Editor’s Corner: Grammar Snob Alert! Who vs. Whom Demonstrates Usage in Transition

September 13, 2011

by Andrew Guinn, Graveyard Newsroom Supervisor, Business Wire Nashville

Andrew Guinn

by Andrew Guinn, Newsroom Supervisor, BW Nashville

Who vs. whom, which is it? 

 “Look it up.”

This was my fellow university newspaper staffers’ reply to a grammar question, accompanied by an AP Manual flying toward my head.  I’m far from an expert, so, when confronted with the question of who or whom, I looked it up… and found confusion.

Why?  Apparently we’ve changed how particular we are about the correct usage and now find whom awkward in some instances – mostly when our misuse is corrected.  

In a typical press release, the sentence structure is simple and doesn’t call for complication.  The characters you write about are usually getting hired or promoted, maybe sued, so the trick for determining which usage is correct revolves around this: Who is a subject and whom is an object.  Or, who does stuff while stuff happens to whom

 Who came up with this idea?  We, they, he or she came up with this idea.

 We can’t tell for whom the package is.  Awkward, isn’t it?  But correct useage tell us the package is for them, us, her or him.

If the people being replaced in your sentence are committing the action, they are replaced with who.  If they’re just there, near the action, replace them with whom.

 Give this to someone who knows how to use it.  Even if it’s not an actual action.

 Without an address, we didn’t know to whom the package belonged.  Guess it’s for us.

 Whoever and whomever work in the same manner.

 Whoever finds the keys gets a reward.  If he or she finds the keys.

 We will look for the keys in the pockets of whomever we meet.  We meet them.

Some of these feel strange to say.  If you saw a birthday cake in your break room, would you ask, “For whom is this cake?”  Or, would you ask, “Who’s the cake for?” 

Will there be a “grammar snob” around who is still willing to correct us?  I wouldn’t count on it.  But, why wait on someone else when you can do it yourself?

With 31 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.


Denver-Area Journalists Discuss Newsroom Cutbacks, Pitching Tips

August 23, 2011

by JoAnne Hirsch, Senior Client Services Representative, Business Wire Denver

Business Wire Denver recently hosted a media breakfast, “Who’s Covering You Now: What Newsroom Cutbacks Mean to Your Company and How to Pitch Stories to a Shrinking Newsroom.”  The media panel discussed the changing landscape, best practices for pitching and the impact of  mobile.


David Sloan
, Account Executive for Business Wire Denver, moderated the panel, which included (L-R):

  • Gil Asakawa, Manager of Student Media, Journalism & Mass Communication, University of Colorado
  • Greg Nieto, News Reporter, FOX31 and KWGN, Channel 2
  • Patrick Doyle, Senior Editor, 5280 Publishing, Inc.

Tight budgets, shrinking newsrooms

Nieto responded to seemingly endless media consolidation by finding a silver lining.  “I have a lot more leeway to bring stories to the table,” he said. “When we have editorial meetings they used to ask for five or six story ideas and that number has probably grown to about 10.”  

Asakawa added that in recent years the Denver Post has shrunk drastically, resulting in reporters  juggling multiple kinds of stories.  One of the biggest changes, he said, has been the PR community’s outreach to social media and individual bloggers.

Know your audience, do your homework

The panel was unanimous in the sage-old advice to PR pros:  despite technology, it’s all about the relationship. “Watch some of the program on TV and see where your topic might fit in,” counseled Nieto.   Doyle requested no attachments in email pitches and Asakawa advised: “Find new hooks and plan new hooks every year so you have something to go to the media with.”

Nieto offered a lesson in selling reporters on your story:  “When I pitch a story I’m already thinking about the hook. What’s going to be the tease? A pitch should be multi-layered.  The more ammunition I have, the better opportunity it’s going to stick and someone in the editorial meeting is going to assign your story.”

Regarding timing, the journalists recommended keeping production schedules and editorial calendars in mind.  A monthly magazine works far in advance, with editorial calendars set a year out. Newspapers have a more timely window.  “You need to know that to get in the Friday section it’s done at most papers by Tuesday,”  said Asakawa.

