When Is It Best to Plan Your Release, Event or Program? Your Timing and Time Line
Your news delivery timing is a key to your success. Think about the best/worst time to release information or a report—or do an event or activity. Here are some general thoughts:
If you are planning an event or activity that you would like to invite press to attend and cover, consider scheduling when there won’t likely be competing events. This is easier said than done. Remember that since your date will be set well in advance, interested media may be pulled away for breaking news at the last minute. Keep this in mind as you plan so that you, your team and your volunteers are not disappointed.Timing can also help strengthen a news or feature hook. As you consider a date, think about other happenings locally, statewide, or nationally. For example: Design a theme relating to National Library Week, Banned Books Week, School Library Media Month, Library Card Sign-Up Month or Teen Read Week. Also, holidays such as Labor Day, Mother’s Day or Women’s History Month can provide opportunities for media-outreach campaigns.
Consider the news cycle
Your town or city may have better days when reporters and producers are likely to attend your event if there is no breaking news. In many big cities, the best day for media events are Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday between 9 a.m. and noon. This gives you time to get your spokespeople onto early morning shows before your event and will give the evening news shows time to attend and then get back to the station to edit their segments before air time. Figuring out your news cycle can help you plan this.
Devising a time line or internal planning calendar
Regardless of how much time you have to deliver your message or to accomplish your stated goals, consider developing a simple or extensive calendar to help you stay organized and coordinate your efforts. To begin, start with the event or release date and work backwards, figuring out how much time you will need to complete each task. Include time for approvals.
For your planning calendar, you will need to develop both an internal calendar for the event itself as well as a calendar for approaching the media. The calendar below is a sample media calendar, which can be adapted for your use, based on your media outlets and deadlines. Note that several months out, your timeline might specify what needs to be accomplished in a particular week, but as it gets closer to your event or activity, the timing might be down to the hour. Here you may also include broadcast and print outlet deadlines for longer lead magazines such as monthlies. Short-lead publications like daily papers and broadcast outlets are included closer to the event or activity. Try to be specific in listing tasks to be completed and by whom. This will help staff plan enough time to make phone calls and write releases or other items. Also, remember that the actual event or release isn’t the last thing on your calendar! During the days and week after the event, time should be allotted to follow-up by gathering news clips and thanking reporters.
Sample planning calendar for a press briefing
Three months to six weeks before an event:
- Check with as many media outlets as possible to find out their deadlines for listings, public service announcements, articles, if you’re trying to get word into a special edition, etc. (This might be a great intern project).
- Create media strategy and an event team, if needed.
- Revise and get your strategy approved.
- Contact event site to reserve date. (Should be done earlier, if possible or if not on-site).
- Contact and begin to solidify participants and speakers.
- Create invitations if necessary.
- Draft, approve and send long-lead media advisory and materials to long-lead publications.
Five weeks before event:
- Receive commitment from speakers.
- Update media list.
- Call key journalists who need a long time to commit to and produce pieces.
- Draft and send PSA to radio contacts.
Four weeks before event:
- Draft and send calendar listing to feature and community calendar editors at local papers and television stations.
- Begin to shape speaker remarks.
- Plan and produce press kit components.
- Continue to call journalists.
- Distrubute release/advisory to weeklies (announcing the event), assignment and planning desks.
**Remember, weekly papers have earlier deadlines than dailies. You may need to do outreach to them this week or before.
Three weeks before event:
- Finalize speakers remarks internally.
- Edit press kit components. Contact talk-show producers to schedule interviews.
- Continue to call journalists.
- Distribute release to dailies and bloggers.
Two weeks before event:
- Media follow-up calls.
- Begin to distribute remarks to speakers for editing.
- Consider audio/visual needs and make arrangements for rentals if needed.
One week before event:
- Media follow-up calls.
- Call speakers to confirm appearance and finalize remarks.
- Finalize press kit components.
Week of event:
- Weekly papers published.
- Coordinate coverage.
- Distribute release again to dailies, TV and news radio contacts.
- Copy, collate, and assemble press kit.
Day before event:
- Call to remind assignment editors.
- Set up the space if possible.
- Create a sign-in sheet.
Day and week after event:
- Set up the space, with enough chairs for media and guest, but not too many so it looks crowded even if it isn’t.
- Set up a press sign-in table.
- Monitor news coverage.
- Write/mail follow-up release, if desired.
- Draft and send thank-you notes and calls for good stories.
- Send letters-to-editors to correct errors and expand coverage.