Every year around this time I share the same warning about holiday pitches: get those ideas out now!
I spent a decade working on holiday programming for a major lifestyle show and we would start planning our holiday schedule in August.
Here are all the things working against you if you're trying to get media exposure during the holidays.
It's year-end for everyone. December is a high-spend month, and there isn't a single industry that is not trying to capture this movement of money. Businesses prioritize their PR and ad dollars for this final quarter vying for media attention
It's year-end for media too. Brand integrations tend to take up a lot of available segments. This is becoming a major income source for media.
Special programming and holiday schedules. Studio-based lifestyle shows can go into repeats. Even morning news shows will reair segments so they can run on a scaled-back staff during the holiday season
It sounds bleak, scarcity always does. But there are some things you can do about it. Here's how we guide our clients through the most challenging pitch cycle of the year.
IT'S NEVER TOO EARLY TO PITCH HOLIDAY CONTENT
I know, it's annoying to see Christmas decor in stores as early as back-to-school season. Instead of wishing people would wait until after Remembrance Day to roll out the holidays, see this as a sign of when you should start thinking of your holiday pitches.
Use this as research. What are some of the dominant themes this year? What does holiday prep feel like in your household? Open yourself up to how the holidays are going to hit in this current climate. There will still be the same traditions, but the outside world will give it a distinct look and feel. Gather this information as deep background for your ideas as soon as you see that first hint of ribbon and evergreen on store shelves.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
Do a brain dump of ideas for the holidays. Don't worry about if their cliched or not. Nostalgia and familiarity are big aspects of holiday programming. These themes are built into your DNA. This first part of the exercise is to bring these ideas to the surface.
Now go back to this list of ideas and see it through the lens of "what is different about this idea this year?" This lens is what you built paying close attention to what's happening in the world in the months leading up to this point. How will inflation affect holiday entertaining? What about war?
On the other side of the spectrum is pop culture. What major trends can you add to your original ideas to make them current?
KEY QUESTIONS TO ELEVATE ANY PITCH
When programming a lifestyle talk show, I both loved and hated holiday programming. We had boxed ourselves into familiar programming notes: the 10 Days of Giveaways, meaningful outdoor makeover, the Gingerbread Showdown. And every year we had to find ways to offer the familiar, but change it enough to make it feel new and special.
There are key questions we would ask to find these new angles. And they're key questions I ask clients as we work to sharpen their pitches:
Who am I to present this? What unique perspective can I put on this to make it personal. We're all individuals and products of our own experience. Lean into this to find the uniqueness of your idea
What new thing can I bring to this idea? Is there a new product to make holiday drinks easier or more special?
How do I want to change things for the better for people? This question is a great launching point for any pitch any time of year. But especially with holiday programming, there's a real push to end the year on a high note. No matter how you celebrate.
PLANT SEEDS FOR THE NEW YEAR
Remember the vacation schedules affecting how many TV spots are available? Well those vacation schedules affect guest bookings clear into January.
For the rest of the year, focus on evergreen pitches. Think of an evergreen pitch like an undecorated Christmas tree. It's a great idea that stands on its own regardless of a holiday hook. It can be programmed at any time, which means it can be pitched at any time.
This past January, McEwen Media clients were booked and busy. We had our busiest month and it was all from ideas we pitched in October and November.
By all means, send your highly focused and specialized holiday pitches. But also include an evergreen idea. You never know when a show wants a break from holiday content in December, or when they just need good ideas for early January.