PR pros know that the timing of sending your pitch could mean the difference between a story’s getting written and published—and its going straight to the trash.
If a story is pitched too late to be published when it’s still relevant, a journalist won’t even pass it along for approval. If sent too early, it will get put on a back burner and possibly be forgotten.
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When it comes to pitching stories with a holiday angle, timing can be especially tricky:
When is the ideal time to pitch?
There is a sweet spot when it comes to pitching holiday related stories for optimum exposure. Carrie Hyman, hospitality director at TARA, Ink says that it could depend entirely on what type of story you’re pitching.
“It truly depends if you’re pitching long or short lead media. For long lead I like to begin pitching holiday stories as early as September (three months in advance); for short lead online or broadcast media I begin pitching my offers or gift guides six weeks in advance and continue to chase up regularly,” Hyman says.
Zlata Faerman, owner ZlataPR, notes that the timing of pitching could depend on what type of publication being pitched.
“While print coverage has long been considered the Holy Grail, online coverage tends to produce higher conversions. Since online has a shorter lead time, I pitch holiday starting in mid-October, but will continue pitching up until the second week of December,” Faerman says.
How early is too early?
Many PR pros agree that holiday season pitches are too early in summer.
Hyman says this is likely because most clients don’t have all of the details or content plans in place by then. She suggests sending key outlets/editors a quick note asking when the best time to circle back with a full pitch would be, so you alert them to the fact that you’re going to pitch them, and they can keep an eye out for it.
When asked if there is a time that is too early to pitch holiday stories, Faerman says that if you’re pitching a long lead, there really is no such thing as too early.
“But if you’re pitching those shorter lead online publications, then absolutely. Mid-October might still be too early, but I like to start the conversations around that time, so when it comes to following up, it’s not the first time a writer has heard from me,” Faerman argues.
When have you missed the boat?
“Even in mid-December, you can have some luck with those super short leads. But it would definitely benefit you to have started conversations earlier on,” Faerman says. “As someone who sits on both sides of the fence, I know that gift guides take a lot of time, so the sooner you can send in, the better—but make sure to follow up so you don’t get lost!”
Timing of pitches is crucial as a publicist. “It is really important to read and respect the media’s editorial calendars. You should know exact submission deadline dates for key stories/issues, namely their holiday issue or else you won’t look seasoned or taken seriously for future story considerations,” Hyman adds.
Why is timing important?
For a journalist, especially freelance journalists, having pitches from PR professionals in plenty of time to then pitch to the journalist’s editor increases the chance of the story getting approved.
Being aware of timing and having information that’s relevant to a journalist’s beat will give PR pros the best chance of being taken into consideration.
If stories are timely, there’s usually a very short window of opportunity to pitch, according for Faerman. “Hard-stop deadlines leave a writer very little time to ‘filter through’ every pitch. That said, make sure your subject line is direct and the point of your pitch is in your first few sentences.”
Jennifer Post is a freelance writer and journalist. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.