Instruction Manuals, Public Relations and News Releases

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Publications departments engaged in producing manuals and instruction books show the greatest expansion and turnover of personnel. You will find that when you apply for a job, the greatest response will come from employers needing technical writers who specialize in either manuals or research reports.

The need to transform masses of data into structured, intelligible information has created an ever-growing industry called the newsworthy item may be ignored if the presentation to the editors is poor. The true measures of the success of a news release are how many times and where it gets into print."

To ensure consistent acceptance of his or her news releases, the writer must know the interests of the particular editors and of the magazines' readers; must prepare valid, newsworthy releases; and must submit the releases in the proper, easy-to-use format that facilitates their use.

For individual readers, the news release often comes in another form called new product information. This variation must be short and to the point. It should demonstrate confidence in the product, describing it briefly and requiring a minimum amount of space. Here is an example of new product information:

This Hand-Held Anemometer will easily measure air speed wherever your hand can reach. The accurate hand-held one-piece unit weighs only three ounces and requires no external probe. Running on sapphire bearings, its freely turning turbine will rotate at a speed directly proportional to wind speed. The rotation is passively sensed by an infrared light beam which adds no friction. An integrated circuit even converts the signal to your choice of units (feet per minute, mph, meters per second, or knots) and feeds it to a three-digit LED display. This cleverly designed instrument, which operates with three AAA batteries, measures 4-'1" by 4-Vi by Wk inches.

It has been estimated that daily newspapers receive from 25 to 250 news releases a day. Approximately one of every 25 is used. As you can see, dealing with news releases requires special skills, and many of them were learned on the job.


As a member of the public relations department of a company, you may be asked to determine what your customers think of your company's products. Then you, along with others in your depart-Robert D. Towne, president of W. L. Towne, Inc., an advertising agency in New York City, has outlined several points that help to explain the duties of the technical advertiser.

First, he says, advertising writing is different from other kinds of writing because it is persuasive. In other words, even though information is at the heart of advertising, its main purpose is to persuade people to buy a product, a service, or to have a problem solved. To many writers, this offers an interesting switch from the run-of-the-mill technical writing.

Additionally, the technical copywriter must think not only in terms of writing, but also in terms of two other factors: the sales idea and illustration. These will bring the writer in close contact with the sales force of a company and provide the stimulating experience of working with fine illustrators.

Technical advertisers also have their think sessions, as ideas are tossed around for review and the objectives of the advertising campaign are discussed. Dozens of ideas will be looked at and discarded, but somewhere will be the one that will please everyone, especially the client.


Another kind of technical promotion is the news release. This may be in the form of a news story or an article for a magazine. The real reason for preparing a news release is to supply information (and advertising) that editors will want to include in their publications. It must be carefully written to present the information clearly and concisely, with language chosen to interest and impress the editors to whom it is submitted.

The technical writer often gets involved in news releases, operating from either a regular publications office or an advertising department. That there is considerable skill involved in preparing news releases is pointed out by Sydney F. Shapiro, managing editor of Computer Design Magazine. Mr. Shapiro says: "The most manuals that must accompany every project before its results can be implemented. Another group is the Technical Information Office, which is responsible for the preparation of technical papers for publication in journals, for answering inquiries of a technical nature that are received by Mound Laboratory, and for editing and publishing periodic and progress reports.

Government research groups are not necessarily run by large companies. Some government agencies are to be found in the military itself, developing weapons, missiles, and equipment for space exploration. Harry Diamond Laboratories, part of the U.S. Army, is one of these agencies, as is the Naval Weapons Center at China Lake, California. These military agencies provide numerous career opportunities for civilian and enlisted technical communication specialists.
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