I’ll be on the road in a couple of hours, headed back home after a weekend of media wrangling in Tennessee. It was a decent experience, and I got national hits on Fox News Channel, Fox News Radio, and MSNBC. During the calldowns, I did observe a factor that I’d never thought much about.
One of the advantages I bring to my job is my past experience in television news. There’s a lot to be said for knowing what the reporters, producers, and decision-makers want before they want it. Whether you are with the Red Cross or any enterprise, the gatekeepers of the media are more inclined to use what you offer if it comes in the right time, the right format, and the right content.
As I was cycling through the national media list, I sensed something other than waning interest in the relief effort in Tennessee. It was more of a hesitance, or a reluctance to commit. And I think it firmly had to do with the weekend.
For all of the talk of the 24-hour news cycle being “dead,” there certainly remains a strong 7-day cycle. A lot of old-school PR advice was centered around the notion of when to release the bad news for the minimum impact. As I’ve noted before, some specialized beats are too savvy for this practice, and it ought to be re-examined.
Don’t let that wipe out the distinction between weekdays and weekends, and I’m not talking about the consumer level. If you are a journalist, you work and struggle to get a shift with more normal hours. In television, the young up-and-comers would still want the weeknights for “facetime,” but the older established ones wanted “dayside” so they could see their kids. (The few who had families, anyway.)
The same is true for editors, assigment managers, and producers. The ones working the weekend shifts don’t have the seniority and the status as their weekday counterparts. And here is where human psychology comes in:
- You are a weekend manager.
- Sources and contacts are calling in, pitching stories.
- It’s Sunday.
- There are a few good leads out there, but nothing that is a total no-brainer.
- Tomorrow, you will see your weekday counterpart who has an agenda lined up.
Now, are you the least bit intimidated that your decision to keep a crew on scene might be second-guessed? Are you at all worried about making the justification for continuing coverage? Are the “Monday morning quarterbacks” a territorial bunch, who resent not having all their resources ready and able to deploy?
Don’t assume that the weekend managers have their own discrete resources to draw from. Correspondents and field producers don’t necessarily clock in the same shift every week, and their schedules run the gamut.
I build toward this point: All things being equal, do you stand a better chance pitching for more coverage on a Wednesday than on a Sunday? I say the answer is yes.
There are a whole host of insights you can have into the news business, and those thoughts can greatly enhance your ability to promote your message through the media. But first, you have to buy into the notion that “the media” are really just people first, and susceptible to the same emotions, foibles, and irrational impulses that the rest of us are.