PLH 69 | Get Your Brand Covered

There are a couple of things that are common with any editor in the industry. They’re very overworked and have a ton of work that they do across a lot of different things. They manage the overall editorial direction, they plan out all of the stories, they usually have multiple news stories that they have to post online every day, they’re all involved in social media, plus they travel a lot. They visit retailers, they visit trade shows, and they do a lot of speaking engagements and webcasts. At the same time, they are also getting bombarded with press releases, calls, and pitches by suppliers and, in some cases, retailers. The supplier is always pitching to them to try and get into the magazines. How does an editor-in-chief or an editor in general decide what is going to go into the magazine or on the website and what’s not going to go? Joe Tarnowski of ECRM and RangeMe takes you through an editor’s perspective of what they’re looking for and how to best get your brand covered in their magazines online or in their social media.

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I’m Joe Tarnowski with ECRM and RangeMe. Our discussion is going to be about how new and emerging brands can get their products covered in the trade media. My role at ECRM and RangeMe is the Vice President of content. I create content to help keep our customers engaged with us, as well as to bring new customers into the fold. What ECRM does is we help retailers with product discovery and category planning. We do that in two ways. One is through our in-person sessions where we bring buyers and sellers for particular categories together. We have about 65 of those sessions covering all of the categories that you would see in let’s say, CPS, grocery store or Target, except for apparel and automotive supplies, mostly fast-moving consumer goods.

RangeMe is a digital product discovery platform, which gives retailers the opportunity to do the same thing, to discover new products across all categories, 24/7, 365 days in a year. In addition to creating content for ECRM and RangeMe, what I also do is try to get coverage from us in the trade media. My background before I got into ECRM was 24 years in the trade media for a magazine called Progressive Grocer, but I’ve also written for Convenience Store News, Gourmet Retailer, Store Brands, Retail Tech, Retail Leader, and a whole bunch of retail trade publications. I’ve done this and I’ve been on the other side where I was the editor deciding whether or not I would cover a particular supply.

I’m going to take you through an editor’s perspective what they’re looking for and how to best get your product and company covered in their magazines, online, or in their social media. There’s a couple of things that are common with any editor in the industry. One, they’re very overworked. They have a ton of work that they do across a lot of different things. They manage the overall editorial direction, they plan out all of the stories, they usually have multiple news stories that they have to post online every day, they’re all involved in social media, plus they travel a lot. They visit retailers, they visit trade shows, and they do a lot of speaking engagements, webcasts. At the same time, they are also getting bombarded with press releases, calls, and pitches by suppliers and, in some cases, retailers. The supplier is always pitching to them to try and get into the magazines. How does an editor-in-chief or an editor in general decide what is going to go into the magazine or on the website, and what’s not going to go?

Relevance Is Key

There are a couple of overall guidelines if you’re looking to get into trade media. One of them is relevance. Relevance is key. If you’re not right for their audience, you’re not going to get covered. The key thing is, when an editor is looking at something that’s a potential story. That’s the first thing they’re going to think about, is this right for my audience? Is it going to help them to move their business forward in some way, shape or form? One thing that you want to do when you’re researching trade publications or trade media brands, some of them are online too, you want to check out their editorial calendars and their media kits. You can download them online. There are two things that you want to look for. One is their circulation statement. Many of the print magazines have circulation statements. In other words, a third party will evaluate their audience and break it down and tell you who it is.

In a way, it’s verified. You’ll know when they say we have these many retailers, these many CEOs, these many VPs. That’s a fact. The other thing is it’ll tell you its overall editorial direction. Who its readers are, what their intentions are as far as content. You want to get a background and you want to target those trade media brands that are reaching the audience that you want. For example, if you have a food product, you want to look for the magazines that cover food retail, like Progressive Grocer, where I used to work, Gourmet Retailer, Supermarket News or Winsight Grocery Business. There are many trade magazines. If you have a health and beauty care product, you want to target something like Drug Store News or Chain Drug Review. Food Retailers also cover health and beauty. All of them cover general merchandise products to a certain extent. You want to figure out your audience. The second part is when you’re putting together your pitch, there are a few different ways to do it. You want to keep in mind a couple of things. One, is it relevant? Two, what can you do to make the editor’s job easier or more effective?

PLH Joe Tarnowski | Get Your Brand Covered

Get Your Brand Covered: Nothing gets a retail trade media editor’s attention more than getting retailer involvement in whatever your pitch is.

