Andreea Ayers of Launch Grow Joy has previously dazzled us with her advice on Five Steps to Get Affiliates for Your Product Launch, and the savvy teacher of online entrepreneurs is back to share a wealth of tips on why you should start acting now to get your own products featured in end-of-year holiday gift guides. After all, her professional mission is “to make PR less intimidating!”
Andreea succeeds once again by sharing the steps to follow for planning press outreach, locating editors’ contact info, as well as “when to reach out and what to say, and how to translate those press mentions into more sales.” She distills some of the more opaque concepts (like SEO and positioning) down into easily-understood information you can use to propel your own business forward in 2016. —Annie
It’s that time of the year again — May to September — when editors of national, local and regional magazines start looking for products to feature in their holiday gift guides. Most print magazines have a holiday gift section in their November or December issue (or both!), and getting your products featured in one of these gift guides can mean huge exposure for your business, including more traffic, more sales, more newsletter subscribers and more social media followers. Here are 10 steps you can take to get your products featured in holiday gift guides. —Andreea Ayers
1. Set up your website to be found by editors.
Search engines can be a magazine editor’s best friend when it comes to searching for products that make great holiday gifts, which is why it’s important to optimize your website for the right keywords. If you are selling “handmade organic soaps,” include these keywords throughout your website, especially on your ABOUT page and on your individual product pages.
Or if your product makes a “great gift for the hostess,” make sure that these keywords appear on your website so magazine editors can easily find your site when they are searching for these keywords. If you have a blog for your online store, this is a great place to add these keywords by writing a post titled “Great gifts for the hostess” and including your products on that list.
2. Make a list of magazines you’d like to be featured in.
It’s not enough to wait to be found by editors – if you want press, you have to take the initiative and reach out to them as well. Make a list of publications that you’d like to be featured in – start with at least 20 of them and see how long your list can get.
You can use Amazon.com’s magazine directory or you can browse your local Barnes & Noble for ideas. Add these magazines to a spreadsheet so you can easily keep track of your outreach efforts.
3. Make a list of different types of gifts your products can make.
If your pitch to an editor is very specific, your chances of getting their attention increase. Think about all the different types of gifts your products can make. Here are some examples:
- Great gift for dad/mom/grandma/baby, etc.
- Gifts for the hostess
- Eco-friendly gifts
- Gifts for the man/woman who has everything
- Gifts that give back/gifts that keep on giving
- Last-minute gifts
- Gifts for the gardener/fashionista/techie/foodie, etc.
- Over-the-top luxury gifts
- Gifts under $20/$50/$100
- Gifts that pamper
- Virtual gifts (almost any business can qualify here if it sells online gift certificates)
The more ideas you can come up with, the more chances you have of getting featured.
4. Find the theme of each magazine’s gift guide.
Most magazines have the same theme for their holiday gift guide year after year. For example, Redbook Magazine always does a “100 gifts under $50” and Cat Fancy has a “Pet Holiday Gift Guide.” Use Google to search past holiday gift guides, too, so you can get an idea of the types of products and themes each magazine has. If you know a magazine covers a particular theme, you can mention that when you pitch.
5. Find the appropriate Holiday Gift Guide editor.
Many national magazines have a dedicated Holiday Gift Guide editor whose job is to find products to feature. If not, each section editor (Beauty Editor, Fashion Editor, Food Editor, etc.) is in change of curating the products. For local and regional magazines, the Editor in Chief or Editor is typically in charge of finding products.
Here are three ways to find out who covers the holiday gift guide product selection process at a magazine:
- Google “Magazine Name” + “Holiday Gift Guide Editor” to see if the info is available online.
- Call the magazine’s editorial department (you’ll find their phone number on the magazine’s masthead) and ask who the Holiday Gift Guide editor is this year.
- Invest in a media list or database (like the one here). Having access to one of these lists will save you a lot of time and you can also discover lots of new magazines that you might not be aware of.
6. Pitch your products.
The best way to reach out and pitch your products is via email about 3-6 months in advance of the issue publication date. Your subject line is as important as what you write in the body of your email, and it should be very specific. For example, with a subject line like “Great gifts under $50 for your holiday gift guide” or “Luxury gifts for Travel & Leisure’s Holiday Gift Guide,” your chances of getting your email opened are much higher than with a subject line like “New organic soap company launches three new products.”
Your email should be short and to the point — 2-3 sentences for each paragraph and no more than 4 paragraphs total. In your email, include the type of gift your product is best suited for, along with a few bullet points mentioning the benefits of your products. Also list where your products can be purchased, how much they retail for, and a link to your website.
7. Wait for a response.
Here are three things that might happen when you pitch your products:
- You get a YES – if that’s the case, congratulations! Respond right away and send them the samples or images requested (that same day if possible).
- You get a NO – if that’s the case, that’s OK. Move on to the next magazine on your list.
- You don’t get any response – this is most likely what’s going to happen when you first reach out. Wait about a week and send a follow up email – most of your responses will come from this email, so it’s critical to build this into your PR plan.
8. Keep a few things in mind.
Once you send your first few emails, it will become easier to keep going with your pitches. Although publicity is free since you don’t have to pay to be featured, you will have to invest in sending product samples and high-resolution photos to the editors. Most of the time your products will not be returned, but if your products are very expensive or one-of-a-kind, you can ask for them to be returned back to you.
9. Be thankful.
If your product is featured in a magazine’s gift guide, it’s your responsibility to obtain a copy of the magazine. Do not contact the editor and ask them to send you a copy – they are super busy and don’t have the time. Send them a nice “thank you” email and let them know that you appreciate the mention and offer to stay in touch.
10. Leverage your holiday gift guide mentions into even more sales.
If your product is featured in a holiday gift guide, scan a copy of the article and add it to your website’s “In the news” or “Press” section and let everyone know – your customers, your retailers, your web visitors, your Facebook and Twitter followers, etc. This helps to build trust with your already existing audience and trust = sales.
Do you feel ready to pitch your products to magazines? Do you have any questions? If so, leave a comment below and let me know.