Christmas gift guides are an essential part of the magazine content calendar, not only connecting us with readers but making good business sense.
While print gift lists are still very much a thing, for teams of lifestyle journos across the UK it’s digital gift guides that are the big focus, with competitive SEO terms to rank for, Christmas traffic and those lucrative affiliate opportunities that help keep us up and running. Luckily, whether you’re submitting a pitch for print or digital, the essentials remain the same.
As an editor, my priority will always be, (and, this goes for all of us), featuring quality relevant products in a wide price range for our readers. How they look is also important and affiliate links are a bonus. But, even if you do tick all those boxes it’s still pretty competitive – so how can you make your pitches stand out?
As Marie Claire’s Features Editor and Christmas gift list compiler, here is my insider’s guide.
I work four months ahead with print gift guides, so now (July/ August) is the time to submit your Christmas pitches. Digital gift lists however can be published instantly and consequently have much shorter lead times. September is the absolute earliest I would pitch, and mid-October is ideal. Plus, unlike print, digital gift guides don’t actually have deadlines. A healthy online gift gallery is frequently updated, so if a gift list is already live, ask for a product inclusion in its next update.
Only pitch products that you actually think are a good fit for that publication – and no more than five per brand. Including irrelevant ones on the off-chance will just detract from your other submissions. Think quality over quantity. It’s always worth emailing before to see what gift guides the magazine is building to help inform your submissions, rather than pitching blind.
A clear subject headline will make your pitch easy to search, too – include both ‘Christmas Gift Guide’ and the brand name you’re pitching. When it comes to the email contents, the key is to simplify the job for the journalist. We don’t have time to go back and forth with multiple requests – we ideally want all the relevant information there in the initial email.
The dream submission will include the product name, stockist, price, link, image and two sentences of blurb. If your brand is on an affiliate network, that’s also worth mentioning. Don’t leave out any key information – I’ve spent hours scouring websites for omitted details before giving up.
So, embed a product shot into the body of the email to immediately catch our attention. Then, in the interest of providing all relevant information for ease, include a dropbox or WE transfer link with high resolution images. Product shots against a plain background will be the most successful (ensure there is space to allow for cropping) but feel free to submit lifestyle shots too. Also, avoid using links that expire. Your pitch might be bookmarked and read weeks later and outdated links will delay the whole process. These details may seem small but they will make featuring your product so much easier (and more appealing).
As well as ways to stand out positively, there are, of course, pitfalls that PRs should avoid when submitting pitches. The most obvious is getting the journalist’s name, publication or gender wrong (I have received my fair share of ‘Dear Sir’ greetings and while obviously accidental, they’re an immediate red flag).
With our inboxes overflowing in the Christmas run-up, we do need a prompt but it’s about how (and how often) you chase. Keep it within working hours and restricted to emails – flooding someone’s Instagram DMs with 10pm reminders will get you nowhere. Also avoid chasing after just a few hours: wait at least a few days, and when you do, be mindful of your language. A ‘gentle nudge’ doesn’t feel gentle and even worse, the phrase ‘this is my final attempt at reaching you’. From my personal experience, the wording ‘just moving this up to the top of your inbox’ and ‘just circling back’ will serve you much better, and the phrase ‘I know you must be busy’ is the holy grail.
At the end of the day, we journalists are genuinely interested in hearing about your products and want to wholeheartedly recommend as many as we can, no matter how they’re pitched to us. But just by timing your submissions well and keeping them relevant, clear and the right level of informative, you will maximise your chances of standing out.
Also, don’t let that connection dwindle on December 26th. We want your pitches, but we also want to connect with you, so do get back in contact in the New Year. The future coverage opportunities are endless.
That said, it’s already July, so on behalf of all magazine editors, we look forward to hearing from you soon.