The holiday season’s spirit of gift shopping and giving is a prime opportunity for startup brands to showcase their products as must-haves in gift idea lists and holiday segments. Here are some guidelines to help you get featured by PR reps, bloggers, and even other brands during the holidays. They are strategies I have successfully pursued in marketing my children’s hat line.
Create and Photograph Holiday-Oriented Products
The first step to attracting PR during the holidays is creating great products that are appropriate for the season. Before shoppers even think about trimming their Christmas trees, have your holiday product line stocked, photographed, and ready to share with bloggers and PR reps.
If you retail, make a schedule of all major holidays, such as Hanukkah, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day . These are the times when publications and media are searching for brands to promote in holiday gift guides. On Help a Reporter Out, reporters and lifestyle experts submit lifestyle and fitness queries, calling for products to include in gift guides from September onwards.
If you wholesale, buyers from boutiques and specialty stores will also be looking for additional brands to carry around Christmas time weeks in advance. Knowing holiday market dates, you can schedule your production accordingly.
Once you have samples ready, have fun styling your products for a holiday photo shoot. Go for lifestyle shots that capture the spirit of the season and effectively demonstrate how customers will use the item. With beautiful images ready to publish, you can look for PR opportunities.
Pinpoint Press and Cross-Marketing Opportunities
Hopefully over the course of the year, you have compiled a running list of events, magazines, brands, and bloggers that you want to work with or get featured in. When the holidays roll around, you can contact them to pitch your product, or check their websites or social media accounts to see if they’ve already posted a call for submissions.
Reporters on HARO can post queries anonymously, but the best ones give you a concise description of their viewers and product category. If your pitch is accepted, your product or brand can be featured in a national magazine or TV segment. HARO also accepts reporter queries for gift bag items for fundraisers and high profile celebrity events. These requests might be fitting if you produce a large volume of small items that can fit in swag bags or have a budget for promotional materials.
Brands seeking to expand their customer base will sometimes post cross-marketing opportunities on social media. This past Black Friday, modern apparel brand, Whistle & Flute, used Instagram to post a call for brands who want to participate in their blog’s shopping guide. Other brands typically apply to such opportunities through email (with festive holiday images attached) or online application. If selected, you share the complete gift guide that includes a community of online brands on your own social media accounts. By offering collective discounts, you create value for your followers and simultaneously get promoted by other brands, extending your customer reach. You may not be able to afford a $2,000 dollar giveaway on your own, but by partnering with other brands you can even offer a grand prize.
Supporting local events and charity functions is another way to promote your business before thousands of potential customers. If you are a startup, you may not be able to sponsor an event, but you can expose your products to high earners and generate goodwill through in-kind contributions. In-Kindness matches businesses with established charity silent auctions that raise money for various nonprofits. They send you a list of charity events from which you can choose to donate to, and they arrange all the logistics such as delivery of the item and proper attribution of your business in event materials.
Pitch Your Products and Include Free Samples
Once you have pinpointed where to promote your brand, send out your pitch. Instead of beginning your pitch with what you do, be interesting by opening with why and how you do what you do. Also tailor your message to the specific publisher. I keep my pitch ready to go in a Google Doc, complete with our brand’s mission and all the answers to frequently asked questions.
Offer to send a free sample in exchange for including your product in a feature. The secret of attracting PR during the holidays is joining in the spirit of giving. Giving a gift will help you access celebrities, print publications, and lifestyle bloggers whom you would normally have to pay to promote your products. As a maker, your unique product is your best resource to leverage.
Be strategic about who you choose to send free samples to. The biggest challenge for a new brand is exposure, and most people are skeptical about trying new things. The best option is to approach trendsetters who enjoy being first to try new product and actively share their tastes on social media outlets like Instagram and Snapchat. They should have successfully amassed followers, fans, and readers. You’ll also want to research the publisher’s brand and customer. Ask yourself: Are we trying to reach the same audience? Does my product fit their audience’s lifestyle and interests?
Above all, keep the hopefulness of the holidays in mind. You may write a few pitches and get rejected or, worse, no response before you get any bites. Chin up. You’re an entrepreneur. So keep learning, trying, and making for next year.
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