Summer’s in full swing—so it’s time to think about December. According to the National Retail Federation, the winter holiday season can account for over 20% of retailers’ annual sales. And in 2020, social media platforms like Pinterest have seen holiday-related searches happening earlier, and in far greater volume, than ever before. Given the state of the world, it’s no wonder people are looking forward to creating a happy holiday experience.
Holiday gift guides play a powerful role in the winter marketing frenzy. Getting featured on one of these lists expands your reach, boosts sales, and generates editorial praise you can highlight in other marketing efforts. So, what’s the secret to landing on a splashy page of must-have gifts?
Surprise: There is no secret. As with most things in life, a successful holiday gift guide pitch takes strategy, hard work, and a little luck.
While exact deadlines vary by publication, print outlets start curating holiday products in June, July, and early August. These deadlines are strict, so anything that comes later will likely get ignored. Digital media deadlines are a little looser, with writers and editors starting searches in late August and September. Plan ahead so you have your pitch ready in time.
Before you start crafting a pitch, identify your targets. Which publications are a good fit for your product? Do they run holiday gift guides? If so, can you imagine your product among them?
Once you’ve got a list of target publications, dive deeper to find specific contacts. Whose byline is on last year’s guide? Are they a staffer or a freelancer? Do they still work there? Have they moved departments? Is there another writer who contributes product roundups of any kind, not just gift guides? What kinds of things resonate with them? Directing a personalized pitch to the right editor greatly increases your odds of being noticed.
TIP: Media people move around… a lot. Check social media bios as well as mastheads for their current titles.
Editors and writers are busy people with overflowing inboxes. Put yourself in their shoes, and imagine how your pitch will look to someone who’s being pulled in several directions. Your mission is to make their jobs easier by sending a pitch that’s clear, concise, and easy to understand. Most of the time, they just want to know the key facts about your product:
Remember, the person reading your pitch has no context or background knowledge of your product. Try running your pitch by a trusted friend or a colleague in a different industry: Do they understand what you’re trying to communicate?
Create different versions of your pitch so you can tailor your approach for different publications. If you’re selling a pie cutter, your pitch to a gourmet food magazine should position the product for an audience of baking enthusiasts—and that’s not the same way you’d pitch a trendy lifestyle website.
TIP: It’s better to send ten personalized, targeted pitches than it is to blast a generic email to 50 people.
One caution about customizing: If you decide to send product samples, avoid glitter, complicated wrapping, and other “look at me!” gimmicks. While that may seem quirky and fun, it can actually ruin someone’s afternoon. (How would you feel if you ripped open a package and glitter spilled all over your desk?) Not a great way to kick off a partnership. Actually, it’s a good way to annoy the person you’re trying to impress, and it’s quite possible that person will tell their friends and colleagues to steer clear of this awful pie-cutter company.
You’ve written your perfectly customized pitches, and then… they disappear into a black hole. It’s important to remember that there’s an element of randomness to this whole process. Just because your product seems to fit in the editorial structure of the publication doesn’t guarantee you’ll be listed. Unless you get direct feedback from your target, there’s really no way of telling why your product has been overlooked. It may just be that a senior editor hates pie.
Perseverance is key. If you keep putting your product out there at the right time, in the right way, you create more chances to reach someone who’ll love it.
You want to be featured in a holiday gift guide, but beyond that, you want to build a good relationship with writers and editors. If you’ve done your homework, reached out respectfully with a well-organized pitch, and thanked people for their time, you’re more likely to be remembered for future opportunities, even if you don’t make the winter issue. Just because it’s a “no” now doesn’t mean it’s a “no” forever.
Bottom line: Publications need content and you need publicity. If these needs align during the all-important holiday season, that’s great. But even if you don’t get the holiday gift guide feature of your dreams, keep your pitch handy and your eyes open for other opportunities. After all, publishing doesn’t end when the holidays do