PR Firms’ Fractured News Release Psychology
Corporate public relations departments and public relations firms treat this issue much the same way casino-goers treat slot machines. The slot machine player is convinced he knows which machine to play, on what day and at what hour. He also believes he can tell if a machine is about to hit based upon the activity of the previous player.
PR types have their own can’t-miss strategy when it comes to sending news releases to the media. Some believe that sending the release well in advance of the event works best. Others believe two or three days notice is most effective. Then there are those who send it on Tuesday, hold it for the weekend or send it as an urgent email the day of the event.
I don’t know about the odds, machine mechanics and psychology of being successful at slots, but I do know which of the PR types has the best strategy when it comes to sending news releases to the media. They all do! It makes no difference when you send it or when we receive it. But there are ways you can improve your odds of getting coverage.
Let me give you a behind-the-scenes look at what happens to your news release once you email or regular mail it.
In every newsroom I have ever worked in, the assignment manager (the person who receives the news releases) has a large file drawer. Inside that drawer are 31 file folders, numbered 1 through 31 — one for each day of the month.
When your news release arrives, the assignment manager will give it a quick glance just to make sure it has some semblance of news value and then he looks at the date of your event. If your event is on the 7th of the month, your news release gets put into the number 7 file folder. It is then essentially forgotten until the afternoon of the 6th. That’s when the assignment manager and other members of management hold a brief meeting to plan out the next day’s news coverage. It is at this meeting that your news release will be carefully read for the first time.
How To Increase Your Chances of Coverage
Ideally, you should send your news release two weeks prior to your event. Then, wait one week and telephone the assignment manager to ask if he or she received it. This call does a number of things for you. It tells the assignment manager that you cared enough to give us ample advance notice. It also tells him you cared enough about your event that you wanted to be sure the news release was received. Finally, it gives the assignment manager a real person and voice to connect with as opposed to just a piece of paper or an email.
Wait! Before you press ‘send’….
Before you mail or email your news release whether it’s to your local television and radio stations or newspaper, pick up the phone! Call each media outlet and ask the receptionist, “Could you please tell me the name of the person I would send a news release to?”
This gives your news release that personal touch. Rather than simply addressing your release to ‘Newsroom’ or ‘News Editor’ or ‘Reporter’ or ‘Assignment Desk’ you have made a connection with a person — the assignment manager. The fact that you addressed your release to him/her specifically tells the assignment manager that you cared enough to find out who he is.
The personal touch can go a long way.
Don’t despair if you don’t make it to air
Ok, so you’ve written the perfect news release, sent it two weeks in advance, covered the 5 W’s (Who, What, When, Where and Why), researched the assignment manager’s name, sent it to him personally and telephoned him to be sure he received the release and he sounds very interested. But the day of your big event arrives — and no media show up! What the hell?
Simple answer is this. We would love to cover your event which is usually positive in nature and we might have had every intention of sending a reporter and photographer to report on your special day. However, we cannot control events.
Sometimes bad news gets in the way of good news. If, on the day of your event, a disgruntled employee dressed in camouflage and carrying an automatic weapon decides that the manager who fired him should no longer be a citizen of planet earth — all bets are off. We must redirect our reporters and photographers to the bad news.
But don’t let that discourage you! Send your good news. This world needs more of it!