One of the sometimes useful, often annoying, and almost-always amusing things about being a journalist is that people have stuff to tell you. They are chock full of ideas. Especially people who work in public relations. These professionals, in particular, are bubbling over with tips for what we writers should cover next, and they make sure we sit up and take notice.
How do they accomplish this? Can you say "press release?" Um, I can.
On an average weekday, I get long ones, I get short ones. I get loud ones, I get meek ones. I get smart ones, and I get dumb ones. I get boatloads that ramble on and on about what's hot for "Millennials and Gen Y." I get ones that make no discernible sense at all.
Careful press releases have a journalist's name on them spelled in any number of ways. Lazy releases (yawn) don't bother: "Hi!" they say. Or "Good morning!" Very lazy releases have the wrong name at the top -- or the name of a forest animal or dead person. Then there are brain-dead releases. These are sent in mighty, inbox-blasting bulk: three copies, five copies, even more.
Just for fun, here's a sampling of the weirdest travel pitches that are out there right now -- flapping around, jumping up and down, and doing their darnedest to snag your attention:
1. Pencil Sharpener Museum
"With its diverse offerings, Ohio's spectacular Hocking Hills region is the ideal place to go." Or so says this hard-to-ignore pitch. "Providing the perfect segue [sic] from summer to back-to-school," notes the release, "the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum, featuring more than 3,000 different sharpeners, is free and perfectly located at the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center." Perfectly located. Just in case you have a sudden urge to turn back after taking in a few of the sharpeners on display.
2. Are You Ready to Berlin?
This unforgettable pitch also happens to be a full-page magazine ad featuring three extremely strange-looking people juggling cocktails in clingy evening wear and freezing to death on an outdoor balcony. "Experience a City That Thrives on Change," screams the verb-inventing tagline: "Are You Ready to Berlin ?" You might be ready. Maybe you know a strange-looking friend who is. As for myself, I think I'll take a pass.
3. The Mushroom Capital of the World
Did you know that "There's fun(gi) for the whole family at the Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square, Pa. -- The Mushroom Capital of the World!" Me neither, although I try my best to keep up with mushroom news. I suggest you check out this release and the magazine ad that features an eye-catching photo of "Fun Gus" the Mushroom Festival's intrepid mascot. That is, unless you have something better to do.
4. TurboPUP the Adventure Meal for Dogs
According to this timely blast, TurboPUP dog food is an "adventure meal for dogs that is the size of an iPhone." An "adventure meal" the size of a phone. That's hard to beat, in my book. After he finishes his portion, I'll let you know how the adventure went down in my dog's always extreme and edgy digestive tract.
5. Pick-Pocket Proof Pants Thwart Rome Metro Thief
Yes, friends. Here's some good news: "With rampant pick-pocketing making headlines in Paris, Rome and other international tourist destinations, an ingeniously designed pair of pants are [sic] stopping would-be thieves in their tracks." According to Ernest Taliaferro, an American tourist in Rome who's quoted in this suspenseful release, "I checked my rear pocket and the left side of the flap was unbuttoned, but the zipper was closed. I caught the eye of my wife and said, 'pick-pocket,' loudly. When I did, a red-headed woman whirled her head around and shot me a killer look of hatred, probably because she had been foiled by my Pick-Pocket Proof Pants."
Or, I guess there's the chance that...um, well...she just didn't like you.
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Peter Mandel is an author of picture books for kids, including his read-aloud bestseller: Jackhammer Sam (Macmillan/Roaring Brook), and his newest about zoo animals passing on a very noisy sneeze: Zoo Ah-Choooo (Holiday House).