When it comes to achieving the objectives of a PR campaign, one way that expert practitioners bring value to their clients is with a simple reminder: it’s not how far and wide you spread your message — it’s whether it reaches the right people.
Kamran Shaikh, Account Director with PR Associates in Vancouver, B.C., says, more often than not, those ‘right audience’ are best reached through trade journals.
As a specialist in serving clients with a technical or scientific story to tell, he says that while it’s often assumed that “more publicity = better publicity,” what’s often missed is the fact that reaching more people is pointless if most of those people have no stake in what you’re trying to say.
In practical terms, what that means is that many PR campaigns eventually feel the pull toward pitching to the biggest names in mainstream media, at the expense of trying to get their story placed in trade journals, those niche publications whose journalists work with a dedicated focus on specific areas of expertise and industry.
What that creates, says Kamran Shaikh, is a competitive advantage for those who see the full PR value of trade journals.
Trade journals only write about their particular industry, so the expertise they bring to these topics allows them to go deeper than journalists who are dealing with it for the first time.Kamran Shaikh
Account Director, PR Associates
Reaching the Right Audience
“Trade journals only write about their particular industry, so the expertise they bring to these topics allows them to go deeper than journalists who are dealing with it for the first time,” says Shaikh, a veteran account director with PR Associates.
Often, that deeper dive comes with a stronger focus on the subjects that clients want covered, he says.
“When the big names in mainstream media pick up your story — your Wall Street Journals, your New York Times — usually what you’ll get is coverage that places you as one piece inside a larger puzzle, articles that talk about industry trends and the bigger picture,” says Shaikh.
“This can be great in terms of general credibility, but if your message is at all complex, it usually doesn’t allow us to get into it in detail.”
When working with trade journals, on the other hand, you’re working with editors and journalists who see the value in dedicating a full-page article or a front-page feature to your CEO’s specific views, or your product’s unique value proposition, says Shaikh.
It’s the difference between getting a small part of your story out to as many people as possible, and saying exactly what you want to say, right into the ears of the people the message is meant for.
Finding the Right Mix
In contrast, instead of being anchored in the specific goals of your company or campaign, what mainstream media coverage is good at, says Shaikh, is building broad awareness with the public, as well as credibility in their eyes.
“There is a time and a place for that,” says Shaikh. At the end of the day, when it comes to the ideal kinds of media coverage, “what you really need is a mix,” he says.
That mix can mean turning to different media outlets to cover different aspects of what you’re trying to communicate, he says.
Building credibility and awareness is important; so is showing the specific reasons why your product stands out. Getting your corporate leaders to share their opinions on major trends and innovations can help position them as thought leaders. Showing off your company’s expertise, industry knowledge, collaborations and partnerships can help show not just where you stand, but what you stand for.
Communicating all that is complex. No single article, TV feature or media outlet can cover it in one go, no matter how big their newsroom or how famous their masthead, he says.
Step 1: Getting Relationships Right
More often than not, if you want to reach the people who really matter to what you are trying to achieve — the technicians, the specialists, the industry experts and decision-makers — the best place to get their attention is through a trade journal.
Getting the attention of the trade journal itself, however, isn’t always easy.
Shaikh says that, as veteran PR practitioners, one way he and his colleagues bring value to clients is through the relationships they maintain with the journalists and editors at these outlets, who are the gatekeepers to getting this kind of coverage.
Just as the coverage they provide helps add to the credibility of clients, says Shaikh, getting their attention in the first place requires credibility as well.
That means being sparing with their inbox, in the stories they choose to pitch to them, he says, and making sure those pitches always live up to standards of quality.
It also means knowing how to make life easy for them, as media professionals: knowing that, in addition to never pitching them a lifeless story, they have to help provide all the elements that bring a story to life.
It’s a two-way relationship, says Shaikh, for how it demands that both sides truly show up and work with integrity toward crafting a story with impact. It’s also a long game, requiring wise PR practitioners to invest in these relationships over years, and not expecting the same trust to arrive overnight.
From this starting place, building a foundation of more and more quality coverage through trade journals, clients reap the benefits because it creates for them a position of strength to take advantage of when the big names in mainstream media come knocking.
Put simply, it’s not an “either/or,” says Shaikh: more coverage in trade journals comes with many benefits, including how it creates opportunities for large-scale coverage later on.
“It’s a marathon,” he says. “You’ve got to build slowly.”