Gift Guide PR: A Tough Nut to Crack
Written By Molly Antos, Dadascope Communications
While many professionals look forward to the holiday season as a time for rest and relaxation, consumer-focused PR pros are working harder than CPAs during tax season.
September through December are known in the biz as “gift guide season.” It’s a cutthroat competition for coverage that technically begins over the summer, as print publications start accepting suggestions for in-book gift roundups. I just wrapped up my twelfth season of gift guide pitching, and this one was a doozy.
Numi Organic Tea was featured in amazing outlets such as Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, Popular Science and Reader’s Digest. Another giftable client, ThinOptics saw gift guide coverage in publications like Buzzfeed, Newsday, Reader’s Digest and Departures. All in, our clients were featured in 48 editorial gift guides, generating 5,077,852,048 total impressions.
For those looking to drive gift guide coverage, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your efforts. Enjoy the overused cliches — just try to keep them out of your gift guide pitches!
The Early Bird Catches the Worm
Gift guides give “Christmas in July” a whole other meaning. Print publications like Real Simple and InStyle start accepting ideas for in-book gift guides VERY early. In my experience, it never hurts to reach out to a few editors in June to start sussing out who will be editing those roundups, and what kinds of price points, colors, themes, recipients and trends they will be looking to fill.
Don’t Go in With Guns Blazing
Generally speaking, people are quick to skip to their personal agenda vs. entertaining the ideas that fit best with your product. I’ve found that with respect to gift guides particularly, it’s best to ask the editor what he or she wants and needs instead of assuming and trying to pre-emptively jam your client down his or her throat. An introductory note, (earlier v. later, as noted above), politely inquiring about what kind of gift guide coverage she is planning can give you an opportunity to position your client’s product perfectly into something that might interest said editor.
Pretty as a Picture
Having a visually appealing product to offer is obviously useful. This seems like a great spot to stop and thank my clients for being so awesome and universally likable. Anything imminently “giftable” — a set or themed package of products for example — is a lot more likely to succeed in this VERY visual day and age we all Instagram our way through.
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
Of course, you won’t always have control over the above. That’s when your PR prowess and creativity comes into play. Make the product seem more giftable. Develop some fun categories where the gift might fit and that might not have previously occurred to the media. Think: “Gifts For your Friend Who Loves the Coen Brothers” or “Healthy Gifts That Even Couch Potatoes Will Love” (This is where our headline hacking talents really come in handy!).
You can also make sure to emphasize all the fun trends your clients’ products exemplify or applications they may have OUTSIDE of just a gift roundup. For instance, lots of publications do hostess gift roundups for all those holiday parties — do you have a client who would be a good alternative to the same old bottle of wine people usually bring? Or maybe your client is perfect for a lower-priced White Elephant gift exchange. By thinking creatively about the gift guide concept, you have a greater shot at success.
A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed
I have found that the people rounding up gifts always enjoy more (appropriate) suggestions because it means they have more to choose from at the end of the day (slipped another cliche in there for you). With that in mind, make sure you stay in touch with all those folks who handled gift guides in previous years. Watch HARO queries. Stay vigilant on Facebook groups where queries about gift guides might be posted. Stay in touch with any and all freelancer friends as many times they are tagged to handle the arduous task of producing several online gift guides for various publications from November through the end of December.
Go the Extra Mile
Because these editors love to have so many options to choose from … they end up having a lot of options to choose from. That means you have to try as hard as you can to keep your client’s product top of mind. Without hounding or being obnoxious, follow up is key. Offer visual assets, giveaways, celebrity tie-ins, pricing deals (especially around Black Friday/Cyber Monday), last minute shipping abilities, etc. And show those journalists some love on social as well by tagging them in posts and retweeting some of the great articles they’ve been producing outside of the gift guide world. After all, if at first you succeed, try, try again.
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With over a decade of industry experience, Molly has served clients from the consumer market to the IT industry. She currently manages Dadascope accounts for Numi Organic Tea, ThinOptics and Swift Navigation. She has a background in marketing, journalism and creative writing, and is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. You can find Molly here on LinkedIn: Molly Antos