Outlets jump on organization issues

Organization-themed stories have become a hot media trend as more people take on multiple tasks, and seek added structure at home and in the workplace.

Organization-themed stories have become a hot media trend as more people take on multiple tasks, and seek added structure at home and in the workplace.

In an era when multitasking has become the norm, it's inevitable that people would begin to clamor for more structure in their lives. Organization-themed products, books, and magazines, such as Real Simple, are currently riding this trend for all it's worth. The good news, at least for those in the industry, is that it's not likely to ebb any time soon. David Allen, personal productivity guru and author of Getting Things Done, points out that much of this is not new, noting that the business press has been covering the organizing trend for well over a decade. "There was so much noise out there in the late '80s and '90s regarding time management, especially when the personal planners and PDAs showed up," he says. But what has changed is the desire to apply a lot of these philosophies and tools to the home, as well. Barry Izsak, an Austin, TX-based professional organizer and president of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), says the category has evolved into a multibillion-dollar annual business if you include both services and organizing products. "The media is recognizing that this a hot issue," he says. "It's like dieting and fitness - everybody wants to read about it, and everybody wants to write about it." Izsak, who in recent months was quoted in Newsweek and has appeared on CNBC and CNNfn, says despite NAPO having almost no media outreach, he's interviewed by reporters an average of three times a week. "Most of the coverage used to come from women's magazines - Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle - but that's changing," he says. "Now I'm getting just as many calls from magazines such as Men's Health, as well as major market newspapers." Recognizing opportunities Rachel Barron, president of the Winston-Salem, NC-based PR agency Next Level Communications, represents retailer Space Savers and notes there are some ready-made media opportunities for organizational stories. "Around Christmas, we're pitching under the theme of New Year's resolutions, and in the fall we can pitch back to school," she says. "But as we've progressed, we've discovered one of the major trends in publications that has helped us is the increase in the number of publications doing product guides in general." Save for a handful of writers, such as former NAPO president Stephanie Denton, who pens the syndicated "Getting Organized," there are currently few media experts on the category. "It's definitely not a beat unto itself," notes Jim Christensen, director of PR for palmOne. But given that the technology media is still coming out of the dot-com bust, Christensen suggests the public's desire to organize their lives is opening up new PR opportunities for palmOne in the lifestyle press. "We have a very different messages for lifestyle," he says. "We focus more on going to reporters and saying, 'Here's how real people are using PDAs and Smartphones today.'" Deb Lund, PR director for FranklinCovey, known for its paper planners, as well as for founder Stephen Covey's book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says she's also been able to leverage the media's interest in technology as a work- and home-organizing tool. The firm has partnered with Microsoft to introduce planning software that works with Windows XP and Outlook, and Lund says the firm has had success pitching that story to outlets like PC Magazine. "Most tech reporters now report to the business editor, and those editors want stories that will solve people's pain of managing all the information coming their way," she says. Focusing the media pitch As far as pitching reporters on organization-themed stories, Lund says it's best to practice what you preach and deliver an organized message. "Most reporters want to know the basics, the top three things on how this product will make [their lives] easier," she says. Much of the interest tends to be centered on media outlets catering to the demographic juggling work, kids, home, and a social life. But Lund says even younger men's and women's outlets, such as Maxim and Cosmopolitan, are also delving into the subject. "The audience for these magazines watched their parents completely focus on work with a lifetime contract to their company, and they're not interested in that," she says. "They are interested in the balance and figuring out, 'How do I complete everything I need to complete in my workday so I can do what I want to do?'" Pitching... organization
  • Look to vertical publications, such as sports and even gardening magazines, and offer a tips-themed pitch on the latest products for organizing your hobby or interest
  • Keeping things organized is a year-round issue, but there are some seasonal opportunities, such as back-to-school time and New Year's, that can provide a ready-made hook for an organization story
  • This is definitely a news-you-can-use category, so try to tailor your pitch to focus on how an organizational product or service can make people's lives less hectic and more satisfying

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