What is the Best Timing for Your Public Relations Pitch? Short Leads vs. Long Leads

Aug 01, 2022

A lot goes into a public relations pitch: creativity, positioning, media connections…the list goes on! But the most important thing? Timing. 

Timing is everything in PR. Sending a pitch out at the wrong time could lead to a missed opportunity for you and your clients. But when you’re just starting out in PR, pitch timing can be tough to navigate. Here’s what you need to know so you can strategize effectively and put out perfectly-timed pitches week after week.

Short-Lead vs. Long-Lead: Your 2 Main Public Relations Pitch Types 

The two main types of public relations pitches are short-lead and long-lead. They’re exactly what they sound like: long-lead pitches have long lead times, while short-lead pitches happen closer to the publishing date. 

Short-lead pitches are typically sent to journalists and editors 1-2 months ahead of time. You should pitch for January and February opportunities in January, February and March opportunities in February, and so on. Short-leads are usually for online publications — this includes the online versions of print outlets, too. 

For a long-lead public relations pitch, you’ll want to reach out to editors 4-5 months before the publishing date (so in January, you should be pitching for May and June long-lead opportunities). But these lead times can be even longer for certain placements, like holiday gift guides! Unlike short-leads, long-lead pitches are almost always for print media opportunities.

Public Relations Pitch Lead Times You Need to Know

Knowing what short-lead and long-lead pitches are will get you halfway there…now you have to organize your press plan around them! Here are a few examples of how both public relations pitch types pan out in terms of strategy. 

Lead Time: 4-6 Months 

National print magazines work 4-6 months in advance, so this is the time to send out your long-lead pitches for those opportunities. Be sure to reference each publication’s editorial calendar to find out what they’re looking for — we’ve got you covered in The Pitch Lab! Normally, it’s pretty frustrating to pull and manage editorial calendars for lots of different publications, but with the monthly execution plans you’ll receive in The Pitch Lab, managing editorial calendars is a breeze. 

If you’re pitching a product, you should send out your pitch a full six months ahead of time. Editors have to go through so much information for products that it’s best to send it out extra early. This is super important for holiday gift guides, too! 

Related: How To Use An Editorial Calendar Effectively As A PR Professional

Lead Time: 2-3 Months

Unlike national print outlets, regional print media outlets (like magazines and newspapers focused on news in your city or state) typically work 2-3 months in advance. It may be on the shorter end of a long-lead public relations pitch, but it’s still a long-lead opportunity. 

It’s easy to think about this timing difference in terms of holidays. You should send your holiday gift guide pitches to national publications in June but wait until September to send them to regional mags. 

Related: Local Press vs. National Press: Which One Should You Pitch?

Lead Time: 1-2 Months 

National online magazines work 1-2 months in advance, so now is the best time to send them your short-lead pitches. Make sure you’re sticking to the timeline here and not sending out your public relations pitches too early. 

And remember, as a member of The Pitch Lab, you’ll get access to those curated monthly editorial calendars at your fingertips for long-lead and short-lead pitching so you know exactly when to send out your pitches. 

Lead Time: 1 Month 

Even with just a month to go until publishing, you can still get good PR coverage in regional newspapers and daily online publications…but you have to work quickly! Your window of opportunity is closing. Send out your pitches earlier if possible — if you’re pitching for the December holidays, make sure your pitch is out before Thanksgiving and Black Friday. 

You can also land regional TV coverage on this timeline. These stations usually book guests ahead of time, unlike national shows that make their decisions the day of. Start reaching out to TV stations as early as you’d like so they can keep you in mind for future opportunities, too. 

Related: How to Pitch Products for Gift Guides and Boost Your Clients’ Holiday Marketing Campaigns

Lead Time: Less Than 1 Month 

At less than 1 month away from publication, your options are dwindling. But it never hurts to ask about a possible opportunity. Focus your last-minute pitches on daily publications. 

Major national PR wins don’t happen within this short of a time frame. Instead, go for plan B: think of what will be relevant in six months and pitch that for a long-lead opportunity. 

How to Incorporate Short-Lead and Long-Lead Pitches Into Your Press Plans 

Once you know what you want to pitch for long- and short-lead opportunities, you need to nail down the timelines in your press plan. If you’re not already creating press plans for each client, get on that NOW! A press plan informs your pitching strategy and keeps you organized so you can get what you need from your clients in plenty of time. 

In your press plan, incorporate short- and long-lead public relations pitch opportunities for holidays, launches, and brand initiatives. You should always be pitching short and long leads in any given month, but on different topics. Your long leads will eventually become your short leads, so you can repurpose those pitches when the time comes. 

To build an effective press plan, you have to keep your eye on multiple months of editorial calendars, schedules, and opportunities for your clients at all times. Is your mind spinning yet?

It sounds like a lot because it is a lot. But there is a shortcut for you. As a member of The Pitch Lab, you’ll receive comprehensive monthly Execution Plans with all the information you need to send out perfect pitches at the perfect time: large and small holidays, curated editorial calendars, famous birthdays, and more! Plus, you’ll get access to expert masterclasses, education content to sharpen your pitch-writing skills, and an exclusive community of fellow PR pros.

You could have the most amazing, targeted, well-written public relations pitch, but without perfect timing, you could still get a no. But when you follow short- and long-lead timelines for all your opportunities, you’ll set yourself and your clients up for success and start landing epic press features.