Ok. Say you are a Presidential candidate, always looking to connect with "the common voter," like the ones who may be facing foreclosure or job loss, and you want to release your recent tax returns.
But in a week when the Chair of the Federal Reserve is already making headlines by using the word "recession," announcing that you and your husband pulled in more than $100 million this past decade might need to be done with some discretion.
The solution? The "Friday Press Release," a D.C. phenomenon best described last year during the perjury trial of former Vice President Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. When asked about the Bush administration's unofficial policy on releasing bad or sensitive news, former Cheney communications director Cathie Martin had an easy answer. "Fewer people pay attention to it on late Friday," she testified. "Fewer people pay attention when it's reported on Saturday."
Does this D.C. trick work on MainStreet, too? We spoke with some communications experts. “The Friday document dump was perfected by the Clinton administration with the Monica Lewinsky case, Travelgate, Whitewater and other scandals that took place,” says Michael Robinson, senior vice president at Levick Strategic Communications, in Washington, D.C. “The bottom line is that releasing information on Friday does make a difference and here’s why. When it is released late Friday afternoon it will be reported in the Saturday news and the Sunday news is largely pre-written. Then, come Monday morning there will already have been other events that took place that will get covered.”
Translation: if it you have some bad news for the Boss, sharing it right before the weekend, might make it easier to bear.
Not everyone agrees, however. "A weekend release is so passé,” says Emmanuel Tchividjian, senior Vice President and Ethics Officer Ruder Finn, a New York public relations firm. “The trick of sending a release for Friday has been used so much it doesn’t work anymore." Richard Perry, a self-employed Canadian media training consultant, agrees, adding that juicy news now defies a date-stamp. “Going late on Friday used to work when we were in what I will call the ‘analog’ era," says Perry. “In today’s media climate, there is no longer a best day, or best time of day to take the sting out of releasing sensitive information.”
According to Perry, any news that is not entirely good news, should be shared with those who can help you spread your message the most effectively. "The real key is to let important constituents, allies, supporters in on the news first," says Perry, adding that preparing for the "most aggressive and confrontational" questions is more important than when you decide to share sensitive news.
And no matter when you release news, Robinson says, sometimes it is important to just say what you need to say, and move on. “The release of the Clinton tax return was inevitable," says Robinson. "They made a good move by releasing it when they did. And I would guess that if they were asked about it today, they would say ‘That’s old news, let’s talk about healthcare.’”