Mobile technologies a game changer

The panel agreed that mobile is here and the future is uncertain.   “If I’m out on a story they have me shoot a little tease with my Droid that we’ll send to our website,” said Nieto. “Over the past three years there’s been a huge push to write our Web script. I find more and more I get feedback from people who read my scripts from across the country who haven’t viewed the broadcast.  That’s fascinating to me.”

For more upcoming local Business Wire events or to see what’s coming up in our award-winning webinar series, visit our events page or follow Business Wire events on Twitter, hashtag #bwevents.

Editor’s Corner: Best Practices for Presenting Quotes in Press Releases

July 20, 2011

by Andrew Guinn, Graveyard Newsroom Supervisor, Business Wire Nashville

Andrew Guinn

by Andrew Guinn, Newsroom Supervisor, BW Nashville

Writing for an audience of business journalists can be tedious.  You want your story to catch their eye, but the language of business news ties your hands and holds you to a monotonous retelling of the latest bond offering or board meeting.  You want to make the release personal and add some zing, but your boss (or client) doesn’t want you to editorialize for them… so, why not let them do it for you?  By asking the right questions, you can build a palette of quotations to break up the rhythm of business speak and breathe a little life into your release.

As the narrator of business news, you convey the facts and answer the “5 W’s.”  Anything you say which attempts to judge these facts without attribution will lead to the dreaded question: “Says who?”  With quotations, not only can you tell the reader how your company feels about its news, you can relay how you think they should feel about it.  You also provide business journalists with the tools necessary to make their story about your news seem as though it resulted from an actual interview, not just a press release.

Once you have the quotes you need, you should present them in the proper manner.  To demonstrate, I’ll quote myself during the rest of this entry.  (I wouldn’t try this at home, unless you’re your own boss.)

“A standard, run-of-the-mill quote starts out like this,” said Andrew Guinn, Editor, Business Wire Nashville.  “Simply take the first full idea the speaker said and follow it with the attribution.  The first mention of the speaker should give their full name, title and company.”

For simple quotes like this, the punctuation should always be placed inside the quotation marks.  Since the attribution is complex, the verb should come first so it is not tacked on to the end like an afterthought.  (“This is an example of what not to do,” Andrew Guinn, Editor, Business Wire, said.)  On further references to a speaker who has already been mentioned, only their last name is necessary.

“In hard news, the preferred verb for an attribution is ‘said,’” Guinn said.  “Words like ‘commented,’ ‘stated’ and ‘says’ are fine for fluffy features, but, since most hard news is written in the past tense, quotes should be finite – the speaker said these words.

“Notice I left the quotation mark off the end of the last paragraph.  If the statement you’re quoting continues into a new paragraph spoken by the same person, you can use a continuing quote like this and not need to add another attribution.  You can carry on in this manner for as long as you need, but, if you change speakers, you’ll need to start a new paragraph and a new quote.”

If you need to introduce the quote, but don’t want to use an entire paragraph or sentence to do it, “you can use a partial quote,” Guinn said.  “This is especially helpful if the idea you’re trying to convey is based on this person’s opinion, if your speaker wasn’t concise or if you simply need to establish context not provided in the quote.”

These are the three most common types of quotations you’ll encounter writing a standard press release.  For further information, the Associated Press Stylebook is considered by many to be the “journalist’s bible.”  Of course, you can always feel free to contact your local Business Wire office and speak with an editor who will be more than happy to assist you.

With 31 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.


Editor’s Corner: Avoid Press Release Buzzkill with George Orwell’s Writing Tips

May 24, 2011

By Rebecca Bennett, Editor, Business Wire Seattle

by Rebecca Bennett, Editor, BW Seattle

While there’s plenty a PR pro can do to draw attention to press releases – solid SEO terms, attractive multimedia, for example –  simple language should not be underestimated. 

Straightforward language in the body of a release can be a big asset in establishing credibility and gaining traction.  Those writing press releases should avoid buzzwords and industry jargon that work against clear messaging, opting for brevity and conciseness.

