Why timing matters in PR

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The notion that timing is everything is relevant to many aspects of business, but it is particularly important to public relations in terms of securing favorable media coverage. Why? Because a key component of any successful PR strategy is knowing when to release an announcement or break news.

Maybe your boss wants to issue a press release immediately to get bad business news out of the way. Or your business partner wants to announce a new product today, even if there is no product to be had for the next six months. You may even have a great idea for a new business and feel you must tell the world about its launch right this second.

Think you have your PR timing down?

Below are five lessons to consider prior to engaging in any PR tactics or reaching out to the media to see if you’re prepared for your fifteen minutes of fame.

Know your key messages

Media outlets are going to say whatever they want to about your brand. Which is why your first media interview is quite possibly the worst time ever to test out your brand’s key messages.

To see success in the media, it’s best if you convey the same key messages about your brand time after time. This consistency will benefit you the most with the media—and be picked up by the consumers the fastest—if every platform on which your brand’s messaging is represented is clear and cohesive.

For instance, your Facebook profile shouldn’t be more current than the About Us section on your brand’s website. The outspoken, political tweets coming from your company’s Twitter account shouldn’t contradict the story being told by the fun, professional photos being shared on your Instagram. You shouldn’t launch your brand everywhere with one name and then change it up to a new brand name six months later.

In 2015, we helped introduce a product called #itsthenerve to the media. This hashtag was a code name and not the actual name for a product with a yet to be determined launch date. It’s confusing. It’s awkward to transition from. It’s not a strategy I’d advise a brand to enact.

First impressions matter, especially with the media. Your brand’s initial launch is your best chance to have all eyes on you. If you start your media blitz with one name and then change everything a few weeks or even months down the road, how is anyone going to find you?

If you are not committed to your brand’s key messages enough to keep them consistent, you should hold off on any PR activities. Changing directions will confuse both the media and current and perspective customers, which will impact your bottom line.

Be ready for the attention

Say you own a small, relatively unknown jewelry company. That is, until Beyoncé wears a pair of your earrings in her latest music video. Would you be able to handle the influx of media attention and customer orders that the Beyhive brings?

When media attention strikes, it can come at you like a hurricane. You’re going to want to make sure you are prepared.

Is your website solid enough to keep from crashing with a bump in traffic? Do you have the actual product in stock for customers? What about someone on staff who can respond to media inquiries within an hour of their outreach?

Obviously, having your website crash because of a huge influx in interest due to media exposure is a great problem to have. However, having no website at all—or no current product offerings posted online—when interested parties start Googling your name isn’t so great.

My alma mater, The University of North Dakota, knows all about the sting of poor PR timing. Caught unprepared during the announcement of its decision to discontinue women’s hockey and the swimming and diving programs, the school received its fair share of vitriol on social media and beyond.

After leaking the information to numerous media outlets two hours before a hastily scheduled press conference and hoping no one would speak until they said to, UND left itself vulnerable and unable to control its own narrative.

Within minutes of reaching out to its press contacts, the school’s news was all over social media. All while school-operated websites and social media accounts shared pre-scheduled posts and even congratulations messages to UND’s other championship athletic programs.

Even worse, it appears school administrators forgot the most important part of publicizing bad news—tell the impacted parties first. Almost an hour after news broke confirming the discontinuation of the program, pictures were shared on Twitter of the women’s hockey team practicing for their upcoming season. They appeared blissfully unaware of the news, because they were.

You know who is always ready for the attention? Mom, TV personality, fashion designer, and author Kristin Cavallari. While showcasing her latest fashion offerings and keeping her fans abreast of her family life, Cavallari is an expert at teasing whatever project she has coming next.

By consistently sharing images of her unique accessories, Cavallari created a solid string of buzz for the launch of her new jewelry line, Uncommon James, even before she was ready to sell to the public. Cavallari then capitalized on that interest by having the brand’s website readily available to her fans in all her social profiles and requiring an email capture on the site’s landing page to receive more information once it was available.

Don’t miss the opportunity for media exposure, brand recognition, positive consumer connections, or sales by not having your brand prepared for what media attention brings.

Offer more than just your brand

As noted above, your brand’s existence is often a short-lived story.

While media coverage can be obtained for brands announcing their launch, better media exposure is earned when you can offer actual customers, real-world data, or other meaningful insights that tell a complete story for a reporter.

Jessica Alba made sure she surrounded herself with industry experts when launching her Honest Beauty cosmetics and skincare line. Before taking the plunge, the actress and mother made sure she had the best people on hand to help tell her brand’s story and ensure her venture was a success. Within six months, that arm of The Honest Company had received more positive media coverage than any other division and had become a huge success.

Even with a seemingly single storyline, having an array of assets to dangle in front of the media for a new take allows you to squeeze out more media coverage. You may want to consider offering one media outlet an exclusive or first rights to run your announcement. Then provide another media contact a coveted interview with your top expert. You could even provide yet another outlet with real customers and their data for a third unique story.

A mother, author, TV host, model, and swimwear designer, Chrissy Teigen is a genius at the media dangle. One of the funniest and most vocal voices about food on social media, she had us all licking our lips long before her cookbook Cravings earned its spot on The New York Times Best Sellers list.

By sharing her cooking sprees, recipe prep, and food photoshoots through constant posts on Twitter, Instagram, and her blog, So Delushious! Teigen made us want to visit the pre-order sales page for her cookbook, which she expertly shared the link to in every post.

Be ready to commit

It’s easy to remember to tweet once a day or paste repurposed marketing copy on your website. It’s quite difficult, however, to secure and then replicate five or more earned media placements.

Especially if your target outlets stretch beyond your local weekly newspaper.

PR is not a one and done operation. A single media hit won’t get your brand’s name out there. You’ll only be successful if there is a consistent stream of earned media placements showcasing your brand.

If you plan on performing all PR activities in-house, you need to be prepared to stick with a consistent plan of reaching out to the media and promoting your brand. You must set aside at least 10 hours a week to the task and resist the urge to be satisfied with one or two media articles.

The same can be said when hiring an external PR rep or agency. Don’t make a less than 90-day commitment, expect a few placements within a month or two, and then call the whole thing off.

While you may have achieved media coverage going either route, it won’t be as impressive or impactful as your brand deserves.

Think you have your PR timing down?

Want more helpful tips like the ones above plus more? Check out The Buzz: A Media Darling’s Guide to Press Coverage or signup for exclusive Hearsay content