For more years than I care to remember, I was involved in churning out press and media releases, mostly back in the day when these things carried some importance as the era of the 24-hour news cycle and the need for instant information was still some while off. The main target was the printed press, with a favourable outcome being a good spread not too far from the first few pages of news, preferably with your pre-supplied photo also included.
There’s all sorts of advice out there on how to best go about writing a good press release, but in essence, it boils down to these key components:-
1. Have an attention-grabbing headline and the most relevant details in the opening paragraph
2. Stick to the facts, avoiding adjectives at all costs
3. Do not hype anything up
4. Have easy-to-follow key sentences that won’t be sub-edited
5. Provide strong and easily attributable quotes, from someone in any accompanying photo.
I did OK in that I was able to get by for more than 25 years, but looking at this example from a 1985 release for a new single by The Fall, I don’t think I’d have lasted 25 minutes in the field of music PR:-
Subject: Oh! Brother press release, June 1984
12″ THE FALL – ‘Oh! Brother’ / ‘O! Brother’ ‘God Box’
THE SINISTER TONES OF PRE-FIX LOOPS
The nucleus of ‘Oh! Brother’ was composed a decade ago, a version performed by The Fall to a Diddley beat in the late ’70s, rewritten twelve times at least. Only now has Mark E. Smith seen fit to record and release it in its now-relevant form.
As the cover details were being finalised on the morning of May 4th, Barbara Castle MP drove past the Fall home in Manchester declaring through a megaphone: ‘Vote for FOGG! Vote Fogg! I’m Barbara….’ This is oddly relevant to the text of ‘Oh! Brother’.
Translation of the pidgin-German on track reads: ‘I hate the crowd / The impotent crowd / The pliable crowd / Who tomorrow will rip my heart out.’
‘God Box’ a.k.a. GAWD-Box or Gold-Box concerns the effect of Christian TV on sleep patterns, and sympathetically monitors the story of a recipient i.e. M.E.S.
SPLINTER. Sleeeep. Singing. Draaag.
Also, dear pop-rats, ‘God Box’ heralds the debut of Brix Smith as guitarist and arranger full time. Plus two drummers, steel ashtrays, mod bass and on 12″ version Armed Forces TV waves.
The Fall treat 45’s as form experiments, being of the opinion that singles have an inimitable power of conveying topicality sound distortion and brain-stretch.
THEREFORE, ‘Oh! Brother’ / ‘God Box’ is firmly in the tradition of ‘How I Wrote Elastic Man’ (‘Rubbish’ – Jeff Beck) ‘Fiery Jack’ (‘Doowop?’ – A. Thrills) ‘Lie Dream of a Casino Soul’ ‘The Man Whose Head Expanded’ (MERE competition words wise ‘socialogical’ ‘VOICE?’ etc. – Chris Bonn) and ‘Kicker Conspiracy’ (‘they took a wrong turn somewhere’).
‘Blank verse, n. – the most difficult kind of English verse to write acceptably; a kind, therefore much affected by those who cannot acceptably write any kind’ Ambrose Bierce
Oh Brother /God Box by THE FALL – THE REAL MONTY!
I have no idea how the folk on the newsdesks at NME, Melody Maker, Sounds and Record Mirror coped with this sort of stuff landing on their desks each week. It does, however, kind of help to make sense why so many of the singles reviews were impenetrable to the average reader.
mp3: The Fall – Oh! Brother
mp3: The Fall – Oh! Brother (12″ mix)
mp3: The Fall – God-Box
This was The Fall’s thirteenth single/EP going back to 1978. It was their first for Beggars Banquet which meant it was disqualified for inclusion in the Indie Chart where many of the previous efforts had reached the Top 10. It did, however, creep into the very lower echelons of the proper chart, reaching #93 and thus becoming the first Fall single to get into the Top 100 selling 45s of a particular week. There were some who said/argued this was evidence of them selling out, and many of those making the arguments put the blame on Brix…..
6 thoughts on “THE ART OF THE COMPANY PRESS RELEASE”
Any chance you would be willing to share some of you press releases from back in the day?
Given my press releases were all to do with the achievements of a local authority and/or politicians, then I don’t think anyone would be the slightest bit interested in the spin that I put on things for much of my career…….😊😊
Being press officer for The Fall: a tough gig, I bet. Great a-side. I
can’t help reading the orange text as if it’s a Fall lyric.
The Brix-era Fall is just as worthwhile as lots of other eras. More so in some ways.
JC, I bet all the press releases you wrote for the local authority that began “Dear pop-rats…” were worthy for inclusion in the NME.
Doing press releases for The Fall in the 80s sounds like a dream job in many ways
I’ll agree with SA here…I would have jumped at the chance of constantly stretching the boundaries of informational prose to describe a Fall single or album! I think Beggar’s brief to the PR office had to be, make it so it sounds like a someone asked MES to describe the track and instead of throwing a brick at them, he complied.