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Master Lead Times To Maximize Publicity Coverage

Nov 5, 2007
Getting your news story featured in the newspaper or talked about on the radio is iffy at the best of times -- getting coverage on the day or week that's optimal for your business is even more problematic. But you can optimize your chances for timely coverage by mastering the concept of media lead times.

Lead time refers to the time a reporter needs to prepare a story for publication. Most media, including radio, newspapers, magazines and television, have some sort of lag between when a story idea or press release is accepted and when it is actually aired or printed. This could range from a couple of days to a few weeks, depending partly on the urgency or timeliness of the story and partly on the particular publishing constraints of the medium chosen.

For example, in print, a reporter may need to do further research and check sources, then prepare the story for the editor, and then make whatever tweaks or edits the editor requires. The story will also need typeset, proofread or any of a number of other tasks to get the story ready for public consumption - and if it's a magazine or newspaper, there's distribution time too.

So if you want to get publicity for your latest trendy gadget or most innovative new service, you need to plan ahead, keeping your preferred release date in mind as well as the appropriate time frame for media preparation. Aside from being smart, it's also simple consideration to the writer or reporter.

Lead times vary by media, but the following guidelines are fairly reliable.

* Daily newspapers will need a few days to a few weeks for feature stories. The same is true of calendars and newspapers online.

* Daily newspapers will need one to two days for hard news.

* Monthly magazines usually require two to three months from the date they receive your story idea or press release.

* Major national magazines (like Newsweek or Good Housekeeping) usually require four to six months of release date.

* Radio is often very flexible, with the timeliness of your news playing a more major role. You may get a call today for an interview spot tonight. However, coveted syndicated radio shows require more lead time.

* Similarly, you can sometimes get same-day coverage on television if your news is timely, especially if there's a local angle. Television variety shows require more advance notice than news shows.

Again, these are general guidelines; if you want to ensure that you don't miss a deadline for a specific publication or media outlet, call or visit their website and request a media kit from their advertising department. Since advertisers need to know when their ads need to be submitted, the lead time will be clearly stated in that kit.

Smart media-seekers make use of several other strategies to maximize the chances of receiving coverage.

For example, rather that submitting news that may or may not be of interest, some people actually tailor news releases to fit the demands of their target publications. One way to do this is to check out a media outlet's Editorial calendar for the month. This will allow you to see precisely what they are looking for that month. Armed with that information, you can then call the publication, ask for the reporter assigned to that story and contact them explaining how you can contribute.

Another strategy is to plan your publicity to coincide with what the media is looking for during certain times of the year, as described below.

January to March Publicity Topics:

Annual trends, previews and predictions. Tie-ins to Super bowl, Easter and the Academy Awards can be well received.

April to June Publicity Topics:

No holidays to worry about, so just about anything goes. Events you could associate with are baseball startup, end of school (beginning of summer), Memorial Day and summer vacations.

July to September Publicity Topics:

Typically a slow time of year for the media. Light news, back to school and trends are popular topics to tie into. Events include July 4th, summer movies, travel, and entertainment, and back-to-school topics.

October to December Publicity Topics:

A very busy period for the media - and as you might suspect, strong tie-ins to the holidays maximize your chances of exposure. Post-holiday and end of-year topics are also good (the week between Christmas and New Year's Day is traditionally very slow).
About the Author
Internet entrepreneur Diana Ratliff reveals the secrets of using offline publicity to generate online traffic in her newest ebook, The Publicity Traffic System.
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