Monday was a snow day across the Ottawa region, or, to be more precise, an ice rain day.

That left tens of thousands of kids with a bonus day off from school and parents tasked with finding alternative care arrangements. Many no doubt conceded defeat and took the day off rather than endure a hellish morning commute.

The other day was another challenging one for parents. Elementary teachers with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board are on a one-day walkout to protest the Ontario government’s Bill 115. Their action impacts almost 50,000 students.

Of the two events, the walkout should be the less disruptive. It does, after all, impact only elementary schools and only one of the Ottawa area’s school boards. Parents were also given five days advance notice.

Our fickle winter weather is seldom so accommodating.

Nonetheless, local media have fixated for the past several days on the impact the walkout will have on family schedules and built stories around the various programs and services that are available to help parents find a place to park their kids for the day.

The availability of alternative care on short notice is of course vital throughout any winter in the National Capital Region, but never has there been so much media buzz on the subject as there has this past week.

The reason is obvious enough.

Winter weather is a faceless force with which we must all contend. The walk-out, on the other hand, is part of a divisive labour issue that involves unions, the welfare of children, politicians, public policy and tax dollars. The former is usually a one-day news event. The latter offers tonnes of grist for the media mill for days on end.

The editorial teams of local radio, television and newspaper media exercise their collective judgment on a daily basis to decide what warrants the greatest coverage.

However, they must also be mindful of what appears to be of most concern to their respective audiences. The weather is something we all complain about and put up with the best we can. Labour issues that impact education, on the other hand, stir up a lot more drama, conflict and emotion.

From a public relations perspective, the challenge is to always be aware of how the attention of target media is being consumed by the news of the day.

Sometimes there is room to muscle in if you can catch a key editor with a phone call and bring attention back to the media release he skipped over in his inbox an hour ago. Other times it is perhaps more prudent to hold your news for another day.

Over the past couple of months, I have been in the position where I have been hitting the media with stories related to the operation and governance of the Internet. The stories had hooks for business and technology reporters alike.

Nonetheless, I found myself running into a wall with many outlets due to the competing importance of several other stories that were not always specific to the business and technology beats.

One day it was Hurricane Sandy.

Another day it was the double whammy of the court judgment that found Toronto Mayor Bob Ford in violation of the city’s conflict of interest rules and the announcement that Bank of Canada chief Mark Carney was taking a job in the U.K.

Both situations illustrate a prevailing dynamic in today’s news rooms – resources are tight, reporters today are juggling more beats, and when big news breaks, it is all hands on deck.

The issue is by no means limited to mainstream media.

The technology and industry trade press are similarly challenged. A couple of years ago, a prominent Canadian tech journalist (I can’t remember who exactly) remarked that any PR person short-sighted enough to try and pitch him a story on the day of a big product announcement from Apple would earn themselves a place on his blacklist.

On any given day, your news will be competing with all of the other news out there. It can’t be avoided. But there is news and then there are news events that will overwhelm all else for the day or even the week. Some can’t be anticipated, but others can. Before hitting “send” on that media release, pay attention and take stock of what’s going on in the world. Getting the media’s attention is challenging enough, don’t sabotage your own efforts by spitting into the wind.

Image: Sustainable Energy Author Ireland

Francis Moran and Associates is an associated team of seasoned practitioners of a number of different marketing disciplines, all of whom share a passion for technology and a proven record of driving revenue growth in markets across the globe. We work with B2B technology companies of all sizes and at every life stage and can engage as individuals or as a full team to provide quick counsel, a complete marketing strategy or the ongoing hands-on input of a virtual chief marketing officer.

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