As fall approaches, we enter Q4, arguably the most profitable season for e-commerce brands. The reason for this yearly sales boom is simple—gifting. With Black Friday on the horizon and Christmas following soon after, more than half of all shoppers will head to the web to begin their gift search online. Because of this, online gift guides now hold some of the most coveted real estate in media relations. Landing a spot in a gift guide that’s hosted on popular media outlets can result in millions of high-quality impressions as well as prime placements in Google results.
Knowing this, it’s essential that you create a proactive, fully fleshed PR strategy ahead of the holiday season to ensure that your brand is at the forefront of consumer’s minds. To aid you in your holiday PR campaign, below, you’ll find some key strategies to keep in mind when curating your Q4 media relations game plan.
Why Gift Guide Pitching Should Be a Key Component of Your PR Strategy?
Be Prepared “Christmas in July”
What consumers do not know is that the gift guides that spring up every year around November and December are not spur of the moment listicles, nor are they haphazardly curated; rather, the vast majority of top-tier outlets begin hearing pitches on gifts much earlier in the year. Both print magazines and online editorials want their staff writers and reporters to plan far ahead for success, which means that pitch deadlines typically end around July or August.
Seeing this, it’s crucial that you get organized and begin your public relations preparations for Q4 in Q2. So, in order to prepare for Christmas in July, take the following steps:
- Find the right media outlets for your brand’s audience – Your product and the marketing surrounding it should always be tailored to a specific audience. With this in mind, it’s crucial that you don’t just land on any editorial’s gift guide, but that you land on the right one–the one that your target audience is likely to be reading. To better understand your audience, ask questions, such as:
- What publications are they likely to read?
- Do they prefer print or online media?
- Do they get information from blogs or social media?
Figuring out the optimal type of editorial gives your brand a better chance to get chosen by the writer and then be successfully sold to its readers.
- Read competitor media coverage – To help you better understand your audience and your product, spend some time ahead of your outreach looking into the gift guide coverage your competitors scored last year. Make sure that these reporters are on your list and you’re offering products to them that are comparable. By taking the time to research who you’ll be contending against, you can determine:
- What they did well
- Where they could have improved
- What the writer had to say
- How effectively the writer sold the product
- Compile an editorial pitch calendar – Using excel, curate a list containing the editorials you want to reach out to, their contact info, and their deadline dates. As this becomes a yearly habit, your pitch calendar can be amended and tailored for optimal success. For editorials that do accept your product in their guide, be sure to stay in touch with your point of contact. Query them personally so that you can keep nurturing a mutually beneficial client relationship.
- Be careful who you pitch to – Once you’ve figured out “which publication,” the next question is “who do you contact”? Most publications will have elected editor(s) who are tasked with compiling the gift guide pages. Find out who that person is and when their pitch deadline ends. If you need help with this, Cision releases a yearly guide that has the names and contact info for some of the top bloggers and writers within the gift guide sphere.
- Don’t miss your deadlines – Although many bloggers will allow submissions until late October/early November, publications that have much longer lead times need your submissions months in advance. Few moments are worse than the sinking realization that you’ve missed pitch deadlines for editorials that would have been a perfect fit. This is especially true if such a missed opportunity could have been avoided through simple organization. So, write down the deadlines and set reminders for due dates.
Pitching the Product
As you prepare your gift pitches, there are some actions you can take to give your gift a better chance of being accepted on a gift guide list. Steps you can take include:
- Offer the most giftable items from a collection – Before you approach any editors or bloggers, it’s essential that you take the time to select the right gifts from your client’s collection. Take stock of their entire line and select the items that you’ll center your pitches around. Not everything works great as a gift, so consider selecting items that check the box of some of the following qualities:
- Affordable price points
- Christmas-themed colors
- Product sets
- Items that tie into charity
Unless you are pitching expensive items to a luxury or technology publication, ideally you want something affordable and that would be considered more of a necessity than a frivolity.
