Can you believe we’re already in the middle of the fourth quarter of 2020? This year has been unlike any other, and ready or not, it’s time to start planning for holiday content and 2021 campaigns. This is one of the busiest times of year for many companies, and preparation is in full swing for holiday articles.
We know that shopping for the holidays is going to look very different this year due to the pandemic affecting businesses and consumer behaviors. Retail Dive’s predictions of slight spending growth are cautious (who knows what to expect after a year like this!), but a few things are easy to put stock in: shopping online will be the most popular option, shipping times might be longer than usual and the holiday season will start earlier to make up for demand and logistics.
To capitalize on the holiday and to stay relevant to your audiences, your brand can gain significant exposure by distributing a MAT release and reaching the audience of some of the nation’s largest print and digital newspapers.
Why newspapers are still an effective medium
The stats show that when it comes to getting trusted information, people rely on newspapers. 82 percent of U.S. internet users trust print ads when making a purchase decision, more than any other medium.
Plus, according to the same News Media Alliance research, 8 in 10 Americans read newspaper digital media each month. As consumers are looking for gift ideas and inspiration during the holiday season, distributing a MAT release will help you reach a large, engaged audience and build valuable brand reputation.
[Looking to get holiday coverage for multiple clients? Bundle your brands into one Holiday Gift Guide MAT Release. Contact us to learn more.]
Tips for writing a successful holiday MAT release in 2020
1. Play to your brand’s strengths
One of the biggest challenges with holiday articles is generating ideas that adhere to a holiday’s traditions, but also that hasn’t been covered ad nauseam. To write the best article, play on your brand’s strengths. Where is your expertise? What do you know a lot about? What can your article say that others cannot?
2. Write helpful content
Use your brand’s expertise to write a helpful article with new ideas and meaningful information.
Focus on tips and how-to content. Your article should answer readers’ questions, address a common concern or ease the stress about a specific issue.
3. Stay away from technical jargon
Newspapers have a large enough audience that it’s hard to identify who does or does not understand the technical details of certain industries. Including technical jargon may exclude a large part of your audience and will detract people from reading your article in full.
4. Break up text
Create an easy reading experience by using bullet points, numbers, bold copy, and/or short paragraphs. Breaking up the copy in this way helps readers easily find the information they’re most interested in. They’ll also be able to quickly understand what your article is about.
5. Limit your word count
MAT release articles are generally shorter than they used to be. We see most successful MAT release articles are now between 400-600 words. This shorter word count makes it easier for readers to scan and consume an article.
6. Do not include a specific holiday in the title
You don’t want to limit your audience by only writing for those who celebrate one specific holiday. Rather, use the word “holiday” in your content to encompass the general season. This gives you the ability to spread your message to a larger audience.
7. Include lifestyle photos
Include a high-quality photo in your article, most preferably a lifestyle photo that shows people interacting. A product photo is not as engaging and could make the MAT release look like an ad. If you want to include a product photo, it should only be submitted as a secondary photo. Just know it won’t appear on Brandpoint’s digital network.
Bonus Tip: Use controlled media to stay relevant in 2020
In a year unlike any other, business as usual is not the recommended course of action as far as sponsored content and print placements go. There are many things to keep in mind for holiday articles this year:
- Adjust your messaging: Most people will be celebrating the holidays differently than before, and your MATs should reflect that. Traditions will be changing and there will be fewer families and friends getting together in person. Your brand’s job is to help people keep certain traditions alive, as well as create new ones.
- Be extra mindful of the earlier season: Since so many people are at home and not out and about enjoying holiday displays, many will start decorating and celebrating early. If you’re in food and beverage or in entertaining, time your MAT campaigns early!
- Provide an escape from the news: Between the elections and COVID-19, many people are experiencing major news fatigue. By supplying positive, helpful and constructive MAT releases, you’ll be offering your consumers a well-deserved respite.
