Voxus has written many a blog post about how to score that perfect media hit whether it’s through an intriguing pitch or a compelling press release. Today, I want to address a very tactical element of communicating with the media that could be the difference between success or failure: speed.

It is true that coming up with a strategic and compelling, well-worded communication to reporters is important, but I’d argue that it’s equally important how fast that communication is given. Let’s examine some hypothetical scenarios.

The 5 o’clock news response

Your company just became the topic of a negative story for the 5 o’clock news. Whether right or wrong, the reporter has already put together his or her story and, at 2 pm that day, contacts your company for a response to the allegations by the 5 pm airtime. Is it better to pull together a response or not say anything?

Although there are exceptions to the rule, I’d argue that a reporter saying at the en d of the story, “We reached out to (insert company) for a response and we have yet to hear back” is much more damning than any response that can be crafted in a couple hours. By not responding, your company appears it has something to hide and is therefore in the wrong. The audience doesn’t know (or probably doesn’t care) that you were contacted a few hours before the story aired.

A bird in the hand

You’ve spent weeks or possibly months brainstorming and developing a compelling positive story about your company. After selectively pitching it, you don’t hear back for a couple weeks. Suddenly, you get an email from a reporter saying they would like to talk with someone today about the story.

But you don’t respond for a variety of reasons: you aren’t checking email, are heads down on another project or don’t have any spokespeople available. You respond to said reporter a day or two later only to have the reporter tell you that they’re not interested anymore.

Don’t laugh at this scenario. I’ve seen it play out time and time again. If for some reason you can’t arrange an interview with the reporter, be straight up with him or her. Say, “It looks like (insert spokesperson) isn’t available today. Can we arrange something for (insert day)? If not, I can scramble to make something work?” That way, you’re responsive and know what you have to deal with.

Get them while it’s hot

We live in a 24×7 news cycle and I’d bet your company has something relevant to say to reporters about the latest news. Many refer to this approach as “news jacking.” I prefer the term “opportunistic pitching.”

Are you a cybersecurity company that has unique insight into/advice about how to avoid the latest cybersecurity attack? Are you a retailer that has unique data into the hottest piece of clothing or are you a tech company with a large immigrant base that is willing to put your neck out and talk about the latest White House policy? You better be ready to share that insight quickly with reporters. What is news today might not be news tomorrow.

The scenarios are endless where fast and timely communications are needed in order to secure that perfect story or make sure your company is positioned as positively as possible. And while a calculated strategic communication plan is important, speed is equally so. In order to ensure both speed and thoughtfulness are met, your company should plot out these various scenarios and have a plan of action ready when lightning strikes.

Speed might just be your communication team’s secret weapon.