Can you pounce on a breaking news event? Not everybody can, but if your subject has breaking news potential then you’d better be ready to take advantage of it.
One such opportunity News website presented itself on February 19, 2008 when Fidel Castro announced his resignation. One of my author clients has a gorgeous coffee table photo book on CUBA and has made 40 plus quasi illegal trips to the island nation. He’s an American citizen and expert on CUBA. (CUBA, 120 pgs., $65, Corazon Press, Ann Arbor, MI, ISBN 0-9768349-0-1)
Having pitched this book and his story to all major media from Good Morning America and Nightline to Syndicated Radio, all of the big media outlets said – I’m not exaggerating – “Sure we’ll cover it… when Fidel dies.”
So, like vultures circling above, we’ve been waiting for every slip, fall, missed parade, bad medical report about Fidel so that we could jump on the opportunity. It finally came at 5:30am on the morning of February 19, 2008 with the announcement of Fidel’s resignation. That was almost as good as the dictator passing on… less drama but still worth covering since it announced a change in power of the United States’ long time nemesis of 50 years.
So, I dusted off the release about Fidel’s death that had been sitting in wait for two years, changed the headline to reflect his resignation, and a few other items and out it went to my carefully maintained and targeted list of media contacts and put it on the wire by 6AM while everyone else was still sleeping.
The result was outstanding. CBS Radio immediately saw the release, set up an interview that ran in Detroit all day and night. Then National Public Radio set up an in-studio interview as did WJR and WCSX radio. Print media got into the act with interviews in The Ann Arbor News, Detroit News, Observer & Eccentric and Oakland Press. We even got interest, but unfortunately no story since the book was not newly released, from the Wall Street Journal.
Then, one of Amazon’s Top Ten reviewers asked for a review copy, which, by itself could create a ground swell of book sales. (thousands have already read his review) A travel writer from MSNBC wanted to get Kenny’s expert advice on traveling to CUBA and wrote up a nice story. Then four weeks later that same writer, Christopher Elliott, published a variation of the piece for the Tribune Media Service which was then picked up by such notable publications as the Seattle Times. The best news? The media inquires are still coming in. Interestingly enough, three producers and reporters called me after they got to their office and found out that Fidel had resigned, needed a Cuba expert, did a Google search and found my press release on top of the Google News section. I love technology!
This whole operation was a success because we constantly monitor the news and set Google Alerts to watch for key news items. And, of course, the release was ready to go. Everything was thought out, we were ready – for 2 years. The gun was loaded, cocked, and ready to fire.
When should you send out a press release? My acid test is that if it’s newsworthy and if it’s timely and useful to the reader, send it. It’s that simple.