6 AM. That’s when press releases typically start pouring into the Associated Press newsroom. Hundreds every hour.
By the end of the day, literally thousands of news releases have flooded their system. Business desk editors monitor the feed daily until 8:30 pm and through weekends.
They are the gatekeepers, deciding what gets covered and what is bypassed.
Four times per year, the AP and other media organizations are taken over by the rush of news and numbers surrounding publicly traded companies’ quarterly earnings. For the majority of companies, this occurs a couple of weeks after the end of each quarter.
January, April, July and October – these can be the busiest times of year for those who cover and work with the financial markets.
We’re in the middle of one of these periods right now.
The automation of quarterly earnings coverage by the AP has helped ease the process for their journalists. Reporters save time not having to crunch those initial numbers.
“That’s the time when they can actually sit back with the press release for a second and ask what is the angle here,” says Philana Patterson (@philanap), AP’s assistant business editor.
The AP gradually moved to automated earnings beginning last summer but that has not eliminated the human touch entirely. There are about 300 quarterly earnings designated by the AP for further analysis.
Of those earnings, there are “80 or so that a reporter will take the initial automated story and add to it. And the other 200, we are monitoring those,” adds Patterson. “We’re basically saying okay is there stock activity? Did the company say something? So our editors are still looking at those press releases.”
Regardless of whether or not you’re a publicly traded company, you may find that earnings season has a way of dominating the news cycle. With the volume of press releases coming in every day, how can you get yours noticed by editors at the AP and other newsrooms?
In addition to the obvious — it must actually be news — Patterson says the details are in the delivery.
When your press release hits the AP, the timing has to be right.
She advises the best time to send non-breaking news regardless of the day of the week is between 9:30am-4:00pm Eastern Time and always steer clear of the top and bottom of the hour if you’re sending news before or after market open and close.
It used to be that Fridays were slower and ideal for issuing softer news, but nowadays Fridays are pretty busy too according to Patterson.
Patterson has also noticed a new tactic that many companies are employing – issuing news at 5pm.
“If there is important news that a company is putting out after market, it would be better if they put it out right after the market closes instead of waiting until 5pm,” she says.
Distributing a press release later in the day can pose a staffing issue for the AP as the appropriate reporter may not be available.
Perfect timing doesn’t necessarily guarantee pickup, of course. Patterson corroborates the effectiveness of best practices like headlines that don’t bury the story and section headings that make it easy for reporters to quickly find information.
“If a story is marginal, the photo might make the difference,” she adds.
News releases that include a logo, headshot, product photo or other interesting image may increase your chances of being picked up by the AP.
“Clearly we go with more important news but if both are interesting, the one with a photo might win out,” says Patterson.
It’s not easy crafting press releases that resonate with the media you reach out to. Read our white paper Five Keys to Crafting Press Releases that Drive ‘Earned Media’ for more tips on what journalists want.
This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Inside Look: The Worst Times to Send News Releases to The Associated Press
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