Media Lead Times
‘Thank you for your email. Our deadline for the Christmas gift guide has passed and we are no longer accepting applications.’
Now, when would you think someone received this? September? October?
Actually, you need to start pitching to the glossy magazines from July onwards. Yep, I know, summertime!
When Garnet PR starts working with our clients, often one of the first things we find ourselves talking about with them is media lead times.
Lead times in publishing describes how far in advance the deadline that a journalist has to finish or 'file' a story before the publication goes to print (gets published). Depending on the publication, lead times can be anything from a couple of hours to many months, as you can see from the above.
In this blog I want to let you in on some of my insider secrets, learned during my decade in PR:
- Short and long lead times
- Different types of content
- How to get a head start on your competition
Different lead times
As well as ensuring you are telling the right story to the right people in the right way, we also need to make sure you're telling it using the right timeline.
Timelines are often something that are missed or forgotten by people pitching their wonderful products and services to the media. This ‘lead time’ is something the media work to, but they all have different deadlines depending on the type of publication that they are.
When incorporating media relations into your plans, there are some top tips that will really help you Kickstart Your PR. Usually, it takes years to learn these insider secrets but I’m going to give you a head start and share them with you now – because I want you to be able to show up and shine bright like the star you are!
Let's dive in...
Long leads - these are the glossy, highly coveted and competitive magazines which usually come out monthly and work to long lead times. In other words, far ahead of the date they land in the shops, often around 3-6 months.
So, if you want to feature in the Christmas gift guides, for example, you’ll need to be pitching in July and August! Mother's Day, you gotta be thinking about it in November/ December. Expert opinion around significant diary dates such as Money Smart Week (April), January it is!
Glossy magazine prints
There is a lot more to publishing than completing a content management system. Pages have to be laid out, artwork approved (at the right resolution) and this all needs to be sourced. Depending on the print run and the advertising booked, the pagination (number of pages) can vary. All of this takes time – let alone the time needed to commission out articles, interview people, review products, research stories and then write them. You can see why publications such as Vogue and Country Living have long lead times.
Short leads - these are the shorter lead time magazines, sometimes monthly but often the weekly mags and the national newspaper weekend supplements. They work to slightly shorter lead times, often around 4-6 weeks.
Sometimes they prepare features further in advance and can also slot in very timely news items at short notice. If you wanted to pitch to these guys for summer style or staycation ideas to land around May, for example, you’d need to be getting in touch anywhere from the end of Feb onwards.
Digital media and daily press - These are the online news & lifestyle media platforms and daily national & regional newspapers. They operate to a much quicker turnaround, often reporting on daily news stories, and in the case of digital, could be almost instant, due to the nature and speed of the internet and the way people consume content on it.
However, both print and digital often ‘bank’ stories that aren’t crucially time bound and slot them in when they need to fill a gap or have some space, so it pays to pitch ahead if you can. Examples of these publications are The Times, Daily Mirror and online versions of news sites, e.g. Yorkshire Life magazine's online site.
Blogs - These can be anything from very short notice to far in advance. It comes down very much to the story and the blogger. Content which can be pre-planned often will be, for example, most bloggers start working on Christmas around September/October. But that’s not to say short notice stories won’t work. If you have a really relevant news story or product that would work for their audience and is timely, if you make that clear, chances are they might have some flexibility due to the nature of the digital world.
How you can get ahead
The best way to work out who does what, when, is to ask the publication you want to pitch to what its lead times are and then start building those relationships with key journalists. As long as you have awareness of the standard timelines, you already have a head start.
Many publications will have a set day or time when they ‘go to press’. This is the window that the printer has left open to get all the pages printed, folded and stitched so that a publication appears on the newsstand or through your letterbox when you expect it.
So, be prepared and find out what these lead times are, and if you are too late don't be put off, create a lead time spreadsheet for next year so you are ahead of the game.
Never leave things to the last minute, just in case the publisher needs more information, another image or to clarify something. Don’t make them work hard to get the information, because they will simply head to the next option, often the trick to winning at PR is to make it as easy as possible for the journalist. Making sure everything there is correct and timely is a simple, and easily achievable, step.
Good luck! You've got this.