This post is contributed by Margie Zable Fisher, the president of Zable Fisher Public Relations, which specializes in product P.R. and publicity. Sign up for her free, award-winning public relations newsletter.
As a business owner, you’re familiar with the concept of thinking about the year in terms of sales quarters: fourth quarter is usually your best season, third quarter for most of you is your toughest, and first and second quarter fall somewhere in between.
One of my toughest jobs as a publicist is to explain the difference between the business/sales calendar and a publicity calendar. Understanding and using a publicity calendar can have a significant effect on your business.
While businesses sometimes wait until the last minute to implement sales strategies, the media often has longer lead times to create editorial content. How do you avoid missing opportunities for press coverage? The answer is simple: create and follow a publicity calendar.
A standard publicity calendar will help you determine, by month and quarter, when you need to pitch the media, taking into account the lead times for various types of media, as well as seasonal and holiday coverage throughout the year.
Submitting pitches to meet editorial lead times is critical. You might be surprised to learn the lead times of the media:
- Websites, Blogs, TV, Radio: 1 month
- Newspapers: 2 months
- Weekly Magazines: 3-4 months
- Monthly Magazines: 5-6 months
These lead times mean that you may be submitting up to four different types of pitches each month, depending on the type of media coverage in which you’re interested.
While your pitches will vary depending on the media’s lead time, your pitching strategy will generally stay the same, depending on the calendar:
- Pitch your existing stories to fit the needs of the media at certain times of the year.
- Create new pitches to tie into holidays, the seasons, and annual events.
Let’s use this example:
Jane Doe created a chocolate bath scrub. She put the product for sale on her website in early January. What angles could she use, based on the calendar and media types?
- Websites, Blogs, TV, Radio: 1 month lead time – Pitch this as a Valentine’s Day gift
- Newspapers: 2 months – Pitch this as an Easter gift for moms
- Weekly Magazines: 3-4 months – Pitch this as a Mother’s Day gift
- Monthly Magazines: 5-6 months – Pitch this as a gift for bridesmaids
Now let’s add additional information. The packaging and materials are all eco-friendly and sustainable. She is a woman business owner. It comes in a travel size.
Here are some additional pitch ideas:
- Websites, Blogs, TV, Radio: 1 month lead time – Pitch this as an eco-friendly Valentine’s Day gift
- Newspapers: 2 months – Pitch this as a gift for a woman you love – to celebrate International Woman’s Day
- Weekly Magazines: 3-4 months – Pitch this as an Earth Day gift
- Monthly Magazines: 5-6 months – Pitch this as a great product for summer travel
You can also offer several options in your pitch.
What if Jane, like most business owners, didn’t have a publicity calendar, and like most business owners, submitted pitches at the same time as implementing their marketing (such as one month before a holiday). In other words, in April, Jane would start marketing efforts for Mother’s Day, and pitch Mother’s Day publicity ideas to all media.
Here’s what would happen: Jane might get online, radio or TV coverage, but she’d miss out on newspapers, weekly magazines, and monthly magazine publicity.
More About Lead Times
The lead times given above assume immediate interest in a pitch. While newspapers may have a two-month lead time, they may decide that your Mother’s Day product would be better served as a holiday gift. At that point the media may keep your information and get back to you (less likely), or you will re-pitch the product as a holiday gift later in the year and the media might then show interest (more likely).
The most coveted product publicity placements occur during fourth quarter. That’s when you see all the Holiday Gift Guides. While the guides in top magazines are published and distributed during fourth quarter, the deadline for submissions is often in June or July.
Keeping on top of media deadlines will set your publicity efforts up for success. Learning about the quarters of publicity, and how to maximize your tie-ins, will also help you get the publicity that will drive sales. If you don’t want to miss opportunities, follow a publicity calendar. You can download a free sample publicity calendar here.