MEDIA PROFILE: Human touch stands out in Parade's procession ofpitches

Its readership is the largest in the US, but Parade strives to hit an emotional chord with everyone. As such, a personal slant will go far when pitching one of PR pros' most targeted titles.

Its readership is the largest in the US, but Parade strives to hit an emotional chord with everyone. As such, a personal slant will go far when pitching one of PR pros' most targeted titles.

With a larger readership than any other magazine, Parade is a hot ticket for any PR pro, for obvious reasons. The coveted 20 pages fall out of 35 million newspapers every Sunday morning, chock full of products, celebrities, and inspirational stories, most of them pitched by the PR set. Founded in 1941, it boasts columns by Marilyn vos Savant, holder of the Guinness world record for highest human IQ, and the distinction of running the first US interviews with Pope John Paul II and Hillary Clinton.

Parade's focus is on fun and information with a human touch, and its carefully edited stories are written with authority and an air of social responsibility. Recent articles include the stories of those struggling in the aftermath of September 11, an article on National Kids' Day, tips on how to save water when there's a drought, and interviews with TV stars Lea Thompson and Kevin James.

But don't run to the phone just yet. Because it reaches more than 75 million people each week, Parade gets pitched more than a major league baseball, and with a seven-week lead time on each issue, pitching can be a tricky affair. "It's not easy to navigate these waters, but it's possible, says Ken Garcia, an account supervisor at Fusion PR who pitched editors for a story last fall. The key, according to those who have been successful, is to know what they want and how they think.

"I thought it would be very difficult to crack through the mounds of press releases and pitches the writers receive every day, says Scott Withers of Ackermann PR. "But once I decided that I needed to focus the key messaging of the product towards the demographics of Parade, it was easy to get a product review and placement."

So what are Parade's demographics? Its huge audience includes people of all ages and income groups.

"We reach everybody, says Lamar Graham, Parade's managing editor. "We aim to get an intimate one-to-one connection with every reader."

Appealing to the average American is an ambitious undertaking in such a diverse and demographically changing country, leading some to believe that Parade's stories are bland and sterile. To combat this, instead of trying to appeal to everyone, the emphasis is on the message. Parade's features take current events to a personal level, finding an individual or angle that reflects an uplifting quality that all can relate to.

According to Graham, Parade's content is fueled by stories of courage, hope, and inspiration. "We're very interactive, he said. "We encourage our readers to take action. We don't just do a celebrity profile because they have a movie coming out, we tell a story of how they overcame an obstacle."

The same applies to product pitches. Graham said, "We don't feature something just because it's new and groovy. We want things that are affordable, practical, and innovative."

Gadget Guide is the section most open to pitches, Graham says. Edited by Robert Moritz, it includes product reviews and recommendations. Other sections are Intelligence Report by Lyric Winick, which discusses public awareness and health issues, and In Step With by James Brady, featuring celebrity interviews. Sections not open to pitches are Ask Marilyn, Personality Parade, and the Health and Fitness columns, all of which answer reader-submitted questions.

PR pros who have pitched Parade claim that its editors are very responsive if interested, but pitches must be done far in advance. Melissa Mauro of Patrice Tanaka & Co., had success placing her client's product, but wisely pitched it before the product launched, so that coverage would be timely.

In pitching features, Robert Gelphman of Gelphman Associates says, "Focus on personality. Controversial in a friendly and unthreatening way is OK. Make sure the client has a good smile, is photogenic, has a good story, and is a good storyteller."

Editors prefer e-mail pitches that are short, sweet, and to the point.

Don't send attachments or samples until they are asked for. Don't send mass e-mails, and know what is appropriate for the magazine. "You have to prove that you've read Parade, Graham says. Follow-up is important as well, but a short e-mail will suffice.

Because it is a weekly, the editorial calendar is flexible to account for stories that reflect current events. As for exclusives, Graham says, "We do everything exclusively, or we don't bother doing it."

The bottom line? Keep it wholesome. "(The) audience is Sunday morning breakfast loungers who don't want to read about something that will make them toss their eggs, says Gelphman.

Address: 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Managing editor: Lamar Graham
Senior editor: Fran Carpentier
Gadget Guide: Robert Moritz Intelligence Report: Lyric Winick

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