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Got the Time? Your Utility Needs to Mind it When Dealing with the Media

ID 25519773 © Eti Swinford | Dreamstime.com

If you ask public relations professionals what’s the most important thing to know when pitching a story, most would probably answer with “a good story idea.”

While they’d be right, they’d probably get the answer wrong if asked what’s the second most important thing.

The correct answer is “time,” something your utility always needs to be mindful of when pitching the press.

Sure, for the biggest breaking news, time doesn’t matter, but for the kinds of things your utility is usually going to pitch, it certainly does.

For example, I work for a weekly newspaper that comes out on Thursday. We finish work on each issue on Tuesday evening. The paper is printed overnight and goes out in Wednesday’s mail for local subscribers to receive the next day.

This has been our schedule for years, but we still get pitches for Tuesday night events — and then complaints from people wondering why it wasn’t covered in Thursday’s paper.

The point here: Know your preferred media outlets’ deadlines, and don’t think they’ll make an exception for you.

As far as contacting journalists, it’s generally best to do so in the morning before they get involved in covering whatever their assignments are for the day. If you try to contact a reporter at 4 p.m., you’re likely to get ignored.

Also try to avoid contacting journalists on a Friday. Like you, they’re probably thinking about the weekend and scurrying around trying to get their assignments completed, not considering future stories.

That said, Friday afternoon is valuable in one sense: It’s the perfect time to release bad news, such as poor earnings reports or embarrassing information. That’s because it may get overlooked in the shuffle. Even if it doesn’t, fewer people are paying attention to the news on Friday night or Saturday morning, so the lumps you take may well be smaller.

Meantime, when a reporter contacts you, get back to them as soon as possible. Every week, I hear reporters telling would-be sources who had called after deadline that it’s too late for inclusion into a story.

Another reason for calling journalists back quickly: They tend to call a lot of people, knowing some won’t get back to them. Often, the people who call back first are quoted the most extensively; after all, people tend to say the same thing.

In other words, the “you snooze, you lose” principle is especially important when it comes to the media and getting the most out of your public relations efforts.

FInally, when pitching events, give plenty of notice. I walked into the office this week with a voicemail message for an event happening 30 minutes later. We actually might have covered it if we had ample warning. Instead, no dice.

Andy Gotlieb's picture

Thank Andy for the Post!

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