The reading level for this article is All Levels
If you’re like most publicity seekers, you probably think one
project at a time. You’ve got a new product coming out in April,
so you send out a release in March. You’ve hired a new executive,
you’ll put out a release when she’s on board, etc.
For hard-core publicity insiders, though, there’s a rhythm to
generating coverage, based upon the natural ebb and flow of the
seasons. Such an approach can help you score publicity throughout
the year, and will help keep your eye on the ball from January
Essentially, a yearlong approach consists of two strategies:
– Timing your existing stories (new product introductions,
oddball promotions, business page features, etc.) to fit the
needs of the media during particular times of the year.
– Crafting new stories to take advantage of events, holidays
and seasonal activities.
Before we run through the four seasons of publicity, a few words
about lead time. In this age of immediacy (only a few seconds
separate a Matt Drudge or a CNN from writing a story and putting
it before millions), it’s easy to forget that, for many print
publications and TV shows, it can be weeks — and sometimes
months — before a completed story sees the light of day.
The phrase lead time simply refers to the amount of time needed
for a journalist to complete a story for a particular issue of a
magazine or episode of a TV news program. For example, a
freelancer for an entertainment magazine may need to turn in a
story on Christmas movies by September 15. That’s a lead time of
three months, time needed for the editor to review and change the
piece, the issue to be typeset and printed and distributors to
place the issues on newsstands before December. Lead time can
range from a day (for hard news pieces in newspapers) to a few
days (newspaper features) to a few weeks (weekly magazines) to
The longest leads are the domain of “women’s books” like Good
Housekeeping and Better Homes & Gardens. These publications
often have a lead time of up to six months, which means they need
information for their Christmas issues as early as May!
Here’s a tip to help you discover the lead time of a particular
publication you’re targeting: call the advertising department of
the publication and request a media kit. Since advertisers need
to know when their ads must be submitted, each issue’s lead time
is clearly stated in the media kit.
Factor the lead time into your planning as you look over the
following sections. If you have a great story idea for Rolling
Stone’s summer issues, you need to be on the ball well before
The Four Seasons of Publicity:
First Quarter: January – March
What the Media’s Covering: Early in the year, the media is
looking ahead. It’s a great time to pitch trend stories,
marketplace predictions, previews of things to expect in the year
ahead, etc. If a new President is being inaugurated, you’ll see
lots of “Will the new administration be good for the
(textile/film/cattle ranching/Internet/…or any other)
industry?” types of pieces. This is a good time to have
something provocative, or even controversial, to say about your
The media also likes this time of year to run “get your personal
house in order”sorts of pieces. Tax planning, home organizing,
weight loss, etc. Anything that’s geared toward helping people
keep their New Year’s resolutions can work here.
Key Dates and Events: Can you come up with a story angle to tie
your business into an event that typically generates lots of
coverage? Put on your thinking cap — I bet you can! Here are
some key events during the First Quarter: Super Bowl, NCAA
Tournament, Easter, The Academy Awards.
Second Quarter: April – June
What the Media’s Covering: An “anything goes” time of year.
With no major holidays or huge events, April is a good time to
try some of your general stories (business features, new product
stuff, etc.) Light, fun stories work here, as a sense of “spring
fever” takes hold of newsrooms (journalists are human, you know.
They’re just as happy winter is over as you are and it’s often
reflected in the kind of stories they choose to run.). As May
rolls around, thoughts turn to summer. Now they’re looking for
summer vacation pieces, outdoor toys and gadgets, stories about
safety (whether automotive or recreational), leisure activities,
things to do for kids and so on.
Key Dates and Events: Baseball opening day, tax day (April 15),
spring gardening season, Memorial Day, end of school, summer
Third Quarter: July – September
What the Media’s Covering: The dog days of summer are when smart
publicity seekers really make hay. Folks at PR firms are on
vacation, marketing budgets are being conserved for the holidays
and reporters are suddenly accessible and open to all sorts of
things. Get to work here, with creative, fun angles.
Entertainment-themed pieces do well in the summer, anything with
celebrities works, lighter business stories, new products, trend
pieces, technology news, back to school education-themed
articles, you name it. Reporters are about to get deluged once
again come September, so use this window of opportunity wisely.
Key Dates and Events: July 4th, summer movies, summer travel,
back to school.
Fourth Quarter: October – December
What the Media’s Covering: The busiest time of the media
calendar, the Fourth Quarter is when the business media turns
serious and the lifestyle media thinks Holidays, Holidays,
Holidays. Business angles need to be hard news. Fluffy trend
pieces won’t cut it, as business editors begin to take stock of
the state of the economy and the market. It’s a tough time to
put out a new product release. For the non-business media, think
Christmas. Christmas travel, Christmas gifts, Christmas cooking,
whatever. If you have a product or service that can be given as
a holiday gift, get on the stick early.
Nail down lead times for the publications you’re targeting, call
to find out who’s handling the holiday gift review article and
get your product in the right person’s hands in plenty of time —
along with a pitch letter or release that makes a strong case
about how what a novel, unusual or essential gift your product
makes. After Christmas, you have a brief window for “Best of the
Year”, “”Worst of the Year” and “Year in Review” pieces. Be
creative — the media loves these things.
Key Dates and Events: Labor Day, World Series, Thanksgiving,
Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve.