Editorial Calendars De-Mystified

With the summer quickly coming to a close and “back-to-school” in the air, PR and marketing managers everywhere are getting ready to go back to the drawing board and prepare budgets and plans for the next year. Annual PR planning can be simplified by including seasonal story opportunities that refresh every year and also by researching editorial calendar opportunities from a variety of target publications.
The editorial calendar is a plan that publications use to identify stories and themes they will cover in upcoming issues. Calendars are usually published a year at a time and available in the late fall for the next year. The goal of publishing an editorial calendar is to attract advertising revenue based on topics they plan to cover. As a result, editorial calendars can usually be found in a publication’s online Media Kit.
Knowing what stories are being featured not only assists in the selection of advertising space purchases, but also offers strategic information for the PR professional. With an editorial calendar you can know when to send a pitch on specific topics already scheduled to go live.
As you search for editorial calendar opportunities, consider these tips to turn editorial calendars into a critical part of your media outreach plan.
1.    Identify the best publications by looking at demographics, industries, regions and credibility. Match your target-customer profile to the audience size and demographics of your outlets to help you identify what your customers watch, read, share and respect. Also search by industry and geography. Which outlets most widely followed in your vertical market? Are there regional publications in markets that are important to your client? Finally, quality counts. Plan on pitching the quality outlets, regardless of size. They will get your story right and give you the most credibility through their influence and reputation with your audience. You can always leverage a placement with reprints and social media to increase the reach and extend the life of a media placement.
2.    Note the opportunities as you review editorial calendar opportunities and keep a spreadsheet of stories to help you manage the work. Decide which stories or topics to pursue by thinking about what services, products, trends, advice, tips, statistical data or experts you can offer the editor. Some opportunities will look like a perfect fit, while others will seem to be marginally related. Instead of discounting an opportunity, consider getting more specifics about the story, pitching an interesting angle or even suggesting a sidebar to the story.
3.    Find the editorial contact who is working on the editorial calendar story. Generally, you can look at the masthead in the first pages of a publication to determine which editor to contact. If you are still not sure, call the outlet’s main phone number and ask for an editorial assistant and they usually are able to direct you to the best editor.
4.    Develop and share the pitch with the editor. The same rules apply as with any media pitch. Be familiar with the media outlet. Think about how you can make it easy for the editor to produce an interesting and informative story that will benefit their audience. Think about the assets (visual, experts, customers, etc.) you can offer to support the ideas in your pitch have that lined up. Write out your ideas for an email or to guide a phone conversation.
5.    Don’t wait until the listed deadline. Editorial calendar deadlines usually refer to when you need to reserve advertising space. If there is a deadline for copy, that is likewise too late and generally refers to just before a publication goes to print. Pitches must be made in enough time for the story to be considered, interviews scheduled and conducted, written and edited. Also remember that you are most likely not the only one pitching a story idea on this topic and the early bird gets the worm.
Keeping these five tips in mind will help transform your media plan with editorial calendar opportunities that can easily help fill in the gaps between major news announcements to keep your client in the news.