Christmas in July? Guidelines for Timing Your PR Campaign
Written by: Wendy Roberts, VP
While summer BBQs and beach days fill up their free time, it’s all about holiday table settings and stocking stuffers at the office. That’s the life of a magazine editor. Brands hoping for the chance to be included in the glossy pages of a national publication must keep this funny schedule in mind and plan ahead accordingly. To the contrary, an influencer or digital outlet could feature your clever kitchen gadget within hours, days or weeks of learning about it. Pitch it today and you might possibly be talked about tomorrow. In this case, it’s critical your company is ready for website traffic, sale transactions and product shipment – you only get one chance at a first impression. You need to be strategic about timing your PR campaign.
The saying “timing is everything” must have been coined by a PR professional. A public relations campaign can do wonders for raising awareness about your brand, but it’s often all about the timing!
Do you have a nutritious snack that’s great for fueling up on-the-go? Typically there are evergreen angles we can pursue any time of year, however, a strategic effort will prioritize summer angles in this case (hiking, camping, summer road trips, etc) along with back-to-school hooks (brain-boosting school snacks, healthy lunch box ideas, etc). Going with this scenario, it would benefit the company to launch a PR campaign in March to capitalize on these two important angles with long and short lead media timetables in mind.
As another example, perhaps you have a fabulous solution to organizing your home or office. Kicking off your PR push and timing your PR campaign in September or October would be wise to leverage New Year resolution tie-ins since consumers will be looking for ways to simplify their space come January (but remember, editors are working on those articles months and weeks in advance).
Timeliness of a product or service is very important in PR and something your publicist will continually use to his or her advantage when promoting your company. What makes this timely now? Why should the media share this at this particular time? Whether it’s a season, a holiday, or a new trend, finding that “timely hook” is everything in public relations.
Here are three key things to bear in mind when planning a publicity campaign:
Print magazines are considered “long lead” media and they think about content 4-6 months in advance; broadcast, digital media and newspapers are considered “short lead” media and they’re able to turn stories around much quicker (possibly overnight, but typically it’s a few weeks to a couple months). If you are only interested in digital and influencer media or podcast interviews, for instance, starting your PR campaign two months prior to the season, holiday or current event you want to capitalize on would be just fine. However, if you want to have a real competitive shot at, say, Oprah’s Favorite Things Holiday Gift List, anything past May would be too late.
THE SAMPLE PROCESS
Generally speaking, the media will always want to see, feel, taste, and experience your product before recommending it to their audience. This process could take a couple weeks to a few months depending on a variety of factors out of the publicist’s control. A successful PR campaign accounts for the sample process and allows ample time for the media to express interest, request samples, try out the sample and, finally, find the appropriate place to feature. This is why starting a campaign 6 months in advance of the goal (be it Easter coverage or Father’s Day) is ideal, but we recommend a minimum of 4 months in advance.
ARE YOU READY?
Once we start pitching the press, the floodgates could open! As publicists we can not predict how fast or frequently the media will respond to us, but it’s quite possible sample requests will stream in and the last thing you want to do is run out of product. Striking while the iron is hot is imperative and once we have them interested, it’s best that a sample is sitting on their desk within a week. As we introduce your brand to the media world, another extremely key thing to keep in mind is your company website’s functionality and overall look and feel. The truth of the matter is that a member of the media could read our pitch and feel excitement to learn about your product, but a quick click on your site could cause that interest to fizzle out if it’s not easy to navigate and appealing to the eye; also, finding grammar errors or typos could be a turn off. So, be sure you have all the kinks worked out on the website, plenty of inventory, and at least 3-5 high-quality product images ready-to-go (this is a must-have, as well). Simply be honest with yourself – sometimes holding off a bit is truly best for the end goal. It’s best to wait to launch a PR campaign until you’re ready to be in the spotlight in case coverage evolves quickly.
On a final note, I want to stress that patience is key. Starting early gives you the best chance at success, although you will not necessarily feel the momentum of media coverage or see the return on your investment until down the road. The timing of your PR campaign must be right editorially (a sample request in August may not transpire into coverage until December, in other words). Stay the course and keep faith in the process. It is usually worth the wait.
Come celebrate Christmas in July with us!