PR Week

PR Week
Pregnancy breeds avid consumers

by David Ward
January 23, 2006

With an ever-changing, but receptive audience, pregnancy products aren’t limited to mothers-to-be or pregnancy-themed outlets.

Perhaps more than any other time in their lives, pregnant women – and particularly first-time mothers-to-be – are searching for reassurance that the changes they are going through are normal. Increasingly, they also want to look good during those changes.

Books, magazines, and programming that address pregnancy and childbirth offer a wealth of opportunities for PR professionals to push a product into the limelight, and chances are, the subject will be revisited time and time again.

Much like bridal magazines, pregnancy-themed outlets deal with an ever-changing audience.

“About 70% of our readers are first-time moms, and about 30% are on their second or third child,” says Amy Brayfield, editor-in-chief of Pregnancy. “So we revisit a lot of topics, not just because we have a new readership every nine months, but also because pregnant women want to be reassured over again about topics.”

Taking it all in – again and again

Because the birth of a first child is such a milestone, Brayfield notes that expectant parents, especially women, end up being a receptive audience.

“I think pregnant women are like sponges,” she says. “They will buy every pregnancy book and read them over and over again; they will buy pregnancy magazines and read every pamphlet and brochure that their doctor gives them. I’m amazed more people don’t reach out to them.”

Much of the coverage tends to be service journalism, filled with advice on topics such as how much weight a woman should gain during pregnancy, whether she should use an epidural during labor, and how to lose weight after giving birth.

But increasingly, the media are also devoting more space to pregnancy fashion and lifestyle. “We have been doing a lot more style stories,” Brayfield says. “Women want to maintain a sense of themselves while pregnant that maybe they didn’t feel comfortable doing 10 or 20 years ago. Also, a lot of people are getting pregnant older, which means they have a lot more disposable income.”

“A lot of editors are looking at pregnancy as a lifestyle trend more than anything else,” adds Julia Beck of the marketing and PR firm Forty Weeks. “We’re now dealing with what I call ‘pregnancy by association,’ with expectant grandparents, expectant fathers, and even expectant pets all with a piece of the action, and there are products and services out there for all of them.”

Bump-watching in the spotlight

Thanks to Britney Spears and other celebrities who have gone through very public pregnancies, Beck notes that impending parenthood also is now a staple of the entertainment pages.

“Take a survey of the gossip magazines, and you can find up to five pregnancy or baby stories every week,” she points out. “Now the big thing is bump-watching, with the celebrity outlets trying to figure out who has a bump that indicates they’re pregnant and who doesn’t.”

Unlike a lot of consumer categories, pregnancy products benefit from being a year-round business, notes Chantal Allman, director of publicity for maternity and children’s retailer Babystyle.

“Some of the fashion magazines that generally do not cover maternity and baby fashion tend to pick spring as a popular time to talk about birth and baby showers,” she says. “But the magazines that are dedicated to maternity fashion and pregnancy are looking to us for great new looks with every issue.”

Michael Diamant, cofounder of Skip Hop, which makes trendy diaper bags, also points out that new outlets, such as Cookie – a lifestyle title for stylish parents – are targeting expectant parents.

“Family editors are becoming very design- and brand-focused, so we’ve been able to push that angle,” he adds. “We’ve also been in Wallpaper and Real Simple, pitching out products as a modern product design story.”

Though it takes two to make a child, virtually all the pregnancy-themed writing in the past was aimed exclusively at women. But Brayfield notes that blogs, such as daddytypes.com, are tapping into the expectant father market, and Beck points out that stories aimed at both expectant parents can now be pitched to a surprising variety of outlets.

“I did a story with The Wall Street Journal on maternity photography and how parents are interested in capturing their pregnancy on celluloid,” Beck says “That piece ended up triggering stories on Good Morning America and NPR’s Marketplace, places that in the past may not have done this type of coverage.”