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The Santa Cycle and Its Impact on The News

This is a guest post by Batt Humphreys, former CBS News executive and creator of Inside Media.

The calendar is barely into autumn and the stores are heading into December. The increasingly early launch of the “big” shopping season has become more like a policy of mutually assured deductions. The earlier the displays go up, the earlier stores will mark their prices down and welcome the holiday season. The major retailers are defying traditions and older retail models to gain shoppers at any cost, on any platform. When it comes to holiday retail, there is no more “holiday season.”

Hold your Santas


That phenomenon can be a good example for public relations pros wanting to work with the media.

On the whole, the pitch calendar has gone out of the window. That doesn’t mean that you should not pay attention to the production cycles of the media. Magazines take weeks or months to gain placement, some television shows schedule weeks or months out in some cases.

Regardless of medium, the instant nature of the Internet has changed the stable cycle of story content.

When we pitch, we’re essentially offering content to the media. Content is our commodity and we compete for space on media platforms, just like retailers compete for space on the store shelves.

Think of it this way. The store that launches and promotes its holiday sales the earliest is more likely to sell to the shopper first. The store that lags behind is stuck with a bunch of shelf Santas. The same can be said for pitching a story.

Don’t be a leftover shelf Santa

Generally, there are few ‘exclusive’ pitches, where the stories are so big, that by nature they dictate the news cycle whenever they make announcements. Think iPhone 6. For all the rest of us who don’t dictate the news, do your due diligence to find the best time to put a client out there. The challenge here is to take some of the randomness out of the process. The best way to increase awareness and engagement is to track trends and reporting related to the space you’re pitching. It’s not a casual process anymore. To be effective, you need to be researching daily, if not more so.

Last year, when Wal-Mart launched its holiday season earlier, they dismantled the concept of traditional holiday shopping. Other retailers scrambled to keep up. The impact? All of us with retail clients and a nice plan for placement had to rethink, and quickly.

Put the odds in your favor


When pitching, consider these tips on timing:

  • Pay attention to your space. Watch for stories related to your subject or client and be prepared to move, if they are.
  • Breaking News rules. If it relates to your story, it means you’re up. If you wait for tomorrow, it’s already too late.
  • Try to append to trending stories. They build like a tsunami. You want to ride that wave. Use every channel and every connection to try to get to a point of placement.
  • Drive with data. This is not so much a matter of timing, but content. Reporters on all platforms are more likely to use content pitches that contain real and researched information, especially if it’s original or self generated.
  • Do not compete with a bigger story. Look at what the leading story of the day is. If the US is bombing Syria, you are unlikely to get any attention. If Apple or any other 800-pound gorilla is already in the room, wait for another day.

Want more pitching tips? Join us for a special Vocus Webinar, “Insider Secrets to the Perfect Pitch” with former CBS News exec Batt Humphreys. 

Images: Fields



About Adrienne Sheares

Adrienne Sheares is an enthusiast for all things social media. On the rare times she’s not on social media, she loves watching any cooking show and frequently pretends she’s a “Top Chef” contestant in her kitchen. You can find her on Twitter at @SocialMediaDC.

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