DIY PR Tip: Lead Time & When to Pitch

In PR, we celebrate Christmas in July. Why? Because the most coveted holiday gift guide features are decided six months in advance. This little-known industry secret is called lead time.

Lead time is the amount of time between when the writer starts working on the story/submits a story and when it is published. During this time, the story is also edited and fact-checked.

Lead time matters a lot in PR, not only for publishers but also for your PR strategy.

Generally, it’s better to err on the side of caution and pitch early. The worst that can happen if you are too early is someone will tell you to send it again closer to date.

But when exactly is “early?” That answer depends on the type of media or publication you are trying to reach.

Lead Time: 4-6 Months

National print magazines work four to six months in advance. If you are pitching a story, four months is reasonable. But if you are pitching a product, especially for a holiday gift guide, that is the one time that you really need to be thinking about six months ahead because editors have to go through so much information.

Lead Time: 2-3 Months

Regional magazines typically work two to three months in advance. These are the magazines focused on news about your city or state.

To put this in terms of the three biggest gift-giving holidays: regional magazines start to collect items for Mother’s day in February/March, Father’s Day in March/April and Christmas in September.

Lead Time: 1-2 Months

National online magazines work one to two months in advance. Many national magazines like Vogue or Elle will have an online version of the publication. They typically publish more content online to keep their website fresh, even if that content doesn’t make it in their print magazine.

To get published in online magazines for Mother’s Day, start to pitch in March; for Father’s Day, pitch in April; and for Christmas pitch in October.

Lead Time: 1 Month

With just a month left, you can still get good PR coverage on regional TV, newspapers and daily online publications—but the clock is ticking.

Send your gift guide pitches for Mother’s Day in April, Father’s Day in May, and Christmas in November, preferably before Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Something to keep in mind for TV is you can start letting them know as early as you like, but most of the time they don’t make a decision till the day of. The only exception is morning shows like Good Day Austin which will book guests ahead of time.

Lead Time: Less Than 1 Month

It never hurts to ask, but focus any last minute pitches on daily publications. If you find yourself hoping for major national PR within a short time frame, it might be better to back up and go for plan B: think of what will be relevant in six months.

PR is a marathon, not a sprint. If you put more time into your PR strategy, you’ll get better results.