You know it’s a slow news day when…

by PR Coach on July 22, 2012

Can you get stories on a slow news day?

You know it’s a slow news day when…

You know it’s a slow news day when an Iceberg Twice The Size Of Manhattan Breaks Off Glacier In Greenland and it’s the lead story.

Glad you’re here at This Just In…. Give me a moment while I check that breaking news story from NPR.

Whew. That’s a relief. I thought it was something trivial like a cure for the common cold or a way to feed the hundreds of millions who go hungry every day.

All in all, a way to introduce my topic today: When are the slowest news days and what can you do to take advantage of them and help a reporter out?

As media consumers or PR pros, we know there are slow news days and times of the year. You know? When stories like the iceberg story or beach or BBQ stories pop up during the dog days of summer.

So, how do you capitalize on these opportunities and get your story on the media radar?

What do media want during slow news days?

I asked two PR experts, both former journalists, for their thoughts on two questions:

  1. When are the slowest news days (or time of year)?
  2. What can PR do to take advantage of them?

Brad Phillips was a CNN news producer working with the likes of Wolf Blitzer and earlier in his career working with Ted Koppel at ABC and as a broadcast reporter. He is now better known as Mr Media Training, an expert media trainer, PR consultant and prolific blogger on media training and presentation skills.

Phillips says the slowest news week is typically between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends are close behind.

“Journalists are hungry for smart and timely content they can use during those holiday periods. The critical part is pitching those stories a few weeks in advance so that journalists can complete stories early, send them to their editors a few days in advance, and take the holidays off,” he says.

“For a Christmas-themed pitch, aim for early December. Memorial Day should be pitched in early to mid May. Thanksgiving should be pitched by the first or second week of November,” adds Phillips.

Susan Young is a PR consultant and Principal of Get in Front Communications. She earned her reporter chops as an award-winning radio news director, reporter and on-air anchor. Most recently she was editor, Ragan’s HR Communication newsletter. She’s also a blogger and regular contributor to PR Daily.

“Slowest news days are Monday and Friday. Consider how thin the newspapers are those days. Black Friday, Thanksgiving, are slow too,” Young says.

She suggests PR practitioners can take advantage by sending out news on Thursday afternoon or Friday morning, as it could be used through the weekend and on Monday and Tuesday.

“Watch the dating when doing this, as “evergreen” or preview stories work best. Another good time to pitch stories is when lawmakers, state and federal, are not in session,” she adds.

You can read more of Young’s tips on the “open window of opportunity” on long weekends/holidays like President’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas week here.  “Lots of potential mileage during these times,” she writes.

What types of stories work best in slow news cycles?

Our agency always had great success getting national coverage for 7-Eleven with annual Slurpee celebrations every July 11 (7-11, get it?). No better icon and story hook for a slow summer news day.

The first two weeks of New Year are often very quiet news cycles. After the annual looks back at last year and predictions for this year, producers scramble to find fresh stories. Enter smart PR with stories on fitness and diet resolutions, food trends, seasonal holiday bargains, trends and more.

A few tried and true tips to guide for media relations success:

  1. Plan ahead. Be aware of the lead time for media.
  2. Do your research. Know your reporter, outlet, their news style, needs and interests.
  3. Be timely. Pitch well in advance and respect deadlines.
  4. Pitch “news.” Always remember you need a news hook, even in lifestyle or seasonal stories.
  5. SCAP wins. Short, concise, active and pertinent pitches get attention. Personal always wins.
  6. Leads & headlines count. In the newsroom and inbox, headlines and lead paragraphs make the difference. Use your writing skills and nose for news to get attention.
  7. Be resourceful & complete. Recognize newsrooms are even more short-staffed and pressed for time on holidays. Make it easy for reporters and producers with links to further background.
  8. Follow up carefully. A proper, brief follow-up is appropriate but don’t be a stalker or silly in checking for interest.
  9. Be available. Make sure you and your spokesperson or “expert” are available for interview. Surprising how often this one gets missed.
  10. Say thanks. Everyone, including reporters, appreciates recognition or praise. A quick thank-you means a lot.

What do you think? Have you had slow news cycle stories picked up? There’s a couple of long weekends ahead and still time to prepare and pitch.

You may not have a story as big as that iceberg, but you can have media relations success when it’s a slow news day.

My thanks again to Susan Young and Brad Phillips for their tips — two great bloggers and resources. You’ll find them on Twitter too: @SueYoungMedia and @MrMediaTraining.

Lots more media relations, do-it-yourself PR and media training tips, links and resources in our virtual PR Library. Just point and click. Or sign up for weekly PR Coach posts to keep your PR toolkit full.

Author: Jeff Domansky

Photo credit: Shutterstock