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PR Pitches: It’s all in the Timing Dana Oshiro

Here’s a Pro Tip: Your PR pitch doesn’t need to go out at the same time a release goes live.

In fact, it’s better if it doesn’t. Breaking news doesn’t require a breaking pitch. The best stories get written when a journalist has plenty of time to craft a thoughtful and well-researched piece — hence the popularity of embargoes for major press launches.

Last week we outlined how to write a newsworthy pitch. This week we’ll explore how to time your announcement for maximum coverage. In the same way we ask that companies work with early customers to craft their assumptions, we knew it’d be most useful to poll working tech journalists for their preferred time to receive a pitch.

When to Pitch a Tech Journalist

TechCrunch writer Frederic Lardinois says the best time to pitch him is “afternoon on any day because it’s hard to keep up with email during the morning news rush.” Fellow TechCrunch staffer Anthony Ha also offers that for him, “Weekday afternoons are best, but really less about time of day than the time [he’s] given to respond.”

From the perspective of ProgrammableWeb Editor Wendell Santos, it’s important for a pitch to make it to a writer before the outlet’s daily editorial meeting. Says Santos, “We hold an editorial meeting every morning at 7:40am PST. To us, the best time to pitch a story is a week or so in advance so that we can be sure to get the best possible story out. Failing that, I’d say the morning of the day prior is the best time. Early morning allows us to see the pitch prior to the meeting. Monday through Wednesday tend to be the busiest days, while Friday tends to be the slowest for us.” In this case, pitching on a Friday with at least 1 week lead time is the best way to catch a writer’s eye in addition to an editor’s stamp of approval.

Alex Williams who both edits and writes for The New Stack admits that for him, the most effective pitches are sent, “after 3pm PST, most any day of the week.” The New Stack’s peak news publishing hours are before 3pm and Williams takes his afternoons to craft stories and schedule for the following day.

Despite varying responses, the common thread running through all of these answers is this: No one wants to receive a pitch during their peak writing and news hours.

What are the Peak Publishing Hours?

For tech and developer publications, most outlets staff a full news team Monday to Friday in the morning hours between 8am and noon PST. The morning commute tends to be a particularly opportune time to catch readers before starting their workday with the secondary 11am-noon timeslot also being great for reader engagement. Writers might cover a certain amount of breaking news during these peak publishing hours, but it’s also a time to schedule embargoes and exclusives.

What’s an Exclusive? What’s an Embargo?

Exclusives: An exclusive is when you give an outlet sole access to an interview, demo or in some cases, an entire story. In other words, you brief a single outlet and put that writer in a position where they’re guaranteed first shot at breaking your story with the idea that others will follow. The higher profile the outlet, the more likely they are to ask you for an exclusive. Nevertheless, there’s a chance they won’t even run the story — especially if you aren’t a Fortune 500 company. This means you’re betting that one story (that may or may not get written) will be sufficient to drive your launch traffic and growth numbers. This is risky business.

Embargoes: A better way to give writers time to craft thoughtful pieces is to place an embargo on the story. This means there’s a specific time you plan on going live and you ask individual writers to agree to publish at this time before sending over launch assets. Although a few years ago, TechCrunch announced they would not honor embargoes, it seems writers like Lardinois and Ha would rather be given the option of more writing time than race against the clock on a major launch.

How to Time Your Pitch

In the same way you’d tailor a pitch to specific writers, you should also tailor pitch timing to a writer’s needs. In addition to keeping notes on writers beats and interests, you should also note when they write and publish:

  1. Time of Day: Pitch morning news writers in an afternoon prior to your launch date, and evening writers in the period of day before they normally start.
  2. Day of the Week: Keep in mind that lead time is very important for a well-written piece. If you only give someone a day to write your story, it’s likely they’ll only spend an hour or less writing and researching it (and that’s if they write it at all). Instead, if you can offer at least one week lead time you’re more likely to land both a story and perhaps a followup interview.
  3. Seasonal Timing: When timing your announcement, you should always look at industry event calendars like Techmeme’s event section. While none of our polled writers mentioned this, it’s important to be conscious of major industry conferences. Unless you’re presenting a keynote presentation, it’s best not to compete with seasonal announcements that are sure to outshadow you. Events like the Apple keynote or Google I/O keynotes are good ones to avoid unless your release has a tie in like this one from Stripe on its Apple Pay and iOS integration.

This article is the second in a series on PR best practices. Our first article was written on crafting a newsworthy pitch.

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