Guest blogger Lesley Singleton has been working in consumer PR and the media for more than a decade. In that time, she has worked for big London PR agencies (including PR Week’s “Agency of the Year”) as well as in-house for a major airline and a high street bank. Here she gives some advice on how to use calendar hooks to make your news more newsworthy.

Your business is up and running and now you’re on a mission to drum up custom. You’ve done your research and already know your product is relevant to readers of the Times & Citizen/The Sun/Saga Magazine or whatever your target titles might be, but what exactly do you have to say?

Gone are the days where merely launching your own business was news in itself, even for a local paper. With increased redundancy levels leading more people to set up on their own and more mothers finding the support and confidence they need to take that step into business, journalists’ inboxes are bursting at the seams with “local mum launches new venture”-type stories, so competition for coverage is fierce.

Before contacting a journalist or attempting a press release, really ask yourself what the ‘news’ is. I am constantly prodding clients, asking them what they have to say, what ‘excuse’ do we have to speak to the media this week? What new thing can we shout about in order to generate a buzz?

One tried and tested way of increasing awareness of your product/brand/event is to give it a calendar hook – some of these dates are more obvious than others, for example, Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Christmas etc. but why not think laterally and look at the more unusual anniversaries and awareness weeks? I’ve recently generated press coverage for clients by piggybacking events including National Cupcake Week, 2010’s Blue Monday (most depressing day of the year) and National Hypnotherapy Week and there are many more calendar hooks throughout the year which could be relevant to your business: if you run a restaurant, why not use British Pie Week (1-7 March 2010) as a reason to add a new special to your menu? Or if you’re launching a new organic product, you could pin it to this year’s National Organic Fortnight in September?

There are some really excellent hooks throughout the year – here are some gems I unearthed recently whilst doing some client research, all of which are genuine and could be used to generate some news or create a promotion for your brand: Barbie’s Birthday, Kissing Friday, International Dance Day, Honey Week, Veggie Month… the list goes on. What’s more, 2010 also promises a General Election (on or before 3 June) as well as the World Cup Finals in June/July – journalists will be looking at various angles hooking back to these events, some of which might be quite tenuous (WAG and First Lady fashion tips, anyone?), so think about your own brand and whether you can create some lateral news as an excuse to speak to your target titles.

Once you’ve picked your hook, decide how to exploit it – if you’re using a PR professional, they’ll be happy to thrash out ideas with you, or try friends, networking colleagues etc and work up some ideas together. The important thing to remember is that you are trying to create ‘news’ to spike your target journalists’ interest, so make sure there is something genuinely interesting and newsworthy to say. A decent calendar hook is a great way of creating relevant, new, news and, as I’ve said, giving yourself a legitimate reason to contact your target journalists, bringing your brand front of mind once again.

To find out how Lesley can help you with your PR, please visit www.playtimepr.com