Ministry of Misinformation - Sack the press officer ?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Albert Fairbrother, Sep 26, 2007.

  1. Albert Fairbrother

    Albert Fairbrother New Member

    This article has appeared in today's Ashfield Chad Newspaper

    'Brass Band just misses finals.....

    Newstead Brass Band took part in the British Open Brass Band Championships at the weekend, where they narrowly missed out on qualification for the finals.

    During the Birmingham contest, the gifted band performed the 'Visions of Gerontius' piece to an appreciative audience.

    Said a band spokesman: 'this has certainly strengthened our vision to take the final step up from the 'Grand Shield' qualifying event to the British Open Championships. It is however a concern that most of the 18 bands in this year's final have considerably greater financial resources, through sponsorship and wealthy benefactors, than Newstead - giving them access to better instruments and facilities than we are able to afford' '

    Is this a case of the press officer over-inflating the band's actual achievements...or really poor misinformed journalism......because to my knowledge, Newstead were not one of the competing 18 band's in the British Open at Birmingham last weekend.

  2. Timpking

    Timpking Member

    They did play Visions of Gerontius, however only to the adjudicators so that they could hear the piece the night before the contest!!
  3. Colin D

    Colin D Member

    I'd hope that it's a bad edit from the journalist. We played the piece the night before the contest for the adjudicators and a room full of brass band celebs, who were indeed appreciative.

    Hope that clears it up for any other confused Ashfield banders...
  4. a very flat b

    a very flat b Member

    I do the press officer bit at East Riding of Yorkshire. I have one simple rule - get the article approved before sending it out! Really it couldn't be easier.
  5. Hornted

    Hornted Member



    The actual report sent to the press is given below, it is also printed on our web site - The press decided for whatever reason to amend hence the report you quote.

    It happens all the time in all our papers and is not on this occasion something our press officer or the band should be criticised for.

    Sharing a Vision as Newstead Brass supported the British Open Brass Band Championships at Birmingham on September 14th - 16th. Although the band missed out on qualification for the Championships , Newstead and their musical director Duncan Beckley were asked to give a ‘closed preview’ of the new test-piece ‘Visions of Gerontius’ on the Friday evening. The band’s efforts were well appreciated by the composer, Kenneth Downie, hearing his work played for the first time as well as contest adjudicators Steven Mead and Geoffrey Whitham. The contest organisers awarded Newstead a commemorative trophy which will take pride of place in the band-room.

    A band spokesman commented, “It was a delight to give one of the first performances of Kenneth Downie’s new work, a piece which has been really appreciated by the competing bands and the audience. It has certainly strengthened our ‘vision’ to take the final step up from the ‘Grand Shield’ qualifying event to the British Open Brass Band Championships. It is however, a concern that most of the 18 bands in this year’s final have considerably greater financial resources, through sponsorship and wealthy benefactors, than Newstead giving them access to better instruments and facilities than we are able to afford.”
  6. alanl58

    alanl58 Member

    There are some quite straight forward rules when writing press releases and dealing with journalists:

    "The first sentence must tell the whole story". In this case "Composer hears new piece played for first time by Blah Blah Town Band" springs to mind - it has nothing to do with the Championships or closed adjudicators etc.

    "The second sentence elaborates". Here you can add "Blah Blah Town Band played the Rights of Jerontius (or whatever) for the first time in public etc etc".

    "The remainder of the first paragraph can do a bit of a promo". Thus: "Blah Blah Town Band just failed to reach the National brass band finals this year because they did not have the financial backing or resources etc etc".

    If you really wish to write, or expect to get published, anything beyond one paragraph, then by all means try the other promo stuff about how short of players or new instruments, or looking for new premises etc in the second and third paragraphs.

    Another rule or two:

    The whole story should not occupy more than one side of A4 paper - sub editors never turn over pages!

    The story should be double spaced with wide margins, allowing for editing and comments

    Your logo/band name should appear on the right side of the page - when filed it will still be visible.

    All photographs must have captions with people's names spelt correctly!

    Finally, if you have not "checked" the story before it goes for publication, then you should not be a Press Officer - no disrespect intended.

    Oh and lastly we had a saying where I was the Technical Press Officer: "What is the difference between an engineer and a journalist? The engineer deals with facts". Insert bandsman/woman or Press Officer instead of engineer and you will get my drift - journalists can e lazy and will publish anything without reading it first!

    If you really would like more local help, then there is the "Journalists Network" of CSV retired PR professionals like me who can draft Press Releases and avoid this sort of confusion.

    If anyone would like assistance or more "free" advice about Press Releases, Newsletters or even Exhibitions, I would be happy to pass on my experiences dealing with national and local press, tv and radio.....

  7. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member

    That's very kind of you, Alan.

    Judging by what I've seen on some websites, you ought to be in for a deluge of requests, but I wonder who'll actually take you up on it?
  8. barrytone

    barrytone Member

    In my opinion, Newstead's press release is accurate and precise. They did miss qualification for the Open after competing in the Grand Shield, they did a "closed preview" of the piece, as Hebden Bridge did the year before and it was to the adjudicators invited guests. Noone at the band can be held responsible for a reporter, probably with little or no knowledge of all matters brass band related, shortening their release and choosing to print it rather than refer it back to the band for approval.

