Every now and again, our editors and customer service staff find themselves in that awkward position of having to contact a customer to say, “We’re sorry, but we can’t post the press release you submitted.”
Usually, we’re able to work with our customers to edit or adjust the copy so that it’s ready to post — but sometimes, for various legal or regulatory reasons, we have to “just say no”. Here are the four most common reasons we refuse a press release.
Trademark / Brand Ownership
One of the key questions we ask about every press release is whether or not the company submitting the press release owns or has a right to release the news. You’d think that no company would want to spend time and money promoting someone else’s products, but of course, nearly every business sells products that it didn’t create.
But just because Anne’s Mobile Tech Store sells iPhones doesn’t give it the right to announce the newest Apple product. So a press release headlined, “Apple Releases New iPhone” wouldn’t run on the MyPRGenie service unless it were submitted by Apple Computer.
So how does a small business get the word out that it is selling the latest new product from a giant company? By saying just that. We’d be happy to publish a press release with this headline:
Anne’s Mobile Tech Store Now Offering New Apple iPhone
Another common problem is when resellers, partners, or vendors to large companies want to publish press releases where there are copyright or trademark image problems. For instance, let’s say that Aurum III Jewelry sells David Yurman brand silver pendants, and a movie star promoting a new film shows up on The Tonight Show wearing (what looks like) one of the pendants. The local jeweler can’t announce the sighting in a press release — and he certainly can’t use a photo of the celebrity wearing the jewelry to illustrate a press release.
Why? First, because he can’t be sure that the celebrity is really wearing a brand-name item instead of a studio prop. Also, because doing so could run afoul of multiple laws, including:
- NBC’s rights to images from The Tonight Show
- The star’s “right of publicity” to control what products he/she endorses
- The manufacturer’s right to control his/her brand
- Copyrights to the photography from the show, and perhaps to the jewelry
The bottom line is that you can write an article for your blog that says, “I was watching TV last night and was excited to see Miss Famous Moviestar wearing a pendant that looks just like the one’s we’re featuring this week…” But you’re not in a legal position to issue a press release announcing the sighting.
Note that it is your responsibility to ensure that you have the legal right to publish the photos, images, videos, trademarks, and copyrighted material that you submit to MyPRGenie.
Sweeping Generalizations or Claims
Some states treat press releases as advertising, and apply strict standards to the kind of proof that is required when making a claim. Recently, we helped a small marketing firm avoid problems with a press release that was submitted with the proposed headline, “XYZ Marketing is the Best Agency”.
After reviewing the press release, the headline was edited to read, “XYZ Marketing Named Best Agency by Ourcity Chamber of Commerce”. What’s the difference? The first headline is an opinion that could have gotten both MyPRGenie and the client into trouble — the second headline is a fact.
Press releases should offer reliable information that can be checked and verified. Third-person voice (not, “I” or “we” say it, but “The chamber of commerce said in its annual awards ceremony…”) matters — legally, and in terms of how your audience responds to the message.
Good Taste Counts
MyPRGenie doesn’t accept press releases that make accusations and slander others. We don’t accept press releases for illegal products or services. And we wouldn’t approve a press release filled with obscenities or offensive language.
What constitutes “good taste” in a press release? That definition is a bit like the definition of obscenity that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s once gave in a court ruling: “It’s difficult to define, but you know it when you see it.”
A Publicly Traded Company is Mentioned
The Securities and Exchange Commission has specific rules for press releases issued by publicly traded companies — companies who sell stock on the NASDAQ, New York Stock Exchange, or other public exchange. If you work for one of those companies, you already know the rules. So we wouldn’t monitor your press release for SEC compliance. Every now and again, however, we run into a press release where a private company is announcing a deal or a partnership with a public company.
Let’s say the press release is headlined, “Tech Start-up and Public Company Announce Partnership“. We don’t question the facts — but we do require written approval from the public company, so that we know that the information has passed muster with their compliance office before it goes out over our service.