Press Release Timing: When Should You Send Out Your News?
You can have the most well-written and newsworthy press release in the world, but if you send it out on a bad day or at the wrong time, you may hurt your opportunities for news coverage. The day and time you issue a press release matter.
The key questions to consider are:
- When will editors and reporters reading their email be most likely to see my release? (probably 8am-9am)
- When will editors and reporters most likely be too busy to pay attention to what I am sending out?
- If I am holding an event to make a big announcement, what is the best time to issue an invitation to media to attend, and what is the best time to issue a release sharing the outcome of the event?
It’s important to think about work flow. Most people check their email when they first arrive at work. So if your news release is in the digital pile (and near the top) in the morning, you have a better chance. If reporters need to pitch a story from your release in a 10:00 am editorial meeting, they will need your release before then. Journalists are like many other workers – they take time off on the weekends and holidays to see their families and friends – so certain days and dates are best avoided.
In an ideal world – your news release should make the job of the journalist easier. Not inflict stress. So schedule your press release accordingly. Here’s the best advice we have (take with a grain of salt, today’s 24/7 news cycle moves at such a frenetic pace that we are seeing reporters working super crazy hours and some releases are going out at crazy hours and not the ideal times):
Best days of the week to issue a press release: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. A 2013 review of MarketWired releases found that Tuesday was the busiest day of the week for press releases – meaning your release is competing with lots of other news traffic for attention. You might fare better on Wednesday or Thursday, but try out a few options and see what works for you.
Moderately ok day of the week to issue a press release: Monday. Yes, lots of releases may come out that day, but there is something to be said for your release being at the beginning of the week and the top of the pile.
Worst days of the week to issue a press release: Friday (afternoon/evening especially), Saturday, Sunday
Best time of day to issue a press release: 8am-9:30am (most likely to be seen when people clear their morning email before news editorial meetings. At the same time, there is some flux in this. At this time of day, you are also competing with many other releases on the wire services (if you use one).
Dates to avoid: April Fool’s Day (April 1), Labor Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving Day (and the days before and after), Christmas (December 25, but avoid 3 days before and any day through January 1).
Should you issue a release later in the day? Sometimes you do have to issue news later in the day. The world is not going to end if this happens. But use commonsense. If you expect actual interest from a television news outlet and the story is time-sensitive, then don’t issue your release an hour before they go on the air or during their news show.
If you expect newspaper coverage – issuing a release in the late afternoon when reporters are on deadline is traditionally bad. HOWEVER, with journalists increasingly asked to produce more content (especially for online purposes) – this also means that there is opportunity for a well-written release to be used by a reporter or blogger any time of day (work/life balance is squeezed on many fronts, including in journalism). If you release information later in the day – make sure your work is top-notch and clear as day – reporters may not have as much time to follow up and be stressed to produce copy.
Realize that news outlets plan coverage in advance. Even if reporters like a story idea, they may need to run it past an editor or assignment manager. An interview may need to be arranged by phone or in person. The reporter may need to locate other sources. All of this takes time. It take an hour, a day, a week or months.
Get your ducks in a row in advance before sending your release out. Make sure key spokespeople are available right after the release goes out. Have numbers, background materials and suggestions for other sources ready. Don’t muddle up the process by being ill-prepared. Sometimes circumstances force you to go out with a release without some key supporting materials – scramble to get this information organized as fast as possible in case you need it.
The Friday night news dump – it’s a real thing. If you have unflattering news about yourself that you are required to issue, the traditional advice given out by public relations professionals is that you should release it on Friday afternoon or early evening (known as the Friday night news dump), when it is least likely to be noticed. While there is some debate over whether this is a good strategy for company earnings reports (see report on this matter), it remains a well-used strategy for many other types of news, such as product recalls.
For example, on Friday, August 25, 2017 late in the day, the White House formally issued directions for a ban on transgender members of the military, and later in the evening, U.S. President Donald Trump issued a controversial pardon. The fact that this was done while a major hurricane was closing in on the Texas coast meant there was plenty of distraction in the news media space. It was still covered, but perhaps not to the extent it might have been.
Contacting media on the weekend – Is it ever ok to contact reporters over the weekend? Yes, if you have real breaking news of high interest to reporters, you should send out a release and make calls (to news desks). This happens sometimes for government agencies who are coping with a threat to public safety, or for organizations or businesses that have had something truly catastrophic happen to them that is of high interest to the media and can’t wait. If you have important information that impacts public safety or breaking news that is highly likely to be covered by the media – you should send it out as soon as you can. Very, very few news releases meet these requirements – but if yours does – send it out when it needs to go out, even if it’s the weekend.
Talk to Us: What do you think is the best time or day to issue a news release? What has worked for you and your nonprofit organization, association or business?
Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent PR practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites (contact to discuss your project, review our portfolio, sign up for our e-newsletter). She blogs about media relations, social media, public relations, and work-family balance. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.