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Mining Editorial Calendars: A Neglected 
Publicity Tactic

by Marcia Yudkin 

Want to increase your odds of media coverage, especially for niche-oriented, always-relevant publicity angles? Then it's worth your while to track down the golden information in newspapers', magazines' and sites' editorial calendars.

An editorial calendar is an issue-by-issue schedule of upcoming topics that editors use to commission articles and that sales staff use for selling ads. Rather than let topics fall into place randomly, the editorial calendar provides for, let's say, cruises to be discussed in March, honeymoon trips in June, singles travel in September and business trips in November. 

By researching editors' plans, you can time press releases and pitch letters exactly right and enjoy being featured in cover stories, special sections and highly visible groups of articles.

Search engines can help you find these topical blueprints on the Web. When I typed "editorial calendar wine 2009" in Google, for instance, more than 22,000 links came up, including references to the Quarterly Review of Wines, Restaurant Business, Bridal Guide, Sunset Magazine, Auto Week, Virtuoso Life and many others. You can also hunt for them at sites for publications in which you particularly crave coverage.

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Meg Weaver, whose company, Wooden Horse Publishing, provides inexpensive access to an online database of hundreds of editorial calendars, says that you can often find editorial calendars buried deep within a web site under a link called "Advertising Info" or "How to Advertise." Then look for "Media Kit" and within that section, "Editorial Calendar." You may also obtain one by calling an advertising sales representative.

Most editors sketch out a year's topics at a time the preceding summer, and according to Weaver, the larger the publication, the more closely they stick to the calendar, since it was hammered out after input from many different quarters. On the other hand, if a publication gets into trouble, changes hands or shifts directions for some other reason, a fresh editorial calendar can get issued halfway through the year. "The ad sales reps usually update the media kits they send to advertising prospects, but the website manager may not be informed," Weaver says.

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When offering a tie-in to a topic in an editorial calendar, keep the publication's lead time in mind - how far ahead it works on content. Five or six months' lead time is usual for monthly magazines. For newspaper special sections and Internet publications, lead time may be more like four to six weeks. 

Parroting an actual phrase from the calendar in the headline of your release or in your pitch letter can make your idea irresistible. For instance, Executive Travel magazine describes its topic for July/August 2009 as: "Exemplary service is rare, so we'll show how some companies are able to provide this for their customers despite economic pressures." Instead of talking about "new service initiatives," use a phrase like "award-winning exemplary service," and your message will go straight to the person arranging for material for that issue. 

By seeking out and studying editorial calendars, you're not so much playing the odds as getting your story into the appropriate hands at exactly the right time.

Copyright 2009 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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