As companies plan content, many use a calendar. And so do publications. Some publish an editorial calendar. In B2B public relations, we use these to help us understand what a publication plans to cover so we can place stories for clients by pitching the media. (Here’s an example.)
But, do publications adhere strictly to the editorial calendars they publish?
It’s All About Trends
Years ago, editors seemed to follow editorial calendars much more closely. For example, when I worked at an agency, we’d spend hours compiling relevant opportunities from them into spreadsheets for our clients. We used these to guide our pitching efforts.
Over time, adherence to editorial calendars has declined. As social media and digital publishing sped up the timeline of breaking news stories, publications were forced to abandon planning too far ahead. Trends could pop up that editors couldn’t foresee.
So, it seems that editorial calendars are followed less closely these days. My experience as a PR consultant tells me that editors will accept good story ideas anytime, whether or not they fit into their published calendar.
What Do Editors Say?
I wondered what the editors themselves might say, so I turned to Twitter to ask this question:
“Editor friends – do you stick to your editorial calendars? Or are you open to stories and contributed articles that fall outside it?”
Here are some of the responses I received:
- “You miss out on great stuff if you’re cemented to that schedule. I’ll always make a great idea work.”
- “Back in the day when I was a business magazine editor, I took good ideas whenever from wherever. I never made promises on when something might be written or run, but things fell through all the time and having an ongoing list of possibilities saved my sanity and the magazine many times.”
- “Love an editorial calendar, but always happy to shift around for news/timely events and good pitches.”
Based on these, we can see that a good story idea is a good story idea, regardless of what editors may have planned.
Another anecdote that supports this thinking comes from a recent call I had with the editor of a trade publication for a client in the manufacturing space. He told me that while they try to follow their published editorial calendar to some extent, we shouldn’t hesitate to send them stories, press releases or content we think may interest their readers. If a piece of news is compelling, they’ll find a place for it.
Given this, it’s important to keep in mind that while these editorial calendars can serve as a guideline regarding the themes a publication may be looking for, it’s wise not to get too focused on them when pitching the media.
Tips to Help as You Develop Story Ideas to Pitch Editors
Don’t limit yourself when brainstorming ideas for stories or contributed articles you could pitch or write. Here are some suggestions to help as you work on story ideas to pitch to editors:
- Create a story bank: When I work with clients on B2B PR initiatives, I like to set up a story bank for them. We use a Google sheet to store ideas that may turn into good pitches. We list resources, like interviewees, documentation, possible imagery we could include, and so on. This can help you keep track of all the stories you’ve developed and pitched so you can revisit and potentially plug the ideas into other initiatives you may be working on. You never know when the ideal opportunity will present itself. One note here: Images are playing a more pivotal role for publications. Plan to capture compelling images, be they still or video, whenever possible.
- File news stories that spark ideas: Whenever you see a story in the news that spurs an idea, save it in a file. Discuss it with your PR team to see if there are angles you can flesh out and pitch from your perspective. Get creative. Maybe you can come up with tangential topics that play off a story you’ve seen.
- Watch for industry trends: What’s happening in your industry? What issues might your leadership team have a unique perspective on? Trending topics can be valuable for thought leadership and make for a strong contributed article program for B2B clients, a vital part of an earned media effort. What is a contributed article? I delve more into this in this article (How Contributed Articles Can Boost Your PR Program), but there are steps you can follow to get this rolling and keep the momentum going by pitching, placing and writing contributed articles on industry trends. Contributed content can leverage existing articles you’ve written for your blog, for example, or it can be something new you’ve written especially for a particular publication you might want to be seen in.
- Talk with your sales team: Your sales team can be a rich source of story ideas for your media pitches. They know which customers have recently signed on, which are purchasing additional products or solutions, which are using your solutions to make substantive changes and improvements in what they offer, and which are enthusiastic about your company. Highlighting happy customers can help you build a credible reputation in your industry.
- Research a publication or reporter you think would be a good fit for your story: If there’s a publication you want to be featured in, do some reading to see what types of stories they publish. This might inspire an idea for a story you could develop and pitch. The same goes for a journalist whose work you admire. Knowing whom you’re pitching makes it much easier to develop a pitch that may be a fit.
- Create your own editorial calendar: If you’re trying to create your own editorial calendar for content you want to publish on your site and social media channels, here are some suggestions and tools you can try in this comprehensive article by the Content Marketing Institute: Editorial Calendar Tools and Templates To Help You Master Your Content To-Do List.
- Leverage their editorial calendar – when it works to your advantage: There are occasions when, in spite of your best efforts, you’ve failed to capture an editor’s attention with your pitches. That’s when the editorial calendar might be useful. Here’s an example: Maybe you’ve tried pitching a story you feel would be a good fit, but you haven’t referenced their calendar to see what themes they have coming up. You could try to match up your story with a topic on their calendar. Then, pitch it that way: “I see you have a story on conveyors coming up in your Dec. issue. I have a client with a (product/solution/customer) that would be a great fit.” Then, share your pitch, making it clear why this would, in fact, fit in well with what they already have planned.
When Pitching the Media, a Good Story Matters Most
Public relations is an ongoing effort, so just because one story idea didn’t land, that doesn’t mean the next one won’t.
If you continually work on developing story ideas that could turn into pitches to interest the media, you’re sure to land on some that will spark journalists’ interest.
Looking to up your PR game? Need help with your media relations efforts? Learn more about my public relations consulting and writing services here.
100% of this blog post was written by me, the human.
About the author: Michelle Garrett is a PR consultant, writer, and speaker who helps B2B businesses create content, earn media coverage, and position themselves as thought leaders in their industry. Michelle’s articles have been featured in Entrepreneur, Muck Rack and Ragan’s PR Daily, among others. She’s the founder and host of #FreelanceChat on Twitter, a co-host of #PRLunchHour on Twitter Spaces, and a frequent speaker on public relations. Michelle was named among the top ten most influential PR professionals in 2021 and 2022.