Five Holiday Gift Guide Pitching Mistakes: Avoid These to Get Holiday Gift Guide Placements

September 7, 2015



This post is contributed by Margie Zable Fisher, the president of Zable Fisher Public Relations, which specializes in ecommerce and product P.R. and publicity. Sign up for her free, award-winning public relations newsletter.

Whether you’re a small company or a large one, if you sell products, you’re probably aware of Holiday Gift Guides. Holiday Gift Guides are the lists of items that a media outlet recommends people buy at holiday time.

Some of those Holiday Gift Guides and gift roundups are famous, such as Oprah’s Favorite Things, which is no longer on her regular TV network, but is incorporated in the December issue of O Magazine. Products included in those well-known gift guides can have sales in the hundreds of thousands and more, from just one amazing Holiday Gift Guide placement. I know this for a fact, as one of my clients experienced that success.

As media outlets shrink staffs or close, new media outlets grow and gain influence, and more competition enters the market, smart product companies and retailers need to understand how to maximize their chances, today, of getting into Holiday Gift Guides.

Here are some typical pitching mistakes, from my experience, as well as from some media folks I work with. Avoiding them will help increase the chances that you’ll get Holiday Gift Guide publicity:

  1. Subject Line Snafus

Gone are the days when you can pick up the phone and reach a media person. If you make hundreds of calls, you might get through to a handful. Today you need to email your pitch, and you need to be able to cut through the hundreds of other emails being sent every day so that yours gets seen. To get someone to open your email, you need the right Subject Line. Here are some tips:

  • Include “Holiday Gift” in the Subject Line. Every media contact I talk to prefers that for several reasons: 1) they know what the email is about; 2) they often search for that term in a Subject Line to view the information or move it to an email folder.
  • Include Price Point where appropriate. One Holiday Gift Guide editor for a “budget-focused” magazine liked when my Subject Line said “Under $10 Fun Holiday Gifts.” That price is in line with what she is looking for, so the pitch immediately was opened and got a response.
  • Include a Category where appropriate. I didn’t use the price point Subject Line for Vogue, or Robb Report, however, as that might be a turnoff for them. Instead, I used “Fun Items as Stocking Stuffers and Holiday Gifts.” In addition, if I know an outlet is focusing on a specific type of gift, such as fitness-related gifts, as one editor recently told me, I might use “Fitness-Related Unique Holiday Gifts,” as the Subject Line to get the editor’s attention.
  1. Wrong Media Outlet for Your Product

“Before pitching an editor you should know the brand at least a little,” says one magazine editor. “People pitch me the wrong types of products all the time.”

Just because you like a certain magazine, or dream of having your product featured in a certain media outlet, doesn’t mean that your product is a good fit for its Holiday Gift Guide.

I keep a file of previous Holiday Gift Guides. While they may change, many media outlets stick with a typical format.

If you’re interested in pitching Real Simple, check out previous Holiday Gift Guides to see the types of products and price points they include. Here is the December, 2014 Holiday Gift Guide:

Real Simple 2014 GIft Guide

This is typical for Real Simple. If you have an item that is over $50, or a luxury item, it wouldn’t be a fit.

While you might think there’s no harm in trying, media folks can have a long memory. It’s irritating to them when people pitch items that are a bad fit, and the next time you pitch them, even with an item that’s a good fit, they may remember your name and skip your email.

  1. Bad Timing

Every media outlet has a different submission deadline for Holiday Gift Guide pitches. Some magazines have as much as a six-month lead time. That means that you need to start pitching ideas in the summer, and final decisions are made in September.

“I seriously have people pitch me for our Holiday Gift Guide in November,” says one magazine Holiday Gift Guide editor. When she tells people it’s way past her deadline, they get upset.

Here is a good rule of thumb for pitching Holiday Gift Guides:

  • Monthly magazines – pitch in July and August
  • Weekly magazines – pitch in August and September
  • Newspapers and online – pitch in September
  • TV – pitch in October

These are guidelines, and there are exceptions. When in doubt, pitch earlier.

  1. Not Following Up

You have a great product. An editor has requested a sample. He or she will let you know if she’s interested, right? Not always.

If you’ve ever seen the product closets of magazine editors (and I have), you’ll know that if you have hundreds, even thousands of products, emails, letters and many hands involved in the process of Holiday Gift Guide selection, things can get messy.

The best way to find out what’s happening with your sample or image (sometimes media outlets request images instead), is to follow up, usually by email. You will probably have to do this several times. Otherwise your item may get passed over accidentally, or you might be featured in the media with no notice to prepare for sales.

  1. No High-Resolution Images Available

For your online store, you generally use low-resolution images. The media often needs high-resolution images. And they need them now.

“You should have a high-resolution image available as soon as you send out your pitch,” says one Holiday Gift Guide editor. Why? A Holiday Gift Guide editor might not have time to get a sample in their hands before a Holiday Gift Guide review. In fact, this happened to me the other day. An editor requested a high-resolution photo for a team Holiday Gift Guide review. We thought the samples would get there in time, too, but there was a delivery problem. Luckily, the photos convinced them to move forward on the placement. We would have missed an opportunity if these really nice photos weren’t available.

In addition, even if media folks request samples to try, they may rely on your high-resolution product photos for their Holiday Gift Guides. Not having them can also lead to lost opportunities.

Final Thoughts

Pitching the right product at the right time to the right person at the right media outlet in the right way, and following up, takes time and effort. The possibility of getting great publicity placements and sales by following these tips makes the process worthwhile.