Mark Your Calendars: The Ins and Outs of Pitching Events, Festivals

April 29, 2014

A festival that’s not having an anniversary, an event that’s just getting off the ground with details daily mealstill largely unknown, or a local event that’s ready to take the national spotlight…pitching events can certainly be an uphill battle, especially because every DMO has so many to promote.

Editorial space for event listings is limited to the front of book section in magazines, and briefs online and in newspapers; however, it is possible to get an event featured nationally in the news if it’s truly noteworthy.

Here is DCI’s step-by-step guide to pitching major events each year.

Step 1: The Planning Phase:

  • What are the top events for the year ahead that are of national — not just drive-market — interest? Be honest with yourself/your team about this one, as regional pitching can be done for smaller-scale events.
  • Are the exact dates and format of the event known/subject to change? Pitching an event without solid dates is definitely possible if you want to get on an editor’s radar. But, if an event is still largely in the works, and may not even happen at all, it’s best to not share dates that could then end up being incorrect. Dates should only be shared once they are 100 percent confirmed to avoid printing incorrect info. Imagine the disappointment and anger that could result if a consumer booked plane tickets and a hotel room, only to find out that the festival dates were incorrect. Instead, share a month or season, if possible.
  • Are there images/b-roll from last year’s event available to use in pitching this year? Having a photographer take high-res images and a videographer capture b-roll is imperative at a major event to generate national coverage. Events are often easiest to pitch as a grab photo and caption or slideshow, so having supportive assets is the most important piece of the pitching puzzle. In some cases, partnering with a local newspaper to share their credited images is great for DMOs who don’t have a professional photographer on staff or the budget to hire one. Pitching previews is one thing, but getting your event beyond a mention means having assets ready to go for the next morning’s news cycle while it’s still timely.

Step 2: Developing the Lists:

  • Who would be interested in attending the event? Knowing the type of consumer that might be interested in going to the event will help you decide the sort of publication to pitch to. For example, is it a food festival with high ticket prices? Targeting high-end publications that reach an affluent readership is the best way to go. Knowing the audience is as important as knowing the details of the event itself.
  • Who are the staff members that cover events at the publications you want to target? This is perhaps the trickiest part of pitching an event. VERY few publications provide titles to editors in a way that makes it clear who’s who when it comes to events. Often many reporters share the load when it comes to profiling events, or stringers gather content that an editor curates for publishing. With editors and contributors wearing many hats, it can be difficult to come up with the perfect target list. Here’s a few great contacts who we know have covered events of national interest:
      • AAA Home & Away, Bill Purpura (Ohio)
      • AAA Westways, Elizabeth Harryman (Costa Mesa, Calif.)
      • ABCNews.com, Joanna Prisco (NYC)
      • Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Southeast events only, Saria Canady (Atlanta)
      • Chicago Tribune, Phil Marty (Chicago)
      • Fodors.com, Allyson Reedy (Denver)
      • Forbes Travel Guide, DeMarco Williams (Atlanta)
      • Los Angeles Times, Jay Jones (Las Vegas)
      • National Geographic Traveler, Susan O’Keefe (Washington D.C.)
      • NY Times In Transit blog, Tanya Mohn (NYC)
      • San Francisco Chronicle, non-California events only, Jeanne Cooper (Bay Area)
      • Southwest Airlines Spirit, Todd Aaron Jensen Rentilly aka J Rentilly (Los Angeles)
      • The Daily Meal–Travel, Serusha Govender (NYC)

Step 3: Perfect Your Pitch:

  • What’s a good lead time? Knowing the approximate lead time for publications and outlets is important. For online and newspaper, at least 6-8 weeks lead time is required. For print magazines, 6-9 months in advance is recommended, and sometimes up to one year.
  • Is there an online template for a pitch? Trick question! Always customize your pitch to the publication and journalist. Make sure you provide journalists with all the event details that their publication requires by researching past event coverage, as well as sharing a link to pictures to support coverage of the event.

If you have questions or need additional information, let us know!

Written by Kate Monohan

Kate is an Account Executive in Tourism PR/Marketing. Since joining DCI in 2011, she has worked on media relations campaigns to raise awareness of the unique visitor experiences in destinations such as California, Louisville, Park City, Utah and Queensland, Australia.

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