Corporate public relations departments treat this issue much the same way casino-goers treat slot machines. The slot player is convinced he knows what machine to play, on what day and at what hour. He also believes he can tell if a machine is hot based upon the activity of the previous player. PR types each have their own can’t-miss strategy when it comes to sending news releases to the media. Some believe sending it well in advance of the event works best. Others believe two or three days notice is most effective. Then there are those who say send it on Tuesday, hold it for the weekend or send it as an urgent fax the day of the event.
I don’t know about the odds, mechanics and psychology of playing successful slots, but I do know which of the PR-types has the best method. They all do because it makes no difference when you send and when the media receive your news release. One caveat here – it’s probably not a good idea to send your news release on the day of or as an urgent fax as the news personnel may already be committed to other stories and can’t get to yours on such short notice.
Let me give you an inside look at what happens to your news release once you put it in the mail or send it by email. In every newsroom I’ve ever worked in, there is a large office cabinet drawer referred to as ‘the file’. The file contains 31 manila envelopes – one for each day of the month. When you news release arrives, the assignment manager gives 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, your news release is immediately deposited into manila envelope number 7. It is then essentially ignored until the afternoon of the 6th of the month at which time the assignment manager and other members of management hold a brief meeting to play out the next day’s coverage. It is at this meeting that your news release will get carefully read for the first time.
Ideally, you should send your news release two weeks ahead of time. Then wait one week and call 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 care enough about your event that you wanted to make sure the news release was received. And third, it gives the assignment manager a real person and voice to connect with the event as opposed to just a piece of paper or email.
Now that you’ve made sure the media has received your release, reward yourself and go play some slots!