telephoneWhen is the best time to reach a reporter? Many ‘experts’ will suggest that you can reach a reporter at any time during a day, simply because they carry smartphones or Blackberries and are always reachable. Others will suggest social media presents an instant connection tool. (BTW, before you think the latter method may work, you’d better check the journalist’s Twitter account to see if they ever bother engaging with anyone.)

Here’s the scoop on most theories suggested by ‘experts’: they’re bunk. At best, they’re crapshoot methods. Most journalists are knee-deep in assignments or have deadlines looming throughout the heart of the day. Your email will get a passing glance, if you’re lucky. There are simply too many other priorities.

So, when is the best time of day to reach a journalist? There’s one absolute best time. And here it is: The start of his/her shift is prime time. Most every journalist has a ritual when they start a shift. I call this the first 15 (in other words, the first 15 minutes). They look at email and check voicemail. Assignment editors know this is part of the start-of-shift ritual for every journalist. So, journalists are usually always given time to check email and voicemail. After all, a story lead could exist here.

If you can successfully learn a reporter’s shift schedule, and capitalize on the first 15 minutes of their shift, you WILL reach them. This is especially good timing for telephone calls.

Make special note that I say the first 15. I didn’t say the last 15 minutes of a shift. Most reporters are unionized and many grumble about working a minute or two past their shifts, especially in this era of low morale and drastic staff cutbacks. If a shift ends at 5 p.m. they are out the door at 5 p.m. Even if a reporter sees an email from you, or listens to a voicemail, it will be left until the following shift, where it will be soon further buried by new emails and voicemails the next day.

How do you learn a reporter’s schedule? Just ask. Most staff in a newsroom will let you know a reporter’s shift if you telephone and the reporter in question isn’t in the office yet. Some reporters provide details of their shifts on their voicemail messages.

This isn’t rocket science. But few pr people have learned to grasp or capitalize on the first 15. It’s the savvy way to reach journalists. End of story.