News Releases: Things you thought were OK but really aren’t

During some weeks, my colleagues and I may send out a dozen or more news releases for our clients to local media. There’s no doubt reporters in Memphis get hundreds or even thousands of emails, some relevant and some not. Part of our job is to help reporters do their job more quickly. We help make it easier and more seamless for them.

Sometimes, new clients aren’t fully aware of what all that entails, and that’s OK because we take time to explain and educate clients about our processes. For example, when a client has news that warrants a full news release, we write the release according to Associated Press guidelines. We do that because that’s how it has to appear and will appear in the news. It also makes it easier for the reporter or editor to pull language from the release. If you’re wondering what AP Style looks like, here are a few examples.

•    Memphis, Tenn. not Memphis, TN.
•    John Smith, chief executive officer of ABC Company not John Smith, Chief Executive Officer of ABC Company (unless the title must precede the name, like, Mayor A C Wharton)
•    4 p.m. not 4 PM, noon not 12 p.m.
•    “More than” not “over”
•    The New York Times not “The New York Times”

Beyond AP Style rules, there are other AP guidelines we follow, as well. In news releases, we avoid fluffy sensational language because it hurts credibility. Saying that your new service is “the absolute best service and the only one you will ever need” is an opinion and is meant for paid advertising (although we wouldn’t recommend saying that in an ad either). We also try our best to be concise. That goes back to helping out the reporter. It’s important to be straightforward and avoid flowery language. Jargon, language that applies only to certain professions and industries, is also an issue. When it’s absolutely necessary to include jargon in a news release, it must be explained. However, who wants to read a news release full of explanations? We coach our clients on how to cut out jargon during interviews.
We understand that many businesses have brand guidelines and writing style preferences, and that’s OK for internal use. However, it’s simply not appropriate for the news. While we will always stick to our clients’ brand guidelines, it’s not incorrect to change something to AP Style. Journalists who read properly written news releases, or pitches, will be more likely to respond, and that’s how Obsidian gets great news coverage for our clients!