When entrepreneurs make a company announcement, they naturally want to shout it from the hilltops. And after a long upward climb, some feel a loud, hurried exposition is warranted.
But not so fast: there’s beauty to a strategically timed PR campaign. Companies need to keep a close eye on the clock to make sure they time initial media outreach, follow-up emails and social media shares just right.
If not, a company could come across as irrelevant. So how should companies plan their PR campaigns to ensure they don’t jump the gun? Or worse yet, miss out on the race completely.
You have one chance to catch a journalist’s eye with an announcement. So, you need to make sure you present a powerful enough story.
When it comes to reporting on new products, journalists want ones that are actually up and running. So unless you’re a tech giant like Facebook or Google, a publication isn’t likely to take interest in your product if it’s still in development, or if you don’t yet have a working prototype you can demonstrate. Plus if your launch date is pushed back a few times, a journalist won’t have the time to keep track of your company happenings. The tech industry develops thousands of products each year – a journalist has no devotion to yours. They aren’t going to wait around for your product to go live and do you a favor by reporting on it.
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When your product is ready, you should pitch it to a journalist 1-3 weeks ahead of the launch to give them time to write the article, submit it for edits, and then have it published. The same goes for events. There is no point pitching a story about your amazing co-building event in the Bay which takes place tomorrow. Journalists are busy and if you don’t give them sufficient notice, they will probably pass on covering your story.
However there are other announcements – such as funding, partnerships, and new hires – which are not time dependent. You should pitch these type of announcements when all the details (such as funding amounts) are confirmed. That said, you don’t want to leave it too long. Pitching a story about that time you hired Dave from marketing two months ago isn’t very exciting.
Timing is important because it helps to create a strong narrative. You want to fit your story into the bigger picture of what is happening at that time. For example, if you know Apple plans to launch a group chat function and your company specializes in group chat, it’s best to hold off on your announcement until Apple launches its product.
This adds to your narrative: your story is important because it fits into a wider trend.
When contacting media, it’s important to know whether you want to reach out with an exclusive (offering the story to only one journalist), or an embargo (requesting journalists wait until a certain time to break a story). Both are used for stories that are perceived as important for large publications, such as company launches, or news from the government. It’s something you should be thinking about weeks before you are ready to make an announcement – so a publication has enough time to prepare and edit a quality story about your company, and so that you have time to reach out to journalists on an individual basis if you go down the exclusive route.
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Exclusives are attractive to journalists because they mean no one else has the same story. The journalist gets to break the news to the public. However the downside of exclusives, is that you cannot reach out to more than one journalist at once. Pitching an exclusive to more than one journalist at a time is a sure shot way of making a bad name for yourself. If a journalist sees another publication has published the story too, prepare yourself for a strongly worded email, and probably being blocked from their mailing list.
As a result, the media outreach process is quite drawn out for exclusives. Since you need to offer at 24-48 hour grace period for each, it could take 10-20 days if you reach out to 10 journalists.
On the other hand, embargos let journalists know the news beforehand. They have time to write a well-rounded story about the announcement, rather than rushing to put one together. So does it work? You send a pitch to a publication and ask them to agree to the embargo. Once they do, you send them the rest of the information and they publish the story on the requested date and time. This way, news is less likely to leak beforehand.
Embargos mean your company news is published by various publications, all at the same time. This helps to make a bigger impact, and make your company appear more important. Even more, you’ll be well-prepared for the feedback that next comes your way.
Journalists get a lot of emails and you can’t expect them to push yours to the front of the list. Unfortunately the emails you send might end up buried at the bottom of a journalist’s inbox.
But if a journalist doesn’t immediately reply to your email, don’t take it personally. Send a follow-up email to remind them. It’s best to wait 24 hours to do so – any sooner, and they may perceive your persistence as annoying. Just one follow-up email is fine. And it’s a good idea to give journalists a deadline to reply by. This way, they’ll know your exclusive story will expire in 48 hours, and you can offer it to someone else.
Here’s a good example of what you may add to the end of your email, to effectively give a disclaimer that you’ll be sending a follow-up.
I understand that you must be very busy at the moment, so I will follow up with you once more after this email.
Thanks for your time.
A company has the right to celebrate new media coverage – for a little while, at least. If you know it’s coming, keep checking the publication to see if it’s been published. That way, you can be one of the first people to share and promote the story on social media – such as on LinkedIn, Twitter Facebook and your company’s blog – and get the word out even further.
If a journalist lets you know when the story is expected to be published, that great. But don’t check-in with them for updates more than once. Publishing dates often get pushed around in a newsroom, and a journalist doesn’t have time to keep you in the loop.
Once it is published, you have roughly two weeks grace period to shamelessly self-promote your coverage. For now you are the star of the show, and it’s taken a lot of work to get there, so enjoy your short time in the spotlight. That said, continuing to promote on social media and your own community pages after the grace period is over, will come across as a bit stale. It’s time to move on, and focus on your next announcement.
Timing really is vital for a successful PR campaign. Pushing out a press release when your company is ready, communicating with journalists effectively, and promoting your content through social media in timely fashion will all make your company more relevant. So next time you get restless and want to speed up your PR campaign, take a long breath and wait. Timing is key.
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