Do The Old Timing Rules Still Apply For Media Relations?

When I first got into media relations, a few pitching best practices were hammered into my head on a regular basis. For example:

  • Know who you’re pitching and what they’re after
  • Tailor your pitch
  • Don’t bcc a “mailing list” of pitch recipients (pitchees?)
  • Don’t pitch journalists when they’re on deadline

When it came to print journalists, that last bullet translated to “don’t pitch journalists after around 2:30 or so.” I’ve stuck to that as much as possible since that time (of course, it varies for radio and television depending on when the show runs, and hence when people are around). However, a conversation I had recently with my colleague Karen Nussbaum has got me rethinking that approach.

New rules for timing pitches?

Photograph of a newspaperHere’s the theory:

The idea of print journalists’ deadlines has always centred around the 24hr news cycle, where stories were assigned in the morning, researched and drafted during the day and which culminated in a deadline for the story to be filed mid-afternoon. Trying to call a reporter anywhere near that deadline would result in you getting ignored or (sometimes) told off for not respecting their time.

In today’s media environment, stories are filed for the web throughout the day. Often they’re filed multiple times, with information being added as stories develop. As a result, the afternoon deadline has turned into constant pressure and ever-looming deadlines. For the media relations folks, that means:

  1. Journalists are always pressed for time (as one said to me a little while back when I asked if it was a good time to talk, “it’s never a good time – I’m always busy”).
  2. Afternoon pitching is no worse than morning pitching. In fact, it may be better as they’ve had a chance to clear out their inbox from the morning… and if everyone else is calling in the morning, you may have a better chance of getting through in the afternoon.

What’s more, the emergence of email as a pitching tool means initial outreach can be asynchronous- if journalists are busy they can read them later.

Is it time to re-think the old rules around when to pitch print journalists?

Public relations pros: does this picture fit with your recent experience?

Journalists: does this ring true for you?

(This is a re-post of a piece I wrote for the Marketing Profs Daily Fix. To check out the original and my other posts there, check out mpdailyfix.com)

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  • Great topic and points, Dave–I agree this is an outmoded approach. And it’s always uncomfortable when these longstanding “rules” become moot. I’ve weighed in with some changes in approach, if not timing, here: http://www.dontgetcaught.biz/webdocs/blog/2010/02/timing-and-pitch-6-ways-to-change.html.

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  • Hi Dave – I can tell you from my recent experience at USA TODAY, where I managed travel bloggers as well as writers. The full-time bloggers start their mornings at 6 a.m., where they did a roundup of the day’s headlines, followed by an original post that had to be turned around for the 11 a.m. newsletter. They usually did another post by 1 or 2 p.m.

    Only then were they able to breathe, go through their in box and take pitches. So yes, I think that PR people should be aware that news cycles have changed and that most web-savvy journalists try to get their work out by peak Internet viewing hours.

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  • I think the rules have changed. Get it out there via email and follow up with a phone message, maybe after hours so the journalist can get it if they come in way early (as many do) or stay late (many do).

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  • This decision is critical to any announcement and no, the old rules don’t apply anymore. I take several other things into consideration… what is the best timing for my release to appear on the Internet, regardless of when reporters will pick it up? Where should my release appear in order to reach the greatest number of people in my target audience, again, regardless of when or if reporters will pick it up? I wish Cision included information on the typical hours for staff meetings. It would also be great to know how many times, on average, specific reporters file their stories in a day, week or month.