Navigating the Media Timeline: what is needed and when

When starting a new PR partnership or refreshing a current one, it’s important to nail down a campaign road map. A huge component to a strategic PR campaign is considering your goals and aligning them within the framework of the media timeline.

Popular phrases you’ll hear when working with a PR agency are ‘long-lead’ and ‘short-lead’ pitches. These often-confused phrases are industry terms we use to determine the amount of time a certain publication requires to consider your story.

Short-lead media includes newspapers, blogs, digital media, TV and radio. These publications and outlets work on a ‘short lead’ timeframe, meaning that they can post a story immediately but may work four to six weeks out, depending on the pitch that is being submitted as well as the topic’s newsworthiness.

Long-lead media is exactly what it sounds like. This phrase is typically reserved for magazines that take anywhere from three to six months to produce. That Men’s Fitness or Vogue magazine you see in the grocery aisle was actually closed out and ready for print at least three months ago. Crazy, right? Even crazier is that it’s not uncommon for us to pitch Christmas in July knowing that some editors are already thinking about their holiday angles, gift guides and stories.

So, what does this mean for you? It means being aware of news and where it fits within the media timeline based on the publications that you want to target could be extremely helpful. It also means that you need to prepare several storylines, some of which you may have to pitch simultaneously but to different publications. It’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket, as they say. In our case, you never want to rely on one pitch at a time.

Another thing to keep in mind is that simply pitching stories does not guarantee immediate coverage. Sometimes the pitch is a great introduction to a business and a publication will come back several months later with a suggested angle that best fits their editorial calendar; sometimes they like the idea but may need to hold the story for a different issue. Just be patient. A great story in the right publication is always worth the wait.

Above all else, be responsive

With all this pitching going on, especially short lead, there is one thing that we always ask of our clients: be responsive and available. Before pitching, your PR firm will look at the pitch from a journalist’s point of view and try to prepare you for any potential follow-up questions. Try to have all the information you think you need readily available so that the media doesn’t have to wait on you. The worst reputation you can have is that of a bad source because you can’t get information over in a timely manner.

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