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April 13, 2006

Pitching lifestyle magazines and Marie Claire denial

Thursday, April 13, 2006
I attended a Bulldog Reporter Media Relations 2006 class called "How to get featured in leading lifestyle magazines" on Tuesday afternoon. Held at the Marriott Marquee in Times Square the Q&A panel with lifestyle editors from Shape, Fitness, Essence and Marie Claire were on hand to provide insight. I was hoping the class would be useful for getting my two new female orientated and consumer driven clients covered by major lifestyle publications. Unfortunately it was unhelpful.

It wasn't that the editors weren't trying to be helpful to us "PR flacks" but I didn't learn anything that I didn't already know from pitching my own stories to editors during graduate school. They also didn't have a grasp on what public relations really is and what we do. The rest of their advice was common sense too since each editor said that PR people should check their outdated, unimaginative and unhelpful editorial calendars online and that we should pitch something "new"--no shit. Something "new," hmm why did I not think a reporter would want to cover something new before?

The panel did highlight that they are more likely to respond to pitches that are specific and that they are not interested in general briefings but rather are interested in hearing something in particular--something new. Plus they recommended using clear subject lines in emails and not jokes or "cute" or vague titles like "Not an average press release."

The editors also mentioned that they are more responsive to freshly presented information in new ways. Thus sending nicknack's or a sample of your actual product can help keep you at the top of their minds since they will see the items in their office. However, that doesn't help for my clients who have websites and not a physical product outside of their sites. Unless we whip up some chatski with their URL on it. Such bribery, *sigh*. It does work though, I fell for it often enough when I was assigning/covering stories.

A helpful but another obvious tip that they recommended is to think seasonally and about the trends that occur during the months, IE they typically cover weight loss in June and July since it's swim suit time as well as in January after the holiday feasting. However, although it's only April now most of them are already thinking about their Fall issues and back to school. Thus, planning ahead for long leads is important.

Away from pitching, Marie Claire's Senior Editor Julia Savacool, who was on the panel, kept telling the audience that her publication's readers are activists and that she's only interested in receiving information regarding "hard-hitting" global, social issues important to women, non profit organizations, diseases in Africa and so on. Activists? I was soo tempted to raise my hand and say, "I'm sorry but are we reading the same magazine?" I didn't want to be rude though. I'm holding May's issue of Marie Claire right now, which is dubbed "The Hair Issue" and highlights (no pun intended) include "20 Best Cuts for Your Face Shape," "Your Best Body By Summer," "Celeb Gossip: Why You Need More! More! More!" and a bonus pull-out haircut guide. Hmm very hard hitting, trumps illegal immigration any day.

Don't get me wrong I'm a subscriber, you can't beat thier subscription offer of $1 an issue, but when I think Marie Claire I think of it as a pretty fashion/female magazine and turn to my copies of Newsweek, New York Magazine, Vanity Fair or even Redbook before MC for more hard hitting articles. I'm not saying it's Shop magazine, but when I think of female activists I do not picture them carrying around an issue of Marie Claire in their recyclable made back packs.

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