5 ways good timing earns more media coverage

In an ever-changing news cycle, the only way to break through is to use the right pitch at the right time. Consider these insights when planning to contact reporters.

When playing the stock market, they say timing is everything.

In pitching stories to the media, timing is just part of the equation.

Start with a solid pitch that adds value and is not overtly self-promotional. Then, craft an engaging subject line in order to stand out among the hundreds of emails editors and reporters receive weekly.

Once the text of your media pitch is finalized (with a little leeway for some customization) you

have to decide when is the optimal time to send it.

Here are five guidelines to inform your efforts:

1. Know the publication/news cycle of the outlet.

Long-lead publications like lifestyle magazines are already working on content for six months to a year out from publication and won’t likely respond to a pitch about an event or news story happening right now. Conversely, many news websites update multiple times a day and might be interested in pitches that relate to extremely topical events.

Don’t pitch broadcast or daily news reporters late in the afternoon when they’re deep into the stories they’re already working on for that day. As an example, I don’t pitch to our local business weekly on Wednesday afternoons because I know that’s when they are “putting to bed” that week’s issue. Keep in mind that many syndicated TV talk shows cease production during summer months and just show reruns.

2. Take advantage of current events and seasonal trends.

Though the term “newsjacking” can be objectionable to some, many PR professionals want to tap into the current buzz to interject their employer’s or clients’ perspectives. Caution is necessary, however, to avoid appearing to capitalize on tragic events or to pitch off-topic.

Keeping in mind the production/news cycles mentioned above, appropriate examples of this type of pitch include summer safety tips, annual industry forecasts, holiday gift giving, etc.

3. Anticipate upcoming events.

One of our most successful media pitches in recent years came a few years ago when we learned that President Obama would be addressing cyber security during his State of the Union address. We were able to quickly draft and pitch a guest article from an attorney who specializes in that field, and secured placement on entrepreneur.com.

In this instance, we were able to match an appropriate subject matter expert with an important topic and link it with the timeliness of the president’s address. We pitched the editor right before the speech, completed the draft the day after the speech, and the article appeared a few days later.

4. Avoid pitching on Fridays if possible.

There’s a well-accepted rule in public relations that Fridays are the worst days of the week to distribute press releases.

The same is true of media pitches, unless you are pitching to weekend assignment editors at local media outlets. Just like most of the general population, journalists are probably already thinking about the weekend and not likely to respond to a pitch received on a Friday.

5. Follow up once, but not too soon or too late.

Many surveys of journalists indicate they prefer email pitches to phone calls. Likewise, most detest follow-up calls along the lines of “I’m just calling to see if you’re interested in what I emailed you the other day.”

For the most part, it’s okay to follow up once. After two outreach efforts, you can assume they are not interested at this time.

If I follow up by phone, it’s usually the day after my email pitch. If I follow up by email, it’s usually 2-3 days later. Any sooner, and they might not have had time to scan their inbox and potentially read the pitch. Any later, and they probably have already forgotten the email or made up their minds.

In general, remember that journalists’ time is valuable, so don’t waste it. Don’t be annoying and don’t badger them. If you do successfully pitch a journalist, they are more likely to remember you and perhaps pay more attention to your next pitch.

Glenn Gillen is the senior accounts manager for S&A Communications, a PR agency. A version of this article originally appeared in the agency’s blog.

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