In 2010, PR strategist Adam Sherk compiled a list of the most common buzzwords in press releases to demonstrate how a company’s perceived innovation may serve as a buzzkiller when it provokes eyerolls from editors and journalists who read dozens of press releases daily. 

Writers of press releases are wise to consider George Orwell’s Five Rules of Good Writing (actually six rules) included in his famous 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language.

Here they are:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Rules two and five are especially relevant to press release writers.  Keeping it brief can help your budget, since press release distribution costs are based on word count.  Avoiding jargon and obtuse language clearly communicates your message.

Business Wire’s website has plenty of press release pointersPRFilter.com is a great aggregator of press releases–useful for a PR professional to compare frequency of words across industries. 

Also, don’t hesitate to contact your local newsroom and/or account executive for feedback.

With 31 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.

Upcoming Business Wire Events: Meet the Media in Chicago, Crisis Comm in Atlanta, Visit Bloomberg in Toronto

May 5, 2011

Upcoming Business Wire Events

Wake Up With the Chicago Media

Hosted by Business Wire Chicago

Rise and (make your pitches) shine! Join Business Wire Chicago for breakfast and meet the producers and editors from some of Chicago’s most sought-after outlets. Find out who wants to be pitched via social media, how you can make a great first impression and where the best PR opportunities exist in each of these hot media outlets. Kimberly Eberl, President at Motion PR, will moderate the panel, which includes: Kathryn Born, Founder & Editor-in-Chief, TINC Magazine (Technology Industry News – Chicago); Susanna Negovan, Editor-in-Chief, Michigan Avenue Magazine; and Kathryn Janicek, Daypart Manager/Executive Producer, NBC Chicago. This event is free for all attendees.

Thursday, May 12 at 8 a.m. CT
Maggiano’s Little Italy – Chicago
Antinori Room, 516 N. Clark St. (banquet entrance is on Grand Ave.), Chicago, IL 60654

To register: Please send an e-mail to Abbie Sullivan at Abbie.Sullivan@BusinessWire.com BEFORE Friday, May 6. Be sure to include your name, the name of your company, and a phone number where you can be reached. Please note that seating is limited. We request no more than 2 guests per organization.

Media Breakfast on Crisis Communications

Hosted by Business Wire Atlanta

From a natural disaster to a negative blog post, is your company prepared to manage a communications crisis? Now is a great time to go over the basics of crisis communications and reputation management. Join us as our experts share their thoughts on some key steps to following when responding to a crisis, rebuilding trust and how best to address the media during a crisis. Panelists include: Andrew McCaskill, V.P. & Group Director, William Mills Agency; Chris Joyner, State Government Reporter, Atlanta Journal Constitution; and Chris Sweigart, Manager of Digital Content, WXIA NBC, 11alive.com.

Thursday, May 26 at 7:30 a.m. ET
Anthony’s Fine Dining
3109 Piedmont Road Northeast, Atlanta, GA 30305

To register: RSVP to Matt Johnson at 770.667.7500 or email matthew.johnson@businesswire.com.

Bloomberg Editorial Briefing Session

Hosted by Business Wire Toronto

Join Business Wire Canada for an exclusive intimate conversation with Bloomberg News editors and reporters at Bloomberg’s Toronto offices.  Please join us for a complimentary breakfast and informal chat with four members of Bloomberg’s esteemed team to hear their collective insights on how not to have your hard work end up on the news room floor. Speakers include: Paul Davitt, Team Leader, Bloomberg Sales; Sean Pasternak, Bloomberg Banking Reporter; Steve Frank, Bloomberg Commodities Industry Editor; and David Scanlan, Bloomberg Bureau Chief. This event is free for all attendees.

Friday, May 27 at 8:30 a.m. ET
Bloomberg
Brookfield Place, Canada Trust Tower, 161 Bay st., Suite 4300, Toronto, ON

To register: RSVP to Katrina Bolak at 416.593.0208 or email katrina.bolak@businesswire.com by May 23.

