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When and how to inquire about editorial calendar opportunities

editorial calendar

By Jill Pyle

Last week, I wrote about evaluating editorial calendar opportunities. This week, I’d like to share some tips related to inquiring about editorial calendar opportunities. If you’re unfamiliar with what an editorial calendar is, you can read Linda’s editorial calendar primer.

Once you’ve evaluated the list of available editorial calendar opportunities and created a short list of those that appear to have the highest value, the next step is to investigate. The investigation process requires careful attention to timing and is necessary to develop a clear understanding of the resources you would need to gather to fulfill any one of the opportunities you’ve identified.

Before contacting any editor directly, it’s important be aware of the publications’ typical lead time. It can be very helpful to have a sense of the publication’s timeline for developing, editing and approving content, and to know how far in advance content must be finalized before being printed, or published online. For example, trade magazines tend to have lead times of as much as three months and glossy magazines may require six months or more, while daily newspapers and blogs usually have very short lead times.

In some cases, individual editorial calendar opportunities may have deadlines attached to them. In others, a standard lead time of three months, for example, may be applied. That being said, because editorial calendars are usually prepared by advertising departments far in advance of being issued at the beginning of each calendar year, deadlines may change without notice.

With an understanding of the lead time associated with each of the opportunities you’ve identified, you can reach out to editors at the right time. The last thing you want to do is annoy them with questions about an article they aren’t planning to write for six months. When you connect with an editor, you want to determine if the opportunity still exists and if there are any fees involved, and gain a sense of their vision for the piece. If they don’t have a vision but do know the topic, you want to help them shape the story by painting a picture of who your client is and how you can offer something of value to readers. In order to position your client in a way that makes sense for the editor, you really have to know your client, its technology and its customers inside out. You also have to know why the idea you’re pitching should be of interest to the editor or publication.

When speaking with or emailing editors, you can ask if there is any interest in featuring case studies, bylined articles, company profiles or quotes from industry experts. By making relevant suggestions, you can help simplify the decision-making process for editors. If you learn their plans include incorporating one of these or other elements, you can then make an informed decision as to whether or not it makes sense to pursue the opportunity based on available resources.

Evaluating editorial calendar opportunities


By Jill Pyle

Late last year, Linda wrote a primer on editorial calendars. If you are unfamiliar with editorial calendars, you should take a few minutes to read her post.

Although they are put together predominantly by advertising departments looking to focus advertising spends from particular market segments in specific issues, editorial calendars can also provide PR practitioners with a good indication of the types of content the publications are interested in featuring. Depending on the kind of editorial coverage you are seeking, your research may uncover many seemingly relevant editorial calendar opportunities, or just a few. In great part, this will depend on the size of your media landscape, which essentially refers to the number and kinds of media that write about your business, customers, products or services.

To build a comprehensive list of editorial calendar opportunities, you should review the calendars made available by your Tier 1 media targets, those who you believe are likely to have an interest in your story and are the most influential in your space. Once you have done this, you can use an aggregator service like MyEdCals to fill in any blanks. Whatever you do, don’t rely on an aggregator service to do all the work for you. Many are not comprehensive enough and may contain errors.

Once you begin researching editorial calendar opportunities, you will notice many publications provide a very brief description of the stories they are planning to publish. The vague descriptions they offer leave many companies with a long list of editorial calendar opportunities to evaluate. Having a complete picture of the medias’ interest in a specific topic or set of topics can be beneficial, especially when working with customers in different verticals. However, few businesses have the resources necessary to pursue every editorial calendar opportunity that presents itself. Evaluation and prioritization is necessary.

When trying to decide which editorial calendar opportunities are worth investigating, it’s important to keep in mind your business objectives and any success metrics you have agreed upon with your public relations agency or internal team. Some opportunities may appear to be exactly what you are looking for but are in publications that are not typically read by your target audience. In other cases, the description of the opportunity may be very general, listing only “medical technology” or “business intelligence solutions” as the topic, but be in a publication that is widely read by your target audience. When trying to build mindshare in a specific location, geographical distribution may also be an important factor to consider.

The bottom line is that you should only dedicate resources to investigating editorial calendar opportunities that have the potential to move you closer towards meeting business objectives. As long as you have a clear sense of which media are the most influential in your space, selecting the right opportunities to investigate should not be difficult. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by a long list of publications planning to write about the topics that are important to your business. Focus on pursuing the kind of media coverage that will have the largest impact on your objectives and start the investigation process by going after the most high-value opportunities.

David Akin’s four biggest complaints about PR


By Jill Pyle

This morning, I attended CNW Group’s Breakfast and media event, The Changing Landscape of Canadian Media and the Increasing Role of the Web in News Reporting. During the one- hour session, David Akin, Parliamentary correspondent for CTV National News Ottawa, shared four complaints about the way he sees public relations being practiced as means to help the audience avoid making some classic mistakes.

