A Big News Story Is Breaking

A Big News Story Is Breaking

  • On June 10, 2020

Should Your Organization Hold Off On Communicating

Back in the olden days of media relations, when we faxed our press releases and used carrier pigeons with far greater frequency, any time a national news story blanketed cable, we held off on sending out our releases or pitching press. Didn’t matter if the subject had little to do with the beat of the reporters we’d be pitching; the general thinking was that everyone would be focused on Story A, and therefore it was, at best, useless and at worst, gauche, to attempt to re-focus reporters’ attention. 

But times have changed. Now, the “BREAKING NEWS” lower-third never leaves the CNN screen, and in CNN’s defense, the pace of news has never seemed greater. Something is always breaking. (Sigh, sometimes it’s democracy.) And the news cycle is 24 hours, as we’re frequently reminded. So when is news so big that your organization should hold off on tweeting, emailing your list, pitching media or otherwise externally communicating?  First, consider:

  • Is this universally top news, or just in a specific genre? The world watched in horror—or so it would seem—as Notre Dame burned last month. But though it was all-consuming on cable, most non-cable reporters went about their business. It was probably fine to pitch media who weren’t covering the fire. Still…
  • Would it seem tone-deaf to send out your communication now? Any time a widely-covered news event involves fatalities or is an otherwise somber occasion, you should think twice before sending out that cheery reminder about your organization’s fundraiser. Can it wait a day? And remember, don’t just hold off on tweeting/sending that email, but also make sure you don’t have tweets already scheduled. Take the time to evaluate the situation before sending.
  • Can you work around it? Some stories are simply too big to avoid. On the day the Mueller Report was released, trying to grab attention on an unrelated topic— particularly during the hour when Attorney General Barr gave his press conference—was probably a fool’s errand. But good news: we knew the timing of the report release in advance. That meant that smart communicators could save their campaign rollout or fundraising launch for another day.

The bottom line is, even in this age of never-ending bananas news cycles, there are still some times when it’s better to postpone or scrap your communications. But with careful planning and strategy, knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em is as easy as ever.