You may not want to think about the holiday season quite yet, but with the introduction of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, you know it’s coming. That means you should be in holiday planning mode for your marketing strategy. What are you doing with your media relations? Being included in holiday gift guides can be a great thing for your business, but you need to do it right.
While you can take any approach and make it your own, here is a basic step by step guide to help you get your brand included in holiday gift guides.
Step 1: Plan your timing
Media outlets are in three general groupings when it comes to the lead time required. Lead time simply means how much time they need between when they decide to feature you to when the article gets published. The three groups are:
- Long Lead: This usually includes magazines that are printed monthly or less. The lead time is generally 3 – 6 months in advance. If you do the math, you are already almost too late to hit up this group for their holiday gift guides if you want to see your brand in a print magazine. Keep in mind that a lot of publications are also shutting down their print publications and moving online exclusively.
- Medium Lead: This includes publications that are printed weekly or every other week. They usually require 1 – 3 weeks lead time.
- Short Lead: Short lead publications like daily newspapers, commuter papers, and online publications have a short turn around time. When it comes to gift guides, you can get away with pitching the same week, although giving more time is still advisable. They still have to work with an editorial team and an approvals process.
Step 2: Choose your featured product(s)
While you may love everything you sell, pitching too many products at once will get cluttered and confusing. Pick one to three products that you see as the best gifts to give. Ask yourself two questions:
- What type of gifts are they? (Eco-friendly, pampering, last-minute, stocking stuffers, under $20, etc)
- Who are they for? (For her, For him, your friend who has everything, the person who wants to save the world, etc.)
Get creative with your answers. It will help you make your products stand out more.
Once you have selected your featured products gather materials you may need for media. In particular, you will need high resolution product images. Your images should be on a white background. You can also have lifestyle shots as well, but the product images will be requested. In some cases, the publications will take their own pictures, but you should be prepared.
Step 3: Update your website
You don’t need a full overhaul of your website to get this type of campaign done, but you should make sure that your content and images are up to date, especially the pages with the featured products on them. If you are using the proper keywords on your site (ie. Eco-friendly, stocking stuffer, etc), there is also a good chance the media will find you if they are doing research for their gift guides (but you can’t rely on this hope, which is why you are creating a proactive outreach strategy!).
Step 4: Build your gift guide list
Create a list of at least 15 to 20 outlets that you want to target for your gift guide outreach. Indicate which ones are on the top of your wish list so you can give them extra attention if needed. Once you have your list, figure out the best person to reach out to. This requires a bit of internet digging or a media database like Cision to help you out. Larger publications will likely have a dedicated gift guide editor, otherwise it could be a section editor or a specific journalist.
After building your list of targets, look at their websites to see if they have an editorial calendar you can download. An editorial calendar is a planning tool for outlets. It lays out their topical publication schedule. Sometimes it is quite detailed and may give you insight into the types of products they are looking for for their gift guides.
You should also look at past gift guides to give you a sense of what types of products catch their eye and the language they use to showcase the products.
Step 5: Build your own buzz
The media likes to feature products that may already be getting some traction, so you should start pushing your product(s) out on social media more frequently. That way, when they see your pitch email, they can see some action happening and build on that momentum. Also keep in mind that the media does a lot of research on social media and they may come across your product without your pitch email if you are using the right hashtags.
Step 6: Pitch your product
Your pitch can make or break you regardless of how amazing your product is. To start, be specific with your subject line – not just that you have a great new product. Talk about a “great gift for a last-minute holiday gift guide” or “Eco-friendly gifts for your holiday gift guide.” Tailor your pitch emails and subject lines to each outlet to match the tone and topical focus for each audience.
In terms of your email, keep it short and stick to the benefits your product/service has rather than the features. Your email shouldn’t be longer than 4 short paragraphs at most (8 – 10 sentences). Utilize bullet points to help keep an easy reading flow (and to keep it short!). And make sure you include the price, where it can be purchases, and a link to your website.
Step 7: Follow up
You have three options here based on the response you get. If they said:
- Yes: Send samples, images requested, and any further information they need. Get it done as fast as possible (think same day!).
- No: Move on and don’t take it personally. Depending on the exchange, if you feel comfortable, you can ask for a reason (so you can learn for next time), otherwise, just cross them off your list.
- Nothing: Wait 3 to 5 days and send a follow up email. This is just a quick reminder, so keep it to one or two sentences long indicating you wanted to make sure they received your email and see if they were interested.
Step 8: Talk it up
You can get be included in 10 gift guides, but if you don’t make the most of the opportunity, you may not see the kind of return on your effort that you would like to see. Once the gift guide is published, it’s up to you to help spread the word and use it as an opportunity to build your own brand credibility. Some ideas are:
- Put a link to the coverage on your website – create a “press” or “in the news” section
- Share the link on social media – a lot
- Scan a printed article and add the image to your website
- Share the scanned image on social media
Doing gift guide outreach isn’t easy. It requires work and dedication to get it done, but it can help you increase your revenues and your overall brand visibility throughout the holiday season.
Candace Huntly is Founder and Partner at SongBird Marketing Communications, an award-winning agency working to take organizational and individual brands to the next level. With a passion for all things related to creativity and strategy, she specializes in business intelligence, marketing & branding, content strategy & development, media & influencer relations, and social media. Basically, if you need to put your brand, product, or cause in the public eye, she will find a way to do it, while making the approach unique to you.
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