Back to school brings a variety of options

Late summer - back-to-school season - might not be the most enjoyable time for students, but it's generally a great time for retail advertising, and the media is definitely taking notice. Not only are traditional parenting and general interest outlets devoting more space to school fashion, supplies, and gadgets, but a number of just-launched outlets are also adding back-to-school sections.

Late summer - back-to-school season - might not be the most enjoyable time for students, but it's generally a great time for retail advertising, and the media is definitely taking notice. Not only are traditional parenting and general interest outlets devoting more space to school fashion, supplies, and gadgets, but a number of just-launched outlets are also adding back-to-school sections.

"There's now a much wider breadth of outlets doing back to school, especially for technology-related products," notes Kelly Reeves, president and CEO of Newport Beach, CA-based KLR Communications, which represents laptop case and backpack-maker Targus. "You have the national newspapers and [NBC's] Today... as well as [the Web sites] Computer Shopper and PC World - even a magazine like Network World now features, 'Cool Tools for Back to School.'"

PR pros note that back-to-school stories are generally more product-driven than in year's past, but editors note that publications will still want timely advice for both parents and kids.

"We have about 20 contributors who provide monthly columns, but we also welcome surveys and tips lists [that] we can use as the basis for additional stories," says Geraldine Jensen, editor and publisher of Families Online magazine. ÒWe have a piece that was written several years ago dealing with school anxiety that's still one our most popular stories, and the page views on that tend to spike every August."

Long-lead magazines finished their back-to-school issues months ago, so Ellen Harter Wall, senior associate editor at Family Fun, says it is important to begin pitching early. Wall says that her magazine does welcome some product stories to go along with generally upbeat features on getting families ready for the school year, but adds, "It really does pay to know the outlet, because we're definitely not the kind of magazine where you're going to find that $150 backpack."

This year, Amanda Vega, president of Amanda Vega Consulting, notes that even back-to-school stories in lifestyle-driven newspapers and magazines are more budget conscious than in years past.

"For our retail clients, we are having an easier time pitching if there are lower price points or special offers on clothes," she says.

Editors and reporters working on back-to-school pieces should also stay on top of trends and figure out how they will affect the school year, says Sharon Nieuwenhuis, account manager with RLM PR, which works with HotChalk.com, a provider of resources for teachers.

"Hot Chalk just did a study that found 65% of parents are relying entirely on teachers for the education of their children, and so we [have] been able to use that in pitches, emphasizing the importance [of] work[ing] collaboratively on a child's education," she says.

Pitching...back to school
Pitch early - even summer is too late to begin back-to-school-themed pitches

Although back-to-school tips and advice stories are losing out to product roundups, you can still generate interest in lifestyle pages if you can tie your pitch to a current trend or new survey

Look beyond the usual suspects Ð there are a surprising number of outlets adding back-to-school coverage, and those publications arenÕt getting near the number of pitches as lifestyle and family outlets

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