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The Definitive Guide to Short-Lead & Long-Lead Media Opportunities
March 7th, 2022
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First thing’s first: pat yourself on the back for learning new skills. After all, becoming an entrepreneur may require you to wear many hats, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to juggle them. Developing your media strategy for placements in publications requires you to understand the ins and outs of the industry. 

This includes knowing the difference between long-lead media opportunities and short-lead ones. Not only will this distinction help you to build healthier relationships with reporters, but it also manages your expectations and provides more insight into realistic goal setting. 

Here, we talked to seasoned publicists familiar with journalistic timelines to share their insights. Consider this your 101 guide to the short-term and long-term tango:

What are long-lead media opportunities? 

Hey, it’s okay if your greatest dream ever is being in the print version of your favorite magazine or newspaper. Most brands have their coveted dream list for features, but it’s vital to understand it usually will not happen overnight. As Senior Media Specialist at Crowe PR Emily Roethle explains, print opportunities that are often coordinated four to eight months ahead of time constitute long-lead media opportunities. In many cases, a gift guide falls into this category, since print publications will start working on these in the summer, while digital ones will often finish their guides by early November.

Typically, a writer or editor is assigned the story well in advance and usually is writing for a print publication that comes out in regular intervals, explains Alessandra Pollina, the founder of Quotable Media Co. Once they submit the final copy, it could still be weeks (or months!) until it is printed or goes live online. “In this case, it’s important to be pitching or gathering information far in advance, as the writer will be working on the story way before it’s coming out, and if you want to be included in it, you have to be working toward it in advance as well,” she explains.

What are short-lead media opportunities? 

On the other end of the spectrum, short-term leads are exactly as their name suggests: fast turnarounds that result in coverage within days, weeks, or a month or so. Roethle says digital publications, broadcast, radio, weekly magazines, and daily newspapers often fall on this timeline. “Their content typically focuses on breaking news, current trends, and timely stories that can’t be planned well ahead of time,” she continues. “Short-lead timelines vary anywhere from hours to six weeks out depending on the content and the outlet.”

Because you won’t have much time to think twice, Pollina says it’s vital to have all of your material ready to go as soon as you reach out to the writer (or as soon as they reach out to you!) and make sure you can do the interview or answer any questions and provide visuals right away. 

“Short-lead articles can be exciting because you get the immediate gratification and excitement of seeing your coverage really quickly,” she continues. “It can also mean that the publication will be publishing many other articles the same day or week and yours is quickly buried though, whereas a long-lead article may be more of a feature in the publication and even online for many days or even weeks and get a different level of attention—not always though.”

Long-lead media opportunities and short-term articles carry various values and impressions, so you can’t group them into the same bucket. You can, however, challenge yourself to better understand the difference by knowing the benefits of each. Here, some facts to consider. 

It’s crucial to create a media strategy

Whether you hire a publicist, solely use Press Hook, or do a mix of the two, deciphering between short- and long-lead media opportunities is crucial to creating an effective media strategy. First and foremost, it provides a timeline for when to pitch where and when to expect potential coverage to go live or be distributed. “By understanding these key pitching windows, you can create a comprehensive strategy that ensures you are capitalizing on print media opportunities,” Roethle says. “On the flip side, understanding short-lead timelines can help your brand or agency connect with the right reporters at the right time to bring digital coverage to fruition.”

It helps you set realistic goals 

A significant part of a media strategy is pinpointing your campaign goals and KPIs. These not only impact your bottom line and your relationship with investors, but it guides your investments in the future. Knowing which media opportunities are on the horizon can better set monthly, quarterly, and yearly aspirations. 

As an example, if your campaign goals include gift guides, you should be focusing on short-lead holidays and long-lead Valentine’s Day at the end of the year, according to Sabrina DiBella, the president and co-founder of Push The Envelope PR. “We need to be mindful of timing when it comes to creating media strategies to ensure we can properly differentiate between long- and short-lead goals, which will allow for full transparency when it comes to planning campaign and pitching strategies,” she says. 

It builds better rapport with reporters 

We know, we know: when you’re eager to see an exciting story go live, you’re incredibly tempted to follow up with the freelance writer or the editor with whom you’ve been working. 

Though some follow-up is okay, the more you nag a media member, the less likely you will receive a response. No one wants to be ghosted, which is why understanding the difference between short-lead and long-lead media opportunities can help foster a healthy rapport with reporters. 

As Roethle explains, when you know it’ll be months before a story is printed, you won’t feel as much anxiety in the time passing. And thus, won’t be tempted to send a ‘just following up’ email. On the contrary, you can set yourself up for success with a short-term turnaround by being readily available to writers when they need information fast. Plus, it puts you in their inbox at the right time for whatever is on their docket right then. “If you are pitching a story for a print publication one month ahead, you may be clogging up a reporter’s inbox with a story idea that they filed months ahead of time,” Roethle says. But if you know they’ll be working on X story during X month, you can prepare for it. 

Get started with Press Hook today

Want to learn more about the best practices for pitching media? And how to spot the difference between a short and long-lead opportunity? Reach out to Press Hook today for expert guidance and tips.