food for thought

Give Yourself the Gift of Coverage: How to Get Featured in (Holiday) Gift Guides

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 – and you should be too. Holiday Gift Guides can be huge sales drivers for companies with something “giftable” – particularly those who ship nationwide – so if that’s you, don’t miss the chance to pitch your products to writers and editors ASAP, before they delve into January’s “New Year, New You” stories (which are also promising to pitch!) 

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. 

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

OK so… When Should I Pitch?

Top national lifestyle publications (“long lead” magazines) work on their Holiday Gift Guide issues about 4-6 months in advance. NOW is the time to reach out to glossies like Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Saveur (and make a note for yourself for next year!)

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

What/Where Should I Pitch?

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.” Nearly all – if not all – major b2c publications have a gift guide including Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, America’s Test Kitchen, Inc., Brides, etc, etc.

Here are a few examples of gift guides inclusions we’ve landed for our clients:

• Savory Spice in Food Network’s 18 Wine Gifts that are Better than Any Bottle of Bubbly
• Kyoto Botanicals in Thrillist’s Best CBD products for athletes
• Local love: Spade & Spoon in 5280’s The 14 Best Colorado Gifts for Foodies and 303 Magazine’s From Us To You: The 2023 Made-in-Colorado Gift Guide

The winter holiday gift guides aren’t the only gift guides to pitch – don’t forget other big gift giving holidays such as Valentine’s Day (pitch long leads in September and short leads in December,) Mother’s Day (pitch long leads in December and short leads in March) and Father’s Day (pitch long leads in February and short leads in April.)  

In fact, think outside of the box when pitching your gift box – does your product have a “national awareness day”?  For example, we’ve secured national coverage for Bubbies’ pickles gift box for National Pickle Day, including on TODAY online and Newsweek.  Make sure you research that “national day” thoroughly to make sure it’s widely recognized as the official day before trying to persuade the media to cover it! 

PRO TIP – Set up an affiliate marketing program for an even stronger chance to be included in digital gift guides. Our affiliate marketing guide can be found here.

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.

PRO TIP: Sign up for journalists’ Substacks, an often free subscription-based email newsletter. Writers will include in their Substacks the gift guides they’re working on and what exactly they need for their specific guide (usually MSRP, a high-res image, a quote on why it’s the perfect guide, etc.). Substacks are incredibly helpful year-round and beyond gift guide season. They’ll put out source requests like “I’m working on an Outer Banks travel guide – does anyone have a source to pitch me?” or “I’m looking to hear from chefs on their favorite airfryers.”

Some of our favorites for gift guides include Aly Walansky, Alice Dubin and Jill Schildhouse.

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.  Our pitches got picked up by 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 their door. If products being sent to media are perishable, make sure to get their permission first, in case they aren’t planning to be home when the package is delivered.

PRO TIP FOR NEXT YEAR: When creating next year’s budget, don’t forget to include a decent budget to ship gift guide samples to media (perhaps pick your favorite 10-15 outlets as top targets to pursue by offering samples.)

Landing an inclusion in a prominent gift guide feels 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.

Photos courtesy of Savory Spice Shop, Grace Han for Thrillist, Colorado Crafted, Bespoke Post, The Strategist, 303 Magazine

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