This underutilized PR asset could give you the boost you need
Since most businesses are acutely attuned to fast-paced digital news derivatives and television, many don’t consider that a simple editorial calendar could lead to a magazine cover story. That’s where they’re mistaken.
Editorial calendars are a tool used predominantly by a print or digital publication’s advertising department to plan out major features, focuses or areas of interest throughout the year. Using that guide, advertising sales teams approach businesses about the purchase of ad space, since most businesses will advertise in issues that focus on a topic or feature critical to their main demographics or industries.
Toward the end of every calendar year, publications begin to post their editorial calendars. Savvy public relations veterans use these tools to map the types of stories or businesses a publication plans to cover, and can then determine appropriate editions for which to pitch their clients.
For example, check out Boston Magazine’s 2015 planning calendar. You’ll note a focus in May on summer travel. Now, if you own a unique resort retreat, rent summer property or manufacture items useful to travelers, you may want to reach out to the editorial team to determine its focus and potentially pitch them a story about yourself.
Step 1: Create your own customized editorial calendar.
First you’ll want to research and put together an editorial calendar specific to your business or industry. There are a few simple methods of obtaining a copy of an editorial calendar:
Check the publication’s website; look in the advertising section if “editorial calendar” isn’t explicitly listed.
Download media kits, as well – each media kit contains a planning calendar.
As a last resort, you can contact an advertising rep and request a copy to be mailed or emailed to you.
Because publications prepare this look-ahead calendar toward the end of a calendar year, it’s useful to begin researching and preparing your own calendar for the following year in December or January. By that time, most publications have outlined main feature topics and advertising departments are looking to sell ad space to cover the cost of magazine production.
Once you’ve created your calendar, review closing dates. The closing date is the date by which all ads must be purchased and submitted. While it’s not the same thing as an editorial/news deadline, a closing date is a good indicator of when reporters will also need to complete their stories. When contacting monthly publications, you’ll want to reach out to the editorial staff at least four weeks prior to the closing date, if not sooner. For weekly publications, plan to make contact at least two weeks prior to close. Because it’s common for editors to assign large features up to three and four months in advance, a good rule of thumb is to make initial contact 90 days in advance of an editorial close date.
If this all strikes you as just a little too complicated, you can hire a subscription-based service to scour editorial calendar opportunities specific to your industry. The costs may be prohibitive to smaller businesses, however, so a little DIY wherewithal is usually worth the time investment.
Step 2: Prepare pitches, articles, tips or to-dos and send them in a timely fashion.
Once you’ve earmarked an appropriate magazine and topic of interest, consider sending the editor or editorial assistant an email (or picking up the phone) to find out who the contact is for the particular editorial focus. Then it’s time to present your best pitch.
An optimal pitch contains a clear description of your company, a connection to the editorial topic and a compelling few lines about how your business/service can make the editorial shine. No lengthy notes or testimonials, just a simple example of how your expertise can improve or bring a fresh lens to the relevant topic.
If you’re a florist, for example, your editorial calendar may include all wedding-focused issues. In each instance, submit examples of one or two of your most unique wedding displays or, perhaps, tips for brides on how to make the most of a wedding flower budget. Even advice on the best flowers for a particular style of wedding would be useful to a publication looking for something unique and fresh.
Be sure to follow up at least once if you don’t hear back, since reporters can get buried by emails or pitches and may simply need a well-timed reminder.
Step 3: Keep your editorial calendar updated.
It’s a good idea to review your editorial calendar at least once a week to make sure you don’t miss any deadline opportunities. Be aware that it is possible for editorials to change, and also that your business/service may not be a perfect fit for what a publication opts to focus on during a particular month. Even if that’s the case, you’ve taken the step to introduce yourself.
Finally, be on the lookout for unique “list” or “special section” opportunities. Many monthly, quarterly and semi-annual print magazines – especially business journals – publish special lists (e.g. Best Florists in Atlanta) or awards. Most publications have easy online forms you can complete to submit your business for these opportunities. (Note: Once your business has earned a position on a list, reprints make a credible addition to any marketing package and future public relations efforts.)
Tackling public relations can seem intimidating, but armed with widely available information like editorial calendars, any business can take steps toward building its brand and reputation. For those prepared to move beyond theseinitial tactics, we encourage you to consult with the team at Axia Public Relations. We’re confident we can take your business to the next level. Call us today at 888-PR-FIRM-8.
Wendy Bulawa Agudelo has more than 15 years of experience in technology, business, consumer and non-profit public relations. In addition to running her own business and serving on the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress PR Task Force, Wendy enjoys cooking and rooting for her favorite New England teams.