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Timing Important in Your Utility’s Public Relations

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Andy Gotlieb's picture
Editor of a specialty publication, former public relations practitioner, Freelancer

I hold 34 years of experience in communications, mostly in journalism, with a decade in public relations, too.  The first 17 years were spent in print journalism, where I covered, at various...

  • Member since 2016
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  • Jun 24, 2022

I’m writing this on a Friday afternoon in the summer. That’s usually a slow time for news, although today is a major exception because word came out that the Supreme Court is reversing Roe v. Wade. Obviously, that’s huge news.

So, what exactly does this mean for your utility and its public relations program?

Regardless of your feelings on the emotional topic, it points to timing.

If your utility had some sort of unfavorable news it needed to release, today would be the ideal day to do it. Unless your bad news is of the bombshell variety, few people are going to be paying attention. Therefore, you’d be able to get the news out with the least impact possible. Whether it’s poor earnings (if you’re a public company), a criminal charge against an employee, the firing of a key executive or something else, fewer eyes/ears will see/hear it.

While it may be hard to pivot that quickly, always consider dumping bad news on a day when some other story gets the lion’s share of the headlines. Election Day would be an example.

There are other times to announce bad news.

Friday afternoons in the summer are good spots, even on the days that the Supreme Court doesn’t issue landmark decisions.

The last two weeks in August are an ideal dumping ground as everyone seemingly is on vacation, including reporters. The same goes for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. And the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, is ideal because most people are off, lots of them are shopping and nobody expects real news to break.

On the flip side, when are the best times to get coverage, especially when you have something positive to promote?

Schedule events on days when you know there are no major local or national happenings. You can’t control breaking news, but look for a day that seems to be clear.

A couple of times during the day work best for getting the attention of TV news.

Late morning (10-11 a.m.) is a great time because the first camera crews are going out then. If you’ve given advance notice of the event, it’ll be on the assignment editor’s planner. Plus, you could end up with your event on the noon news, the various afternoon/early evening programs and the late news.

Almost as good is early afternoon (1-2 p.m.). You miss the noon news, but the crews are still fresh and they have plenty of time to put their packages together for the afternoon and evening news. Note also that this is a good time for print reporters (as is late morning).

The next-best window is early evening. Usually, TV news has late crews that go out after the afternoon newscasts. There’s a good chance you wind up on the late-night news and you’ll probably be repackaged into early-morning programs the next day.

As for days of the week, Tuesday through Thursday tends to be best. On Monday, news organizations are getting re-acclimated and also covering the news that occurred on the weekend. And we’ve already discussed Fridays.

That leaves the weekends, which are a bit of a mixed bag. You’re not going to release things like earnings reports on a day the markets are closed. And while it is possible to push out non-event kinds of news, remember that fewer journalists work over the weekend; you’ll likely get pushed aside for breaking news, such as crimes and fires.

That said, if you have a signature event you sponsor annually that draws in the community, by all means promote it. Those kinds of events may not get you a major segment on the news, but there probably are some nice crowd shots to be had.

As always, make it easy for journalists. Give plenty of notice when you’re holding a pre-planned event. For more newsy things, give us much advance notice as possible.

Offer press kits that contain plenty of background about whatever you’re touting, not to mention utility background, head shots of key employees (you should also include a link to photos in the electronic press kit) and multiple contacts for additional information.

Both beforehand and at the event itself, do whatever it takes (within reason) to make it easy for the journalist. Afterward, without being a pest, follow up to answer any questions or to handle last-minute needs.

The little details are noticed by journalists and often pay dividends in the future. Organizations that are known to be difficult to work with may well get “overlooked,” while helpful ones enjoy added coverage.


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Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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