An editorial calendar is as close to a free lunch as you get in the PR business: A freely accessible list of what stories specific writers will be doing in the coming months. But as free lunches go, it’s kind of skimpy. Most edit calendar topics are impossibly vague, because the assigning editor can’t come up with a detailed story idea months before it will run.
Here are some tips, though, for making the most of these editorial calendar tidbits:
Pitch story angles, not just subject matter experts: When choosing the overall topic for an edit calendar listing, the editor has to stay very broad ("trends in networked storage," "keeping customer data safe," etc.) Six to eight weeks before deadline they need a specific, newsworthy angle for the assignment. Have a heart-to-heart with your client and push them for a genuinely new trend or angle that readers of the target pub will find interesting. Read six to eight issues of the target pub first so you can steer your client away from topics the pub has already covered.
Check out your reference customers before referring them: One major vendor recently referred me to a customer to talk about their experience with an emerging technology. Once we got on the phone, the customer not only told me they weren’t using the new product, but were downright skeptical of it. Needless to say, this didn’t say much for the vendor’s technology (or the quality of their internal or external PR.)
Don’t pass off a vendor or a reseller as a reference customer. All too often, vendors refer me to "customers" who turn out to be resellers or OEMs. I interview customers to get unbiased, independent feedback on a vendor, a product or a service. A reseller or an OEM has, by definition, a vested financial interest in the success of the vendor or product. Deciphering the true relationship of the source to the vendor wastes everyone’s time, and the attempted switcheroo leaves a bad taste in the reporter’s mouth.
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