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Stet Newsletter | August 2017

31 Jul 2017 9:51 AM | Anonymous
Stet Newsletter
August 2017

Volume 36 | Number  8

Editor's Note

Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

As writers, we spend much of our time writing so why add to it by keeping a journal? There are many reasons to journal – personal brainstorming, a place to jot down ideas, record the day’s (or week’s) events or travels, keep track of your exercise or diet, or even learn more about yourself. It can be an exercise to keep our writing skills limber.

I love books including the blank ones that I turn into journals. I have used pretty much every kind of blank book to journal in over the years from plain old lined notebooks to a beautifully crafted handmade one. While I do not see myself ever completely giving up pen and paper, I am constantly looking for ways to downsize and have less stuff. So, journaling, safely and securely, online is my next project.

As usual, Google got my research started and one name came up repeatedly – Penzu – I checked it out and their offer of military grade security, ability to write on any platform and search options made it look like a winner. It has a free version and an upgraded paid one. I also liked the reviews for JRNL which is also touted to be secure and customizable.

Other options such as host a blog but keep it private or use your computer’s word processing program and store your entries in document storage like Dropbox came up as well.

I love books including the blank ones that I turn into journals.

There seem to be as many online journal options as there are blank books for journals. Journals that are topic specific such as food, travel and fitness. These were all for journals that are typed into your computer or tablet, not hand written. I am going to try one for myself and see how I like it. Do you already use an online journal? Do you have a recommendation that you can send into Stet? Thanks!

If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

- Cynthia Tomusiak

August Meeting Preview


Join IWOCers of all stripes for a kick-back-and-enjoy evening of fun, food, and casual conversation on the rooftop at Pegasus Restaurant, 5:30pm, 130 S. Halsted Street, Chicago, in Greektown.

Come for the food, stay for the conversation—and because you paid to be there! FYI - cash bar.

Not a member? Not a problem. Everyone is welcome!

The price? Just $35 if you pay online (click here to register) or $40 at the door. Regardless of how you pay, you must register by August 1st, so we can give the restaurant a head count.

We look forward to seeing you there! Opa!

Come for the food, stay for the conversation—and because you paid to be there!

P.S. There's a parking lot across the street, or you can use the free valet parking at the door. If public transportation is your thing, you can get there via the Blue Line or the #8 Halstead bus.

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July Meeting Recap

Press Release Basics

Richard Eastline

What works best in getting a press release out to your local newspaper about your business, charity, event or nonprofit? When it is better to place an ad instead?

While the rules and guidelines of writing, editing and submitting a press release always apply, it depends on your goals, IWOC President Laura Stigler and past IWOC president and current parliamentarian David Steinkraus explain during a panel they co-hosted titled “How to Master Press Release Basics”.

“Advertising might not serve your particular purpose,” Stigler, a freelance writer and owner of Shebang! Writing-2-Consulting, says. Newspaper ads are not free.  “You can guarantee placement, but you cannot guarantee results.” she adds.

“Instead, a press release may work better,” Stigler says. Because not only is it free, but if your story is picked up, it comes across as credible, newsworthy, and can get you great publicity — at no cost!".

Past IWOC president David Steinkraus explains that newsroom staff layoffs, mergers and buyouts before the start of the new millennium and since the Great Recession affect the success of your press release.

“Reduce it down to the essence of what you’re promoting.”

Steinkraus, a print journalist specializing in science, medicine and the environment and a photographer, adds that that these developments mean “your newspaper is thinner” with fewer personnel “to give you attention” to promote your material. However, he says, “on the flipside, more local newspapers sprouted up”. This, along with the advent of social media such as Facebook and Instagram, gives “you more places to send your stuff,” he adds.

When writing your release, you first must pinpoint what exactly you are promoting. An event? Product? Your company? Then ask yourself, “What about it is newsworthy? Unique?” You then have about 10 seconds to the capture interest of the reader.

IWOC Members:
Click here to access the meeting podcast!