    One thing this thread has done is to raise the awareness for others intending to provide an article to a local paper but I'm not of the opinion that anyone at Newstead was at fault or that they could have prevented the incorrect reporting of the facts.
  9. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    I think the point that alanl58 was trying to make is that there are some standard conventions that should be used when writing a press release. Although I agree that the press release, as written, was accurate, following standard press conventions can lessen the chances of incorrect reporting based on the release.

    @alanl58 - I'm not sure what you mean about "checking" before publication. In my experience, at least here in the US, there is usually no way to "check" a story in print media before it is published, unless you have made prior arrangements. Issuing a press release gives reporters carte blanche to use your information without further permission.
  10. alanl58

    alanl58 Member

    What I meant about "checking before publication" was to check with whoever is concerned with the piece in the Band, maybe the Chairperson or MD or composer etc.

    But once written do not expect the newspaper or magazine to let you see the article in advance of printing and distribution. Once you have despatched the press release it is in the lap of the gods as to how it is used.

    As I said before, use the first sentence to tell the whole story, so that if it does get subbed then your message has been conveyed. But if you write a bad first sentence you can hardly blame a journalist for simply publishing what you have written. Journalists tend to be "collectors" of news rather than "scribes" these days, so if you want it published correctly, get it right first time.

    Another little rule is that once an article or press release has been published, and the journal have made a mistake, by all means send them a correction, which they may or may not publish. But do not expect the people who read your first article to be the same people who read the correction!

    In my view corrections are a waste of time, and you get far more publicity from people who comment to their friends that it was wrong, and the friends then go and buy the newspaper/magazine and tell their friends. Remember any publicity is good publicity!

  11. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    So maybe we should submit incorrect press releases in order to get more coverage! ;)
  12. DanB

    DanB Member

    Hmnh - as the broadcast media manager for Anglian Water, I'm not entirely sure that 'any publicity is good publicity'!!! I suppose in the case of bands, that's a bit more true!

    As a professional communicator though, all good and sound advice from Alan - it's so true that a good, well written press release makes a massive difference to whether or not something gets in the paper or on the TV / Radio. I spent 10 years as a TV journalist, and so know from experience that if a journalist has to spend time trying to work out the point of a press release, it invariably ends up in the bin.

    Journalists are basically quite lazy too, so if you can give them that quirky angle, include a couple of quotes and even come up with a clever headline (which makes sense to people outside of brass banding too) then you're more likely to be onto a winner.

    It's not brain surgery - but is something which is so easy to get wrong, irrespective of time and effort.
  13. alanl58

    alanl58 Member

    Gosh, someone who is a Press Officer for a water company? Here in the Southwest you would have to live under an assumed name in view of the horrendous cost of nature's free gift. I jest of course!

    But no-one has raised the issue of the dreaded phone call from a media company wanting a quote or interview about a specific topic.

    I was caught out after the Boscastle floods three years ago, and despite my media background, no-one could prepare me for the triviality of the tv companies wishing to fill their local and national news spots. I once ended up playing "Trelawny" (badly) on the rocks at Crackington Haven - fortunately the tv news Editor had sense enough not to broadcast it!

    Best advice is to say that you will call the journalist back, then prepare a statement, and either just read that, or get them to read it.

    Beware the live/recorded interview (PM me for advice on this subject!), it can be edited to present the wrong viewpoint - the recent BBC Queengate a classic example!

  14. DanB

    DanB Member

    Couldn't agree more - I ALWAYS go for live broadcast interviews whenever possible, that way you can't be edited or misquoted! I sometimes wonder if there's a market for a national press agency representing all brass bands... However, I don't think many bands could (or would want to) pay for the service. Any thoughts anyone??
  15. GrahamF

    GrahamF New Member

    Hello guys,

    I thought I would chip in my comments.

    I am a journalist with a local newspaper and I also play with Whitburn Band. My newspaper’s area doesn’t include Whitburn, so I think I can contribute on two separate points.

    Advice from a banding point of view - Find a reporter at your local newspaper who you like and then stick with them. I send the stuff about Whitburn to one woman, and I have a good working relationship with her. If you send a release about your band to one person every time, rather than to a general email address, not only will it have more chance of getting in, but the journalist will gain a better understanding of your band over time.

    Advice from a journalistic point of view - In my experience, sending in a tight, comprehensive report is a gift to a journalist as they don't have to work on it very much. But, contrary to some other points raised on this forum, I don’t believe this is down to laziness.
    When I receive a comprehensive report on something like brass bands, I am pleased because I am busy working hard our on more sensitive stories like death-knocks and court cases. At the end of the day, these stories sell newspapers, not a band winning a contest. So keep it tight, not too long, and with pictures, and you have a great shot of getting it in, and getting it right.



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