Timing is important in working with the media. Success involves releasing information in a timely and efficient manner. Getting information to them involves remembering basics that will not only help how well you are received, but also keep you organized and determine how the media responds.
Timing. Timing is of the utmost importance in getting information to the media. But timing is also a double-edged sword in working with them – contact them too soon and they may forget your announcement (especially if you don’t follow up) or something else may take priority. But there’s also the dilemma of waiting until the last minute. You can’t expect them to show up for a press conference if you contact them an hour before the event; most media outlets plan their schedule a day in advance and often sooner.
Delivery. Most editors and producers prefer to receive information through e-mail. There are exceptions and there is still a need for contacting them by phone and occasionally sending information via fax, both of which are discussed below.
Sending information by e-mail is advantageous to the media for several reasons. The first is that is allows recipients to view information at a time that is best for them. Second, e-mail versus fax goes directly to one individual’s computer as opposed to a paper fax that is often misplaced (and anyone who has worked in an office has experienced this). The third advantage of e-mail is that it allows recipients the opportunity to forward the information to reporters, along with the ability to copy and paste information rather than typing it new (not only is this convenient for reporters it also assures information is transferred correctly assuming it is accurate on your end).
When sending an e-mail be sure and include information in the subject line that grabs the recipient’s attention, not merely something generic such as the words “press release.” Just as the headline of the press release should feature prose that will grab the reader’s attention and want them to read more, the subject line is no different.
Follow-up. Once your email has been sent it is crucial to follow-up with a telephone call and make sure the information has been received. It’s never safe to assume anything – your recipient may be out sick or on vacation, left their position without bothering to tell you, or there may be e-mail problems.
For those reasons, and a host of other possible obstacles, following up with a telephone call is a must. Editors and producers are busy people and don’t have time for the whole spill over the phone, thus the rationale for contacting them with an e-mail. All you want to do now is confirm the information, ask if they need more details, and let them know you hope they can send someone if you are announcing a press conference or other event.
Just as timing is critical in when you send your information, the follow up phone call should also be well planned. It is pointless to make the call immediately after you have hit the send button on your computer because it make take time for the information to go through on the other end, along with the consideration that the recipient may have not had time to read their email. That realization means you should always allow some time to pass after the e-mail has been sent, ranging from thirty minutes to a few hours.
When you do call producers and editors, make sure you are not doing so right before a newscast or deadline. You can’t contact the media at their busiest times (which is a public relations practitioner’s job to know) and expect them to give you their full attention. I once carried a resume into the newsroom of a television station without thinking that they were going on the air in five minutes. It goes without saying I never heard from the producer and the same holds true of trying to discuss your information with the media during their crunch times.
Make sure when you do follow up that all requests from producers and editors are honored when possible. If they ask you to send the information again or to someone else, do so immediately. You may also be asked for additional information or access to someone with your organization, simple enough requests that should be given the highest priority.
Faxing information is never wrong, but presents the previously mentioned problem of being misplaced. Sending information by fax provides another way of notifying the media, but should never replace the follow up call. Often, producers and editors are looking for hard copy to use in planning schedules for reporters.