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In PR, One Size Doesn’t Fit All

June 14, 2019 Jonathan Houghton

We’ve all heard the old saying: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” 

A valuable media placement doesn’t necessarily come from an outlet that has a lot of readers, viewers or listeners.

While that’s certainly debatable, there is a difference between great publicity and publicity that’s merely good.

Some would say that getting a prominent placement in a national newspaper or TV show is the high-water mark for PR professionals. But the truth is that for many clients — particularly those in specialized industries like finance — a valuable media placement isn’t necessarily the same thing as an outlet that has a lot of readers, viewers or listeners. A placement can be valuable because the audience of that outlet is largely made up of people with a specific background or interest whom the client wants to get in front of.

This lesson was underlined for me recently with one of our financial clients, Oaklyn Consulting. Oaklyn is a boutique investment banking firm that sets itself apart from its peers by working at an hourly rate (most firms instead charge a commission on completed deals). This allows Oaklyn to offer truly objective advice to clients concerning the wisdom of M&A deals or other major financial decisions.

As we’ve worked to generate publicity for Oaklyn over the past few years, we’ve mostly focused on mainstream business publications, where we’ve had a great deal of success in getting the client’s thought-leadership columns published.

Although we agreed that what we were doing was good, we decided our efforts could be fine-tuned to target a more specific audience that would better fulfill our client’s goals.

Our task, then, was to reorient our pitching efforts toward publications most likely to be read by Oaklyn’s peers in the middle-market M&A industry. Despite having a smaller readership than mainstream business publications, these smaller outlets offered a better chance to build legitimacy for Oaklyn and share their thought-leadership content — subtly emphasizing the qualities that make them stand out.

Although we pride ourselves on being smart people at the Bradford Group, the fact is, it’s impossible for us to innately understand an industry as well as those who actually work in it every day. That’s why, as part of this fine-tuning plan, it was valuable to have our client’s input in determining which of the media outlets on our list were most relevant to their firm.

A placement can be valuable because the audience of that outlet is largely made up of people with a specific background or interest whom the client wants to get in front of.

Once we had our targeted media list compiled, we began working from those outlets’ editorial calendars to design unique pitches that would fit into the themes of upcoming issues. We also did wider pitches that we made sure were applicable to those outlets’ specific audiences. Again, this was done in collaboration with the client, combining their industry knowledge with our PR instincts for what could be packaged into a compelling story.

The results have been exactly what we were looking for, including placements for Oaklyn in publications like Mergers & Acquisitions, Middle Market Growth, Middle Market Review and CFO magazine, plus several more in the pipeline.

To me, this is a great example of how a proactive, intelligent PR plan can generate exactly the right kind of publicity for a client. In PR, one size doesn’t always fit all.

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