Holiday pitching? Groan! We know, you just put a skeleton on your porch and decorated the whole house in pumpkins. But PR go-getters know that holiday pitching and end-of-year stories get placed at the beginning of Q4, not post-Thanksgiving. You’ve most likely already completed end-of-year pitching for appropriate long-lead publications knowing their deadlines are typically 3-6 months in advance of the publication date. But when it comes to short-lead – podcasts, online, local print, and even broadcast – it is best to get those holiday pitches in early!
Why the early timeline?
Reporters are just like the rest of us, their end-of-year calendar is just as busy with social and family engagements, travel, and all the things any of us experience throughout the holiday season. Similar to mid-summer, you’ll get A LOT of OOO auto-responses throughout the holiday months. And just like everyone else, reporters are eager to get all of their end-of-year work wrapped up early so they can take time off.
In addition, securing an end-of-year story is very competitive. You would likely assume this truth for CPG companies who are all vying for a spot in the holiday gift guides, but the same competitive aspect is true for nonprofits, thought leaders, and anyone who is mission-driven. The local news channels love to cover heart-warming stories about people and organizations that are making a difference in their community during the holidays. The challenge lies in the fact that there are hundreds of organizations doing good work and only a very small handful will land that coveted feature story.
How do I make my story stand out?
With countless coat drives, food pantries, and end-of-year corporate giving and give-back events, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. How do you get your holiday story noticed? Just like the rest of the year, follow best practices for pitching. Pitch to the correct reporter, use a catchy headline, be a resource! In addition, the key to securing a spot on the holiday story roster requires research, creativity, and a bit of nimbleness.
- Do your research: Create a shortlist of target publications to pitch and research what they’ve covered for the past couple of years during the holiday months. Are there any gaps? How can you spin your organization’s work to create a fresh story angle? For example, many publications will publish gift guides or holiday entertaining guides, so if your organization provides consulting services on workplace equity, perhaps your angle is on inclusivity for holiday gift-giving or how to create a more equitable workplace holiday gathering.
- Look outside your list of typical target publications: The holidays can be a great time to look beyond your typical media list and explore outside your usual trade publications. For organizations that provide mental health services or addiction recovery support, think about pitching local and national foodie publications. These pubs are full of holiday entertaining recipes and guides, but would likely welcome a fresh perspective on maintaining mental health and wellness during the holidays (hosting is stressful!), or how to create an inclusive gathering for friends and family who suffer from addiction.
- Bring on the thought leadership: The end of the year is always a great time for thought leadership pieces. Audiences love reflections on the past year and predictions for the future. Thought leaders (ie. company execs and subject matter experts) should absolutely use the end of the year as a platform to share innovations, predictions, and ideas about their industry and area of expertise. The end of the year can be a great time to reveal big ideas and share future plans for your organization as well. Look beyond print and online publications to place these types of articles – podcasts, social media platforms such as Clubhouse, and other broadcast outlets are also great ways to increase visibility and build credibility.
- Be nimble: Buzzy stories and breaking news are, in their inherent nature, impossible to predict. That being said, always be on the lookout for ways to piggyback on buzz-worthy stories. For example, 2021 looks like it will be rife with supply-chain driven shortages for the toys on everyone’s wish lists, so an organization that supports low-income kids and their families might pitch an “alternate gift guide” of free experiences or gifts that don’t come in a box. The goal is to take an existing story and build off of what the media is already covering, garnering coverage for your organization in the process.
Don’t force a holiday story if it doesn’t exist
Some organizations or individuals, no matter how hard they try, may not have anything relevant to pitch for the holiday season. That’s ok. Don’t try to force a holiday story if it doesn’t exist, you don’t need to add to the holiday “noise” if you don’t have anything to say. But, don’t give up on Q4 pitching entirely! Just because the media feels overrun with holiday stories, doesn’t mean they aren’t still looking for general news content as well. Keep in touch with your reporter contacts and continue to pitch your stories. Even if your Q4 pitching doesn’t yield coverage, the time you spend developing relationships and sharing content ideas now will likely yield results in the new year.
Pitch early and often
The key takeaway for holiday pitching is the same strategy we advocate year-round: pitch early and often. Media outlets can’t select your story for their holiday issues if they don’t know about it. In the same vein of thought, you can’t amplify your mission, values, and voice if you don’t speak up. Start sharing your ideas now and keep pinging reporters as the holidays approach. Always remember, if you can be a resource and focus on sharing good, relevant, and timely ideas, then the stories will follow!
Diana Crawford is a seasoned public relations consultant with more than 15 years of agency, consulting, and in-house experience. She joined Orapin in 2013 and manages account services and client communications strategy development. She has worked across a variety of industries and has expertise with professional services, food/alcohol, health and wellness, lifestyle, sports, education, tech, and non-profit organizations.