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Opinions of Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Columnist: Etornam Komla

Perfect Timing: When is the best time to release news?

You have a great news about your company, one that you think must definitely feature in all major newspapers the next day. Then the question occurs to you - is it the right time to release it?

Several ideas come to mind when you are torn between whether to release a news item or not to. How will I communicate the decision not to publish a story to my employer who thinks the story must go out immediately? Won’t the story get stale as more time passes?

As a communication professional, you should have the courage to tell your bosses that certain times are just not right for news to be released. Oh yes! Not every day is a good day for stories to be sent to a reporter. It is important to get it right when you pitch a story idea. That is the more reason why it is imperative that you time the market and the impact levels you envisaged before taking a final decision to hit the send button.

Your company has been nominated for an international award for Excellence in Customer Service. Great news, isn’t it? Around this same time, you have received a petition from your local customer union expressing concerns about the inability of the company to address their needs timely.

In such a situation, will you rush to release the news about your international award? I will prefer to hold on until the issues with the customers are addressed. This is an important decision to make because when it is not handled well, it could develop into a crisis. Customers could publicly demonstrate their dissatisfaction when they read about this award. This way, their petition, which could have been addressed within the company, becomes a public concern.

So, when is the best timing for news to be released?

There might not be any magic day or time to release a story. Experience, however, could tell that some days are obviously better in securing key coverage than some other days. I will usually advise clients not to release news on weekends. Readership is generally low during the weekend.

Again, studies show that many people do not buy newspapers; they read them while at work. This means that the average newspaper reader will obviously not get newspapers to read while at home during the weekend. This is one of the reasons why many big companies will rather choose weekends to release a not too good story like the drop in their market shares and the likes of this.

Many senior journalists also want to take some time off work to rest during the weekend. They might not, therefore, pay close attention to stories you send them. This is one other reason why Fridays are also not ideal. Reporters want to start the weekend very early.

Why not rather send a news idea or a press release to a journalist when he is most likely to have that free mind to read and when there is a better chance that he is looking for news to send his editor.

I will, on a normal day, go for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Mondays are usually not very smooth. Everyone is back from the weekend and trying to catch up with the weekend news items and also plan for the week.

Also worth noting in releasing news is the consideration of whether you are targeting hard news, feature or columns. Feature stories and columns are usually planned in advance. This means that if features are your target, then you should plan to send your story ideas well ahead of time. Hard news, on the other hand, are always on the go. That is why you must send only current happenings if you want your information to be considered. The news must be “new”. Remember, if it’s not NEW, it’s not NEWS. This should be considered when taking a decision to reach out to the press; do you need to give more time for decisions to be made as to whether to use your story or not?

To every rule, there’s an exception. This is to suggest that there could be enough reason why a story might need to go out on a Friday, Monday or the weekend. What if you have a breaking news that ought to be announced immediately to save lives, protect the reputation of your brand or restore order? You don’t have to wait another minute.

Again, depending on the quality of the news, Sundays could work out quite well as many editors plan their news pages on Sundays for the Monday edition. For this to work effectively, you have to be sure of how good the story really is. If not, the story might never be used when you miss that first opportunity.

Finally, there is no 100% formula for timing when to release your story. The basics will be to ask yourself few questions; who are your target audiences, will they be available to read your story when it comes out at certain times and whether the editor will be there to see and use your story?

On daily basis, there’s competition for prominence among stories. That’s why it’s important that you have a story worth reading. Once you know your audience and time appropriately, you increase the chances of getting that desired coverage.

But hey!, don’t forget that you can share your own story even if all editors do not see their newsworthiness. That’s the purpose of your website, social media platforms and the internal communication tools. Use them to promote your own stories.

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