Try this No-Fuss System for Media Planning

The most frequent question we get for #ASKAPUBLICIST is how to get started with PR and media outreach. Today, I’m going to take the mystery out of the planning process for you, so you can quickly and easily create a schedule for your media outreach.

1. Make a list of your planned launches for the next 12 months.

In just one or two mentions in the mainstream media or a popular blog, you can get the attention of millions. Include a call-to-action, and you can leverage this attention into hundreds or even thousands of new visitors checking out your website and entering your sales funnel (whether you’re asking them to sign up for your email list or buy a low-barrier product).

That’s why out of the many tangible and intangible outcomes you can achieve with PR (e.g. raising awareness around a public health issue), I recommend you link your first media plan to an event where you can measure the impact. Supporting a launch is the most effective and obvious place to start.

You can support any of the following types of launches with a planned media campaign:

  • New products (single product or entire line)
  • Services
  • Courses and masterminds
  • New website or branding
  • Live events (the closing date of a long-term event like an art installation also works!)
  • Online summits
  • Published papers or books

Once you have a list going, do a quick ranking of your launches in terms of your overall business objectives. You might consider how each launch will help:

  • Drive revenue.
  • Attract new fans and supporters.
  • Generate excitement and interest among your current fans and supporters.
  • Get the attention of conference organizers, publishers and other partners.

2. Consider special opportunities around holidays and observances.

Not all businesses will have a variety of big launches in a single calendar year. Maybe you’re a jewelry designer, who introduces one new line a year or adds new product only as you feel called to create. Or you run a signature program twice a year, and your biggest objective is to grow your list steadily in 2014.

Another way to plan out your year is to leapfrog off the media’s tendency to run coverage around holidays and observances. Does your business have a obvious or witty tie-in to the media’s holiday coverage? You might start by looking at:

  • New Year’s
  • Martin Luther King Day
  • Groundhog Day
  • Chinese New Year
  • Valentine’s Day
  • Cinco de Mayo
  • Mother’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Father’s Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving
  • Holiday season
  • Any of the four equinoxes

You can also look up the special observance days throughout the year. America Recycles Day is a great fit for the right business.

The same goes for awareness months, of which there are too many to list. A few of my personal (and less well-known) favorites are:

  • Mentoring Month
  • National Financial Literacy Month
  • Great Outdoors Month

Tying your message to a holiday, season (e.g. Back to School), or awareness month is an easy way to convince a reporter, editor or producer that your story is relevant now.

Finally, don’t forget your own business milestones — like the anniversary of your founding or the second printing of your book.

3. Commit to supporting 1-3 launches or seasonal opportunities.

At this point, you’re probably looking at a long list of media opportunities. That’s great! Now it’s time to prioritize.

Start by reviewing the rankings you already created for your launches and your list of seasonal opportunities. Identify any natural pairings (like releasing a self improvement book in January or a new line of stationery in time for Mother’s Day) that will make your media pitch stronger.

When you find synergies like this, you’ve hit media gold. But if your biggest launch doesn’t have an easy tie-in to a holiday or observance, don’t sweat it. Above all, your media outreach should support your bottom line, not the other way around.

4. Plot out lead times, and schedule the start of each media campaign.

If I can leave you with one word of advice, it’s this:

Do not leave your media outreach to the last minute!!

You’ll want to allow at least one month for planning and research and another month to implement your campaign. This timeline is the same whether you hire out the work or do it yourself.

On top of these two months, you also need to allow for lead times. This is especially important for print media. With a blog or TV placement, you might be able to get away with sending in your story idea just a few weeks before you want the placement to appear. This is not the case with print media — especially magazines.

In lifestyle publications that are published monthly (think Real Simple, Sunset, Cooking Light, etc), all the stories and articles are finished 6 months in advance. This means that if you want to get featured just before a launch in September, you need to send in your pitch in March.

Business publications typically don’t work with such long lead times. If you want to work with a magazine like Fast Company, Entrepreneur or Wired, you can get away with pitching your story 4 months in advance. Send an idea in February and you could make your way into the June issue.

For all other media, I typically recommend connecting roughly a month in advance of when you want the story to appear. This includes blogs and exclusive online content for publications like Forbes and Inc.

Add these deadlines to your calendar, so you don’t miss a single opportunity to spread your message far-and-wide.

Before we go, I want to leave you with just one more resource. This is a sample media calendar for the month of March, so you can see how I plot out all these elements for my own business and our clients.

Sample Media Calendar

You’re also welcome to download the PDF version to save for your own use.