Create Content That’s Going To Be Of Value

What it comes down to is creating content that’s going to be of value to them. There are a few ways that you could do this. There are a bunch of different angles that you could take. I’ll go over some of the ones that I do now with ECRM when I’m looking to get coverage in the trade media myself. As a product supplier, there are a few different things that you can take. I’m assuming a lot of you are trying to get your products into retail. Keep in mind if it’s a retail trade publication, their audience are retailers. Nothing gets a retail trade media editor’s attention more than if you can get retailer involvement in whatever your pitch is.

Get Retail Folks

For example, if you just launched a product at a retail location and that retailer is doing very well with it and they’re doing something interesting with it, trying to get the retailer to tell you a story. When you’re looking for stories to publish in the news, for example, if you look at Progressive Grocer’s website, the press releases that had retailer quotes, those are the ones that jump out and the ones that are more likely to get coverage than just a press release about yourself. Anytime that you can involve a retailer in your pitch to the trade media editors, that’s always going to help you to get coverage. That’s one of the things that’s toughest when you’re a retail trade media editor, getting retail folks. Anything you can do to help them in that area is going to increase your chances.

Make Yourself Available

The other thing is you want to make yourself available as a resource. You want to let them know who you are. You want to stay in touch with them. Every editor has an editorial calendar. That’s another thing that you should download from any of the media brands you planning to work with. Their editorial calendar, aside from the news, is the one thing that’s planned. It lets you know what categories they’re going to be covering and when they’re going to be covering. Let’s say the snack example, you see that they have a few stories around snacking throughout the year. You want to make sure that you and your company is considered as a resource when they’re getting ready to put together that story.

If the story is going to run in the June issue, whoever’s writing it is probably going to get started on that story in April or maybe even sooner. It depends on how far in advance they prefer to work. Usually, that issue is going to close and go to the printer probably no later than May. You want to be a little bit in advance and stay in touch. The other thing is how you pitch them for that story. You just don’t want to say, “I’ve got a great product.” You want to include in the story. Some features they might do on a category, they may include some new products. What you might also want to pitch them is your expertise or your ability to get them in touch with the retail that’s doing something interesting in the category.

Pitch Your Expertise

It comes back to that retail angle. If you are working with some retailers and you can get them to give editor quotes on a particular topic, that’s invaluable. You’re helping them to do some work because they won’t have to go and hunt down at retail, you’re giving it to them. The other thing is you want to give out your expertise. Let them know that you’re available as an expert on this particular category. You can give them a little background on why you are an expert in that category. If you’re new and your product’s not in retail yet, it’s going to take a little bit more work. You want to put that product out there, you want to send them a release about your product. Sometimes they do have sections of product reviews in which they feature new products that haven’t hit the market yet. That’s something that you definitely want to focus on.

The other thing, and this is important too, is when you’re framing these pitches, when you’re putting together a press release or you’re looking to get something in print, whether it’s a press release or it’s a product review, the less work that you give the editor, the greater the chances of your success. If you’re doing a press release on a new product that you launched, or maybe a success story, before you write it up, check how the trade media brand writes their news stories and writes their product reviews stories. That’s the format that you want to follow. In general, when public relations firms write up a press release, the editor, edit the crap out of them because a lot of them are salesy. We take all of that stuff out when we turn it into a new story.

Press Release Format

If you write your press releases in the format that they use for their new stories, where the editor has a cut and paste and make a few edits here, that’s gold. That’s going to save them a lot of time. Over time if you’re doing that, they’re more likely to work with you rather than sending a press release that they’re going to have to rearrange. Some of these magazines, they will have a product gallery and they’ll have a little blurb about the new product and a little information. Check how they do it in the form of that they do. The number of words that they do, the types of images that they use, and follow that. The more you can give them something that is similar to what they already do in terms of style and layout and format, it’s going to take a lot of work off their hands. They’re going to start viewing you as a valued resource instead of just somebody that’s pitching them something.

Retailer Success Stories

They like success stories but not about you, about retailers. If you land in a retailer, you can send out a release about how you’ve got on the shelf of retailer X, Y, Z and why they did it. If you can get a quote from that retailer talking about why they’re working with you and the benefits that you are delivering to their category, that’s newsworthy. They’re more likely to include something like that. You want to format that release in the same way that they format their news stories online. In general, you’ll have the retailer quote up in the front and up top, and then the information about you a little bit lower. One general rule for you to follow is you want to think in terms of them and their audience, not in terms of your product. How are you going to help the trade media best serve their audience? Any angle that you can put, if you put yourself out there as a resource to them where they know I’m doing something on this category. I can call this person and get some good information. Maybe even a retailer contact.

