Tips for targeting trade publications with your pitch

For many campaigns, getting covered by media outlets that speak to other industry insiders can offer big dividends. Here’s how to win over these gatekeepers.

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B2B trade magazines—both print and digital—are an oft-overlooked part of the media landscape.

These magazines might elicit blank stares (or worse) at dinner parties but, in their niches, they remain a key resource for PR pros. This is particularly true in traditional “heavy” industries.

Having a piece published in a recognized magazine is often more appreciated than pushing it to a company website or via its social media channels.

Despite this, PR pitching to trade press editors often feels like an afterthought. Given that PR pros now significantly outnumber editorial staff and trade press outlets are a shrinking breed, having your pitch or press release cut through the noise is a challenge. The challenge grows when trying to enter a new industry with its own set of trade press and often slightly cranky editors.

Over the past decade, in my role as an editor of trade magazines covering the coal mining, shipping and cement industries, I have been pitched numerous articles, interviews and press releases. The best PR contacts have become trusted collaborators. I have come to welcome their emails or phone calls. Many, however, end up in my deleted email.

Here is my advice for catching a trade press editor’s attention (well, at least this one’s):

1. Know your client (or your company.)

When pitching to a trade press editor, make sure you know at least the basics of what your company or your client does.

This is perhaps an easier task for in-house PR pros than for those at an agency, but there is no excuse poor preparation. I’ve lost count of the number of PR pros I’ve met who did not know the basics of what they were pitching.

The subject may not be glamourous or exciting, but you must be able to hold up your end of a conversation with an editor, who might be far more knowledgeable about your company or client and its products than you are.

2. Know your media contact’s specialty.

The trade press are often very niche; so if you are pitching a story about a new product, technology or project, make sure it can actually be used in the industry the editor’s magazine covers.

As an example, I used to cover the cement industry (not to be confused with the concrete industry). To a layman, there may not be much difference, but if a PR pro pitches a story about concrete, that pitch is useless.

If in doubt, find out what trade press the experts at your company or client read (or better yet your company’s or client’s customers). There can be a dizzying number of trade press outlets within an industry (at last count, there were five just covering cement). There may be one leading magazine that commands more attention than others. Make sure you are pitching the right content to the magazine that people most read and respect.

3. Listen to what media pros want.

The editor knows what will work for his or her readers. I would rather be asked what I need than being forced to hit the delete key on numerous irrelevant pitches.

Your pitch might be relevant to the magazine but the form offered is not useable. If an editor needs 800-1,000 words, give him or her 800-1,000 words. If he or she wants two or three images, don’t send 20. If she or he wants an opinion piece, don’t send an advertorial.

In fact, never send advertorial.

Trade magazines are unlikely to have large editorial teams to rework unusable content. Receiving material that fits guidelines and arrives on time is always a good way of making sure your content is used and your media relationship blossoms.

The case study is perhaps the most valuable content for trade publications. Case studies are more likely to be read (which the editor will appreciate) and are a far better way of demonstrating a company’s expertise than simple press releases.

They are not always the easiest content to prepare. As one veteran PR pro once told me: “The tough part in an industry B2B setting is getting a customer to agree to do it.” However, they are worth the effort.

4. Know when to leave editors alone.

The follow-up phone call half an hour after sending a pitch or press release is overkill. You are not the only PR pro pushing a pitch. Give the editor time.

You can also start things with a phone call. Let the editor tell you what they need, when they need it and how it should be packaged. Then, follow up with an email to confirm what you are offering.

A PR pro’s job is difficult. There’s a lot of noise to cut through to reach the ears of the editor best placed to use your content. However, some PR pros don’t make life easy for themselves.

If you forget everything else, remember this advice from Sammy Nickalls, Departments Editor at Adweek, speaking to the MuckRack blog last year: “Make an editor’s job easier, not harder, and that’s the way to get your foot in the door.”

Jonathan Rowland is currently the editor of World Cement, where he manages content for a monthly magazine, website and social media. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.

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