When it comes to pitching a news story, timeliness is even more important now in the digital age, where lagging behind by even a few hours can severely damage the newsworthiness of your story.
When you want to get your business some media attention, breaking news is often just around the next bend. Look ahead, and plan ahead, to be sure that when your story is about to break, you have everything you need to be out there in front.
At the very least, you want to get the news to reporters on the day it occurs, as early as possible. Daily newspapers, news wires, and TV stations hold news meetings to decide which stories they will cover and how staff will be assigned to cover these stories. The first news meeting of the day is key and usually starts between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. If you want your story to even be considered, you need to have your information in the hands of a reporter, editor, or producer before they walk into that news meeting.
This is also true of the online news desks because they are getting stories together early in anticipation of the noon spike in traffic to their sites. A big chunk of their audience is workers in offices around the country who are eating lunch at their desks and surfing the Web for news. In the hours after the noon peak, online news staffers prepare for the next day’s news cycle and beyond.
To be sure you can deliver your story on time, with no loose ends, you will need to be prepared in advance. Give yourself enough time to finalize a press release or a pitch letter, line up people for interviews, and have all the media resources on hand and ready to be delivered the instant they are requested, most likely via e-mail. That includes your press release, high-resolution JPEG photos (at least 300 DPI), and video, which should be loaded to an FTP site for viewing by the media. While online news desks may want to download and use the video from the FTP site, television stations may require video in a different format. Find out their requirements in advance.
Be sure your spokespeople are available and immediately reachable for interviews once your news breaks. If you are offered an on-camera interview for the evening news, be ready to grab it because there won’t be another chance tomorrow.
If you are aiming high and hoping to get a bigger media outlet to cover your story, you need to be even more strategic about your timing. Top media are interested in exclusive stories, which means they want to break news first. In the digital age, even a few minutes lead on the competition matters. If you have a substantial news story but you’re not confident a bigger outlet will cover it, you can approach the reporter or editor or producer and offer to give him or her an advance on the story. If the outlet is a big enough media player, getting your story included may trigger additional coverage by other media that respect and follow that outlet.
Once you do get coverage, make every effort to spread the word in a timely fashion. Twitter a link to the coverage, post it to your Facebook page, blog about it, or use RSS feeds to boost its popularity. Whatever you do, do it now. Because when it comes to news, no one is interested in what happened yesterday.
In her 16 years as a PR professional, Barbara Goldberg has helped clients in health care, alternative energy, and the performing arts tell their stories in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CBS News, ABCNews.com, and many other media outlets.