As for the anatomy of a press release, Stigler advises organizing it in the “correct format” so it can be immediately identified as a press release. This means placing “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE”, (in all caps) at the upper left corner of the page. Right underneath, put the date the release is being sent — not the date of the event. In the upper right corner, you must be sure to add a contact name, e-mail address and phone number. The headline must be a grabber. “It’s like a good sauce,” Stigler says. “Reduce it down to the essence of what you’re promoting." Does it bring attention to a problem / solution?  What is the ultimate benefit? The first paragraph must contain “the 5 W’s — the Who, What, When, Where and Why. When needed, a second or even third paragraph can expand on the details of the event, product, etc. 

If you expect a response, you can [follow up]. Ask nicely.

But however you say it in the headline and the rest of the release, make the voice real and relatable to the audience. Stigler also adds that editors and program directors are "always looking for good stories to fill up space and time. So it not only must quickly capture their attention, but must be relevant and newsworthy enough to attract their readers, listeners or viewers."  Steinkraus agrees. “If I am an editor and I can’t figure out what you are saying or what you want, I’ll throw it out.” And it’s best to “keep it to a page,” he says about an acceptable length of a press release. 

He also suggests that you address and send your press release to a specific person. “You should be careful about who to contact,” Steinkraus says. “If you expect a response, you can [follow up]. Ask nicely. You don’t know if an email got led away [or] if it got lost in the mail box.”

If a mainstream daily newspaper or publication shows no interest in your press release or material, he says hometown media may be more receptive. It also pays to consult media guides at your local library, form ties with reporters and editors and to even consider another angle for your work. “And, if you know about a newspaper’s deadlines, beat it,” he says.

- Vladimire Herard

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President's Column

The Votes Are In: You Win!

Laura Stigler

Last January we conducted a member survey that included the question, “What can IWOC improve?” Guess what response came in multitudes. If you guessed, “Simplify the sign-up/renewal process,” you’d win the Grand Prize, if there were any.

Complaints (including from yours truly) against the byzantine process were all too common – and anything that presented roadblocks to joining or renewing had to be addressed. So (according to IWOC lore) after decades of attempts, the Board decided that this time, it was “go time.”

Easier to join. Easier to afford.

For the last six months we discussed, debated, got into drunken brawls (naw, not really. But almost.), and finally hammered out do-able changes that would not only make IWOC easier to join, but more affordable. After all, our members are freelancers. Oftentimes it’s feast or famine. Why not establish price points that could be more digestible whether you’re dining nightly on pheasant or ramen noodles?

Be a Professional Member ($95), Associate Member ($75) or Student ($40).

Once we agreed to all the changes, we put them in writing and along with relevant revisions in the bylaws, sent them out to the members for review. On July 11 (a date that I predict will soon be declared a national holiday), members convened to vote. The result: A unanimous “Yea.” Yay!!!

The changes, in a nutshell:

  • Simpler sign-up/renewal process: Much more “A to B.” Tried it myself. HUGE improvement.
  • Fewer levels: Streamlined from 5 to 3. Be a Professional Member ($95), Associate Member ($75) or Student ($40). Seniors and Distance members have been incorporated into the Professional.
  • Note lower price for Pros: Think of it. For 33% less than before, get all the perks exclusive to a Professional membership, such as being able to list your specialties on the member directory – a feature that attracts prospective clients. (For details on Pro membership benefits, see “Join IWOC” at
  • Rolling membership: No more waiting for October to join, or getting tangled up in “prorated” calculations. Join anytime; renew one year from that date. (This also makes it easier to give an IWOC Gift Membership.)
  • Cleaned-up category listings: Really. How many variations do we need for, say, “Advertising”? And if you want to be ultra specific, feel free to be so in your profile description. All words will be searchable by clients seeking your services.

That’s the big picture. As of this writing, there are still some tweaks to be worked out. When all is finalized (figure late August), we’ll make the official announcement and be ready to roll.

For 33% less than before get all the perks exclusive to a Professional membership, such as being able to list your specialties on the member directory – a feature that attracts prospective clients.

