How to get your product featured in a Christmas gift guide

Jul 26, 2022 | Etsy, Marketing, Small Business Life

Having your items included in a Christmas gift guide is SUCH a no-brainer for marketing your Etsy business… or any product-based business.
Publicity like that can really catapult your business, for relatively little work.

Truth is, the sooner small business owners can think about this in the summer months, the better. July/ August is definitely about right, timing-wise, and I wouldn’t leave it later than the very start of September, unless you want to try and capitalise on possible last-minute gaps.
Follow these steps, and then apply the same strategy later a few weeks later, ready for potential feature in online gift guides and social accounts, doing their gift round-ups.

I speak from experience, as I worked in magazine publishing for getting on for 20 years. I was a journalist, editor and brand manager for a range of crafts and women’s magazine titles.
Ones which featured gift guides every year. And of course, provided publicity editorials for many, many small business’ products… every single issue of the year.

Product publicity is for life, not just for Christmas.
But it’s extra-powerful at Christmas 😉

If you don’t do anything else, remember that if you’re helping the journalist out, you’re more likely to be featured.
Editors have tight timescales. And they do not need hassle – gift guides aren’t at all easy to put together, so as a small business owner, you can use these tips to make the journalist’s life easier.
And they’ll be quick to put your product higher up their selection list.

This article will help you to reach out to the right person, compose your own press release and covering email, all WITHOUT the need for an expensive PR agency.
Work smart, not hard, to grow your business visibility!

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My top 6 recommendations to be featured go like this:

  1. Start with a bit of research.

If you fancy having your small business’ product featured, begin by referring back to your Dream Customer profile. I go on about this (a lot), as it helps you understand EXACTLY who your products will suit… how exactly you’ll compete in your niche… how exactly you can improve your marketing messaging.
Get. Targeted.
If you need to work on this, to pinpoint your Dream Customer in more detail, click to read this article.

This level of laser-focus on a small group (or even better, on one single person) stands you in good stead to approach the most suitable publications and/ or blogs for the editorial press coverage.

Do your research on them, especially their different audiences – remembering that their actual audience might vary from what you think it is. So don’t assume.
You’ll have a far greater chance of success and will waste less effort, by prioritising your press release in the right direction.
The more overlap between your ideal audience and their (actual) audience, the better. Similarly, if they have a specific theme(s) for their gift guide.

Align the product you want to give the visibility to with their feature.
A press release that doesn’t align is going to quickly end up in their recycling bin.

Lisa from Stylish Home Signs had one of her gift items featured in Baking Heaven magazine last year:
“We heard this magazine was looking for unusual gifts, so we sent off a photo and a small email to them and it worked! It was a thrill for a small family business like ours to be featured in a magazine for the first time, and alongside John Lewis’ products!”
The Baking Heaven was a great fit specifically for Lisa’s personalised baking box design, a perfect pressie for fans of cupcakes, cookies and cobblers. Aligned 😉

In summary: Do the prep, so you can focus on titles that have greatest cross-over for your brand.

2. Speak with the right person.

Google is your friend. Find the email address specifically of the editorial department for that magazine publication, or of the ‘press features’ inbox for the blog.
Even better if you can find the name of the person who’d be most likely to be compiling the gift guide.
(For big magazine brands, look for the Features Editor or News Editor.
For smaller, niche or local magazine brands, try a Production Editor, News Editor or Editorial Assistant.)

Ending up in the right inbox will 100% matter.
Sad indictment: journalists are stretched thin, so a random scattergun approach means a lot of publicity pitches by small business owners flop.

In summary: A small business email popping into the general mailbox is more likely to be lost among every other reader letter and spam message. Take a personal approach.

3. Use a subject line that spells. it. out.

On a similar note to point 2, be super-obvious with your email subject line.
Editorial magazine staff get squillions of emails every day. Literally.
Same for bloggers (even ones using spam filters!).

Your clever email that doesn’t scream what obvious-goodness it has inside can easily get overlooked in their deadline frenzy. Don’t slip under the radar.
Forget about creatively worded emails, which won’t ever show up in their inbox filter or their search. Just say what your email is for:
“PR Product feature for Christmas Gift Guide: necklace for a pet lover”.
< Insert the type of item you want to be featured, as appropriate >

In summary: Don’t try to be creative or fancy. Aim to get your message opened.

OK, you got into the right person’s inbox at the right publication…
Let’s make sure they read it.

4. A covering email is smart if it’s brief and to the point.

Just stick to the point.
That point being that you have a product, and they have a gift guide. And the press release will tell them about it.

Start the email using your chosen person’s name and refer to their magazine too. (You did the sleuthing for a reason, didn’t you?)
This covering letter is to demonstrate how come your messaging them – not some other magazine – and you’re confident your press release will be relevant to them.
It’s not to sell the item; that can come across as a bit desperate.

