This Sneak Peek at Upcoming Food Editorial Calendars Could Help Retool Your Fall Marketing Strategy

When planning media, food marketers rely on relevant editorial in order to be more strategic with their tactics and implementations. Editorial content calendars are an important tool for the purpose of intentionally scheduling and assigning content for marketing, advertising, public relations and social media strategies.

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, planned editorial has shifted, and with it, editorial calendars. Many marketers are left asking, “What will be the focus for editorial in the coming fall and winter seasons?” What editorial is planned for back-to-school and virtual learning? How about assembling Thanksgiving meals? Or celebrating the holidays and gift giving, whether together or apart?

Food marketers, it’s not too late to retool your plans so you can be relevant in the new normal. Keep reading for insight from several top food editors.

Social Pressures Are Drastically Changing the Way Consumers Engage with Food and Food Brands

The pandemic, along with the Black Lives Matter protest and other social pressures, has brought massive changes to the American way of life. As the country slowly reopens and then closes back again in several areas, a renewed concern about COVID-19, both presently and its “second wave” this fall, is on everyone’s mind.

Since sheltering at home, “new cooking habits” have emerged. Shifts are taking place in terms of gender dynamics when it comes to meal preparation and food shopping. Participating in both, men are doing more grocery shopping and cooking for their homes than previously.

FMI COVID-19 Infograph Cooking HabitsThis trend, along with other nuanced changes, has resulted in American consumers more successfully avoiding food waste, planning better meals and learning new cooking skills. These changes affect how the media speaks to the consumer’s interest. And that in turn affects what the landscape will look like as you shop, prepare and cook for fall and winter holidays.

Brands are big influencers too; now more than ever they have become an integral part of today’s top trending conversation, whether it’s Coca-Cola boycotting Facebook for failing to combat hate speech, McDonald’s donating $1 million to “racial justice organizations” or General Mills donating to Feeding America in response to the impact of COVID-19. Brands have answered the call and consumers are watching, then making purchase decisions accordingly.

What Are Food Editors Saying About This Fall’s Top Editorial Trends?

Lifestyle, home and food editors have had to evolve their editorial mission due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it’s your turn to do so.

Stories involving entertaining and gatherings all of a sudden needed to be scrapped to conform to mask wearing, social distancing and group entertaining limits. With COVID-19 forcing more consumers to eat at home and cook meals three or four times a day, quick and simple pantry-friendly recipes have become top of mind. traffic from March to May increased between 45% to 54%, averaging 60 million monthly unique visitors. ComScore StatsTo get a better feel of what’s happening, we asked a few of our partners at major lifestyle, home and food publications. We wanted to hear about their forecast and what they envision for the next four months. What will they be emphasizing for fall and December 2020?

Maile Carpenter, Editor in Chief, Food Network Magazine

Will any gift categories be more relevant now than before? Will any gift categories see a decline?

    • We expect to see a shift from experiences to enrichment: It’s not about tickets and trips this year, it’s about self-improvement — and all the tools you need to do that at home. For the food category, that translates to professional-grade baking tools, barista-level coffee grinders and espresso machines, pizza-making equipment and overall appliance upgrades. Americans have never spent so much time cooking at home, and they’re looking for ways to make that easier, more fulfilling and more fun.

Will the timing of when people shop be different this year?

    • Our best guess is that our readers will start shopping earlier: This year just won’t — and can’t — be the year of last-minute gifts. Many of us have learned in quarantine that we can no longer depend on two-day shipping and that we need to think way ahead. Shoppers will also need to spread the expenses out over more time, so they’ll be looking for sales earlier than in years past.

How will holiday entertaining be different this year? What will be trending in terms of food, decoration and entertainment?

    • This year, we’ll transition from shared plates and communal tables to thoughtfully portioned apps and holiday meals: Expect to see crostini instead of dips, individual hummus cups instead of a veggie board, mini cheese plates instead of a big cheese-and-meat party platter. Basically, home cooks will start thinking like caterers and will need to find smart (and fun) new ways to present holiday bites. And packaging will become a new focus for every home cook and baker: We’ll be looking for cute ways to bag and box up treats for friends and neighbors in place of the annual cookie exchange.

How will the magazine authentically speak to and support multicultural communities during the holiday season?

