I had the honor of interviewing the Features Editor of Parade Magazine, Mb Roberts who shared with me tips on pitching Parade Magazine, what types of stories, products, and books they are interested in covering, and what you can do to get your product, service, or brand in the #2 circulating magazine in the United States.
Our interview can be seen live by clicking the image above and the transcript is below. Enjoy!!!
Christina: All right so welcome MB. I’m so excited to have you here with us today. Let’s start by telling people, what is Parade Magazine? You know it’s much bigger than I think we all think it is, so you’re going to tell us a little bit about it?
MB: Oh sure, sure. Well Parade’s been around for seventy-five years as a matter of fact. Next year we’re celebrating our seventy-fifth anniversary in a big way. It’s the long time famous Sunday insert in Sunday newspapers across the country. We’re in, I believe, seven hundred papers nation wide and we have a readership of 22 million, actually a circulation of 22 million and readership of 54 million.
MB: So it’s got an incredible history. Over the years we’ve had amazing writers. Gosh, everybody from Carl Sagan and David Halberstam to our current stable of writers. We’ve covered everything, very famous moments in history.
Christina: Yeah, and it’s really important to note to that Parade is the number two circulated publication in the country.
MB: In the US. Yes.
Christina: Yeah. So next to AARP you guys are it.
Christina: So if we could get somebody in your magazine, they could get themselves in, that would be just be amazing for their business.
MB: Yeah, it’s a very cool opportunity. Yes.
Christina: So tell us, what kinds of things do you look for in Parade? Is it products? Do you want experts who can source stories? Are you looking for free lancers? What makes up Parade?
MB: Well what makes up Parade is a combination of things that are new. TV shows that are coming up. Movies that are coming up. Things, trends people are talking about. This summer we did a big feature on coloring books, adult coloring books …
Christina: Oh fun.
MB: … Because that’s just been a big, big trend. We try to stay a bit ahead of the curve. For someone whose pitching Parade, a business or someone with a story idea, it’s not just about this movie star, or this movie, or this book. We’re always looking for an interesting hook like how, what new facet of that can we feature to our readers? What package are we putting together, entertainment, fun, and service as well. So we’re definitely looking for new things, Americana, things that people are talking about, things that are important to Americans.
Christina: So one of the things that I educate people about is editorial calendars. You know obviously it’s an advertising tool, but it can also help people. “Oh gosh, they’re going to be talking about that in four months or two months.” So can you talk a little bit about that? Obviously you’re a weekly, so what is your lead time? Do you have editorial calendars?
MB: Yes, we definitely have an editorial calendar. We are … Our lead time is six weeks out. We close several weeks ahead of printing an issue. We plan very far ahead. You know, three to six months to even a year ahead. We have annual issues. We have some franchises like what people earn is really important. That’s been around for years where we feature all kinds of different jobs and what people earn. We do a giving issue at Christmas time, a little before Christmas. A lot about philanthropy and then gifts as well. We have a, “What people eat.” People love that. That’s always examining trends. These things come up every year. Then obviously holidays, or Mother’s Day, back to school, the New Year. Last year we did a great partnership with the Today Show talking about reinventing yourself in the new year and just things that people are looking at during certain seasons. That’s really our editorial calendar, based on the seasons, and holidays, and things that are important to people at certain times of the year.
Christina: So how early should people pitch those kind of things? I know like magazines gift guides, I tell people they close at the end of June. People are thinking, “I can’t even think about the holidays in summer.” But how about you guys? How early do you want to see … If you close six weeks out, is it two months? Is it three months?
MB: Yeah, it’s the earlier the better. I mean really six … That sounds crazy to say you’re pitching Christmas ideas in June, but it’s never too early. We all … If we get a pitch we hold onto it that’s something that we like. If we’re not looking at it that week we will save it to look at soon. So I would say it’s never too early. Certainly one or two months out is almost always too late. There are some exceptions for something really fantastic, or news worthy, or breaking. Really three to six months is really good idea for books that are coming out, for products, for any kind of pitch to get ahead of our calendars is just really increases your chance for success.
Christina: You said something that brought something to mind with me. I had pitched a magazine a year in advance and I never heard back. The following year I got an email that said, “Hey, you sent this in last year. It wasn’t a fit for that time period. We’d love to include you now. Are you in still in business? Can you send pictures?” So you guys have a file that you keep?
Christina: Maybe a “not now” file?
MB: Absolutely. You know it’s such good manners for us to get back to people and say, “Hey we’re holding on to this.” That would be my goal, but it’s very difficult. We get so many. I know people hear that all the time and get tired of hearing that, but we absolutely hold onto things.
Christina: I tell people that it’s not necessarily a “no.” It could just be a “not now” so don’t get discouraged.
MB: Exactly, exactly.
Christina: So tell people, how do you like to be pitched? What do you like to see in an email? What do you like to see in a subject line? What’s the best way to grab your attention?
MB: Well absolutely email is essential to introduce yourself, short as possible. Go ahead and attach some things. You know your body of your email should be short and to the point. Dates are really important, especially things like I don’t want to have to dig up like when is a book coming out. Is it out already? It is coming out in six months? The first thing I look at is dates of things and that’s how I file. If you can help think of a great angle, or PR people are so great at this, just providing … Oh we have a Q&A already done that I could show you. This person’s available for an interview during this time. You can go ahead and put attachments for longer pieces, but a nice short email is just really, really appreciated. Right to the point.
Christina: Great. I know that you do a lot with books for Parade. There are a lot of authors that watch these videos so can you give some tips? I know people are concerned when they self publish a book. Can they get in publication like Parade? Again, what are you looking for in books and again what are you looking for in a book pitch?
