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)

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.