Expert Columns

The other way that you could do it is by expert columns. If you volunteer to write an expert column on a particular topic. These expert columns cannot be sales pitches. They have to be something that would be of value to the trade media publications audience. The value of expert columns is the fact that you’re showing your expertise in the content of that column. They will always put your photo, your bio, and your company name at the bottom of the column. The reason is people will be able to find you and reach out to you. In the expert columns, what you have to do is you want to find out what the key industry issues are that are related to your company. Write a column about what your audience can do to address that issue. It might be merchandising, something about merchandising snacks to go back to that example. It might be if you’re a health and beauty care product, a company that has natural ingredients. You might want to talk about the trend towards clean labels and why it’s important for retailers to focus on products that have clean labels. Not mentioning your product, just talking about it in general as an expert resource for the retail audience.

Expert columns cannot be sales pitches. Share on X

In doing that, you will make yourself invaluable. If you’re a small or a merchant brand, you don’t have wanting to advertise. This is all focused on content. However, while most trade media editors that I know are very good at keeping a separate wall between advertisers and content, they don’t let one influence the other. If it’s the same quality content from both suppliers and one of them is an advertiser, the one who’s advertising is going to get more attention. That’s just a fact of life when it comes to trade media. You have to give them value and you want to deliver them value. You want to help make their jobs easier because there’s so many things on their plate. There’s way too much for them to do. Anything you could do to give them back some time is going to be well appreciated.

Exclusives

Another point is exclusives. If you have some content, if you want to work with a trade media brand, if you offer them an exclusive, that is always going to get their intention. Rather than pitching something to everybody, sometimes it might be better to go deep with one particular magazine on one trade media brand. Offer something and let them know that you’re not going to offer this to anybody else. You’re going to give them the first opportunity for that. When it comes to guest columns that’s been given, they usually will not let you publish a guest column anywhere else, unless maybe it’s your own blog. Whenever you offer an exclusive, it gives them the ability to have a scoop that they’re competing trade media brands will not have.

Research

Finally, there’s research. If there’s any research that you conduct that you can share, that’s something that’ll grab their attention, too. This research cannot be too biased. Let’s go back to the snack manufacturer example. Maybe you conduct your own research using a third party firm on consumer of snacking trends. What consumers are looking for as far as clean label snacks or organic snacks. Anything way you can get third party data research data, that can make a story if you uncover some interesting trends. Research is one particular way that we work with the trade media. Let me jump into that and tell you some of the ways that we work with the trade media at ECRM.

PLH Joe Tarnowski | Get Your Brand Covered

Get Your Brand Covered: Any way you can get third party research data, that can make a story if you uncover some interesting trends.

One of the things that we do related to data is we have RangeMe. We have 130,000 suppliers and thousands of buyers on there. We can get a lot of interesting data about buyer behavior among all of these categories. We started putting together some custom research around how these buyers are navigating these different categories. What trends, which categories are getting the most interest from the buyers. What size suppliers, where the suppliers are distributed and located. A lot of great data that would be of interest to retailers that these magazines reach. Not only do we put it together, but we’ll put together the layout of the page and we’ll put together some content in there, so that when we give it to the trade media, they do not have to do any work.

Any research you conduct that you can share, that's something that'll grab their attention. Share on X

They could reproduce that page in their magazine. If they fill that page in the magazine, that means the editor does not have to fill that page with other content. If they have let’s say five pages dedicated towards cosmetics products, if I can fill up two of those pages with data that can be anywhere from 1,200 to 2,000 words that they don’t have to create. In addition to providing them with valuable content, we will aim to help them save some time too because they’re not going to have to create that content themselves. Another way that we work with retailers to get content in their magazines or on their websites is by partnering with them. We work with MMR and with Drug Store News on awards programs that are tied into our sessions.

The Buyer’s Choice Awards

On Drug Store News, not all but a bunch of our health and beauty care sessions will have what’s called the Buyer’s Choice Awards. This is a program where all of the suppliers are welcome to put their products out front in our hospitality area. It’s where throughout the session retail bars come evaluate the products and then they vote on them. They’ll choose their favorite one, based on the packaging and on the innovation of the products. Towards the end of this session, we will tally up all the votes and then we’ll have a winner and a finalist. During the cocktail hours, we’ll have an award ceremony. Following that, we will write up both of those award winners and then publish it in the trade magazines. We’re writing up the winners for them. We’re taking the work off of their editor’s hands and put it together in a format that works for them.