Business Wire holds dozens of local events every year. We bring local media members and industry thought leaders to your market to discuss today’s most relevant topics, from trends in today’s newsrooms to writing for SEO. Events are usually free of charge to members. For more upcoming local Business Wire events or to see what’s coming up in our award-winning webinar series, visit BusinessWire.com. Follow live updates from Business Wire events on Twitter: hash tag #bwevents


Don’t Let Your Press Releases Get Lost Without Translations

April 14, 2011
by Daniel Blue, Senior Editor, International Desk

Daniel Blue, Senior Editor, International Desk

Daniel Blue, Senior Editor, International Desk

Businesses who want to rush their international releases sometimes ask us to skip translations. Translations take time, and if  English is indeed “the universal language of business,” why not leave out that middle step?

When clients ask this of the International Desk, we suggest they consider the following:

  • Partners in China, Japan, France, Russia, Latin America and Eastern Europe (among others) don’t accept English-only copy at all. In other words, English-only releases won’t be received by several of the largest markets in the world.
  • Agence France-Presse, the French version of the Associated Press, will not send in English to certain areas of the world. AFP is one of the world’s three largest news agencies, and when it doesn’t distribute your news, the lost exposure is significant.
  • If a release isn’t translated, it won’t show up in that language on the Business Wire website. Nor will it be aggregated into newsfeeds by the Chinese, Japanese and other non-English services that scrape our news pages. That’s another huge missed opportunity.

So who does receive releases sent only in English?

A few large markets will accept these, notably, Germany, the Netherlands, Korea, India, Spain, Italy, and Scandinavia.   Also, certain international journalists that have specifically asked for English copy will receive the feed from from Business Wire though our Press Pass program.

But how many people in those countries will actually read the release?

While some viewers will be fluent in English, many will not, and pick-up is bound to be limited by not having the release in the native tongue.

Bottom line: use translations. They’re part of the price, and if you want to look them over beforehand, we’re glad to oblige.  But don’t hobble your coverage by refusing to use them at all.


Editor’s Corner: How to Bring Social Media into Your Press Release

March 22, 2011

by John Benutty, Senior Editor, Business Wire San Francisco

by John Benutty, Sr Editor, Business Wire San Francisco

The secret is out – if you want to get noticed, your company must tap into the social media consciousness of our time.Consider the fact that we twenty- and early thirty-somethings – now an intricate part of the business and media fields – were in college when Facebook began, and we know the value of social media as if its playbook were written on our forearms. Young professionals tweet, post to walls, like, digg, bing, ping, blog, Google and forward more than anyone else, leaving the heartbeat of your news at the tips of our mouse-clicking fingers.

So how does your company tap into the ever-expanding atmosphere of social media? Is it possible to use it to your advantage within your Business Wire press release? Most certainly.

Step 1: Build your fan-base by adding social media links to your release

The easiest way to bridge the gap between social media and your news is to always include links to the places online where your company has a presence. In addition to including a link to your company’s home page, include the URLs to your Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. Links provide easy access for those who receive your news to keep track of more than just your press releases – they’ll fan your Facebook page, follow your Twitter feed and subscribe to your YouTube channel to stay up on all your latest announcements.

Here are a few places where these social media links make the most sense:

  • as part of your boilerplate along with your company URL
  • in a bulleted list (i.e., “Find Us Online”) with a link to each site where your company has a media presence
  • alongside your media/investor relations phone numbers and email addresses

Step 2: Keep your fan-base informed by re-posting and re-tweeting your release from BusinessWire.com

One of the many great things about distributing your news through Business Wire is the “Sharing” toolbar on your press release page. To the immediate left of every press release on BusinessWire.com is a list of social media links encouraging viewers to share the press release with their own friends, fans and followers. Seize this opportunity and share your news directly with your newly acquired fan-base. It goes without saying that the people you care most about reaching are the friends of your friends, so re-post and re-tweet your release to your fans, and let them share their excitement about your news with the people they know – from there, the distance your news can travel is boundless, so give it that first little tweet and let the diggs, bings and pings fall where they may.

With 32 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.


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