I am currently in the middle of a big national press outreach campaign to secure placement for Oregon Growers’ (a farm-direct specialty foods maker out of Hood River, OR) products in upcoming holiday gift guides (yes the national magazines plan this far ahead!). Here are my top lessons for efficiently doing this for your clients/products next year.
1. Assume your media lists are wrong. This most important lesson will save you a lot of time, heartache and possibly money. Before sending email pitches or god-forbid costly products, call the managing editor to determine who is really handling the gift guide. I know this seems like an unnecessary step as you are likely paying thousands of dollars for your media lists/editorial calendars, however if you pour your efforts into the wrong contact, deadlines could be missed.
In doing this for my client I have found that my lists are about 75% inaccurate when it comes to listing the right contact for this particular gift guide niche. I am currently using a top-notch $5,000-$8,000 service. Now, unfortunately the lists are still helpful (maybe necessary) because the top reporters/editors are correct and they also list coordinators/assistants, which is really helpful because that is who answers the phone! All you need is to quickly confirm who the right contact is and about 60% of your work on this campaign is done.
2. Call and e-mail simultaneously. Be prepared to call the contact right after you’ve sent your email pitch. You want to reach them right when they are looking at your pitch, when you are top of mind. If you wait and reach them a couple of days later, they will ask you to resend your email anyway. Be prepared. Type a sample voicemail pitch that can be converted into a two sentence pitch if you get someone live.
3. Get them on the phone. You really need to get these people on the phone as they don’t read emails. You might ask, why should I even email them? Because if you do a good job phone pitching, they will ask for everything in writing so they don’t have to take notes/try and remember the information. Remember they are a print-based industry and they place a high-value the written word.
4. Call and hang up. I only leave a few messages almost because I feel like I have to…I mean I took the time in finding their phone number in my database, and I took a whole two seconds in dialing that number…but I know they probably aren’t listening to my message…so my only other option is to call and hang up at various times throughout the day in hopes of actually reaching someone live. If you never reach your contact live you might as well think of this outlet as never really being targeted. Emails are sent into junk mail, voicemail messages are deleted and product samples are misplaced in break rooms all over Manhattan.
5. Keep copious notes. Whenever you have an interaction with a reporter, whether it’s an unanswered email or voicemail message, or if you’ve reached someone, write it down in the same place. If you are not using a media software, simply include a status section in an excel document so you can track where you are with each publication. This will help you manage all of the custom requests that should be coming in by now, help you determine next steps, etc.
6. Compromise. Not all publications include a gift guide. Or maybe they do but editorial standards will not allow them to include your product. Don’t give up! Gently prod. Maybe another one of your products would be more appropriate, or maybe there is another section or issue that would be a better fit.
Remember, this takes time, attention to detail and perseverance. Visit your list daily. Good Luck!