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Five Questions to Ask Before Making an Announcement on a Breaking News Day

Posted on: September 10th, 2013 by Jill Queenan | No Comments

How to avoid that “OMG – I didn’t know the iPhone 5S was coming out today!” panic moment

To quote USA Today’s Jon Swartz, we’ve got an “epic week in store,” as Apple gears up to reveal its new iPhone at 1:00 p.m. ET. For many technology reporters today – and even in the coming few days – it’s going to be all Apple, all the time. And getting in front of them with your company’s news and perspectives will be really, really tough. That is, unless you’re Apple.

But does it matter for other businesses with news to release?  Here are five questions to ask yourself to help make the call:

  1. Is there a strong business case for announcing the news that particular day? While there are certainly going to be instances when timing is inflexible (i.e. funding or earnings announcements, government contract wins, etc.) it pays to plan ahead. Study the calendar and research any planned press conferences or major industry events that may conflict with the date you’re considering. If you have flexibility, steer clear of busy news days and pick an alternative time when you can generate greater impact.
  2. Is it possible to pre-pitch your news as an exclusive or to a select group of reporters before announcement day? Though some reporters and publications vehemently oppose the embargo, many still honor and appreciate the heads-up and extra time to prepare a story – especially during heavy news weeks.
  3. Do you have a unique, complementary or contrarian point-of-view to add to the conversation? Remember that you’re competing against hundreds of other companies vying for ink around major news events, so be sure to add value to the discussion if you want to piggyback on it. Support your point of view with statistics and quick, pithy sound-bites about what the news means to your target audience.
  4. Are you maximizing social engagement? If your PR strategy simply involves slapping a press release on the wire and sending some emails out to a few reporters…you’re doing it wrong. Often, reporters covering major launch events flock to social channels to post real-time updates and scan for day-of story resources during industry launches and events. Engage with the media in advance – follow key reporters on Twitter (which you’re hopefully doing already!), reach out and ask who’s been assigned to cover launch news if it’s not already obvious, respond to reporter social queries in real-time with helpful info (see #3 above) and have a spokesperson on stand-by who can jump on the phone at a moment’s notice to offer comments.
  5. Have you exhausted all creative ideas? Remember – getting the attention your news and point of view deserves is going to be difficult. During your team’s planning discussions, come up with some “wildcard” ideas to help you stand out. You don’t have to go completely over the top and blow your entire marketing budget, but consider alternative ways to communicate your message beyond text. Maybe a short video or an animated motion graphic makes sense. Whatever you choose, make sure you build these ideas into your timeline and pre-launch strategy.

(Disclaimer: shameless plug ahead) Finally, if you work with a PR agency, lean on your team heavily to help pinpoint the best time to make a major announcement. They have their pulse on the latest industry rumors and schedules, they’re in constant communication with the reporters that matter to you and they can help weigh the pros and cons of jumping on (or avoiding) breaking news days.

Have other tips to share? We’d love to read about them in the comments section below.

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