MB: Sure, well regarding self published books, I know there are so many more people doing that these days. Not to say no, but it’s hard. It’s challenging for a self published author to get into the magazine unless the person is perhaps an expert on something and can be apart of a larger story. That would really, really increase your chances. The bigger publishing companies … There’s just a lot more follow-through with an individual. It’s so hard. It’s like they have to do all the work themselves and keep in touch with you. What I’m looking for in a book pitch is really just what’s so interesting about this book? Not just this is a great piece of fiction, but a PR person or an author can help by saying, “This is a trend right now.” We featured Gretchen Rubin’s book on Habit Change a couple of months ago and it was more than just oh here’s a bestselling author’s new book. It’s a whole story about habits, and happiness, and we had some other elements. So just try to think of, besides this is my great new book, what can that go with? What trend or interesting fun other things can we package that with? That will really help.
Christina: I share that as well with trying to get publicity. If there’s something going on that you can talk about, that you have this book as your backup, your support, your expertise, it’s definitely helpful. It shows you as the expert like the habit person.
MB: Exactly. Even if your book’s been out for a while or again, if you’ve self published it, if you can show that you have these credentials that you may be featured as an expert in a story or quoted, it’s a really great opportunity.
Christina: Awesome. Now what about products? Do you guys ever … I mean you talked a little bit about the gift guide. Some publications have regular gift guides. Do you guys do things like that?
MB: We do and if you think of just holidays like Valentines, or Mother’s Day, or definitely Christmas holidays around that time. We do do gift guides and it’s just send it in. Once again, just kind of just show what’s new and different about your product. We keep them on file. We have a section in the front of the magazine called “Picks” and it’s cool things that are happening, products, movies, all kind of things. That’s a great a section to try to get something into. So …
Christina: Is that every week?
MB: … Send them on. Yes, that is every week. Yep, that’s every week.
Christina: Okay. One final question, so when you get pitched by email, do you want a follow up email? I tell people, “Don’t beat a dead horse if you send it in and you haven’t heard anything back. Don’t keep sending that same pitch over and over again.” Can they pick up the phone and call you? What do you guys like there?
MB: Sure. Follow up is great and that’s very helpful. You can over do it. You can.
Christina: I’ve heard stories.
MB: It can be over done. We kind of chuckle in the office. It’s not helpful to resend the exact same thing, to email every day or every week. Any progress? Any progress? You know I’d say send one in, check back in two or three weeks, and then again maybe the following month. Certainly if an editor says, “Oh, I’m considering this for ‘X’,” feel free to follow up. A phone call is okay. People are so bad about taking phone calls these days. I wouldn’t over do that either. Editors have caller ID. I wouldn’t over do that, but there’s no problem with following up with a phone call. Certainly not.
Christina: See that. Because I think people are so afraid of you MB …
MB: Oh no. Don’t do it. Don’t say that.
Christina: They think the media is just this elite group that they can’t touch and can’t get near. I try to tell people, “You have a busy job.” We can tell. We’ve rescheduled this interview I don’t know how many times. I get you’re on deadlines and it’s crazy, but if somebody’s giving you a great story that’s a perfect fit for your publication you want to hear about it.
MB: Oh, for sure. We do not consider publicists the enemy. We love that. We love great publicists that come to us with awesome ideas that we couldn’t have dug up on our own. We definitely see you as allies and it’s just understanding that we get a little overwhelmed. We’re not anything to be afraid of. It’s just the scary thing is an inbox with fifty unread emails. That’s scary.
Christina: Right. That’s why I say make that subject line something that’s really catchy that you’ll think, “Oh, this might really work.” At least it will get you to open the email. Then I tell people, “Keep it short. Let them scan it quickly and say yay or nay.” At least that gets your foot in the door if you’ve got a good idea.
MB: It’s really great too to understand the publication. That sounds really obvious, but to look at it if you don’t get Parade, to email, or call someone, get some copies, and really have a look. Then you can really understand what will help us. Our company has sister publications. We have Athlon’s Sports Monthly is a monthly sports magazine distributed in newspapers. We have Spry Living. It’s a women’s health and fitness. We have American Profiles Community Table, which is a family, food, frame Americana kind of magazine. If you could have a look at these. My colleague at Spry will get pitches for very, very young kids and that’s not their audience. Their audience is women forty and up. That just wastes everyone’s time. So have a look and figure out what we might need. That’s so helpful to us.
Christina: I’m sure it’s on your website. I actually haven’t looked. I know most publications have a demographic sheet in their media kit. Right? Look at it and see. You just said it’s forty and above. I’ve interviewed so many journalists who have had that exact complaint. I was just on Bloomberg and that’s what they said. They said, “We get these pitches that are crazy. This nothing that we cover.” So if you want to build a relationship with a journalist, make sure you’re sending them things that will work. I always say be a good source as well. You know, of course, I’d love to be in Parade, but I might have other resources for you that I can send you. Then if something does come up where I would be a fit you might remember, “Oh Christina, she sent me all these great ideas and now there’s a fit for her so let’s see if she’s available or if there’s a fit with that interview.”
MB: Oh, absolutely. It’s just keeping in touch and not so much, “Oh, here’s my client I want in your magazine right now.” Letting us know all the people you might know, or be connected to, and we’ll connect at some point. You know?
MB: If you keep in touch like that and help each other.
Christina: Well that is awesome. These tips have been absolutely amazing. There are so many people out there trying to learn how to do this and they can’t afford big PR firms and they can’t afford tons of advertising so all of these tips are amazing. So thank you so much for your time.
MB: I hope it was helpful.
Christina: It was wonderful. Thank you.
MB: Thank you. So great to talk to you.
Christina: You too. Take care.
MB: You too.
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