Your message should be simple enough to summarize in a short sentence
  • Suggest a tag line (I helped MDI come up with “Give back, one smile at a time”)
  • Think about whether the PSA will be featured on TV, radio or online media (typically online can be longer — more than one minute or so).

UW’s Patty Loew, who leads the class, showed us a PSA I thought was very effective (and it generally follows the tips above).

Let’s face it: I’ve neglected to write for the ear.

Limiting myself to print and online writing mostly, I never realized how strange my work sounds when read aloud. Last week while producing a radio piece for WORT, a community-based radio station here in Madison, it became perfectly clear that I had to change my writing style to make things work.

The piece focused on Wisconsin’s Sporting Heritage Bill. Click here to listen (Move the cursor to 17 minutes in to listen to my segment).

If I can share one thing I’ve learned so far, it’s this: Economy of words is key.

News stories entirely suitable for print or online can sound like a jumbled mess on air. Take whatever you wrote and parse it in half; avoid strange alliterations; choose the most simple, short words. Pacing matters too, and it’s likely something I’ll have to get the hang of in future radio pieces.

I also didn’t realize the importance of speaking with confidence — I’ve grown comfortble hiding behind the printed word, not reading it to listeners with style.

But there’s certainly hope for this reporter, including online resources and helpful colleagues. I found Michael Meckler’s website on radio reporting useful. Also, having a really patient, experienced person to work with (WORT’s Molly Stentz) helps as well.

Happy listening!

Photo by Ross Murray/Flickr.com

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About Me

Marianne is a science communicator working in Madison, Wis.

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