The most effective PR starts with a solid plan. Before PR specialists can hit the ground running, they must take time to create a media pitching calendar. Just like the editorial calendar that journalists use, a media pitching calendar outlines the entire year with important dates, holidays, campaign targets, and so forth. In other words, it’s the game plan that publicists follow to help their clients reach their goals. Beyond significant holidays and dates, it should include information that ultimately “synthesizes a brand's key messages, product launches, and thought leadership into relevant story angles the media can use,” says Ilana Zalika, CEO and founder of Resound Marketing. From there, they can align the information on the calendar with the brand’s “audiences, targets, and timing.”
It makes perfect sense, really. All publicists know that timing is of the essence when it comes to getting news coverage for a brand. Keeping an up-to-date media pitching calendar is a surefire way to avoid any potential misses. “Often, when we’re reading the news, we come across a story that would have been perfect for a brand or client to be included in, but alas, we were late too to the game or didn’t know it was even a hot topic at the moment,” Cassie Galasetti, co-founder of Social Sidekick Media, explains.
The calendar itself should be catered to fit the brand you’re pitching. Once you give yourself a roadmap to work with (key dates and deadlines), identify what content you need to create, who you will pitch it to, and when you plan to launch it. Since it may be overwhelming at first, it’s helpful to prioritize certain pitches and/or outlets so you know where to spend your time.
For PR to be effective, you need to have time (not to mention patience) on your side. Since it’s a form of earned—not paid—media, it relies on relationships to reach any level of success. According to Lauren Salaun, founder + CEO of The PR Accelerator, a media pitching calendar will help get you there. “Having an intentional and strategic media pitching calendar will ensure you have adequate time to build relationships, get traction on your pitches, and have enough time for meaningful follow-up in order to hit your visibility goals,” she explains.
Zalika thinks the benefits are quite simple in theory. “Successful PR is all about getting the right story, to the right person, at the right time,” she tells us. “A media pitching calendar enables you to be strategic in your approach.” At the same time, the planning process can help you be better prepared for any breaking news or viral trends that pop up, many of which you can’t predict in advance. “Much of PR is also reactive—responding to what the media is talking and writing about with timely commentary and insights. That's harder to plan for, but mapping out topics you can speak to should also be a part of your media pitching calendar.”
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to creating a media pitching calendar, there are several tips and tricks that will make them a more effective PR tool. Below, we’ve rounded up the top five tips from various experts that will give you a basic guideline to follow when creating your brand’s pitching calendar.
Find a system that works best for you
This may seem like a given, but it’s an important reminder: Not every PR specialist operates in the same way—some may prefer to keep things old-school, while others may want digital everything. When it comes to creating a media pitching calendar, there are no rights or wrongs. Keeping consistent is the most important thing, Salaun reminds. She often advises her clients at The PR Accelerator to keep a weekly calendar and break down the pitching activities by the day. For example, she reserves Monday for prepping pitches, Tuesdays for sending pitches, Wednesdays for responding to any interested parties, Thursdays for follow-ups, and Fridays for an end-of-week review. “Time-blocking activities on specific days will help you stay focused and not feel like you're moving in a hundred different directions,” she says.
Check different calendars
The best media pitching calendars house information of all kinds—national holidays, remembrance dates, media deadlines, and so much more. Galasetti recommends that specialists start by researching “significant holidays and dates within the next month or two.” Look at international, national, and local holidays, as well as more niche days that are relevant to your brand, like National Cheese Day. Then round up the editorial calendars for the brands you pitch regularly. “For the most part, you can find a magazine's editorial calendar right on their website. It will show what topics and themes they will be focusing on for that particular month and year.” When combined, you’ll be left with a media pitching calendar that gives a clear view of what you should be pitching when allowing you to stay ahead of the game.
Think long- and short-term
Your calendar should really be catering to the media. Most magazines and print publications work months—anywhere from two to six—ahead of the publication date, while some digital publications pump out content on the day of. Because of this, you need to find a way to craft your pitches so that they work both now and later. “See how you might be able to repurpose long-lead pitches for short-lead stories or see how you might be able to take a tailored pitch for a specific editorial query and pitch broader to other news outlets and websites,” Annette Malkin, founder of Culturewise Collective, suggests.
Break out a whiteboard
More often than not, the most simple planning methods are the most effective. At the start of each month, Jessa Moore, owner of Jessa Moore Media, suggests writing out a list of the month’s essential days—significant moments from the previous year, national and local holidays, and major deadlines—on a whiteboard. Because you can make changes whenever you please, “this whiteboard can become a de facto journal, putting notes in as the pitches go out.” You can also make notes about which journalists responded, how they reacted, and how you can best serve them in the future. At the end of the month, wipe it all away and start fresh.
Update the media pitching calendar regularly
Nothing is ever set in stone… until you see it in print. Try as you might, you can never fully prepare for every holiday, news cycle, or of-the-moment-trend. Because of this, Taryn Scher, The Sparkle Boss at TK PR, says that “you need to be flexible and willing to divert from the media plan.” The media pitching calendar should be viewed as a “working document,” especially to keep up with the ever-changing news cycle and up-and-coming trends. Continue to update it throughout the year to keep your pitches fresh and, most importantly, relevant to whoever’s reading it.