Same Time Next Year: Using Editorial Calendars as Part of your PR Efforts

It's the time of year when calendars crowd out the books and magazines in bookstores and are even on sale at reduced prices. But there's a special kind of calendar that all good public relations professionals use ? the editorial calendar.

Using editorial calendars is one of the most effective, yet most overlooked tool in a publicist's toolkit. Most people avoid using editorial calendars because it takes some time to research and compile. The top PR professionals do this every year and I've personally found that outcomes are well worth the time ? especially when you end up getting featured in a key article in a major publication.

Except for the year and the names of the months, these calendars bear little resemblance to the glossy hang-up calendars in the stores. No swimsuit-clad models, lush scenery, puppies, kittens or cartoons of Dilbert. Editorial calendars are usually bare-bones lists of upcoming issue topics and major features ? or at least the cover stories or special sections. Not much to look at ? unless you're a PR pro trying to crack that market.

That's because knowing what publications have in store allows you to tailor your pitches, news releases and articles to particular issues. Helping editors and journalists by providing the stories they need earns you goodwill and increased attention.

Editorial calendars are basically telling you exactly what information they need for each issue. "If you can spin your own story to match what the media is looking for, then you have a great chance of being featured in that publication," she says.

A current editorial calendar can usually be found in the advertising section at the publication's website. If you can't find it there, contact the publications marketing/sales department and ask them to email/snail mail it to you.

Here are some examples of editorial calendars:

? Choice: The Magazine for Professional Coaching - http://www.choice-online.com/calendar.html

? Small Business Technology Magazine - http://www.sbtechnologymagazine.org/write/SBTM_Editorial_Calendar_2004_2005.pdf

? Fortune Small Business - http://www.fortune.com/fortune/mediakit/editcal-targeted.html

Not all publications have editorial calendars. Really small magazines ? the many labor-of-love kind of magazines published by enthusiasts ?usually don't. Magazines, which don't accept ads, may have one but they don't publish it. Totally reader-contributed publications don't. New magazines generally don't because the content is so often changed and tweaked as the publication searches for its voice.

Even some large, national magazines don't have calendars. News weeklies like Time and Newsweek don't. Neither does People or US Weekly. They are steered by what news hits that week and that is, of course, something you can't predict months in advance.

After reviewing the calendar, you can decide which stories you can offer to be a source or expert for, or, in the case of trade publications, which months you could offer a written expert-opinion piece.

Remember that editorial calendars can and do change, so check for updates regularly. Also, pay attention to deadlines. Article queries and pitches especially should be sent to the editors well ahead of time. And if they don't have deadlines, assume that the media need the information about four months out.

Shannon Cherry, APR, MA helps businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations to be heard. She's a marketing communications and public relations expert with more than 15 years experience and the owner of Cherry Communications. Subscribe today for Be Heard! a FREE biweekly ezine and get the FREE special report: "Get Set For Success: Creative, Low-Cost Marketing Tips to Help You be Heard." Go to: http://www.cherrycommunications.com/FreeRe port.htm

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