The holiday season is officially here, which means that publicists everywhere are scrambling to meet their clients’ needs before the end of the year. The last quarter of the year is a stressful period for all, but can be particularly stressful for the public relations industry as they work to impress and dazzle their clients. Many have their eyes set on gift guide placement, and an excellent promotion can make it a little bit more likely. However, similar to pitching products, pitching sales and discounts can be challenging, as it’s an oversaturated market, says Emily Roethle, a senior media specialist at Crowe PR.
“At any given point in time, there are dozens of sales from top brands, especially around the Cyber Monday and Black Friday season,” she continues. “On top of the volume of sales and discounts, reporters covering these stories are also likely covering gift guides, and post-Thanksgiving is the hot time for these stories to come out, so attention may be divided.”
How can you help your clients break through the noise and make an impact? Here, a guide to pitching sales and discounts and earning media for Black Friday and Cyber Monday:
You’ve heard it before, but we’ll repeat it: if you’re not early, you’re late. And though this is true in nearly all industries with stiff competition, it’s especially important to keep in mind when pitching sales and discounts. Since the biggest shopping days of the year are known dates, editors and journalists have the ability to plan ahead, so the sooner you can prepare for this season, the better. Roethle urges PR professionals to ensure they coordinate with their clients early on and recommends solidifying sales plans in September or October, if not earlier. “Getting seasonal sales and discounts on reporters’ radar early is key so your pitch is not lost,” she says. “While a reporter may not cover the sale immediately, they may save and prioritize your pitch for future reference.”
Make the discount matter.
To put it bluntly, pitching sales and discounts can be tricky because it's not always the most newsworthy story, says Lindsay Smolan, the founder of VLIV Communications. As she explains, many brands don't offer very substantial discounts. Smaller discounts can, of course, seem like a lot to brands, but they don’t tend to catch editors’ eyes like the really deep discounts. “With so many brands and new innovations flooding the market, a slight discount isn't the biggest story or likely to garner a lot of traction,” she says.
Instead, publicists should encourage their brands to come up with a discount or promotion that garners attention, making it more likely they’ll cut through the chatter of Black Friday and Cyber Monday stories.
Find the right reporter.
Spamming media with pitches is always a big no-no, but this is an especially egregious faux pas during the holidays, says Kelly Kaufman, the president and founder of K Squared Group. When pitching sales and discounts, you need to ensure whoever you’re blasting an email out to actually covers this type of content. Otherwise, you’re likely going to end up in the trash folder. That’s why Kaufman suggests doing your due diligence to see which reporters and editors have covered Black Friday and Cyber Monday content in the past. “Get a feel for what information they include in coverage and make sure to incorporate those details in your customized pitch,” she adds.
To take it a step further, Roethle advises doing a deep dive into reporters who exclusively cover sales and discounts and pinging other PR professionals to see if they have any advice for working with them. You want to position yourself to land at the top of their inbox, ultimately upping your odds of winning the placement. “Dig into their likes and dislikes to create a targeted pitch that will catch their attention,” she adds.
Provide the right information.
Journalists and editors are receiving hundreds of emails every hour, and during the hectic holiday season, it’s even more volume than normal. So when you’re pitching sales and discounts tied to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you want to provide all of the necessary information in the initial email clearly and concisely, Smolan says. “Editors' inboxes get slammed with holiday promo deals, and you'll want to keep it as easy on them as possible to cover your brand,” she says.
You should include the following:
- The brand name
- A link to the promotion. If it isn’t currently live, make sure to note when it will be live on the website.
- The description of the discount
- Examples of the original pricing vs. the discounted pricing
- The timeframe of the discount
- Any necessary discount codes
- Any exclusions or additional terms
- A link to an image of the product or products
Smolan says editors won't have time to follow-up to get the necessary info, so providing it all upfront makes everyone's life easier. “Be sure to highlight any affiliate tie-ins as well—if it's a deal from the brand's own site, being part of an affiliate network greatly increases the likelihood they'll write about it,” she continues. “Don't make them ask; provide that info upfront!”
Do the math.
This may seem like an unnecessary strategy when pitching sales and discounts, but Kaufman recommends publicists and brands do the math for reporters. After all, details matter. “You can't simply say an item is 25 percent off. You need to show it. Do the math, so the reporter and reader don't have to do the extra legwork. Show the original price and the sale price so they can really see the difference,” she says.
Pick the right products to discount.
While clients may be tempted to heavily discount their least-popular item so they can better manage their inventory, that’s not the most effective approach. That’s why Smolan says brands should ensure the sale applies to mediagenic products and those that consumers will want to buy. “When you're providing Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts, which is such a competitive landscape, you need to provide the best of the best,” she says.
Though Smolan says sitewide discounts tend to do well to secure press coverage, if that isn’t an option, make sure the product feels like a gift. “Put yourself in the editors' and consumers' shoes: would you want to buy or receive this gift? Would you be genuinely excited by this discount?,” she continues. “Use that as the benchmark for your outreach. Editors get inundated with sales this time of year and will need something special to make it stand out.”