You Can’t Lose Focus When it Comes to Features
One of the first tasks you need to do when kicking off the PR strategy for your business is to take some time to learn and educate yourself on the best ways of working with your target media.
Identify your target publications, or those you already contact/feature most often and take some time to learn how they work. This includes researching:
- What kind of material do they feature? (news, technical articles, opinion, interviews, case studies or a combination of these)
- How do they like to be contacted?
- What kind of format do they like to receive content in?
- Do they work to an editorial calendar, have regular special features throughout the year or just use relevant content as it is pitched?
Having this background is critical to developing good media relations. You have to work with editors and journalists and provide them with the material they want, in the format they like. In this piece we are going to focus on features, and how best to make use of editorial calendars to maximise your PR opportunities.
Identify your targets
Your first step will be to review your press lists and identify your target publications, those you regularly work with, as well as those you aspire to be featured in. This can include trade publications, as well as vertical sector media and even national papers which run special features or publications throughout the year.
End of October/early November is generally the opportune time to be starting this project. Too early and the next year’s calendars won’t be published yet, too late and you’ll miss the boat for pitching for features in January-March.
Find the calendars
Not all publications, particularly ones which are solely online, work to ‘features’, but you need to find out which ones do. Features can be listed on a website, but will usually be included in either a standalone ‘editorial calendar’, ‘forward features’ list, or quite often, as part of the publications annual ‘media pack’, alongside advertising costs and opportunities.
You may directly receive from the publication an email containing an editorial calendar or media pack, or you can request from your contact there. For those you haven’t had contact with, take some time to go through the websites for publications to download or find their forward features, or media pack (editorial calendars when part of the media pack are usually towards the back, with all advertising and publication stats in the front).
Identify the features which suit your business and you would like to pitch content for and then include them in your own wider PR calendar. Additionally, creating a standalone features calendar which includes more details to help you keep track of deadlines, journalist contacts and manage ideas for pitching can be helpful.
When choosing the features you want to pitch in for, make sure you can provide the correct materials, images, or product samples, or someone on your team can deliver insight, education and expertise. If the feature is for a specific item or service (e.g. top ten lists), then making sure you appear in as many of the correct features for your products is an important part of a tailored campaign to drive sales.
Seeing the features publications are planning to run can be an inspiration for hot topics in the year ahead for your business too.
Pitch in advance
You have to be ahead of the curve so your material engages the journalists interest before competitors, but also hit that ‘sweet spot’ that’s not too early. If the calendar notes deadlines for pitches, and/or deadlines for content submissions make sure you have included those in your calendar. Schedule your contact in your work calendar and prepare your pitches well in advance.
If you aren’t quite sure what the journalist is planning to cover within the feature (if, for instance, it’s a wide topic) then send in a prospective email, with details about your business, services or product, and what insight or materials you could offer on the topic. Make your pitches concise, but include engaging details and relevant ideas.
Once the journalist has confirmed interest in receiving material from you for the feature, ensure you are clear on what they require of you, and their deadline. As always, deliver on time, exactly what was requested by the journalist.
Keeping track and managing features can be a time-consuming task, but if you prepare in advance and set up protocols to stay on top then it can be very rewarding. Make sure you focus on the task in hand and you’ll be surprised at the opportunities it can bring for your business.