food for thought

Christmas in August: Get Featured in Holiday Gift Guides

Urban Shrub Gift Set

Holiday gift guides often publish in November right before the holiday shopping season really commences, and are being planned – and “put to bed” – during the summer months. They can be huge sales drivers for companies – particularly those that ship nationwide – so we recommend that you consider pitching your products to the media right away.

In July, while the rest of the U.S. are thinking about ways to enjoy or beat the heat, folks in PR and journalism are eating, breathing and sleeping the holidays. 

You may be surprised at how many gift guides there are and how many topics and themes they cover – everything from the New York Post’s “Best 57 Christmas Gifts for Moms” to ultra-niche ones like Men’s Health’s “52 Best Star Wars Gifts.

We’ve helped clients get mentioned everywhere from Food Network’s 18 Wine Gifts that are Better than Any Bottle of Bubbly and Thrillist’s Best CBD products for athletes, to Colorado Expression’s November-December Gifting & Giving, and more.

If your company ships nationwide, gift guides can be a powerful tool to boost sales. Don’t miss the chance to pitch your products to writers and editors immediately, before they delve into January’s “new year, new you” stories (which are equally promising for pitching!).  

In this blog, we’ll give you the when, who, what, why and how to get into holiday gift guides. Gift guide pitching has a unique set of rules/deadlines, and you’re often working with media you’ve never worked with before.

Though you’ll be putting in the heavy work right now, in November and December you’ll be toasting your success with pumpkin cocktails and spiked eggnog, happy that you put in the effort all those months ago.

OK So… When Should I Pitch?

Top national lifestyle publications are working on their issues about 5-6 months in advance – the classic tale of testing Thanksgiving gravy in the springtime.  NOW is the time to reach out to “long leads” like Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Saveur.

Smaller, more regional publications (like Denver’s 5280 Magazine) typically plan their issues 3-4 months out, so reach out in July.  Don’t reinvent the wheel – use the same pitch you sent out in July, just updating any facts that have changed/ seasonal verbiage. 

While digital issues usually only need just a couple of week’s lead time to write a piece, gift guide writers are inundated with thousands of gift guide pitches, and often publish their gift guides in early-mid November. We recommend reaching out no later than early October for online digital pieces. Again, no need to reinvent the wheel with your pitch.

Who Should I Pitch?

It’s essential that you send your pitch to the right people. Some gift guides are a team effort and attributed to “staff”, such as this holiday gift guide from The New York Times. Others – like this gift guide on subscription boxes from New York Magazine – are written by one person. Regardless, it’s never guaranteed that these writers will develop another gift guide next year – we see new names every year.

To get the right contact, we recommend researching writers of previous years’ gift guides, researching publications’ “e-commerce writers,” and even better, developing mutually beneficial relationships with writers year-round, so you can ask them who is crafting their gift guide(s) this/next year.

Which Gift(s) Should I Pitch?

You may have just a few, or dozens of items that you would like to be included in gift guides. However, we recommend highlighting no more than 3-4 products in your pitch. To narrow it down, ask yourself:

  • What’s “new/cool?” Data-driven pitches are often more appealing to writers. Utilize Google Trends or your own research to back up why your selected products will resonate with audiences. For example, when deciding which of our client Savory Spice’s hundreds of products to choose, we narrowed it down to four items, including a popcorn seasoning set and spice subscription box, after finding out that popcorn-related sales were up 11% year-over-year and subscription boxes were slated to be a $65 billion industry by 2027. Using these insights, ROOT crafted a PR plan that highlighted these types of products and the stories around them.  Ultimately these products landed in Rachael Ray, Food Network, New York Times’ Wirecutter and other outlets.
  • Which items are the most profitable? Of the items you can produce quickly and easily on short notice (if needed), which ones make you the most money?
  • Which items make the best gifts?  Which ones do people crave in the wintertime? Do they feel special enough to be a gift? Do they have a cozy, warm, seasonal and/or nostalgic feel?

Should I Send Samples?

While some writers will write about products they’ve never personally experienced, many won’t. Do send samples to as many writers as you can afford, but don’t worry about sending more than one sample to each writer, or making the gift box overly fancy. 

You can always offer a gift card to media to shop for the product themselves online or at major retailers, though it’s not as ideal as a box conveniently delivered to the writer’s door.

If products being sent to a writer are perishable, make sure to get their permission first, in case they aren’t planning to be home when the package is delivered.

When creating next year’s budget, don’t forget to include a decent budget to ship gift guide samples to media. Landing an inclusion in a prominent gift guide can make you feel like Santa came to visit.

If you’d like to leave securing gift guide inclusions to the professionals, call us or drop us a line.


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