Why AP Style Is Losing the Press Release Battle

words_headerGuest Post by Mickie E. Kennedy

Remember writing papers in college? Your old college professor Dr. Kimley was always a big stickler for following AP rules down to the smallest detail. One time he knocked you down a grade because you capitalized “minister” for the wrong religion. How were you supposed to know that specific AP rule unless you’d memorized the entire book?

These days you probably think back to poor Dr. Kimley and his love of all things AP style. After all, if he goes on the Internet at all he likely does so with tears in his eyes. That’s because even the most formal papers on the Internet are becoming, according to him, informal nonsense.

professor or writer cartoon illustration

That’s because in this day and age of Tweets, texts, and Likes, style is no longer king. Content and messaging now reign. That’s nowhere more apparent than in the public relations and press release world. In fact, PR Newswire no longer even puts headlines in AP title case if you submit the press release in all caps. The times they are a-changin’, and here’s why.

All About the Message

We can argue whether the Internet and mobile technology is destroying language until we’re blue in the face. Honestly, though, I believe the modern way of focusing on WHAT you’re saying more than HOW you’re saying it is great for the PR industry. After all, that’s the bare bones of what public relations is in the first place: coming up with a great message to move the public.

And that’s what we’re seeing now. Take a look at the chapter on writing press release headlines from my guide to press releases. There are so many different ways to capture the imaginations of your readers rather than just sticking to traditional routes. Some say Buzzfeed headlines are awful, but they work, almost as if they’ve got title writing down to a literal science.

Beyond the title, though, if your press release isn’t interesting, it’s not going to make any waves. While it’s brutal and unforgiving, it also means that if you have something interesting to say you’ll get noticed. Compare this with a newspaper canning your press release because your margins were half an inch off.

Spread Around the Web

Speaking of newspapers, another plus of this new age of PR is just how accessible everything is now. Let’s say you’re a PR pro in the 1980s, 90s, or even the early 2000s. Your main source of getting your voice heard is sending it to a newspaper and hoping the intern working there wouldn’t notice that you capitalized “Manhattan” as in “a manhattan cocktail.”

Now, though, you have tons of options. You can upload the press release yourself. You can send it to a number of websites and online papers. If it gets enough attention, it will spread around completely by itself, including those newspapers that before might’ve neglected to even look twice at you.

Plus, if your story is good enough, it will spread around the entire world and not just your local community. It’s a huge boost for any small company just looking to get their voice heard. So spare a quick thought about poor Dr. Kimley and AP style, but quickly move on to come up with your next story!

Do you mourn the strict adherence to AP style or enjoy the freedom of “Internet style” writing?

About the Author

kennedyThis article was written by Mickie E. Kennedy, founder of eReleases PR and author of the PR Fuel blog.