    • Food Network Magazine’s biggest, most important issue of the year— November — will be guest-edited by Sunny Anderson, a longtime star of the network and cohost on The Kitchen. Sunny has been planning every page of the issue with our editorial team and incorporating an incredible mix of voices and recipes, including a Thanksgiving menu from the late B. Smith, who inspired Sunny to start cooking. We have also committed to sourcing at least 20% of our gift guide products from businesses owned by people of color.

How will your holiday content be reflective of how some families might have to continue social distancing throughout the holiday season?

    • Food Network Magazine will consider all sorts of scenarios for the holidays: We are publishing a Thanksgiving dinner for two, as well as big-batch meals for those who will still be able to gather with family. We are also offering opportunities for people to reach out to loved ones through food, by shipping care packages from favorite cities, by sending someone a holiday pie from a favorite pie shop, etc.

Meredith Insights Studio and Jan Miller, Better Homes & Gardens Food Editor

Will we see major shifts in menu planning? Any family gatherings shifting? What about gift giving?

    • Lower-cost center-of-the-plate proteins: We won’t see the prime rib roasts on as many holiday menus this year due to price; instead expect pork roasts, hams. And of course turkey is still on the menu.
    • Smaller gatherings — for obvious reasons.
    • DIY: like kitchen-made edible gifts.
    • Pies maintain their place as “the” holiday dessert. The most popular fillings will be fruit, homegrown produce and pumpkin.
    • Cocktails and wine by the can due to COVID-19. Single-serve items requiring less contact are ideal.
    • Appetizers and small bites that start with convenience ingredients, e.g. puff pastry.
    • Economical potato side dishes get a lot of love.
    • Tradition is an extremely important element this holiday season, especially if families are celebrating the holiday apart. Tradition still connects extended families, especially if they are cooking their annual holiday meal in separate homes.
    • Baking is still trending. For many of our readers, baking cookies and other treats has been central to celebrating the holiday. With COVID-19, some of us have less hectic schedules, which allows more time for baking. It’s an activity to do with kids and serves as a creative outlet, which may also drive the DIY gift trend.

Jennifer Darling, Editor in Chief, Allrecipes

What does back-to-school look like? What will Halloween look like? What about gift giving at home in December?

    • Our backyard “Movie Night” story in the August/September back-to-school issue was adjusted to focus on a family-only movie night versus a neighborhood movie night. This issue also includes quick meals and favorite lunch ideas because back-to-school time is always busy, regardless of where the kids are learning.
    • In the October/November issue, Halloween is covered through a healthy Halloween-themed snack and a Halloween craft. This will also feature “And United-We Eat”: a multicultural Thanksgiving story that will encourage sharing global recipes to create a feeling of inclusion, even from a distance, because recipes can always be shared no matter where you are.
    • And, in the December/January issue, “Eat, Brunch and Be Merry” will focus on a cozy, at-home brunch with ideas for make-ahead meals so you can sleep in. It will also include our gift guide, which may incorporate shelf-stable gift options for practical yet inspiring applications.

Use Editorial Calendars as Your Road Map to Better Targeted Media Plans

When requesting RFPs from your media partners, be sure you include a questionnaire. You want to address not only the audience numbers, rates, latest circulation and past performance, but also what is current from an editorial perspective. Specifically ask them how they will address COVID-19’s impact on their readership/site traffic, etc.

Editorial calendars are a starting point, but it’s also important to reach out to editors directly. They continually track consumer interest and trends, so get their perspective and leverage these resources in order to adjust your creative, editorial and media plans for the remainder of 2020.

However, while planning ahead is key, the trajectory and impact of the pandemic are still fluid and unknown. Staying on top of your media buy, communicating with your media partners and being flexible are the best ways to ensure that your marketing communication stays on point.

Related Posts

Lily Katz-Smolenske Sr VP/Media Director EvansHardy+Young
Lily Katz-Smolenske, Senior VP Media Director

Before leading the Media department at EvansHardy+Young for the past 17 years, Lily served as Senior Partner/Media Director at J. Walter Thompson/LA, Senior VP/Account Director at Western International Media and VP/Media Director at TBWA/Chiat Day and on the client side as Group Media Manager for Seagram’s. Lily is a committed Foodie and owns an extensive cookbook collection