Tuesday, February 08, 2005


By Thomas Murrell, MBA CSP, International Business Speaker

If you are in Australia at the moment, it is hard to miss the engagement news of superstar couple, tennis ace Lleyton Hewitt and TV soap Rebecca Cartwright.

They are everywhere ... in leading glossy gossip magazines, on TV and Cartwright has even posed semi-naked for a men's magazine.

They are being hailed as Australia's answer to pop star "Posh Spice" Adams and English soccer hero David Beckham who have taken the world by storm as truly global personal brands.

Experts believe Hewitt's value has quadrupled as the media's interest in their private lives becomes a national obsession.

But why did they wait until 3.12 am in the morning to announce their engagement, hours after more than 4 million Australians had watched Hewitt lose the Australian Open Tennis Final?

Well, managing your message in the media is all about impact, reach and timing.

So what does this mean for the timing of your own media release?

Well, here are seven lessons from the Hewitt/Cartwright release that was emailed to the media at 3.12am only hours after the Australian Open finished.

1. Maximise Momentum
Brand building, strategic communications and the management of messages is all about consistently being in front of your target audience. To make a significant impact you need to keep the momentum going and maximise the moment and the public's interest in an issue. With such a build up to Hewitt's appearance in the Australian Open finals, the media attention was intense as he pursued his dream of becoming the first Australian to win the men's title since 1976.

"I always said I'd do anything to play in the first night final in Australian Open men's history and I've got my chance," Hewitt said after making the final in typical gritty style. Cartwright was courtside with him for the whole tournament and the focus of considerable media attention herself.

How can you write and pitch a media release that uses the momentum of a current issue?

2. Leverage Off An Event
Event marketing is a huge growth area for effective public relations. There is no bigger event in Australia during January than the Australian Open. Effective media relations is about strategically managing the release of information to coincide with events like this.

Events, including seasonal ones such as Valentines Day, come up every year and the media is always hungry for stories with a fresh angle. Who can forget the media-hype surrounding the break-up of Ken and Barbie?

"The 43-year relationship ended last February, just two days before Valentine's Day. Do you think those folks from Mattel picked that date by accident? The story made international news and it didn't hurt that it was timed for the love affair the media will always have with Valentine's Day," reports Jeff Crilley a US-based TV presenter and author of Free Publicity.

What media release can you pitch to time with a major event?

3. The Impact of Immediacy
This is a major driver of news values. What is news one day will be dead the next. The more immediate and timely the story, the greater the impact and the higher the news value.

Those that micromanaged the Hewitt/Cartwright release worked hard to meet a deadline. Here's how it worked according to a report in The Australian newspaper by Amanda Meade on Thursday February 3rd:

i) Around 12 midnight the night after the Australian Open Men's Tennis Final Hewitt proposes to Cartwright with a $200,000 diamond ring from Tiffany's.

ii) The media statement was drafted by Cartwright's publicist in Sydney after 1am and faxed to Melbourne's Park Hyatt Hotel, where it was approved by Cartwright, Hewitt, and their managers Stephen Harmon and Justin Cohen.

iii) The release was issued by email around 3am to all media confirming the engagement.

The important point was a process was followed to meet a deadline.

So what is the best time to issue a media release? Well, it all depends on the timeliness and news value of the story.

AAP conducted a survey of all News Rooms in Australia last year and found the best time to send a media release is between 6 and 9 am and 3 and 6 pm.

When sending your media release be aware of time differences.

4. Be Proactive

I can't emphasise enough the importance of being pro-active, even if it means working at 1am in the morning. Providing timely, accurate and relevant information through a well-written news release keeps everyone informed and stops rumours. This rule applies to everything from engagements to corporate takeovers and new product announcements.

5. Be Fair
With a big story be fair and even-handed with all the media so everyone gets the information at the same time. Treat the media as you would like to be treated, with courtesy and respect.

6. Be Consistent
Allow consistent access by the media if it is a big story. Obviously, with such a huge interest with Lleyton and Bec they decided to manage access and maximise their celebrity status by restricting access and tying up exclusives with Channel 7 and a leading Women's magazine. Use an agent to handle this if you are ever in this situation.

7. Target Your Media
In some cases it is best to target your media. AAP in its survey asked if it is best to send the release to a journalist or to the newsdesk - 86 per cent said to the newsdesk. This depends though on your relationship with the media. I do recommend sending releases directly to a reporter, especially if it is pre-arranged and contact has already been made through a relationship.

Want to find out more about effective media relations? Our first seminar for 2005 will show you the secrets of timing and pitching your news release to the media. Places are limited book here.


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