Many trade and industry publications, both print and web based, create and publish what are known as editorial calendars that provide an outline of what subjects and topics the magazine plans to cover in the next year or so. These editorial calendars – (known as ed cals) also provide an outline for their advertising and promotions department to go out and sell special issues, supplements, shows and conferences, etc.
Ed cals can be an extremely critical aspect of getting good public relations coverage for your company, its services and products. However, you need to do it right. You need to understand how each publication works its ed cal policies. Even within the publication, each editor might be differ regarding how they handle ed cal submissions and pitches. You need to make the contact and do the follow-up in order to work with each publication’s and each editor’s preferences, topic selections and time frames.
Some publications may create editorial calendars that provide a framework for some of the top articles or every issue, but do not cover the myriad of other articles that may appear in their pages. And of course, many publications do not create ed cals at all, preferring to mostly covering news and merging trends.
How to use editorial calendars
Editorial calendars cover a wide range of editorial opportunities that can be sliced into three main areas -
- product and technology round ups
- staff and freelancer written columns and articles
- contributed articles
Product and technology round ups are usually the easiest to participate in. Many publications just require that you send a product announcement along with a high resolution image. Others may request that you submit extra technical information about your article. You will need to contact whoever is assembling the round up and establish what materials they require and when they need to have it submitted by.
Staff and freelancer written articles are outstanding PR and marketing opportunities. Often framed as an examination of an emerging technology and service, these articles often can consist of information drawn from company publications and/or interviews. Most publications will include information from three or so vendors. However, I have seen articles that included quotes and information from 10 or more different companies.
Contributed articles are articles written by various vendors that usually address a specific industry trend or emerging technology or trend. Many are constructed as "how to" articles and "what do you need to know" about this new technology. The beauty of contributed articles is that they can help establish your company as the industry leader within your segment. Even better, for the individual "authors", by being published in leading industry magazines, they raise their industry profile and become recognized as industry experts.
Not only is this good for the company, it is also very beneficial for their individual careers. Magazine publications look good on the resume. This often helps with in company promotions as well as their reputation within their industry as a whole.
The three secrets of editorial calendars
- You need to follow up on editorial calendars (see below on how we pitch editorial articles) Remember, many of the calendar descriptions are vague and ambiguous. They may say something like "Latest trends in Industrial Technologies". We can often influence and help the editors to fine-tune the ed cal article's topic direction and angle.
- Timing is important. Some magazines work only a month out while others are developing articles six months out.
- You need to find out how specific editors prefer to be pitched for ed cal articles. Some editors like a phone call to discuss ideas, while others want an email a few months previous to the article date, followed by another conversation closer to the actual publication date.
Editorial Calendars are very competitive
Most of the other companies in your space monitor and pitch for the same editorial opportunities that you do. Just because there is a relevant editorial opportunity coming up six months from now, is not a guarantee that you may be able to get it.
Editors prefer spreading article opportunities around and not using articles from just one company. If your company is very big, with lots of groups and divisions spread out worldwide, you may not just be competing with other companies, but may be competing with other groups within your own company who cover the similar space. Sometimes these six month out ed cal opportunities get dropped and greatly changed in focus. Towards the end of the year, the ed cals get more out of focus. Sometimes, an editor will give it to another company because that company is buying more ads or is sponsoring that particular issue.
Many times the editor will give the opportunity to a company whose writers he really likes or know are most reliable. He also may award the article to writers or a company that consistently produces the best articles - articles that do not require a lot of editing or handholding through the production process.
The worst possible action a company can take is to agree to write an article and then at the last second, inform, the editor that they didn't do it - or they can't do it. Even worse, and unforgivable, is not telling the editor that you won't be providing the promised article and just leaving them dangling without any contact. That is a sure way that you and your company may never another editorial opportunity in that magazine again.
This happens. As a result, editors often have to scramble to fill the open slot by contacting the most responsive company in that space to provide an article instead. It is a good goal for you and your company to become one of those "go to" companies who can save an editor's butt as needed.
Why ed cals are not reliable
Created and published late every year, the managers of these various publications are guessing what will be of prime importance to their readers the following year. as the year progress, and the world changes, the ed cals become less and less accurate. Because of that, some magazines only print three months of ed cals, some only do six month ed cals. Some have no ed cals at all.
As the ed cals need to be created in the fall or early winter for the next year, this is a great opportunity for you and your company to have impact upon the next year’s ed cal. You can have input into what your industry sector's trade magazines will be covering in the future. Send the editor in chief some ideas. Offer to do a short phone briefing session re what your company thinks will be the five most important trends and developments for the following year. Many editors welcome this opportunity to ensure that their magazine is credible and on track with their industry’s future.
If there is an industry magazine that is read by your customers but doesn’t seem to spend enough pages covering the technology sector that you lay in, this is your opportunity to make a difference and maybe sway them to your direction.
How to pitch your company or product for an editorial article
- Contact the editor to see if the opportunity is available and ask if they have selected a specific angle or narrower focus for it.
- If available, and within your areas of interest and technical expertise, create and submit a short one or two line ideas for articles. If possible, I often give them three article ideas to select from. (I have had editors say number two is great for the ed cal opportunity but they really want number three as well.)
- If requested, prepare and submit an abstract. Editors will often fine tune the abstract and suggest ideas to make it more effective for their readers.
- Create and submit article. With high res images, charts captions, etc.
Other editorial opportunities
There are many trade magazine editorial opportunities that are off ed cal. Almost every trade magazine is always looking for shorter articles that are of interest to their audience - For example, a technology magazine might be looking for 500 word “Application Updates” or “Back to Basics” articles, as well as 500-1500 words case studies or application stories. As these are not specifically called out on the ed cals, the subject is up to us.
These short articles offer a way to establish your company and its executives as thought leaders in your industry. What do you want to write about? The more timely and narrow focused the better. Many editors love short articles that provide an interesting opinion or a trend on a subject that is of interest to their writers. There is nothing wrong with a little bit of controversy.
Don’t miss out on the editorial calendars
Ed cals can be an extremely critical aspect of getting good public relations coverage for your company, its services and products. However, you need to do it right. You need to understand how each publication works its ed cal policies. Even within the publication, each editor might be differ regarding how they handle ed cal submissions and pitches.
You need to make the contact and follow-up to work to each publication’s and each editor’s preferences, topic selections and time frames in order to be successful.