The State of Our Union Is Timely — But Not for Long

The State of Our Union Is Timely — But Not for Long

“In his State of the Union address this week, the president . . .”

Not a bad opener for an op-ed or a pitch to a reporter, right? After all, it refers to a recent, nationally relevant event.

Unfortunately, it has little staying power. Coverage of the State of the Union reaches a fever pitch immediately prior to it and then declines precipitously. Google Trends shows near-zero search activity for “state of the union” just three days before the speech, skyrocketing interest the day of, and then a tenth as much activity in the week that follows.

That gives your SOTU-pegged pitch a tiny window in which to grab a reporter’s or editor’s interest. Even if your pitch is perfect, you may be shut out when the news heads in an unexpected direction. (Who would have predicted that CBS’s “The Good Wife” would be one of the top stars of the State of the Union?)

Instead, make sure that your pitch can survive well beyond its time peg. If you’re pitching an op-ed on the president’s new “middle-class economics” approach, craft a lede that looks forward to how Congress will consider the president’s proposals in the weeks to come.

Your pitch will stand out among the dozens offering commentary on the State of the Union if it takes a different, more creative tack. And if it refers to a looming news event, it’s still timely.

The same principle applies if you’re pitching a story. Don’t simply mention that the president highlighted your issue in the State of the Union — explain why that mention is just one example of a broader, newsworthy trend that you’re leading.

Few things are more important to a pitch than timeliness. But some time pegs are more robust than others. Don’t give your pitch an expiration date if you don’t have to.

Robby Schrum