- Tailor pitches to the gifting group – Typically, gift guides are fitted to a customer profile with all of the gifts applying to that person’s needs, age, style, and relationship. For example, you might have gift guides that read as follows:
- “10 great gifts for your gamer kid.”
- “8 Christmas ideas for your trendy teen.”
- “15 fun holiday presents dad’s sure to love.”
- “The best presents for the globe-trotting art collector.”
- “5 stocking stuffers mom needs to have.”
In all likelihood, there will be very little product crossover between the five hypothetical articles. In just a glance at the headline, you can easily picture the types of gifts that would be included in such a gift guide. Therefore, as you write up your pitch, consider the category your giftable items would be an optimal fit for. By thinking like an editor and showing them how your gift fits their desired grouping, you can make their work far simpler, and give your product a better chance of landing.
- Pitch several items – To optimize your chances of success, it’s vital that you approach an editor with several “pitchable” items that are carefully and clearly organized and presented. Doing so gives them multiple options and provides a clearer picture of your client’s brand and products. Ideally, you will want to present a one-sheet that contains beautiful pictures of the product, as well as details as to the:
- Purchase information
- Brief gift description
- Include your Black Friday deals – One aspect of gift guide pitching that often goes overlooked is Black Friday discounts and deals outreach. Many top-tier publications begin to write roundups in October about what discounts consumers can expect from their favorite brands. You can make editor’s lives far easier by sharing your Black Friday/Cyber Monday deal far in advance. This demonstrates that you’re prepared and easy to work with.
- Write fun – Getting and receiving gifts is a fun experience and the writing in the pitch should convey that emotion. When curating, be creative but brief. Remember, editors will likely be inundated with hundreds—if not thousands—of gift pitches. Each time they open up a query, they will ask themselves, “Tell me why I should care about this product.” This makes it even more important to have your pitch stand out from the crowd. Clearly tell the editor why your product is better than the rest and which guide it would be best suited for.
- Pitch in Person – A name and a face leave a far greater impact than words on paper. Ideally, you want to set up in-person pitches and bring your giftable products directly to them. This allows them to not only meet and get a feel for you, but it also provides them with the opportunity to see and test the product for themselves.
Keep it succinct and fun. Their time is valuable, so try and keep presentations around 10 to 15 minutes. Also, bring treats, snacks, or product freebies to sweeten the deal. Face-time can be incredibly valuable and might be the deciding factor between your product and another product that was only pitched on paper.
Remember, this is a process that occurs yearly. So, maintaining mutually beneficial relations will save you work and headaches next year. If you’re featured, be sure to send the editor a thank you note. In addition, maintain contact when appropriate. By greasing the wheels, you ensure that you’ll enter next year already ahead of the pack.
Get Started at Once
Gift guides present an incredibly powerful opportunity to drive your client’s PR strategy in Q4. Read tips on Q4 budget planning and allocation to make sure you are able to incorporate this strategy into your budget. With the holidays rapidly approaching, there’s simply no time to lose. For ultimate success, be sure to take the time to do your research, start pitching early, and tailor your gift pitches towards a targeted audience. By following the steps above, your client is sure to have a very merry holiday indeed.
Sides, R. Deloitte Insights. 2018 Deloitte holiday retail survey. (2018). https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/retail-distribution/holiday-retail-sales-consumer-survey.html
Cision. 2019 Holiday Gift Guide Pitching Kit. https://www.cision.com/us/resources/white-papers/2019-holiday-gift-guide-pitching-kit/
Binlot, A. Forbes. Holiday Gift Guide 2018: The best presents for the globe-trotting art collector. (2018). https://www.forbes.com/sites/abinlot/2018/12/21/holiday-gift-guide-2018-the-best-presents-for-the-globe-trotting-art-collector/#14ebc0375458
Steele, M. Streamline. Gift Guides: A Powerful marketing tool for the holidays. (2018). https://streamlineretail.com/gift-guides-a-powerful-marketing-tool-for-the-holidays/