Notorious news dumps

In a 24/7 news cycle, the Friday evening news dump — a tactic historically embraced by strategic communicators in government, politics and tech as a means to bury less than stellar news — needs an upgrade.

Why it matters: There is no magic formula for releasing bad news, but identifying readership trends can provide perspective and inform timing.

Zoom in: The media monitoring platform Memo analyzed nearly 6,300 articles about Meta over the past six months to better understand how readers engage with negative news.

  • The data reveals a pivot away from dumping news, in favor of burying it.
  • Most recent negative news about Meta came out during major global news moments — and the attention Meta received paled in comparison.

Yes, but: Meta was not in control of when or how this information was announced or leaked, says a company spokesperson.

Between the lines: Coincidence or not, this data exposes a great strategy for communicators who want their news to fizzle against the backdrop of cultural touch points.

By the numbers: According to Memo’s analysis, Sheryl Sandberg’s departure announcement landed the same day as the pre-scheduled Depp v. Heard verdict, which received 25 times the readership of Sandberg’s news.

  • The Friday of July 4th weekend, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announcedbelt tightening and news of staffing cuts leaked on September 21st, just days after the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. That day, stories about Meta’s staff cuts reached 1 million views, compared to the 24 million readers still focused on Royal news.
  • 5 million read about Meta’s layoffs on November 9th, compared to the 60 million reading about the U.S. midterm elections.

What they’re saying: “News and social media are always on,” Kelley McCormick, Original Strategies founder and partner told Axios. “Invest heavily in monitoring and social listening, because if there isn’t enough news or noise, your announcement could end up filling the vacuum.”

  • The Friday evening news dump or holiday calendar alone “won’t insulate an organization from negative coverage — and for the news dump strategy to work, it must fall under a certain threshold of interest,” says Michael W. Robinson, chairman and CEO of The Montgomery Strategies Group.

The bottom line: Friday news dumps might’ve worked during the time of print, but comms teams that hope to bury news in this digital, always-on media environment must be more strategic in their efforts.

  • Examining readership trends and macro news cycles is a good place to start.

-Bonus chart: Meta’s wild news cycle

Whether it was leaked memos, proactive announcements or outside stories involving Meta, 2022 was a crazy news year for the tech giant.

  • As Axios’ Sara Fischerreported, Meta recently restructured its communications and public affairs team to combat negative press and repair its reputation.

2022 media relations snapshot

The tumultuous news cycle, paired with fragmented audiences and slim newsrooms, made for a challenging year for PR. As a result, many comms pros relied on data to inform when and how to deliver news.

Here are some metrics that stood out:

State of play: In 2022, news readership spiked on Wednesdays and fizzled out as the weekend neared, according to Memo insights.

  • “Ideally, if a brand is announcing negative news they would want to target the day that produces the lowest readership numbers,” says Eva Casher, Memo insights manager. “That means sharing good news on Wednesdays and bad news on Thursdays.”

Yes, but: In order for your news to land in print on the right day, journalists must reply to your emails — which has been the biggest PR challenge of the year, according to MuckRack’s State of PR report.

Zoom in: This year, 1.7 million pitches were sent via the public relations management platform Propel.

  • Most pitches were sent and opened on Tuesdays and Thursdays, according to Propel data.
  • Journalist response rates peakedon Wednesdays, and while fewer pitches were sent on Fridays, those that were tended to receive more replies.

By the numbers: More than 300,000 press releases landed on Cision’s PR Newswire platform.

  • The most-read releases averaged about 250,000 views each — which is about 600 times more than the total average of all other releases on the wire.
  • The top releases of 2022 certainly provide a snapshot in time, and include:
    • Elon Musk‘s Twitter acquisition
    • Pet Poison Helpline’sThanksgiving warning: unbaked yeast dough can be deadly to dogs and cats
    • Thelaunch of Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drug Company online pharmacy
    • Bank of America’s newzero-down mortgage solution for first-time home buyers
    • The defaultof crypto exchange, Voyager Digital.

-Communicator Spotlight: Michael Kaye of OkCupid

Michael Kaye is the global head of communications at OkCupid where he leads PR in the United States, Europe and the Middle East.

Why it matters: The dating app market is convoluted — with over 1,500 apps available worldwide — yet Kaye has found a way to insert OkCupid into the conversation, from tying cuffing season habits to climate change, to highlighting how societal issues impact dating.

How he got here: Kaye got his start working for agencies like Edelman and Ruder Finn.

  • “Earned media has always been my focus, and storytelling continues to be my passion, but I have also loved helping brands meet consumers on social media platforms.”

Hardest day at work: Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the OkCupid team felt a responsibility to amplify conversations about race and racism in America.

  • “I was anxious about how the public would react to a brand inserting itself into this conversation,” Kaye told Axios. “But if you’re talking about an issue with coworkers, family members and friends, then you’re most likely talking about it on your dating app, too.”
  • In response, OkCupid introduced a #BlackLivesMatter profile badge —which 9 in 10 people added to their profiles — and donated $1 million of advertising space to Black civil rights organizations and made direct donations to the ACLU, Black Girls CODE, Fair Fight Action and the NAACP.
  • “Typically new product features take months of planning, but our #BlackLivesMatter profile badge was released in less than 72 hours,” Kaye told Axios. “It was a feature product we all worked tirelessly to get right.”

Trend spot: The blurred lines between communications and marketing.

  • “The next generation of chief marketing officers will come from today’s social media managers — but communications will continue to play a key role.”

 Media diet: Podcasts like “BRAND: ME! with Preston Konrad”; “The Daily”; “Dates & Mates with Damona Hoffman”; and “Crime Junkie.”

Advice: Don’t be afraid of data.


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