This time of year, one of the best ways to drum up awareness – and keep those registers ringing – is to get into a holiday gift guide. Y’know, those handy “cheat sheets” featured in magazines, newspapers, TV news programs and online media outlets, full of cool ideas for everyone from your wanderlust cousin to your kid’s science teacher. The challenge: You’ll be up against countless other companies vying to get some earned holiday ink. Some help getting your PR pitch to stand out from the crowd couldn’t hurt.

But first: What should you have in your holiday gift guide pitch? Besides the name of the product or service and a description, you should include who would be the ideal gift recipient, since these guides are usually sorted into categories. The frequent traveler? The green thumb? The bachelor? Other essentials: price, where to buy, your website address and a link to the product on your site (which hopefully has more information and a photo). Also keep in mind many journalists prefer not to receive attachments unless they specifically request it.

Once you’ve perfected your pitch, here are five ways to boost your chances of getting featured in a holiday gift guide.

Time it right. While it’s too late for magazines (which start putting together their holiday issues in the summer!), there’s still time to reach out to weekly and daily media outlets, and of course websites. Weekly press typically suss out products for their holiday sections about two months in advance (so, now!), while the dailies and websites start getting into the gift guide mindset during the first and second week of November. TV programs often start airing holiday “must-have” segments in early December.

Focus on budget price points. With the economy still on the skids, budget-friendly gifts continue to be an important selling point. For example, in recent years Real Simple magazine has narrowed their gift guide focus to featuring only products that cost $50 or less.

Be proud that you’re a small business. Many media outlets like to highlight interesting items that you can’t get at your local Target or Walmart. Similarly, they often prefer local or unique brands over mass-merchandise labels. Use phrases like “family-owned,” “locally produced,” “handcrafted” and/or “made in the USA” to drive home the small business angle.

Help a cause. Who doesn’t want to buy a gift – or receive one, for that matter – in which a portion of the purchase price is given to a charity? It’s a common, yet always popular, holiday promotion strategy that the press loves.

Check HARO for gift guide requests. Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a well-known – and free – online network that connects journalists with sources for specific stories. Reporters submit a query with a description of their story and what they’re looking for, and HARO aggregates these queries into daily emails that are sent to its subscriber base of potential sources (e.g., PR professionals like me and businesses like you who might be able to help). I see queries for gift guide ideas at least a few times a week now, and it’s only going to increase as we get closer to the holidays. A few last tips: A high-quality photo of your product can increase your chances of making the final cut; having it set against a plain white background is the most versatile. Also, make sure that the product(s) you’re pitching can be easily shipped. Some media outlets prefer to photograph their gift guide items in-house, and if it’s TV, they probably want to show it off in the studio. Have you been featured in a holiday gift guide? Share how you got in!

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