What Is AP Style?
The familiar symbol on the left represents the Associated Press, from which the Associated Press style, or AP Style originates. AP Style is a standardized set of writing, punctuation and grammatical rules for journalists to ensure consistency across news publications. All reporters and news writers learn AP Style in journalism school and use it in their everyday writing assignments. AP Style writing involves everything from the style in which the press release or article is written, to dates, datelines, job titles, professional titles and much more. AP style was developed and is maintained by The Associated Press, the world’s oldest news service, and it is the most widely used writing style for publication.
Why AP Style matters to you
By explaining what AP Style is, I must first explain what it is not—it is not advertising copy, marketing copy or overtly promotional; a solid press release should read like a news article – just the facts, ma’am. No adjectives, no superlatives. While many people think a press release should “sell” their product or service, it does, but subtly. It’s all about credibility. Any legit newsroom will tell you if you want to sell something, buy an ad. The idea is to present a newsworthy topic about your business, product or service in a legitimate news format so that it can be picked up and published in any newspaper or periodical as a standard news article.
Anyone who calls himself or herself a PR professional without knowing the basics of AP Style should consider a different career. There are plenty of these writers out there, with the habit of submitting stories filled with AP style errors—they are not likely getting any press attention or pick-ups. In fact, they’re probably being tossed in the trash before they’re even reviewed.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderful writers who don’t know or use AP Style, but they are generally marketing copywriters, novelists, and poets. In fact, I love the opportunity to write for casual outlets like blogs or social media, because it gives me the chance to break the rules and let loose with my creative impulses, and actually use more overt advertising language. But when it comes to writing press releases and articles for publication, I am an AP Style devotee.
AP style is the gold standard for print journalism, used by the vast majority of newspapers and news media outlets in the U.S. If your press release is submitted in AP Style to begin with, your chances of getting the attention of legitimate news organizations increase 100 percent—busy newsroom editors and reporters don’t have the time to be editing any one of the many press releases that cross their desks every day to get them into press-ready format, and press releases that are not delivered in press-ready AP Style will be unceremoniously tossed to the circular file. Releases that arrive in press-ready format have a much better chance of being picked up and published.
An added bonus of submitting press releases in press-ready AP Style format is that news agencies are far less likely to edit the copy you approved. You want them to publish your release without edits. If your news is interesting enough to publish but not presented in AP Style, they’ll start hacking away at it and you never know how your published copy will read.
On average, using a serious distribution wire service, my press releases are sent to between 12,000 and 20,000 news agencies and are picked up and published by 100 – 150 of them. I concentrate distribution locally when it makes the most sense—for instance, brick and mortars in Philadelphia want Philly-area media to run their releases. Organizations that operate nationally and internationally online or have offices scattered across the country will receive more widespread distribution. Search engine optimization (SEO) is another critical factor.
Press releases rarely provide immediate results, and in fact, any press release distributor that guarantees placement in prestigious publications is probably a con. Ultimately, each publication’s editorial staff decides which releases to publish.
If you have any questions regarding press release writing and distribution, please feel free to email me and I will personally respond with the answers you need. As a former reporter and a journalist, I have decades of expertise in all things press release, and my consultations are free. My goal is to help small businesses, startups, entrepreneurs, authors, innovators and independent professionals succeed in a sea of deep-pocket competitors affordably and efficiently. Contact me at Liz@ernstpr.com to see if I can help. There is never any charge for a consultation.