Fortunately, I’ve written tens of thousands of new stories in my career, so I know the format that they’re familiar with. We’re putting together the editorial for them. We’re taking the workload off the editor’s hands, gathering the photos that we need, gathering all the other information, and then sending them the completed story where it’s relevant. We’re partnering with them so it’s their award as much as it’s ours. We do the same thing with MMR for our food related sessions. These two programs are exclusive to Drug Store News and to MMR magazine. Anything that you can do partnering with a trade media brand in that way is a good way to get coverage.

Social Media

We have some other opportunities too with social media. Most of the editors that are out there are on social media. They’re on LinkedIn, they’re on Facebook. On Facebook, that’s be B2C. There are businesses on it but it’s not really known for B2C content. LinkedIn is definitely B2B. For all of you in the audience that are looking to get on to retail shelves showing you want to have a presence on the B2C because that’s where your consumers are, don’t forget your customer is also the retailer. You want to play on the B2B space too. Most of the trade media editors are on the B2B space. Some of them have some nice following on LinkedIn as well. LinkedIn is a little bit easier way to get in front of them. If you post some information about your products, you can always tag one of the editors or a bunch of the editors and make sure that they don’t miss your content. I’m going to do a whole separate thing down the road on leveraging LinkedIn for your content efforts because there’s so much that you could do on that platform.

Most editors are involved in social media. They’re on Twitter, they’re on Facebook, they’re on Instagram and they’re on LinkedIn. You want to make sure that you’re playing in that space as well. You touch them wherever you can. The good thing about LinkedIn is that you’re not going to be annoying. You don’t want to bombard an editor every two seconds talking about your products. What you do want to do is build a relationship. Sometimes it makes sense to start on LinkedIn where you could take them on one of your posts so that they are getting your information but they’re getting it passively. Let them get familiar with your brand, see what you’re doing and then WeChat or connect to them on LinkedIn. Let that transfer into your connecting with them offline.

Get To Know The Industry Editors

It never hurts to just get to know the editors in your industry. If you’re going to be in town, invite them to lunch or invite them for cocktails. Tell them, “I’m not expecting anything. I just would like to meet you and pick your brain, learn how we can help you.” Don’t call them and say, “I want to take you to lunch and pitch my product.” Tell them that you have that product, that you’re in the supplier in the industry and you want to get to know them. Learn a little bit more about how they cover the category and what you could do to help them. Put yourself out there as a resource to these editors.

What it comes down to is, one, you want to provide content that’s of value to their industry. Two, you want to make yourself a resource to the editors that you’re interested in working with. A resource that’s going to help them to better serve their readers. Not one that’s going to just pitch them products. Trade shows are another great way to meet the editors of these retail trade media pumps. You could either do that if you see them scheduling an appointment or just catching up with them. If they have photos on LinkedIn, you know what they look like. You can approach and say, “I just wanted to introduce myself. This is where I am. This is what I have. Here’s my card. If there’s any way I can help you with your content, let me know.”

You want to provide content that's of value to their industry. Share on X

Don’t do the heavy pitching. They tend not to like that, put yourself out there as a resource and help them do their jobs better, to help them better serve their readers. If you have anybody that’s part of the website, I would love to answer any questions that you might have. You could send them my email. I’d be more than happy to walk you through how you could do some of this and get yourself in front of these trade media events. Thank you very much for joining us.

Joe, it was such great information. You and I come from the same place because I do this. I write columns, I write articles, I do all of these things. You have an opportunity to be featured here as a member of Product Launch Hazzards. There is a form on the site. You will be able to fill out the form and we will evaluate you. We’ll let you know if you’re eligible for a feature, but at minimum you’re going to get to have a profile about you or your brand.

It’s a great early step if you’ve never done this before because of our process, it’s going to be very similar to what you’ll find out there, trying to get yourself featured. It’s a great way for you if you’ve never done it before, to walk through it in a safe place where I’m going to be nice to you. Try it out, check out that link. You mentioned, Joe, the trade publications of lists. That was awesome, Joe. Thank you so much for offering that. Thank you all. I’ll talk to you soon Product Launchers.

Tune in to Joe Tarnowski next Office Hours. Connect with and find out more about Joe Tarnowski in our Experts Directory.

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