I pasted my answer to the Quora question below so non-Quora users could participate in the discussion.
I'd love to hear thoughts/feedback from other PR teams about their best practices.
Five simple rules for timing your news:
- Release on Tuesdays. or Wednesdays. For the biggest bump of media attention, release on a Tuesday morning. This also gives you an opportunity to pre-brief reporters if you wish. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are both solid options.
- Thursdays trim your news cycle. The problem with a Thursday is that, for really big news, there's no opportunity for a protracted news cycle (ie, you miss the day two and day three stories). If it's good news, go with a Tues or Wed.
- Avoid Mondays, avoid Fridays. Mondays are for coffee and catching up on email. Fridays are for releasing bad news, the idea being that the news will be reported but will be old by Monday and by Tuesday, the media will have moved onto something new. This doesn't always work. The Enron folks certainly didn't get out of their media cycle over the course of a weekend. Nor Madoff. Nor BP. If you f*ck up royally, prepare for a lengthy skewering.
- East v. West. OK, so we've established release days, let's talk about what time to put it over the wire. Are you a publicly traded company? Does your news impact financial trading? If so, release it early Eastern Time (usually 8am, though sometimes midnight if you're chasing a WSJ embargo). Are you a California-based startup hoping to secure tech coverage? An 8am PT release should be just fine and will give your core press targets a chance to wake up. The time zone you favor will set the tone for your coverage so choose wisely.
- Going global and making the best of it**. Want global coverage? Truly global? Well, that's trickier. Who do you want to piss off the least? Midnight ET is going to make everyone unhappy but means Europe and Asia aren't completely shut out of the cycle and the West Coast of the US has already reached their print deadlines but you might be able to eek in for online.
**I have a follow up post in the hopper that addresses truly global launches.