A PR agency asked me to create buzz about a rubber-like chemical, called ADA, used by Sasko to make their flour whiter. They already had a seasoned journalist working the case and roped me in for a more, let's call it, online approach.
As someone who's still not clear on the difference between 'on the record' and 'off the record', I immediately decided to steer clear of any scenario involving a dictaphone. After that I sat down to write an online protest following five simple guidelines.
1. Don't write a headline - write a tweet
If it worked on Twitter, it would work anywhere. Food puns were in. Sugar-coating was out. I went with Flour Foul Play: Sasko Substance Shocker. My friend in journalism wrote Sasko Bows To Pressure On Yoga Mat Chemical. Each to his own.
2. Open with a smile
Since we were already in the kitchen, I opened with a mini recipe for disaster: Be careful next time you mix flour, yeast and water. You might just pull a yoga mat from the oven. My learned colleague opened with a summary of the situation outlining both sides of the story.
Much more serious, but something you'd expect next to an article on the Griekwastad murder trial. I was squeezed in between the latest Miley Cyrus meltdown and a 'Most Read' newsfeed.
3. Air an opinion
My learned colleague built his article on hard facts. I built mine on opinion with a sprinkling of facts. In my opinion adding plastic to flour is bad.
To add spice, I delivered my opinion in a slightly fed-up, sarcastic tone. Think Debora Patta reading copy written by the Entertainment Now team.
4. Write sensational sub-headers
Sub-headers can make or break a blog. Public health was at stake so, for my sub-headers, I used words like 'outcry' and 'can hurt you'. Surprisingly, my friend in journalism also used sub-headers but banked on words like 'explained' and 'should be removed'. Here's a play-by-play in order of appearance.
Me: An International Outcry! My colleague: "Flour should be removed" - activists
Me: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You My colleague: The "yoga mat chemical" explained
Me: Too Little Too Late My colleague: Continued improvement necessary
Me: A Good Outcome For Who? My colleague: Fast-tracking the removal of ADA
5. End with a sting
I ended with a critical look at two quotes lifted from my colleague's dictaphone (thanks buddy). First I questioned Sasko's "fast-tracking" of the removal of ADA when flour containing ADA was still on the shelves.
Then I lambasted Pick n Pay for saying removing ADA from their bakeries' pre-mixes was a "good outcome for everyone". Clearly it wasn't since ADA could still be found in flour on Pick n Pay's shelves. With those two flour bombs the piece was wrapped and ready for the web.
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Methinks your "learned colleague" delivered the facts -- well, " both sides of the story" -- which respected the readers integrity and ability to think for him/herself. What you did was cloud the whole issue in gumph -- also known as bulls...t by people kin the mainstream media. Why give readers the runaround? The first question I will ask is "what have you got to hide?" Then I'll say "three cheers for Pick n Pay." If PnP don't remove ADA from their on-shelf flour, wel then surely THAT is the issue. Why the hell should we eat products with plastic in them, and why are you trying to promote it? All of which makes me very cynical about anything you write in the future, let alone anything "wrapped and ready for the web". If you treat readers (and consumers) like fools, then Hansie, ou maat, put on the dunce's cap and sit in the corner. Jy's 'n dwaas.
An online readers attention span is about 8-15 seconds...if you do not 'hook' them in the heading and opening line, your content is lost in the sea of other articles. The nature on writing for online requires metaphors, comparisons, alliteration and creative writing skill over and above that of a 'seasoned journalist'.
hansie, I think this was a gutsy little piece of writing that not every Tom, Dick and Wheel can pull off. After all - it is an opinion piece. I like the honesty and the creative edge. Maybe instead of a sprinkling of facts, an extra good 'ol pinch could be added...but if the message was broughts across, Im sure it was succesfull and done so for a wider, more tech-savvy audience.