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Timing is (almost) everything in media relations

May, 2017

In PR – as in life – timing is not quite everything but it can play an important role in how much coverage a story receives, writes Philip Jones of Kent PR and marketing agency Maxim.

The concept of there being a ‘good day to bury news’ is pretty well known, most infamously when a Whitehall press officer circulated an email on 11 September 2001 (the day of the attack on the World Trade Center), saying: “It is now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors' expenses?”

Less distastefully, government departments – and other organisations – know full well there are times of the year when items that might prove controversial are less likely to provoke much coverage.

But timing is not just about trying to hide bad news – choosing the right day, time or date can also greatly enhance the coverage a story gets.

Maximising media exposure

News goes through a cycle. Although stories can now appear online almost instantly, there are still daily and weekly newspapers that need filling; flagship TV news programmes wanting material; and monthly trade magazines looking for content.

The stronger the story, the closer to deadline it can be released – and it might make a last minute lead item.  But these, to be honest, are rare opportunities. Much more common are the types of story that have merit but need to get in early if they are to be carried. So, releasing a story on a Monday might work well with weekly media, while a mid-morning press conference works for lunchtime and evening news programmes. August, when news can be thin on the ground, is traditionally a time to try to maximise coverage – although a smaller audience does reduce impact.

The broader news agenda

Interestingly there are also particular external events that can help boost coverage. The normal method is to try to link to a broader news story – awareness days, times of the year, matching your product or service to the dominant news story of the moment and giving it – the story – a further angle.

Making headlines and using social media

These are all good opportunities and with a bit of research and/or creative thinking, it is possible to come up with some really good opportunities. But special commendation must go to the Buckingham Palace press officer who spotted that 4 May 2017 was going to be an exceptionally quiet news day. Purdah rules meant nothing could be said about that day’s local elections and the pending General Election on 8 June, and also meant no contentious Brexit stories could run.

It was the ideal opportunity to release the news that HRH the Duke of Edinburgh was stepping down from public duties. A leak about a meeting of palace staff got speculation going on social media and whetted appetites. Once the official announcement was made, the story dominated the rest of the day with extensive broadcast coverage and much praise for all he had done. The following day’s front page headlines included:  Thank you, Sir (Daily Express); The nation salutes you, sir (Daily Mail – with “Glorious 12-page picture pullout”); and Service with a smile (Daily Telegraph).

It was a timely reminder that thinking about timing is an important part of ensuring a successful PR campaign. 

Find out more about Maxim's media relations services.

Philip Jones - Associate

Philip Jones

Maxim / Associate

posted in: advice, media relations, public relations,

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