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More ways to annoy an editor

Of interest to new PR coordinators or junior B2B PR account managers

I decided to share a few more ways to get under an editor’s skin, partly because it’s kind of fun to talk about, and partly because editors are still being annoyed by inappropriately written content they receive from manufacturers. 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.

So here are four things we beg you not to do.

You write a zero-content piece

This is the press release or other content that may sneak its way onto 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 any definitive statement. It’s not about a new product or a new initiative or a specific event or a new location or a new hire that will impact your market. It says nothing that the publication’s readership cares about. It makes the company that sent it to seem out of touch—and that not only annoys editors, but it also annoys readers, your potential customers. This is especially true in the no-nonsense industries we cater to.

You misuse exclamation points!!!

There is no rational explanation for using an exclamation point in a press release, and only ---rarely in other content. 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.

You confuse marketing with PR

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.

You Go on a random capitalization Rampage

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 or other content look like amateur work, and that is not a message you want to communicate. There are two very 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—mainly due to the fact that executives are very jealous of their titles. 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. Mechanic Don Smith and Writer Matthew Fueston don’t quite count as real titles, unfortunately.

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