One of the reasons I’ve stayed within the boutique agency track in my PR career is that every day is truly different. Since my very first internship I’ve been asked to wear multiple hats, often all before lunch. In today’s changing PR landscape this means being adept at constantly switching between social media, media relations, international communications, SEO and digital. It can be both overwhelming and exhilarating.
Lately, however, much of my days have been spent getting back to the basics. Pitching. Lots of pitching. And I’ve been humbly reminded that we are headed into one of the most cluttered and competitive times of the year for media relations, especially if you represent a brand in the consumer space—food, spirits, technology and lifestyle to name a few.
Everyone has “the perfect back-to-school tip” and “unique holiday twist” on grandma’s recipe. And gift guides? Well, they’ve always been some of the most coveted pages to score in a PR person’s career, and now with Pinterest and Instagram, editors have more tools at their fingertips than ever to do their own research months in advance.
We also all know that editorial teams have shrunk (and continue shrinking). As fall zooms by into the holidays the skeleton media staff can become nearly non-existent with holiday vacation schedules.
So what are media relations teams to do? Throw up our hands and say better luck next year? Tempting, but definitely not the best strategy for business and client retention.
PR Strategies for the Holiday Season
No, the gauntlet of what I’ll call the PR “high season” for pitching can instead bring out the very best of our profession. This is when we get to prove that PR is not dead. Not by a long shot. I liked PRDaily’s recent piece on “How to craft your PR strategies for fall” and would like to add a few more of my own.
- Ditch the media list software, or at the very least, stop clinging to it like a safety net. Google, Twitter and (gasp!) actual websites for the shows, newspapers and magazines we’re all trying to get our clients into are treasure troves this time of year. Who is sharing product and recipe recommendations as the bright and fresh “party planning expert” on TODAY? What freelancers covered last-minute online toy picks and holiday safety articles for national parenting outlets last year, and will they be covering those things again this year? Remember to step outside the media list box for the best chance at being seen and heard.
- Let third party, preferably local, experts do the talking. Why? Every brand founder has a revolutionary product or mouthwatering recipe to push right now. However, relinquishing a bit of control by letting a credible expert who is not on the payroll go on air can go a long way in differentiating your PR strategy and pitch. One of my favorites was watching a former beer client get an amazing plug on CNN because a liquor store owner who no one knew was interviewed about seasonal brews. While we didn’t secure it, it certainly solidified in my head how important it is to pitch industry experts, not just talking heads. The possibilities are endless for who to enlist and they are likely at your fingertips—bloggers who have written about your product, store owners, local farmers, freelancer writers or non competitive editors, and so on.
- It’s roundup season people! Building upon the importance of industry experts as part of your fall and holiday PR strategy is a reminder about roundups. Pumpkin. Mint. Pinterest crafts gone horribly bad. Fall and holiday marks the culmination of lists and “best of” reviews. As PR experts it is our job (however uncomfortable at times) to educate clients who are hesitant toward being positioned alongside competitors about the power (and credibility) of a roundup pitch. Remind them that a smart pitch merely cracks open a door for dialogue. After all, when was the last time your exact pitch appeared in print?
One last closing suggestion: know when to strategically wave the holiday pitching white flag. Then, get very busy on helping editors and freelancers who are already long past eggnog, plaid and 300-calorie Christmas brunch recipes think about your client for spring 2016.