Popular holiday topics editors are looking for
A MAT release is an excellent option for brands who don’t want to be limited in creativity and messaging. You also have control over the copy and storyline, which is a benefit you don’t get when pitching ideas to writers and editors. Here are a few topics editors tend to pick up and consumers tend to enjoy:
Baking and big family dinners are a holiday staple, and people are always looking for new recipe ideas and ways to save time on cooking. Your article could list the top condiments for holiday dinners or list no-bake appetizers. Another popular food topic is how to eat healthy during the holidays. This could list helpful tips for the top foods to avoid, or how to turn a popular treat into something more nutritious.
You’ve probably experienced the struggle of coming up with inexpensive gift ideas for friends and family members. It’s tough! Offer ideas for specific interests such as outdoors types or bookworms. Show how to make a homemade gift item out of products you already have in your house. Or suggest ideas for a gift basket and include your product as one of the items. As long as your ideas are original and not over-the-top (an $800 electric device will not be realistic for everyone), your article will be helpful to readers.
3. Saving money
The holidays are known as one of the most expensive times of the year. Articles with ideas for saving money – on gifts, parties, travel and more – are always a popular topic among editors, and readers tend to flock to articles that give advice on how to cut costs without sacrificing results.
The holidays are perhaps the biggest entertaining season of the year. Help ease the stress of planning a festive gathering by giving advice on holiday decorating, cooking for large groups, games and activities, quick house preparation, easy cleanup and other topics that will help hosts throw a memorable party.
- 2020 Note: This topic will look a little different this year. Be sure to include tips on virtual entertaining and how to celebrate with your loved ones in a safe way.
Train, plane or automobile – so many people travel during the holiday season. Whether it’s hitting the red-eye flight to Grandmother’s house or loading up the kids for a cross-country trek to spend the holidays on the beach, travel during this time of year is hectic. Articles that address common concerns and give simple solutions tend to see good performance.
- 2020 Note: Just as with entertaining, traveling might be a less popular subject this year. Consider cutting back on travel content or provide information on how to safely enjoy the outdoors while still following state guidelines.
How to get more out of your MAT releases
As you’ve seen above, including MAT releases in your campaigns is an effective way to significantly increase the number of eyes on your content. But, if you want to add some extra oomph to your product release during the holiday season, you have a few options. These ideas all relate to the digital portion of MAT releases.
1. Get social media in the picture
Many MAT release packages include print and digital opportunities for distribution. In our new Premium MAT offering, we also have a social amplification option. This is a perfect way to get one piece of content seen in as many channels as possible.
With social amplification, you can partner with the media publisher who’s posting your MAT release and take advantage of all the fans and followers they have on Facebook.
2. Think clickable
You want to make your print headlines attention-grabbing, and the same can be said for online ones. No, no clickbait, please, but you DO want to make your article titles enticing — what we call “thumb-stopping.” (As in, you’re absent-mindedly scrolling through a content feed online, but something interests you so much, your thumb stops on the screen.)
3. Look into all your amplification options
Content syndication, audience targeting, native advertising options: there are so many ways to upgrade your digital MAT release. With our Premium MAT release, you can add on two extra options for additional distribution: owned media amplification and publisher amplification:
- Owned media amplification includes boosting your content on various special interest and news sites, driving traffic directly to your web page.
- Publisher amplification has the same premise, but drives the traffic back to the publisher’s site.
Both options include audience targeting, based on location, interest and device.
[Learn more about all the new offerings included in the Premium Mat Release.]
Holiday content becomes irrelevant after January 1, unlike other content, which can run for four months. With a shorter timeline, it’s important to plan, write and distribute your content well before the holidays hit. As we get closer to the holidays, more and more brands submit content, so your competition for placement increases. The sooner you act, the more time your article will have to secure earned media coverage.
Editors start asking for holiday content as soon as September, so if you haven’t yet submitted content for distribution, it’s time to get started! And if you don’t have time to plan or write your article, let Brandpoint help.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September, 2013 and has been updated for relevancy and comprehensiveness.