Regulation with Rosie: Timing media releases

The Charity Commission's Rosie Chapman on the art of timing media releases.

Timing is the secret not only of good comedy, but also of updating your charity's website or issuing a press release. I always thought working out when to do these things was a mysterious and elusive art - until recently, when I had some enlightening conversations with our communications and web teams. The latter introduced me to free downloads such as Google Analytics, which helps you to break down data on web visitors in ways I wasn't aware were technically possible.

We know, for example, that the number of visitors to most web pages peaks on Mondays and declines sharply from Thursday morning onwards. Unless it's unavoidable, issuing a press release on a Friday is not the best way to get coverage in the dailies.

The Google dashboard also shows how traffic reaches your website - through search engines, referrals from other sites or directly. The month-on-month changes in these sources provide a range of useful barometers.

Charities have never been as attractive to journalists as celebrity scandal, political in-fighting or financial meltdown. They owe it to themselves to ensure they have the information to make the most effective communications planning choices. That means knowing which publications and journals exist, their audience profiles and when they go to print. It means knowing which journalists have an interest in your particular area of work. And it means knowing when people are most likely to visit your website and what they are most interested in seeing.

The tools to plot and review the success of communications strategies do exist; the time it takes to get to grips with them is definitely well spent.

Rosie Chapman is executive director of policy and effectiveness at the commission.

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