As a kid I anxiously anticipated every holiday season the arrival of the Sears, JCPenny or Toys-R-Us catalog.
As a B2B PR professional, this childlike excitement has become geek-like. Starting about now and through the end of the year, the trade publications release their annual media calendars, giving you with an up-front view of all the topics trade magazines will be talking about.
It’s that time of the year. So much anticipation of projects to come! Each new crop of calendars is rife with opportunities to enable us to get our companies out in front of their prospects.
Let Editorial Calendars Drive Your Earned Media Approach
Editorial calendars are all about organized effort. Those handling social media programs should be working up an editorial calendar for their blogs and social media platform. Avoid this exercise and your content campaign will wander around the topic landscape unable to reach the promised land of communications program success.
Print media editorial calendars serve a dual purpose. The calendars are primarily developed by the publications as roadmaps for their advertising teams to sell space based on the products and services provided by their advertiser customers. The idea is to match up the magazine’s featured topic in an issue with a company’s product or service.
So the same calendar that is designed to attract advertising can also enable you to suggest guest editorial to that book’s editor. Handling the calendars intelligently can maximize your success at showing up in these publications and building your company’s reputation.
Building a Master Calendar of all Publication Editorial Calendars
During the coming months, start hunting for the publications that pertain to your industry, many of which you know already. If you want to be really aggressive, seek out trade magazines that have some connection with what your company does, even if it seems tangential. If say your company manufacturers overhead fans and you have worked strictly the architectural products books, magazines that deal with safety may have applicable editorial dealing with heat stress.
Also bear in mind that when it comes to many B2B sales there is what’s called the buying circle, made up of people who may not sign the purchased order, but can influence the sale. Given the relatively low cost of trade PR vs advertising, you can reach this audience through the publications they read through reformatted editorial content.
As the editorial calendars become available, rather than just accumulating them in a folder, put together a spreadsheet which includes…
Editor’s name and contact info
Initial content thoughts
Group the targeted publications by month so that you can start contacting the editor at least three months in advance of publication. You can also use the spreadsheet to keep track of whom you reached and what is the next step.
These guides to the next editorial year’s topics are a valuable source of information for programs aimed at trade press audiences in a number of ways.
The Shape of Things to Come
Trade press editors are steeped in the goings-on of their industry. That’s their business.
Beyond gathering information off of the Internet (and reading competitors magazines), editors are hitting the road, visiting companies and attending trade shows for an on-the-ground idea of the issues their readers face.
A lot of thought goes into composing the calendars. Karen Langhauser, Chief Content Director for Pharmaceutical Manufacturing magazine tells me that she is constantly thinking of the next year’s calendar.
"As we cycle through topics each month, I keep notes of what worked and what didn't. By ‘worked’ I mean what was clear and easy to find content for, as well as what resonated with our audience (generally determined via digital engagement)."
"Basically, if you have a good base for your calendar, it makes it easier to massage it and update it to reflect both what's going on in the industry and the voice of your brand."
Helping Editors Do their Job While You Do Yours
The magazines want to deliver the latest trends to their readers, and just reading through the editorial calendars gives you a quick insight into what will be talked about for the year. Additionally, as trade magazines are largely about problem solving, the next year’s calendar can reveal the biggest concerns for the industry you are trying to reach and where technology is heading.
Moreover, calendar topics give you some idea on how to calibrate your content to match the editor’s aims. In a number of cases the publication topics might even inspire you to head your content in an another, new, direction. For example, there are companies that have repurposed their safety and efficiency attributes as solutions for sustainable facility operation.
The master editorial calendar provides a unique opportunity for market strategizing. You can use the calendar to determine when it is best to launch that new product, adjust to seasonal demands or counter-move your competition.
As mentioned before, all the publications are laid out months in advance of when they hit the readers’ desks or laptops. You can freeze out your competitors from a particular issue simply by contacting a magazine in advance of the deadline before these other companies.
Marshaling Your Resources
There are some in the trade press PR field who cruise through the year, checking public relations software such as Cision® for what’s coming up that particular month. Proceeding this way might be responsive, but it is also a bit reactive.
Along with enabling laser-like strategizing, the master calendar provides a means of managing your trade press targeting while looking at your program’s budgetary resources and any new product introductions. The “ore” in the editorial calendar “mine” might lead you to redeploying funds into the trade press program.
Based on editorial topics, you may want your engineering staff to work up information on problem solving or product performance. Since developing new case histories takes time, editorial opportunities in vertical publications may require getting the word out to the sales force well in advance of publication so they can locate customer users who have dealt with topic issues.
There are industries that have multiple publications and technologies each with their own approach but all catering to a certain audience. They therefore are competitive and would not want an article that appeared in one publication show up in theirs.
Your media person knows which publication is the best one to approach. If you are reviewing editorial calendars month-to-month rather than annually you may end up placing content in one publication when a better book may be dealing with that issue later in the year.
Granted, just because you have your eye on a publication’s target issue, there are no guarantees that the editor will accept your pitch. We’ll talk about how to improve those odds in a future post. Nevertheless, the editorial calendar will enable you to determine if your number two magazine will dealing with the topic, or if your prime publication is coming back for another look later on in the year.
Read ‘em and Reap
Not all the publications straightjacket their topics throughout the year around their editorial calendar. Many are open to timely and insightful content. Of course, if you are going to pitch to a magazine you should really read the magazine. If you do, chances are you will see a topic covered one month that you can expand upon later.
Based on most publishing cycles, you should expect it to take at least three months for your additional coverage to be published. Editors really appreciate attention being paid to their publication.
There is also another reason for taking a peek into the pages of your targeted publications. You will quickly pick up on whether or not the book is staff written. If it is, you can readjust your pitch. For example, you could suggest that a subject matter expert from your company provide input for an article or be used as an interview subject. Or, you can offer up a sidebar on the topic.
The job of an editor is to find the most relevant and insightful content they can to make their publication a key component to their readers’ success. That publication’s editorial calendar is your tool to think ahead so you can be that source.Trade press editors really know their business. The editorial calendar is your way to profit from that knowledge.
Posted by Keith Schmitz
Keith Schmitz has a long-time career involved with getting his clients written up in scores of trade publications. Along with developing insightful content, Keith has walked acres of plant floors and job sites in pursuit of interesting client stories. For ideas on how to position your company in the trade press, he can be reached by clicking @krpr_inc.