How to Get Featured in Holiday Gift Guides

Ever wondered how to get your products into the pages of top lifestyle magazines like InStyle, Shape, New York and others? While magazine editors are constantly on the hunt for products to include in their layouts, holiday gift guides are prime times. Here are some things to consider if you’re interested in getting your products ready for their 15 minutes of fame (which could translate into sales).

Be Media Friendly. Your Website Might Be Your Most Important Tool.

Being media friendly takes advance prep work and a solid website. Is your website up-to-date? Does it have your key contact info so an editor can reach you quickly? If you’re hard to get in touch, the editor will move on and not bother. They don’t have time to hunt you down.

It’s also important to note that while it’s not always a deal-breaker, if you don’t sell your products online (especially the items you’re pitching), you’ll have a harder time getting media coverage. Even local outlets often want products that can be found online for shopping convenience. It’s also good for you to have an up-to-date website because when someone goes to your site looking for the featured product, they’re more likely to buy other items from your business because they’re already there and like what you’re offering.

Have Photos Ready.

While many editors will request samples (and you must be willing to send them and many times you’ll need to overnight ship them), many of the smaller media outlets will just ask for photos. If you’re photos aren’t high quality, they won’t work and you’ll lose your chance at getting chosen to be part of the gift guide. If you can’t shoot good photos yourself, this is one job that might want to consider hiring someone with experience or ask your wholesale source if they have good imagery. If you’re pitching specific products to editors, make sure you have those images before you start pitching them. Last thing you want is to be scrambling to get the editor photos when they want your product and are about to go into layout.

Samples To Ship.

This is probably the most annoying thing with retailers about holiday gift guides. Editors will ask for samples. Sometimes they’ll return them, sometimes they won’t. Sometimes you’ll have to pay for shipping to and from, sometimes they will (rare). Sometimes you’ll accidentally get someone else’s products returned (it happens more regularly than not ~ once I received a lovely gold bracelet in my return shipment box that wasn’t mine).

The thing is that these editors get hundreds, if not thousands, of products shipped to them. Bigger outlets sometimes have teams dedicated to their holiday gift guides but even then the quantity gets overwhelming. I always thought it was a bonus if any of my samples were returned. Unless you can’t bear to ship it out and never see it again, assume that when you send out your sample(s), you may not get them back. It’s part of doing business and you need to consider your sample a marketing expense. Of course, sending a sample doesn’t even guarantee coverage so you need to weigh your cost vs. the risk and decide if it’s worth it to you and your business to send samples for holiday gift guide consideration.

If you’re still ready to try your hand at holiday gift guides, here are the steps:

  • Make a list of magazines or newspapers that you know usually run holiday gift guides and would be appropriate for your products. Don’t overlook your local media outlets that might be easier to get into because your competition is different than the major outlets. Also, local organizations like Chambers of Commerce often create their own holiday gift guides.
  • Call those media outlets and ask them specifically who is covering the holiday gift guide and get their phone number and email address. If the outlet is running a holiday gift guide, someone will be in charge of it and they’ll tell you. You can also ask this person for the theme of the gift guide. She might or might not know. If she doesn’t, call or email the holiday gift guide editor and ask. You don’t want to bother sending a pitch that includes your best gifts under $25 if they’re doing a “luxe” holiday gift guide this year with items more than $100.
  • Make your own holiday gift guide lists such as:
    1. Great gifts for moms, dads, kids, etc.
    2. Eco-friendly gifts
    3. Gifts that give back
    4. Gifts for teachers
    5. Last minute gifts
    6. Gifts for the foodie, techie, fashionista, etc.
  • If the editors are looking for something specific, you’ve already developed your lists above so you can quickly pitch several options. If they’re open to anything, you have your list to share with them. You can also put all of these lists (with the recommended gifts) on your website and social media pages so editors can see you’re “media friendly” and ready!
  • If you have a good story to go with your product, share it! Often the story is just as important as the product when they’re considering which ones to choose.
  • Then pitch and be patient. Holiday gift guide editors are deluged with pitches and products. Send your pitches (or ship out your products, if asked) and ask when the editors are planning to make their final decisions. If you don’t hear back within 2-3 weeks, email and ask if they have an update. You may not hear, but you might. You might not ever hear back for months. If ever. This basically becomes a waiting game.
  • Finally, if you DO get into a holiday gift guide, make sure to leverage it by posting it on your website, social media, email newsletters and any marketing collateral.

It’s important to note that working with the media shouldn’t be a one-off project or done just once a year. Building relationships takes time. Still, holiday gift guides are unique in that editors will work with independent retailers if they feel you have a product that is a good fit for their gift guide theme(s).

Megy Karydes is a Chicago-based freelance writer and marketing consultant. Learn more about her and her work at

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