David’s first complaint was that many companies don’t make it easy enough for the media to locate their online media center and get in touch with public relations contacts. He showed us several web sites, both government and corporate, noting the many clicks required to find each media centre, and the varying levels of contact detail they provided.

As a broadcast reporter who often works outside regular business hours and is subject to strict deadlines, he stressed the importance of making detailed contact information available. He recommended providing contact names rather than general numbers, direct phone numbers rather than those that go straight to voicemail, mobile numbers and contacts who also can be reached outside business hours. When multiple public relations contacts are listed, he also advised identifying each person’s responsibilities and areas of expertise.

Like many people working in the media business, David uses a BlackBerry to read many of his emails. He reminded us that on mobile devices and in Microsoft Outlook, email subject lines are often cut short. With only a few characters to catch a journalists’ attention, we have to use them wisely. “Company name news release” doesn’t cut it. To illustrate, he shared an email sent to him by the public relations team representing the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics which used a similar subject line and, in the body of the email, provided nothing more than a note directing media to a URL where they could sign in to view press release. Ouch.

David’s final two complaints were that many public relations professionals don’t use enough links in their press releases and often don’t make photos and videos easily accessible. He suggested using links throughout news releases to point to background information about products or partners that are mentioned but not described in detail. When it came time to discuss the availability of photos and videos, he reminded the audience that making broadcast-quality videos and print-quality photos available online simplifies the work of journalists and can sometimes be the defining factor in a story being covered.

David shared some great advice, much of which coincides with our best practices approach. For anyone who needed reminding, this was a great wake up call. We can’t forget that one of our major roles is to make the media’s job as easy as possible.

PR writing: Stay away from meaningless buzzwords

By Jill Pyle

The content we write for our clients can take many forms, including news releases, technology backgrounders, corporate backgrounders and bylined or contributed articles. To be able to write these kinds of pieces, we have to really understand our clients’ technology, market and audience. This is why we spend a lot of time at the beginning of a new client engagement just listening and learning.

During early conversations with new clients, we are never surprised to hear buzzwords. However, these buzzwords rarely, if ever, make it into the materials we write. That’s because we know the editors, writers, bloggers and analysts who receive these materials are numb to headlines about the latest, greatest, most revolutionary, innovative and ground-breaking new products to hit the market.

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January roundup: Niche media outlets, PR measurement, boutique analyst firms, media launches and more

By Jill Pyle

January has been a long and busy month, with many current and potential clients eager to ramp their public relations programs. Looking back, it seems we’ve covered quite a bit of ground this month, everything from niche media outlets to PR measurement to the pros and cons of embargos and exclusives. Here’s a roundup of our blog entries, as well as some of the posts and bloggers that caught my attention in January.

January 2008

Five ways to dazzle a potential employer
Gay Acadian dog lovers, and other market niches
Fiction: Public relations can’t be measured
‘You have no privacy. Get over it.’
Embargos, yes; exclusives, no
It’s a small world after all

Embargos and how to use them effectively
If you want expertise and ROI, hire an expert
Analyze this (continued)
Going beyond no

Is journalist burnout the reason for escalation of the Hacks vs. Flacks war?
Revisiting the hacks vs. flacks job satisfaction debate
There’s a publication for every niche
Keeping up momentum after the PR launch

Preparing for a media launch
Why critical paths are critical
Links to Canadian, US, international and online newspaper lists

Blogs on my radar

Do you know whom you are pitching?
Melanie Seasons wrote a great piece on blogger relations, sharing a list of questions to ask before pitching bloggers.

If Consulting Clients Were Dogs, Wouldn’t We Train Them Better?
Eric Eggertson reminds us how important it us to manage client expectations.

Media Bullseye
I have been enjoying Media Bullseye’s blog and podcast summaries. Reading their PR Blog Jots is a great way to stay on top of popular and interesting posts that are making the rounds. Their PR Pod Jots are prefect for anyone who is having trouble finding time to listen to PR and marketing podcasts.

Del.icio.us bookmarks as measurement?
While comments, trackbacks and hits are often used as metrics for measuring the success of blog posts, Shell Holtz suggests looking at the number of people who save a post as a del.ici.ous bookmark. Using this metric, it seems our post with links to newspaper lists was of most interest to del.ici.ous users, with two people adding it to their bookmarks.

10 Ways to Get Coverage in Features (and only one is Response Source)
Sally shares a list of ideas you can use when looking to position your client as an expert source in feature articles. This is only one of many great blog posts written by the authors of Getting Ink.

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