How To Get Your Brand Holiday Gift Guide Ready

June 21, 2022 | Amanda Green

Christmas in July is more than just a cliché marketing term in the public relations industry. July is the real submission deadline for many holiday season gift guides. Editors take months of reviewing products and selecting brands to feature in their coveted holiday gift guide publications. That means brands need to be taking action in Spring and early Summer to get their products holiday gift guide ready.

This is one of several articles you’ll see from us outlining holiday gift guide readiness. That’s because we have dozens of brands come to us each year asking for us to get them into holiday gift guides, like Oprah’s Favorite Things. It can be done, but we aren’t magicians! The products need to be in tip-top seasonal shape.

Holiday Themed Photos

“So many companies don’t spend the time or money on holiday photos and sometimes it’s the one component that makes them not get selected for inclusion,” says Orca Communications Sr publicist Lacy Gambee. All of our publicists agree – holiday themed branding photos are a must! 

This could be Santa Claus relaxing on a couch sipping YOUR brand of wine, kids opening YOUR tech gadget on Christmas morning, a couple sitting in front of a roaring fire wrapped in YOUR cozy blanket — whatever your product is, find a way to tie it into the season. Whenever possible, you should have those images ready to share with editors as early as possible. A lot of publications work months in advance. 

Season Specific Products

If you’re a CPG or ecommerce brand, having a version of your best-selling products made specifically for the holiday season can make a big impression on editors. “Flavors, colors, and any charity they support is great,” says Orca Communications publicist Bridget Argana. This could mean a pumpkin spice scent in fall or a red & green themed version of your top seller. Get creative with it and have fun for the season.

Product Bundles

Not every product makes for an exciting gift idea on its own. Bundling multiple products together can increase its appeal. Create an “unboxing” experience for your consumers with specially designed kits and bundles for the season. Example: a bottle of hot sauce might not sound appealing on its own. But when you put three hot sauces together and call it the “Holiday Heat” package, you are increasing its appeal to both the media and holiday shoppers.  Orca publicist Derek Mora says, “Brands should offer limited edition bundles during the holiday season because it resonates with the media and consumer. People love having limited edition products that are not readily available year round.”

Black Friday Deals & Seasonal Sales

The holiday shopping season starts earlier and earlier each year. It kicks off in July with Amazon Prime day and then doesn’t seem to slow down. A lot of gift guides and product roundups focus on “best deals.” Having some kind of discount or seasonal sale can increase your chances of press pickup. If you don’t want to run a holiday sale, a “giving back” program can help make your brand standout around the holidays. As Orca Communications Sr Publicist Krista Loew points out, “Gifts that give back are appealing!” Just make sure you do it thoughtfully and not for inauthentic reasons.

Affiliate Links

… which brings me to my next point of offering affiliate links. Affiliate marketing plays a larger role in PR these days. Even top tier media outlets use affiliate links to increase revenue for their publications. Some of them, like Wirecutter, separate their affiliate from Editorial departments, but not every publication does this. There are plenty of publications that combine the two departments. Sometimes we even pitch directly to commerce editors for an affiliate-infused PR campaign. “So many clients want the big gift guides like Oprah, but haven’t taken the time to really look and see where ALL the product links in that gift guide lead to (Amazon!) or they have an affiliate referral link,” says Orca Communications publicist Michelle Molison. Generally speaking, having an affiliate link to share with gift guide editors is a huge plus!

Holiday Packaging

Our last recommendation in order to get your brand holiday gift guide ready is to create thoughtfully designed holiday packaging. “When we see a product in the store during the holidays that looks good, we will tend to pay more attention to it,” says Yohan Jacob of RetailBound. “In other words, most consumers are visually oriented and tend to buy more of those products with the holiday packaging.” This comment is true of the press, too! The media is extremely visually oriented. Having packaging that fits the season can make a world of difference as to whether or not a product gets chosen for editorial inclusion and how it may be featured on the page. 

The Takeaway

If you only take away one nugget of information from this post, it should be that the holiday season starts now (yes, in midsummer)! You need to be solidifying all of your seasonal marketing plans. Jacob says retailers need to see holiday packaging. They typically approve “seasonal” products for the  November/December sales period by August at the latest. The same rings true for the media. Many top gift guide editors are selecting products for holiday season editorials during the summer months. These are some of the strategies you should think about as you get your brand holiday gift guide ready!