In summary: Write a COVERING letter, not a repetition of the press release itself.

5. High-resolution images are the deal-breaker.

The best lesson in ‘give the journalist what they need’ is… a decent photo.

It doesn’t mean a beautifully styled, professional location shot. Usually gift guide editors need a super-simple photo, what’s known as a cutout.
It’s only the item. No textured background, no props, no gift wrap. Definitely not your business logo. No filters or edits, or photoshoppery.

A simple photo. (Even your phone camera is good enough for that.)
Ok, if you have a fancy lifestyle-styled shot on location, but that would be best as a 2nd additional shot.

Save TWO versions, like this:
  JPG or TIFF. 300dpi is a must. Typical file size 1-2MB, no bigger.
Upload that one to a fileshare server (making sure the link won’t expire please!)
  Exact same image, as a JPG, this time saved as low-resolution so it’s only a few KB.
This is the one to attach to your email, so they can preview before downloading.

Don’t ever be tempted to embed images into a Word .doc or a website. They’re unusable and wasting people’s time.

festive flowers from By The Sea florist in Wales, for a magazine press feature

Marie of By The Sea flowers, in Pembrokeshire, Wales says: “One of the best decisions I made was to invest in a photo shoot of my flowers. Being able to send professionally shot, high-resolution images meant that I was picked up by pretty much all the publications I sent them to. I had editorial coverage in many wedding magazines, as well as some craft titles, which really boosted my profile. From this, I was contacted by Coast magazine, who ran a four-page feature on my floristry workshops!”

If they want a styled image, they’ll be ahead of the game enough to a) ask you for one, or b) ask you to send a product sample so they can set up their own photo shoot.

Whether it’s for a Christmas gift guide or other editorial press coverage – the picture is the gamechanger 😉

In summary: High-resolution photographs on a plain white background and with minimal shadows, are prioritised for press product features.

6. Follow these ‘dos & donts’ for your DIY press release.

A short Word .doc is all that’s needed – one product per press release, per magazine/ blog.
Write it in the 3rd person, and leave the excess words out… so all that stuff about your backstory, your passion, your inspiration… it’s not needed for this type of feature.
Get savvy by tailoring your press release to cover just what’s needed, and don’t overcook it.

Plan out which product to submit to which editorial gift guide, and change up the wording for each press release to suit. Here are the elements you’ll need, in order:

  • Functional heading
    eg Sweet Christmas gift idea, for adventurous foodies
  • 1 or 2 sentences that say why your gift is a must-buy for their reader
    TIP! Approach this by saying how your product makes a meaningful difference to a person’s life.
  • Subheading: state the product name, reference code (if applicable) and price
  • Add a few (around 5?) bullet points, to cover the product features
    eg How many colours are available? What materials is it made from ? How is it unique/ different from others on the market? Can it be personalised? etc
  • 1 sentence as a recap/ extra oomph, to describe a key benefit of the item or to provide more context
    eg explain why it matters that you designed it that way, or how it is better than last year’s edition, or if it has won an award.
  • 1 sentence, overarching about your brand as a whole
    Think of this as your ‘elevator pitch’, aka what you’d tell a stranger in 60seconds if they ask what your business does.
  • Web address, email and phone number (if applicable) for customers to find the item

THEN: Extra points for adding what’s known as ‘boilerplate’ info to the end of your press release. This will help the journalist as they have less research to do.
Boilerplate means a list of reference bits which are standard for your business.

Use a subheading “Notes for Editors” then list the following:

  • Your full name and business name
  • Your direct contact number
  • Your email address
  • Web address of the business (homepage)
  • Social media “@” handle(s)
  • Business email for customers to use
  • Phone number for customers to use

In summary: An ideal press release has the minimum number of short sentences, no fluff, and makes it easy for the editor to help your customers buy.

Knowing those 6 simple steps, you can repeat for different publications/blogs and your different products.

I’d send a follow up email a week after the first, if you don’t hear a reply – follow-ups are expected.

Put this task on your ‘to do’ list this week – remember summer is when it counts, when you’re in ‘slow season’ 😉 Do your future self a favour to be in with a chance of capitalising on some great press coverage in peak shopping season. 

Good luck, and fingers crossed for those extra web visits and orders to come in.
Let me know how it goes,
Ruth

PS. For extra coaching help with how to use PR for bigger editorial features and to leverage your business, beyond gift guides, look out for my “PR for non-PR pros” online workshop or just email here to see if a tailored Powerhour that’s tailored to be brand-specific and to fit your learning style.
I’d love to share my insider-knowledge to help you reach new audiences.