This story originally ran on PR Daily in June 2013. There’s more to writing a press release than you might think.
Not only is there a format to follow (headline, summary, date, content, section about the company), but a set of standard procedures to adhere to—AP Style.
Read on to learn how to make sure your press releases follow commonly-held stylistic procedures.
What is AP Style?
The Associated Press (AP) has set various regulations for news publications to follow. While they aren’t the only rules out there, they are the most commonly used.
The Associated Press has also set standards for press releases:
1. Set your objective in the introduction. Set your goal at the beginning of the release. If a journalist reads the first line or two of your release and doesn’t find the objective, he’ll toss your release and move on to the next one.
2. Cover the five Ws in the body copy. Once you have a reporter’s attention, you need to deliver the pay off. Follow the five Ws to make this happen (who, what, when, where, why). In other words, make sure you give the editor all the information she needs to write a full story. Because of their tight deadlines, editors don’t have time to dig deep.
3. Check your spacing. Here’s where it gets a little more technical. While it may seem picky, you should only use one space after punctuation—none before. This may seem different to you, as some people like to add two spaces after punctuation.
4. Drop that extra comma. When you list items in a series, you typically have the option to use a comma before that last “and.” For example:
I ate bananas, peanut butter, and chocolate.
I ate bananas, peanut butter and chocolate.
When you follow AP Style, drop that last comma. I like that last comma, but I’ve made myself stop using it in press releases.
5. Use full names and titles only when you introduce someone. When you first introduce someone, like a CEO, in your release, give his or her full name and title. But don’t keep doing so, as it will prove superfluous and make your writing sound clunky. After the introduction, simply use the last name.
6. Get numbers right. AP Style rules for numbers are a bit tricky. Spell out numbers one through nine. After that, use numerals like “10.” Also use numbers for dates, and abbreviate months with more than five letters.
AP Style is important for PR
Yes, it seems trivial. Who cares if you get all the little intricacies correct?
And since you want them to pick up your stories, you need to play by their rules.
Do you format your press releases for AP Style?