Posts Tagged ‘press release’

How to Use Trademarks Properly – Are Your Documents Compliant?

September 24, 2011

How to use trademarks in any document is simple and straightforward.

It was 8:00 P.M. when the call came through. New B2B client in a panic. Some wireless company threatening a lawsuit. A letter that says there’s a trademark problem.

I was about to calmly tell him to talk to their attorney but, instead, I asked him to email me a copy of the letter.

While waiting, I recalled something my sushi buddy Michael Bierman once told me: “Many trademark cases could be avoided by complying with the rules when writing. It’s always neglecting the simple things that turns into costly and time-consuming litigation.” As a partner at Luce Forward, he speaks from decades of trademark litigation experience.

A few minutes later I’m reading the frenzied client’s letter. I breathed a sigh of relief. It appeared to be little more than a form letter advising my client that “[product brand name] is a registered trademark….”

Prior to retaining my firm, this client had been a DIYer (Do It Yourself) that wrote its own documents. Unfortunately, use of trademarks must have not been observed, and that triggered the boilerplate warning letter.

My firm has always done some amount of oversight/mentoring work for B2B wireless clients who create their own documents. Document review typically accounts for the bulk of those activities. The trademark faux pas has happened often enough that years ago I created a basic how-to document just for such moments.  Here’s that advisory:

Mandatory Trademark Compliance Is
Straightforward and Simple

Proper trademark usage in your documents protects your B2B wireless company’s valuable brand. Applying the same usage to other company’s trademarked brands will help avoid legal entanglements.

What Is a Trademark?
It is any brand name, symbol, slogan/motto, word, image, or emblem that a company is claiming legal rights of protection to prevent a competitor from using it.

What Are the “Marks”?
There are only three trademark identifiers:  “R,”  “TM”, and occasionally “SM”

  • When written, they are either
    • Superscripted, e.g., ®, TM, SM, or
    • In parentheses, e.g., (R), (TM), (SM)

Which Identifier to Use for Another Company’s Marks ?
Simple! The one that the company claiming the mark uses.

Where Do I Apply the Mark in My Documents?
The rules are easy:

  • Always apply the mark the first time the brand name, symbol, slogan/motto, word, image, or emblem appears in the main body of your document
    • Apply the mark only once in your document, no matter how many other times you may use the same brand name, symbol, slogan/motto, word, image, or emblem
  • Never apply the mark to the brand name, symbol, slogan/motto, word, image, or emblem when it appears in the title or subtitle of your document

Are There Other Rules?
Yes, and this one seems always to be misused. Trademarks should never be used as nouns or verbs. The mark is always used as an adjective. Here’s an example:

Right (Adjective)

Wrong (Noun)

“… announced the availability of its
UniMobile® software that
runs on any smartphone.”
“… announced the availability of UniMobile® that runs on any smartphone.”

One Last Rule
Always insert a trademark notice at the very end of your document. This is usually in small type. Here’s an example:

 UniMobile is a registered trademark of Wireless Widgets, Inc. All other
trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Regardless of the type of documents you’re creating—press releases, white papers, web content, sales collateral—proper trademark usage is more than just a nit-picking detail. Follow the simple rules, and you’ll save time, money, and frayed nerves at 8:00 P.M..

Other helpful writing tips are available in MarkeTech’s Monograph:  The Perfect Press Release. Email your request for a complimentary copy to Team[at]MarkeTechCom[dot]com.

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The Press Release: Is It Really Dead, or Are We Still Pretending?

June 27, 2010

Social Media, having its licks at the traditional press release, may be doing more harm than good.

Two days ago, the PR Snoop spent some time on the PitchEngine website. He went there to see for himself what this Social Media Release (SMR) site offers that might provide a viable alternative to the good ole press release. PitchEngine’s founder states that “The traditional press release is dead. At least, to us it is.” The PR Snoop is also an admitted staunch proponent of the-press-release-is-dead faction in the PR industry. Therefore, he had high hopes that this social-media site had a solution that would finally allow everyone to finally bury the corpus delicti that continues to walk the earth as some sort of walking dead.

With that background, here is what the PR Snoop posted on PitchEngine in real time on that website as his “social media release.” It is tied into his previous guest-blogger post on the MarkeTech website, which you can view here.

