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Take a Look at Editorial Calendars When Pitching Your Utility

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Andy Gotlieb's picture
Editor of a specialty publication, former public relations practitioner Freelancer

I hold 34 years of experience in communications, mostly in journalism, with a decade in public relations, too.  The first 17 years were spent in print journalism, where I covered, at various...

  • Member since 2016
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  • Dec 8, 2021

Given that we’re about three weeks from the start of 2022, now’s a good time for your utility’s public relations team to be thinking about the calendar.

As in editorial calendar.

Nearly every publication or publication website (and even some radio and television outlets) produces an editorial calendar each year. The calendars detail what “special sections” are planned throughout the year.

These special sections are typically based on a theme and are designed to appeal to advertisers of various business segments. They do that by offering that placement in content pages in the same sphere as their business. The idea is that readers of those articles will be likely advertising targets.

For example, a newspaper that plans to publish a special section devoted to clothing would be trying to land ads from department stores, specialty retailers and so on.

Or a publication that’s working on a food-themed section would be likely to attract supermarkets, restaurants, gourmet stores, wine shops and the like.

When you’re dealing with trade publications, it should be pretty easy to see where your utility best fits – and probably fits to some extent in most special sections. If you have a strong working relationship with the trade pubs most important to you, consider suggesting ideas (ones where you are a strong fit, obviously) for future special sections. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

It’s not as clear-cut in dealing with mainstream and/or more general publications. That’s because there won’t be as many direct fits for your utility.

So, this is where you need to be creative and come up with ways to make your utility relevant on topics that, on the surface, seem like unlikely fits.

For example, consumer-centric special sections can be a good fit for a utility, since media outlets are always on the lookout for stories on how readers can save money on their power bills. Whether it’s through energy-efficient appliances, new windows or switching suppliers, utilities have much to offer on this topic.

Around this time of year, holiday-themed special sections are common. You might be able to get into that section on a story about holiday lights and displaying – noting that a household that adds a few strands of Christmas lights outside their house isn’t going to see a significant change in its monthly power bill.

Meantime, a few months from now, spring gardening sections will be all the rage. That’s the perfect time to dust off your evergreen release about how people need to be cautious where they dig, lest they hit buried cables, or how they need to take care in trimming trees and shrubs when power lines are nearby.

In the same vein, there might be possibilities with a home improvement special section. Your utility personnel could talk about the pros and cons of upgrading a home electrical panel and what costs might be incurred.

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. Depending upon the section, there surely are other possibilities. As always, it can’t hurt to make at least a few judicious pitches. Remember that pitching stories is akin to cold-call sales; your success rate is going to be low, so don’t be discouraged by a few rejections.

Once you’re armed with story ideas, it’s time to start pitching. Be sure to pitch well in advance of the section’s publication date because those deadlines for both advertising and content are often far before when they are printed and distributed.

Don’t be the clueless PR person who calls an editor mere days before the section is set to publish. You literally need to call months in advance.

As someone who once was his publication’s special sections editor, I can tell you that if you come up with good ideas, they’ll at least be considered. Editors regularly have trouble scraping together ideas for these sections.

While publications may talk all high and mighty about the importance of serving readers, these sections are merely created to sell advertising. If they serve the public interest, all the better, but many editors consider them a nuisance and will latch onto any half-decent ideas just to move on to something more interesting.

Given that many PR people are clueless about how publications work, this is a great chance for you to get ahead of the crowd by providing content that the media actually wants. Public relations opportunities present themselves in many ways, so you must try to take advantage of all the available avenues.

Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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