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Is there an Old Grey Whistle Test for Writing a Press Release?

PR, Press Release Format

By John Masterson

John Masterson presents The Saturday Brunch and guest hosts The Sue Nunn Show on KCLR96FM. He is also a regular contributor to national radio and a columnist for the Sunday Independent. John is a managing director of Purcell Masterson PR and Communications.

Is there an Old Grey Whistle Test for press releases? Over the years I have written a goodly number of press releases, reviewed ones being developed in Purcell Masterson and been on the receiving end of many when working in television, radio or journalism, all of which form part of my media life.

I always read a press release as if I was about to conduct an interview on the subject, live, and with just a commercial break or long pop song to give me time to decide what to do.

First of all I take in the headline as it directs my thinking and gives a clue as to what my first or last question will be. Then I circle all of the important information. The When, Where, Who, Why etc. and ask myself is there anything crucial I would like to know that is not there.  The one thing you do not want on live radio is to ask a question and get an “I don’t know.”

I look for a quote and think about how to get that quote on air without the person sounding like they are reading it. I check for websites and dates and I know I will probably close the interview with that information.

But most importantly I look for things that will interest the audience, and almost instantly decide that this interview might be worth a few extra minutes, or check what music or other material I have to hand in case it dies.

Everyone in the media thinks of their audience. The most important thing a press release can do is to attract the attention of the appropriate editor / producers who will place the material in the best slot to get your message through to the people who want to know about you.

Read it as if you knew nothing. And ask yourself, would the audience you want to know about the material, be interested. And will the gatekeepers en-route to that audience be sufficiently impressed to pick up the phone to the PR agency rather that use the shredder.

If you enjoyed this article you may also enjoy When to Write a Press Release and When to Pitch.

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