Pitches for winter holiday stories are among the least creative and most tedious that editors receive. This year, avoid the most common holiday outreach mistakes with a simple test. 

Getting On Editors’ “Naughty” Lists

It’s easy to see why so many PR execs are on editors’ “naughty” lists.  Brands want a shot at top-tier coverage connected to the biggest buying season of the year.  But pitches that feel stale, or only have a superficial connection to the holidays, aren’t doing you – or your client – any favors.  Editors are saturated with stories whose only nod to the holidays is the liberal use of holiday-themed puns.  You can do better.

Getting On Editors’ “Nice” Lists

First, take a simple litmus test for determining whether your pitch is a good one:  Could you have pitched this story last year?  The year before?  Five years ago?  The answer should always be “no.”  You should only pitch stories that are unique to 2011.  A story is destined for 2nd tier outlets – or no coverage at all – if it’s an evergreen tips-piece that could have run just as well in 2009 as it can in 2011.

Second, make your story something that your target outlet would actually run.  It’s not enough for a pitch to be current – it also must be tailored to your target.  For example, a unique twist on holiday entertaining could be a tie-in with the Royal Wedding – one of the defining events of 2011.  This is Kate Middleton’s first holiday as a royal.  Tips for those also celebrating their first holiday as a newlywed will feel very “2011.”  That’s an easy way to make this story seem current, and it’s a good story for a celeb-driven lifestyle magazine such as InStyle or People.

However, it’s not a great to pitch for a magazine with a lot of entertaining coverage, but that shies away from celebrities, such as Real Simple or Martha Stewart Living.  They will toss that pitch without a second thought.  A member of Wakefield’s Editorial Panel explains it this way, “90 percent of the press releases I delete without responding.  Because the spin is so generic, I have no idea why they’re pitching it to me, or how I could use it to sell my editors on a story.”

Next week, our “Christmas in July series will detail how to go from standard to stand-out by using holiday PR polls.  If you can’t wait, you can also contact Wakefield Research directly for more information on how to tie your pitch to the holidays by using creative, newsworthy survey stats.

Update: Thanks to Ragan’s PR Daily for republishing this story.