The Divine Art of Comedy: Timing in Public Relations
Timing is everything, like any old Catskill comic, successful business person, and even Ecclesiastes — a book in the Bible — will tell you. Cliched? Absolutely. And mostly true. As the good book says, “To everything there is a season” — including (if you extrapolate enough) the right time to launch a PR campaign: A time to be born, a time to die, a time to gather ye media relations materials together to sow the good word of your business.
But when to start?
In my 20-year experience, I’ve seen PR campaigns launch that were premature, right on time, and late. Depending on what you want to publicize and how early your target media contacts need to receive information, the best general advice is the be a good Boy or Girl Scout: Be prepared for a good launch that will not tax your business, because your people and systems need to be in sync throughout the organization so the holy light of media can shineth upon thou.
Case in point: A company I started working with several years ago had a breakthrough green product in industry but we moved too early to promote it. The sales force was not in place, the website was subpar and even local dealers were not yet all aware of the benefits of this product to sell their customers.
Nonetheless, a collective decision was made to push out the pitch letters and a first news release (we had a comprehensive Media Kit in place for more information and insights about the product, the company, its principles, and the product benefits). Fortunately, we managed to get some publicity locally and in the trade press, which created momentum both inside the company and among those on the sales side and among dealers. Today we are all working together still, and the company is growing at a good rate.
But in reality, we should have waited a year. But that’s hindsight.
A recent New York Times article deals with this same issue. I know you’ll read it and say, “Sure, it’s a good problem to have.” But unless you enjoy getting swamped in your boat, be vigilant and circumspect about your timing. Here are the choice elements of the Times piece:
“Mr. LaCava, Eric Heinbockel, and Fabian Kaempfer are the founders of Chocomize, a Web-based company that lets its customers create their own chocolate bars from more than 100 ingredients. Its Web site opened for business late last year; then, in June, the company was briefly noted in O, the Oprah Magazine. The mention was tiny — just 36 words in a wee stripe on the bottom of a page. Nevertheless, things went haywire.
“Our server crashed,” says Mr. LaCava, recalling how their orders quintupled overnight. “The phone was ringing round the clock. We’d thought, ‘Oh, we’re going to be in Oprah! We’re going to be making so many more bars!’ We didn’t think: ‘People are going to be calling us every second of the day.’”
Other than a dedicated server, there were two more things that Chocomize lacked: employees and a white-chocolate machine big enough to meet demand. Mr. LaCava, who is 23, describes the experience this way: ‘growing pains.’”
To avoid those kinds of growing pains — or at least to take the edge off them — be ready to reap the fruits of any public exposure in the media. Otherwise, sayeth your prayers so you can survive the blessing of a ‘good problem to have.’ ”
For more resources, see the Library topic Public and Media Relations.
Martin Keller runs Media Savant Communications Co., a Public Relations and Media Communications consulting company based in the Twin Cities. Keller has helped move client stories to media that includes The New York Times, Larry King, The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, plus many other magazines, newspapers, trade journals, and other media outlets. Contact him at email@example.com, or 612-729-8585