Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer.
The trade press is much more receptive to corporate press releases than typical news media outlets are, and they are certainly much more forgiving of poorly written releases than mainstream news magazines or websites. But even the long-suffering editors of trade journals grit their teeth and dig in their heels when they are faced with the following PR transgressions:
You embed your photo in your press release
If you want an editor to include your amazing photo alongside your press release, please do not embed your photo in the Word document (or even worse, the PDF). There is a loss of resolution and overall quality, which will likely make it impossible to use, at least in a print edition. And even if the publication is online—and can thus use a lower-res photo—why make the editor go to the work of extracting or copying the photo from the document? That brings up another excellent way to annoy an editor…
You make them work for their photos
Editorial staff has been reduced at most media properties and everyone has too much to do. So when you send a complicated set of instructions to the editor detailing how he or she should go about finding and then downloading the photo you’ve chosen to accompany your press release, you’re not really giving them much of an incentive to use your photo. This is a leftover from the days when emails regularly got rejected for exceeding size limits, or they took too long to download. But it’s not 1999, so go ahead and send a 2MB photo as an attachment right along with your Word document. Speaking of Word documents…
You send your press release as a PDF
Editors like to be able to cut and paste the text from your press release, sometimes directly into the content management system of their website. That is really difficult with a PDF. Why would you ever send your press release as anything other than a Word document or .rtf or .txt document? The key is to make it as easy as possible for an editor to use your information. We’ve been told by editors that some companies—who do not use PR agencies, incidentally—regularly submit their releases in this format. Editors will edit your submissions. Sending them as a PDF doesn’t “lock in” anything. It just forces someone to retype your release.
You include a lot of fancy formatting in your document
Some inexperienced communications people go all out to make their press release look like it is a page in a magazine or newspaper. However, each publication has their own layout style and all the work spent on the press release document, getting the text to flow around the photo just so, for example, will have to be removed by the editor before they can do their edit or re-write of the piece. Sometimes the press release will be full of italics and bolding and underlining—all of which will have to be removed by the harried editor or an equally harried assistant before it can be used.
AND FOR GOODNESS SAKE DON’T USE ALL CAPS. IT’S HARD TO REFORMAT THAT, AND SOMEONE WILL HAVE TO SPEND TIME (THAT THEY DON’T HAVE) RETYPING. Neither editor nor assistant will be inclined to go the extra mile for someone who has made their work day even a little more difficult.
Some minimal amount of formatting, for the purpose of making the press release easier for the editor to read, is acceptable. For example, a headline will likely be in a larger font to make it stand out, and the lede paragraph may be in bold because it also serves as the executive summary of the overall piece. But formatting that goes much further than this just becomes, well, annoying.
Obviously, we believe that it is best to retain the services of a full-service agency such as Ellcom to handle these tasks for you. We know the editors, and we know that these four mistakes can cost you a certain degree of cooperation. We know this because we talk to these editors all the time. They tell us their pet peeves. And we give them press releases crafted in such a way as to avoid these and many other annoyances so that our clients have the very best shot at getting their story published.