“PR Snoop Continues to Snoop

“Revisits Breakfast at BusinessWire Findings

“In my April 13, 2010 blog on MarkeTech’s website (https://marketechcom.wordpress.com/2010/04/13/breakfast-at-business-wire/), I flat out stated that “the press release is really, really dead.” Now I have discovered PitchEngine. I’m in the process of writing my very first SMR (Social Media Release).

“What I see on the screen looks exactly like the form I routinely fill out on BusinessWire and any other press release distribution site. Unfortunately, when I complete this release, there will be no distribution by PitchEngine. I will have to do all the heavy lifting. I’m not even entitled to receive a Google search. WHAT!? Don’t the bots search this site?

 “Now I must admit that I can add images, a Twitter Pitch, and something called “News Facts,” but I know that I can do all of that in the good ol’ fashioned press release. I keep asking myself “what’s the big deal about PitchEngine?” They don’t pitch, I do. They don’t distribute. I do. They don’t SEO. I have to. So how have things gotten better with Social Media Releases which this company claims replaces the traditional press release?

“I’m not one to snap to hasty judgments, so as I continue to type into this standard press release form that I’ve seen a thousand times, I’m going to cross my fingers and wait with the proverbial “baited breath” for the social media miracle to happen to this otherwise arcane document.”

After the PR Snoop’s aforesaid experience, the issue is still one of whether the traditional press release is really dead. Have we really slain the beast and laid it to rest once and for all?

Here’s an update to the PR Snoop’s activities. The next day there was a hit on Google and Yahoo! search results, as promised by PitchEngine. He also has a Press Room on PitchEngine (http://www.pitchengine.com/prsnoop-continues-to-snoop/72674/) as promised.

Press Rooms and Pitches

PR Snoop must admit to a certain level of ho-hum about the press rooms. After reviewing a dozen or so, they are rather flat pre-formatted cookie cutters of each other. Most of what is there is routinely seen (usually done better) on corporate website “Press” pages. More to the point, the content on every press room visited was plain ole press releases. Very little social implications, except for links to the usual “SHARE+” Internet locations (a la bookmarking, syndication sites)…again, as routinely found on any half-decent B2B website. There was a comment field appended to each press release on the dozen press room pages the PR Snoop visited, but no evidence that any visitors had posted comments.

When the PR Snoop first arrived at PitchEngine, his mental image of what the name implied was that the site was somehow going to provide its subscribers with new ways to “pitch” journalists and their ilk. Other than a tepid acknowledgement that there’s something called a press room, there’s little discernable that PitchEngine does to either push its subscriber’s messages to targeted journalist audiences, or to pull those much-cherished writers/influencers to the PR Snoop’s press room.

After all, the PR Snoop clearly read that “unlike press release and wire services, Pitchengine: [sic] Helps you broaden your audience beyond the journalist to reach bloggers, investors, consumers and other influencers on the social web.” Granted, the sentence before cautioned me: “Don’t think of PitchEngine as a distribution service.” So, the PR Snoop should have known that all social promotions, distribution activities, and syndications are his own responsibility. Personally, press release distribution provider PR Newswire’s MultiVu has a document page view [example at http://multivu.prnewswire.com/mnr/zambellifireworks/44704], with a cleaner look and more appealing social-interactive capabilities (albeit, no apparent “press room”). Worth a visit to download a couple of cool fireworks photos!

The PR Snoop Challenge

Also, PitchEngine did indicate that it provides “…a way to package all of your PR assets (like a press kit) in one concise, easy to share package – the social media release (SMR) – that you can edit and make changes to even after it’s been made live.” Here’s the PR Snoop challenge: create a standard press kit that includes the usual documents such as a fact sheet, case study, company backgrounder, and let’s throw in a white paper, all using the limited document-creation tools PitchEngine provides. The challenge stems from that, only by creating the press kit source documents on the PitchEngine site do those documents become editable and changeable.

Let’s extend the challenge to then consolidate (“package”) those document files into a press kit, so that a press pro can capture the entire press kit. Even if one were to discover a way to package an entire press kit on this site, there is no obvious way to download any document from the press room, unless you manually select text then copy/paste it into your text editor, i.e., MSWord. Ironically, there is a specific hypertext to download the subject company’s logo. Good luck!

