Last year we posted an article called “4 sure-fire ways to annoy an editor with your press release,” and it was one of our most popular posts ever (mainly with editors, I’ll admit.) We’ve decided to share a few more, partly because it’s kind of fun, and partly because editors are still being annoyed by inappropriately written press releases. This isn’t about obeying finicky rules just for the sake of it—it’s about upping the odds that your company’s message will be read and that your relationship with the trade press is not harmed.
This is the press release that sneaks its way into a magazine’s website, but usually won’t get as far as the print edition. It is usually a corporate puff piece that speaks in generalities and lacks pretty much any definitive statement. It’s not about a new product or a new initiative or a specific event or a new hire that will impact your market or a new location. It says nothing that the publication’s readership cares about. It makes the company that sent it seem out of touch—and that not only annoys editors, it annoys readers, your potential customers. This is especially true in our industries (oil and gas, mining, construction and so on.)
There is no rational explanation for using an exclamation point in a press release. It is not an ad or a marketing brochure. It is a statement of facts, a report, a sober, business-like announcement. Nothing shouts “Amateur!” like an exclamation point in a press release. Of course, you’ll notice that I used one with the word “amateur” because it was a shout; shouts kind of require that kind of punctuation. If you don’t have a shouted quote in your press release, you don’t need an exclamation point. Of course, if your CEO really is that ebullient in his quotes, maybe you could sneak one in. But I can’t imagine the circumstance that would really call for one.
This is one that editors see a lot, especially when press releases are handled by a company’s marketing department. Even so, this usually happens because an executive is pressuring the marketing or communications department to “do a better job of selling” in their press releases. The trouble is, that’s not what a press release is for. The press release is essentially a no-cost service provided by the publication because they know that their readers do want to know, right away, when something new comes down the pike. But those same publications know that their own reputations as trustworthy sources of news are put at risk when they print, as news, that a certain product is game-changing, revolutionary, the best in the world, or whatever other superlative the manufacturer conjures. If it really is revolutionary—and few things really are—the bare facts should make that clear and they will have all the more power for being unadorned.
We see this most often on company websites, when a press release is simply posted to the news tab of the site and has, too often, not had the benefit of a professional edit. While a trade publication may correct your mistakes, why make their job harder? Random capitalization is another of those mistakes that can make your press release look amateur, and that is not a message you want to communicate. There are a few basic rules to keep in mind
– Capitalize proper names and proper nouns, including actual product names
– Capitalize the first word in a sentence
Titles are the toughest to get right, for some reason—at least they are for me. Capitalize a title only if it comes before the name, as in President George Washington. But when it comes after the name, the title should not be capitalized. And stick to real titles. Don Smith, Mechanic, and Writer Matt Fueston don’t quite count as formal titles, unfortunately.
Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.