With all the talk about the immediacy of a story, and the unbelievable speed that news pieces make it onto TV and radio, we often forget that for most media, lead times are crucial. Lead times can vary from a day to six months depending on the media you’re pitching. Generally women’s magazines have the longest lead times, sometimes as much as four to six months.
If you want to find out what magazine lead times are, call their advertising department and get a copy of their media kit. This will not only tell you when advertising deadlines are (signaling your submission cut-off) but it will also show you what stories to pitch when. Generally magazines will try and coordinate advertising to coincide with their themes, so if you have a story about the benefits of yoga, you might want to dig through the advertising calendar and see if they’re planning to address it in a future issue.
Once you define your publicity targets and get an idea of what to pitch when, you’ll want to open up a calendar and start circling dates that will matter to your story. Get creative with this! Often dates are overlooked because they may seem too small (like peanut butter and jelly day) but everyone’s competing for the biggies: Valentine’s Day, Christmas, etc. so why not add some off-beat holidays to your pitching calendar and see what happens? If you’re looking for every holiday under the sun (including international ones) try downloading the Calgoo calendar – this is a free web based program that will build, maintain and manage your calendar – and an additional benefit of it is that it comes loaded with every imaginable holiday. A great tool to start your planning session!
Once you define holidays/seasons/events you want to pitch your story to, you’ll also want to be cognizant of the appropriate seasons and what the media is looking for. Here’s a brief outline of all four seasons as well as suggested targets/pitches. Keep in mind that breaking news stories and global events may slant these times considerably, but barring that, the seasonal angles tend to remain fairly consistent.
January – March
The first season of the year is pretty quiet. The holidays are over and much of the media is looking ahead and looking to summer with getting fit and weight loss stories, as well as New Year’s resolutions, getting organized and of course – the looming tax season. This is a very “anything goes” time of year, so if you weren’t able to sell fluff pieces during the holidays, you might want to try and repitch them now.
April – June
With major companies releasing their first quarter earnings (and hogging all the news space) this could be a tough time to get in. As April 15th looms out there you’ll see a lot of stories addressing taxes, saving on taxes, and everything financial, but once that date comes and goes the media will start looking ahead to summer stories and “spring fever” pieces.
July – September
With summer in full swing we’ll see a lot of lighter business stories, celebrity stories, trend pieces, and back to school. This is a fantastic time to pitch since many pr firms and media folk are on vacation. They still need stories but have fewer people pitching and fewer folks to field those pitches so if you can get your story in and it needs very little work you could be a shoe-in to get some coverage.
October – December
Many pr people think that this is the heaviest time of the year, but I tend to disagree. I think that the media is hungry for anything related to the holidays, end of year perspective, getting your life in order, New Year’s resolutions (yet again) as well as the next year’s prediction stories, etc. You’ll also see a lot of best and worst of for the prior year. Relationship experts – now is your time to shine! With all the family gatherings there’s a big call for getting along, making family relationships better/stronger as well as navigating the busy holiday season and still keeping your sanity.
Keep in mind that while we’ve only addressed media, these rules apply to online media as well as events you might do. It’s much easier to get someone interested in something they’re already interested in, and by coordinating your efforts, you’ll have a much stronger and focused campaign. Planning your media for the upcoming year is one of the best things you can do before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. It’ll not only keep your campaign fresh but also tightly focused. With a plan in place, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running after January 1!
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