Since last October, our main mission was to attract more members and keep current members happy. We thought one of the best ways to accomplish that was by simplifying the sign-up/renewal process and making dues more affordable. With both boxes now checked, consider it a win-win. For everyone.

- Laura Stigler

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IWOC Member Article

Cold Calling for Freelancers

Diana Schneidman

Phoning for freelance writing assignments: Leave a message? Yes, yes, yes!

Seems the consensus among marketers is never to leave a voicemail message when phoning. The collective “they” say that phone calls are nuisances and therefore, so are voicemail messages.

First, let’s step back and define “cold calling.” In my dictionary, a cold call is one in which not only do you not know the person you are calling, but you’ve culled the name from a massive list that has no relevance to your product or service. (Think phone book or the electronic equivalent.)

By my definition, cold calling is useless.

Anything else is a warm call. Certainly the best calls are to previous clients and our closest friends. However, I consider a call to a business person who is quite likely to want the good news about my offer or to a fellow member of a professional organization to be a warm call.

I hate the term “cold calling,” but I have associates who use it freely. They say they are cold calling when they sit down to their lists of past clients and contacts they have made through networking.

Certainly the best calls are to previous clients and our closest friends.

I call it “picking up the phone”

Let’s be clear about how to use the phone. Only call people who are likely to benefit from your services; Help them by informing them of a service that you believe they may want.

I make all calls myself. I call live with no recordings. I get to the point quickly and don’t waste time on useless chitchat. I phone only business numbers (but if a one-person business uses the same phone number for personal and work, that’s not my fault). I only phone during regular business hours. And if people ask to be taken off my list, I never call them again.

Unfortunately, I myself receive more nuisance calls than ever. Sometimes the same nuisance caller phones multiple times on the same day. Alas, these calls often come from what appears to be a local phone number.

I generally do not answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize, with the exception of some local numbers or possible clients or prospects. I figure that if the call is relevant, they’ll leave a message. And I always check my voicemail!

Unfortunately . . .

It is unfortunate that many are trying to transform the phone into a delivery mechanism for garbage.

If you believe that the message you leave is a nuisance, then your call itself is also a nuisance.

Keep calling until someone finally answers? Yuck!

Calling repeatedly till someone answers is not the answer, in my opinion. As the same number shows up on my phone repeatedly, it confirms my expectation that it’s a bad call. As I come to recognize the number, I am repelled, not intrigued.

I am proud of the calls I make. I believe I offer something of value and the person called would gladly take my call if only he knew what I am calling about.

I am proud of the calls I make.

By the way, I try to use at least two channels each time I phone. I leave a message and I immediately follow up with an email describing my services. However, a postal letter would also be appropriate in some circumstances.

Have you considered phoning for writing assignments? It may be worth a try.

Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

- Diana Schneidman

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IWOC Member News

Panel Discussion The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure

To many, Chicago’s monumental and iconic Picasso sculpture is synonymous with the city itself!

Art historian Patricia Balton Stratton and an esteemed group reveal the inside story of the still controversial sculpture.

The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure is published to coincide with the 50th anniversary celebration of the famous statue’s unveiling. Relying on exclusive archival interviews and extensive research, Stratton tells the full story of monumental achievement in all of its historical and artistic glory.

Books will be available for purchase and the author will autograph books before and after the program.

  • Tuesday, August 15, 6:00–7:30 p.m 
  • 50th anniversary of the unveiling
  • Harold Washington Library 400 South State Street, Chicago
  • Seating in the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium is first come, first served. Free and open to the public.
  • Event Link

This program is presented as part of the City of Chicago’s 2017 Year of Public Art.

See IWOC member and author Patricia Balton Stratton discuss her book, The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure on Tuesday, August 8 on “Chicago Tonight,” Channel 11 WTTW at 7:00pm. 

- Patrica Stratton

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IWOC's New Members

Please welcome:

Valerie Rendel - Associate Member

- Roger Rueff

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IWOC Board of Directors

Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian), George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman, Cynthia Tomusiak

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