Finance becoming a matter of lifestyle

Along with vows to lose weight, many Americans follow the excesses of the holidays with a determination to get their finances in order.

Along with vows to lose weight, many Americans follow the excesses of the holidays with a determination to get their finances in order. This makes it the biggest time of the year for personal finance coverage.

"From December 27 through mid-January is like the Super Bowl for personal finance media doing 'Get your financial house in order' stories," explains Nick Ragone, SVP and director of Ketchum's New York media communications and strategy group. "So you see a ton of VNRs and SMTs from mortgage and credit card lenders and personal finance experts."

Michelle Tenant, partner with Wasabi Publicity, agrees that it's a frenzied time in the personal finance media, but says that does not always make it the best time to pitch personal finance writers - unless you have a new angle.

"There's a lot of competition to reach these reporters, so you have to make sure your pitch is fresh and not clichŽd," she adds. "A lot of them also want you to include a family in your pitch, and many people don't like talking about their finances in public, so that can be an added challenge."

But while personal finance continues to be a strong media beat, there has been a shift to cover the topic as something more than a business page story.

"I approach personal finance as very much a lifestyle subject," says personal finance author, columnist, and radio/TV personality Jean Chatzky. "And the people who pitch me successfully seem to understand that."

Heidi Krupp, CEO of New York-based Krupp Kommunications, represents Chatzky and notes that moving away from dry number-driven stories is enabling personal finance to become a topic for a broader array of outlets.

"We had a huge success pitching Oprah [Winfrey] on a series a few years back, 'The Great American Debt Diet,'" she says. "And that's just part of the growing interest in the notion of 'If you own your money, you own your life.'"

Personal finance media tend to revisit topics on a regular basis, especially general themes focused on investing wisely and saving for retirement. But public concern about declining home values, rising gas prices, and the potential for a recession is having an impact on personal finance coverage.

"Cost savings is a sexy topic with personal finance reporters right now," says John Sternal, VP of marcomms with Leasetrader.com, which is getting traction for stories on helping people get out of their SUVs and into more fuel-efficient, affordable cars. "TV, especially, has been very interested in this story, more so than print, because many networks love to do 'Your Money' stories."

Pitching... Personal Finance

Stress the lifestyle angles within personal finance as a way to broaden interest beyond the business press

Understand the current economy. Given the credit/mortgage crisis, now is not the time to pitch refinancing/debt consolidation to personal finance writers. Instead, focus on tips to help consumers curb spending and reduce their exposure

Personal finance is certainly a January story, but it's very crowded; look for other hooks you can use with clients who are financial advisers during the other times of the year

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