Timing the press release

Hit while your news is hot. Wait even a week and your timing will be out. Today’s hot news wraps fish and chips tomorrow.

Understand deadlines. News rooms have to build their day to a publication or bulletin. If TV news starts at 6pm, don’t issue your release at 4.30pm. All the film crews are booked out on news jobs that emerged during the day. All reporters are heads down in edit booths putting their stories together. The bulletin has plenty of material to last its allotted hour. You have to be really interesting to force them to drop an item to accommodate you.

With newspapers, the subs have drawn up their pages by late afternoon and by early evening they’re only holding a late news page and maybe the front page if they’re still awaiting developing news. If a space shuttle goes down when it’s not supposed to watch them throw everything away and start again but if your news story hits them late, watch them spike it and instantly forget you.

With radio running bulletins all day there’s still a need to time your release. Their peak audience is between 7am and 9am and between 4pm and 6pm. Try to get mentioned during these times.

Sometimes, you may want to issue a release but not want a big audience or you might not want too much scrutiny by a specialist reporter. Your bad news may be best distributed at 7 pm on a Friday. This is a blunt instrument approach and oh so obvious but senior journalists will be home for the weekend, the specialist reporters who may recognise the significance of the event will not be around and your release will be handled by lesser-experienced weekend staff who may not subject you to too much scrutiny. This is certainly the case at television and radio news rooms.

There is another device called an embargo that inexperienced people use to try to manipulate news coverage. It has legitimate uses such as releasing the text of a speech before it has been delivered so that journalists may study it beforehand but not report on it until the event. Complex reports are often released under embargo, the better to let journalists read and understand it to aid accurate reporting.

It is acceptable to embargo a story to keep it from being publicised, for example, until the share market closes or until people directly affected are told. Some people, however, issue a release on a Friday with an embargo set for, say, 6am Monday. This serves only to anger electronic journalists and Sunday newspapers, which, out of spite, may ignore your embargo and run with the story anyway, diluting your intended effect. They know you were aiming it at daily newspapers for Monday and will feel aggrieved. They are human: you were being cheeky; you may lose the initiative.

Give weekly papers, the release so they have a couple of days up their sleeves. A weekly publishing on Friday has pretty well wrapped up the production by Thursday morning.

So, release away to your heart’s content. Remember that if you have an interesting release to make you become an asset to a news room. It thrives on new and interesting information and as long as you are dealing in that commodity, your word will spread.

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