The Same Hackneyed Press Release

PR Snoop’s position on the press rooms is that they are little more than slightly-social, user-interactive storage space, and corporate clients can get that free, or for a fee, most anywhere these days. PR Snoop is not slamming the press rooms, per se. These “social media” sites perpetuate the same hackneyed press releases that have been around for literally a hundred years. The old press release isn’t dead, nor is it wearing anything more than the emperor’s new clothes in its posing as now new and social.

In conclusion, the PR Snoop is underwhelmed by today’s SMRs (aka SMNRs, SMPRs, blah, blah, blah). His examples of PitchEngine or any other service are not to cast aspersions on what they’re doing. Those examples only point out that the social aspects of today’s press releases are mundane links to social sites…as window dressing to the same stale news/information documents that we all thought were dead. Compelling content is still not there, and these sites provide nothing to address that. The documents displayed on SMR websites are what they always have been – just ordinary press releases. Neither PitchEngine, nor PR Newswire, caused that…but they do have to stop pretending that these core documents do result in better social and editorial pitch outcomes.

The real risk here is that the marketing/PR industry doesn’t evolve the core press release to be more social. If our need to find a viable, sustainable, marketable and user-compelling press release alternative is to accept what we currently have, then all we’re really doing is continuing to claim that we’ve killed the old press-release beast, without an exit strategy.

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Breakfast at Business Wire

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Breakfast at Business Wire

April 13, 2010

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The PRSuperSnoop recently sat in on yet another gathering of journalist-speakers. Sponsored by Business Wire, these breakfast clan gatherings are rarely newsworthy events. This time there was something of note that impacts both the marcom industry and its clients.

Simply put, the first item is that the press release is really, really dead! The PRsnoop’s added emphasis is for those who didn’t pay attention to “Regis Himself.” Back in the early ‘80s, he declared the press release dead, then totally revamped his firm to focus on market relations. (Regis McKenna was the marketing/PR guru whose RMI firm almost single-handedly created Silicon Valley). At the Business Wire breakfast, several key editors and journalists re-affirmed Regis’ proclamation, by acknowledging that press releases “often [make that usually] go unread.”

Second, when asked how these newspaper and periodical writers filter their story leads, the response was that decisions about the value of a potential story is determined by the blogosphere. “If the bloggers are writing about it, we go with it too.”

Shocking! The PRSuperSnoop was startled. Not about the press release being DOA at any journalist’s desk, but that these professionals no longer wanted a “scoop.” This de-positioning of newsroom editors and journalists to playing second fiddle to bloggers has implications for PR firms engaging in traditional press relations. The new paradigm is apparently chase and pitch storylines to bloggers, instead of to the good old boys in the press corp.

As to the prosaic press release, the PRSuperSnoop suggests you “just say NO” to those clients that are still hopelessly addicted to them.

The PRSuperSnoop is fully aware that Business Wire makes its money distributing those old fashioned releases. Sorry about that!

I can be contacted at: PRSuperSnoop@aol.com

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One Editor’s Snooze Is Another’s News

March 10, 2010

By Patrick Potega (CSTO at MarkeTech)

It used to work fine. As far back as 1906, when the first press release was sent along a telegraph wire from a train wreck site to the editorial offices of an East Coast newspaper, communicating with editors was a piece of cake. By the mid-1980’s, the communications infrastructure was a bird’s nest, and the population of editors/journalists was overwhelming…to the point that Regis McKenna declared PR dead. That freaked me out, because I had just launched Video Games Magazine. Fortunately then, as now, no one believed Regis “Himself.” As the editor/publisher, I kept doing the same thing I had been doing every day during my previous decade as a technology-pub editor. Daily, I sorted through press releases, deciding what information my readership should (or shouldn’t) receive.  

In today’s over-connected public relations environment, anyone can self-publish, either as a contributor, or even an e-zine publisher. Online media can structure its content as news only, blogs+news, or even blogs only…and everything in between. I’m glad that I’m not on the publication side anymore. First, I’d be constantly pacing the floor trying to decide who were those people that I could legitimately identify as my “readership.” If I could figure that out with enough specificity, I’d then be getting brain cramps trying to judge what my audience considered news. Being an editor or publisher today must be tough, because many good periodicals and papers have folded. Maybe too many bad calls about what a most amorphous audience wanted to read. (more…)


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