Being published in a glossy magazine is often a major goal for PR pros.
With over 7,000 consumer magazines circulated throughout the United States, there are plenty of opportunities. We sat down with three experts to learn more about the art of pitching magazines.
- Content strategist/PR advisor Sally Farhat Kassab spent a large chunk of her career working in magazines as the editor of Seattle Bride and an assistant editor at Parents.
- When Kristi Dosh isn’t helping to establish entrepreneurs and nonfiction authors, she’s a freelance writer contributing to a variety of publications, including Forbes and POPSUGAR.
- Elena Mauer is a freelance editor and writer, with a background in editing at both magazines and digital publications. Her work has been published in Parents, Bridal Guide, Self and The Knot
What sets magazines apart
Familiarizing yourself with the nitty-gritty of magazines is essential before even thinking about sending a pitch.
Magazines have a language of their own. For example, you might hear PR pros and journalists use the phrase FOB or “front-of-the-book.” This refers to many of the shorter sections that you might find in a magazine like the table of contents, masthead, letter from the editor and brief one-page topics. The FOB is very different than what you might find throughout the rest of the magazine and likely even has its own editor to pitch.
“The majority of pitches I received were off-target,” shares Kassab. “A lot of the time people would send pitches to the editor-in-chief without knowing they’d have a much higher chance if they would’ve sent it to the right person in the first place.”
What also makes magazines unique is their timeline. Magazines plan ahead much further in advance (at least three or four months) compared to other types of media, which often are more immediate.
Dosh, who pitches magazines as a writer, understands that magazines require a lot of lead time for print.
“A March issue might close in mid-December,” says Dosh. “I’d start by reaching out to an editor with my initial pitch at least two months in advance, so mid-October.”
Don’t let timing be the downfall of your pitch. Get used to planning far out in advance and become best friends with your calendar.
Tips for pitching magazine editors
1. Do your homework.
One common thread from any pitching guide? You must do your homework. It’s as simple as that.
Pitching the wrong editor is one thing, but be sure to double check that the topic you’re pitching falls into what the magazine actually covers. “For example, at Parents, we didn’t ever write about teenagers,” shares Kassab. “Half of the pitches I received were [teen-related], yet we only covered pregnancy through age seven-plus.”
That’s a rookie mistake.
On the journalist side, Dosh has a few words of advice for any pitching PR professional: “I really like to see in the first paragraph that you’ve done your research, know what I cover and are offering me a story/angle that’s clearly a good fit—even better if you’re offering me an exclusive.”
2. The shorter the pitch, the sweeter.
Most pitches are simply just too long.
Remember, your pitch is up against a flood of emails so don’t include more information than necessary to catch a reporter or editor’s attention.
“Don’t bury the most important part of the pitch in the end of an email,” offers Kassab. “My favorite PR person would write one paragraph and say, ‘Here’s the pitch, if you want more information I would be happy to send more details.’”
Also, reconsider sending that press release.
“I’m not a fan of press releases; I often find them impersonal and often unrelated to what I cover,” shares Dosh. “Knowing you’ve sent it to dozens of other journalists doesn’t appeal to me considering my editors want me to cover unique stories and angles.”
Above all, always customize your pitches and get straight to the point.
3. Use editorial calendars.
Editorial calendars, a tool very common among magazines, are important to get your hands on.
Magazines often plan out their content annually, making their editorial calendars available (mostly for advertising purposes, but also handy tools for PR pros). The calendars typically include overall issue themes and “close dates” helping PR pros to figure out when it might be too late to send their pitch.
“Magazines usually stick to a pretty regular planning schedule, since they need to adhere to a print production schedule,” explains Mauer. “So, they’re planning three to six months in advance.”
Since the timeline is much longer for print magazines, you’re going to need those crucial dates to help get your pitch considered.
“It’s key to get the editorial calendar and media kit for the magazine you want to pitch to learn their cutoff dates for print,” shares Dosh. “The editorial calendar will usually also list themes or season issues so you can ensure your pitch matches the issue.”
The most successful pitches will fit into the theme and offer an angle the magazine hasn’t covered previously.
4. Remember, pitching print magazines is different than pitching digital.
Mauer says there are differences PR pros need to know when it comes to pitching print magazines rather than their digital counterparts.
“At some brands, a completely different staff works on digital content than creates the print magazine. At other brands, there are editors who work on both print and digital as part of their everyday job,” she explains.
This is why it’s so important to know who you’re pitching and what they cover. “For online, the schedule can vary from publication to publication—it can depend on who’s running the show and how they prefer to work,” Mauer adds. “Often, there’s an editorial calendar that can be planned with seasonal content up to a year in advance, and in addition, the websites are also covering news and trends as quickly as the same day or a week or a month or so ahead of time.”
Sometimes, writers will cover the news the same day and then cover a trend (such as a “get the look”) in the days that follow, so Mauer suggests looking for ways to connect your experts or products to news or trend stories.
Pitch with purpose
Don’t let the prospect of pitching magazines intimidate you. Above all, try and understand what you’re getting yourself into.
“The most important thing you can do is take the time to do your research,” says Dosh. “Research the publication, the editorial calendar and any news hooks you can piggyback off of and the writers you’re pitching.”
Have you had success pitching magazine editors? Share your experiences in the comments.
Jessica Lawlor is the features editor for the Muck Rack blog and handles content initiatives and social media for Muck Rack. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.