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Timing your PR campaign carefully means that the battle is half won

The rabbit from Alice in Wonderland looking at his watch

White rabbit from Alice in WonderlandA leading journalist who lived in a big apartment block once told me that he would take ‘lift number one’ as opposed to ‘lift number two’ because he had timed the two lifts and the first took 33 seconds less than the first. People not working with the media would think this eminent hack eccentric, but in fact, a single second can make a world of a difference with newspapers and other publications both on and off-line.

In a society tending to be increasingly approximate with timing and much else, this is an important reminder. In PR you have to know exactly when to email out the press release or you’ll miss the mark, especially if it’s too late since the fast-moving media world has meanwhile progressed to the ‘next item’ no matter how interesting your ‘old’ topic was.

As we are awash with a constant stream of news, a piece of information dating from yesterday is old hat.

This is one of the reasons why you have to be aware of publications’ lead-times. For example, lifestyle magazines such as ‘Vogue’ or ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ plan their future issues up to five months in advance and the sooner you inform them about a forthcoming title, the better. Likewise, literary desks of newspapers like to receive information about important forthcoming books as far in advance as possible even though their typical lead-times in the UK are only two to three months ahead of publication. Newspapers’ weekend supplements often have got a longer lead-time (at least three months) but again, they want to know about titles as far in advance as possible.

With this in view, it is a good idea to send the publisher’s catalogue to the media as soon as it’s hot off the press with a covering letter highlighting the lead-titles. In a hectic, chaotic media world the more we help them organise themselves the more we will stand out from the crowd.

The same goes for radio and TV, excluding chat/ gossip programmes which behave like any news media and can therefore be sent some information a few days ahead of publication (if not a few hours for important news, e.g. if a D celeb has broken a finger nail). However, these media are mostly interested in big blockbusters or in titillating/ extraordinary ‘real person’ stories which disqualifies most books.

After the press release has been sent out, chasing by email/ social media or phone is a must as journalists receive several hundred emails daily. Treading a fine line between reminding the journalist about the book and not overwhelming him/ her with messages is a difficult balancing act which is honed over time (like all professional techniques). So, if a journalist is away on holiday when you send him/ her the release, it’s worth resending it when he/ she is back in the office. However, it’s advisable not to subject them to a heavy rain of emails as your communication will have the opposite effect to the one desired.

Lastly, it’s worth taking brief notes of the dates and the content of the conversations with your key media targets since a phone call which appears very clear after hanging up the receiver will increasingly become blurred and is likely to be completely forgotten after a day or two.  Keeping a tab of the dates will help you not to pester journalists and to know when to chase them next (usually it takes a few calls to get a dialogue about a specific book going). Moreover, it might also tell you when they are available since several of them work part-time or come into the office just a few days a week. Timing your conversations with the media carefully as you follow up the press release will contribute to the precision required for a PR campaign to succeed.

This article has previously appeared on the Australian Publishers Association website.This article has previously appeared on the Australian Publishers Association website.

Martha Halford-Fumagalli specialises in getting coverage for ‘difficult’ books. She started her career 20 years ago promoting business and management titles and getting them regularly into the national media and beyond. She now runs her own communication consultancy publicising a broad selection of fiction and non-fiction.