MEDIA ROUNDUP: Wedding outlets give good reception to fresh ideas

Though its focus is narrow, the wedding media constantly seeks - and finds - new angles and audiences, which affords PR people more avenues to garner coverage for their clients.

Though its focus is narrow, the wedding media constantly seeks - and finds - new angles and audiences, which affords PR people more avenues to garner coverage for their clients.

There is something about weddings that softens even the most cynical heart, and while nearly half of marriages now end in divorce, hope always springs eternal each time a couple says "I do." But weddings can be nerve-wracking events, and many brides-to-be turn to a host of publications and reporters for advice on gowns, gifts, and catering. It may be a fairly narrow topic, but it's one of the most lucrative categories in journalism. In both good economic times and bad, each issue of a bridal magazine - or a newspaper's special wedding section - is thick with ads. "There are always people getting married, so there's always a market for different bridal magazines," says Niki Ostin, account executive in the LA office of Magnet Communications. Spring and early summer remain the most popular time of year for weddings, and by extension wedding journalism. But Carolyn Marquez, SVP with Evins Communications, says, "It's become a year-round business. September is becoming very popular, and Bride's has a huge issue for winter weddings." Though they cover essentially the same topic in each issue, bridal magazines always come up with something new. Gown fashions change, and the bridal industry has its own fashion weeks in New York and Chicago. "Of course, we revisit the same themes," says Sally Kilbridge, managing editor with Cond? Nast's Bride's. "A lot of the traditional aspects - registering, buying a dress, honeymoon planning - are pretty much evergreen." "But we are always looking for new information because weddings are changing like the rest of the world," she added. "We're devoting more attention to the stylish aspects of weddings." With few exceptions, most national glossy titles are either bi-monthly or quarterly. But because of their size, wedding editors and reporters always seek story ideas. "They are definitely pitchable," says Ostin, who represents the Platinum Guild International. "There are always new trends in platinum jewelry, so it becomes a matter of finding the most newsworthy angle." The challenge is to get the timing right. Most bridal outlets have long lead times of between four to six months, as do the more traditional publications with special bridal issues. "In the summer, we're shooting winter weddings with furs, and right now we're pitching spring and summer weddings," says Marquez, who represents tiara and jewelry maker Chaumet and jewelry designer Peter Storm. More outlets for coverage Most weddings are planned by the bride and her family, so there are no groom publications. But there are growing opportunities to pitch special fashion issues in the men's lifestyle press. "We have been successful with men's titles like Maxim, Stuff, FHM, GQ, Esquire, and Details," notes Ostin. "Once a year, Maxim does wedding coverage, and while they change it to fit their publication, it's really fun and makes bridal outreach that much more interesting." Magazines such as Bride's, Elegant Bride, and Modern Bride tend to have the highest profile in wedding journalism. But more traditional lifestyle outlets such as Martha Stewart, Town & Country, and InStyle also put out special bridal-themed issues that are highly sought after by wedding vendors. There are also increasing opportunities online and on TV. "In broadcast, it's news programming and entertainment shows and there, celebrity pitching is a great angle," says Ostin. "Finding out what rings celebrities have chosen and setting up interviews with celebrity designers are both good strategies." Marquez also notes the rise of TV, adding that Today now has an annual series of segments called "The Knot," where two people get married and various vendors are invited to participate. While many women may look at national bridal publications for general ideas and gown designs, most purchasing for other wedding-related items, such as flowers, the reception location, and limousines is done locally. As such, there are many regional print and online outlets such as Chicago Bride and California Bride that offer wedding-related editorial. Kara Cook, account supervisor with Murphy Knott Public Relations, represents a Chicago-area venue that is used for rehearsal dinners, second weddings, or small first weddings. She focuses most of her PR efforts on area publications like Chicago Bride and the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune newspapers. Cook notes the majority of wedding reporting breaks very little new ground, adding, "With bridal reporting, you see stories very similar to one another year after year, but we try to get them updated information." Inviting a little controversy By and large, wedding journalism tends to be upbeat and positive, with little in the way of investigative reporting or critical reviews. But Bride's Kilbridge insists her publication doesn't shy away from more controversial issues. "We just did an article on pregnant brides, and we're doing something on same-sex marriages in our next issue," she says. "That was triggered by the fact that a lot of papers now finally acknowledge commitment ceremonies by publishing those pieces along with traditional wedding announcements." Bride's has also touched on other potentially sensitive subjects, such as prenuptial agreements. "Frankly, controversy is not such a bad thing for us," Kilbridge says. "People don't want to see 800 pages of [wedding gowns] - they want to see the occasional article with teeth with it." The leading journalists in bridal coverage tend to be national title editors such as Bride's' Kilbridge and editor-in-chief Milli Martini Bratten; Deborah Moses of Elegant Bride; Modern Bride editor-in-chief Antonia Van Der Meer; and Darcy Miller, weddings editor of Martha Stewart Weddings. Most of the coverage in the major bridal books tends to focus on preparing for the big day, with little coverage of actual weddings themselves. But Leslie Pardo of Michigan-based Marx Layne & Company says getting coverage for a wedding can be a good way to raise the client's profile. Marx Layne represents a leading restaurateur in Michigan, and Pardo handled publicity for her wedding. The event not only included a guest list filled with local luminaries, but also an innovative wedding cake designed to look like a gift table, two wedding gowns, flowers from around the world, and several charities who were designated to receive donations in lieu of gifts to the happy couple. "One of the challenges for PR people is to find the unusual news hole to fill, and we did that by turning this into a story that would benefit our client's business," says Pardo. The wedding, which ended up being a three-day social event in northern Michigan, received coverage in Modern Bride, The Knot, the Detroit Free Press, and several regional papers and magazines. Pardo says it was a challenge juggling that many different outlets, but adds, "Most bridal publications don't demand exclusives, so that made it easier. We were able to coordinate interviews with the bride and groom before the wedding, and take enough pictures so that every outlet got a different set." ----------- Where to go Newspapers The New York Times; The Washington Post; San Francisco Chronicle; Dallas Morning News; Los Angeles Times Magazines Bride's; Modern Bride; Elegant Bride; Martha Stewart; GQ; InStyle; Maxim; Details; Esquire; Town & Country; For the Bride; World Class Weddings; Essence; Latina; The Knot Trade titles Women's Wear Daily; National Jeweler; Professional Jeweler; Modern Jeweler; Daily News Record (men's and groom fashion) TV & Radio E! Entertainment Television; Lifetime; Oxygen; Good Morning America; NBC's Today Internet TheKnot.com; Brides.com; iVillage.com; Brideagain.com; Theweddingchannel.com; Bluenile.com

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