When a mid-tier media outlet might be better than a top-tier placement

And how to get placements in these smaller outlets.

Mid-tier media outlets can be great for placements

Do you want to get into The Wall Street Journal or on CNBC?

Congratulations. So does everyone else. Which is why it’s really, really hard to secure top-level press. Barriers include, but are not limited to:

  • Your area of expertise and message don’t match the news cycle. This past February, it was hard to get press on any matter which was unrelated to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Better-known competitors have gotten in ahead of you. They may not be smarter, but they’re getting the exposure you need.
  • You don’t have media samples which proves your ability to share about, or inform with, your unique story or message. This is especially important for TV, radio and podcasts, which often want to confirm your ability to handle questions and debate before putting you in front of their audiences.

You can fight against everyone else for top-tier media exposure. Or you can seek out mid-tier media outlets like trade publications or geographically regional outlets which are:

  • Just as trusted as by your target audiences.
  • Easier to get into.
  • Able to dramatically improve your marketing outcomes.

Here’s how to win big by going small in the press.

First, get any press you can

Building a credible media presence starts off small, like a snowball you can hold in your hand. And as you add more snow, it starts to build up size and speed.

The same is true for earned media. Getting those initial placements, especially on small podcasts or news outlets, . But they will be easier to secure, lower-risk and will help you:

  1. Start to develop a cadence and a process that will continue to improve.
  2. Have placements to show other, larger outlets for proof of credibility.
  3. Develop a fine-tuned sense of how your message fits into the overall media ecosystem.
  4.  Begin to build trusted relationships with gatekeepers who will begin to seek out your content through thought leadership interviews, opinion writing, and more.

The phrase “go big, or go home” is inappropriate when seeking media placements. Your team needs to balance what we call “gettability” (yes, I made it up) and reachability (that may actually be a word). In other words, aim for outlets that likely want your content which also have reach into, and trust with, your target audiences.

Second, fine-tune your messaging

There are two levels of media messaging. The first is what everyone thinks of — what you want to say to your target audiences who are reached by specific outlets.

But another, critical message is the email or phone pitch which persuades a media gatekeeper to put your content in front of their audience.

Your team’s media research should include determining:

  • What messages are popular with the audience and gatekeepers.
  • Which messages are missing from specific outlets.
  • The tones and styles which are preferred by gatekeepers.
  • What mediums are the best fit for your message, tone and niche.

Third, find what works and stick to it

Your team won’t just help you determine the right medium; it will also help you find and develop your best media voice. Will you be the straight expert, simply providing expert commentary on the nuances of the day’s news? Does a counter-intuitive tone fit your brand, like a financial advisor who tells people to stay in the market even when stocks are crashing? Or will you be a predictor of the future, looking at the news of the day and telling people what to expect?

What works for you may be very different than you ever thought. And, sometimes, you’ll hit a cold spell, where nothing works. Other times, your consistency will be the hottest thing in the market, and you’ll land placements like hotcakes.

Finally: Remember to focus on value

What value does press bring for you? For some organizations, there is a direct link between press and sales. This is especially true with certain commodities, like ticket sales to a concert or a new local restaurant. Other times, press is part of a surround-sound marketing and branding strategy, and brings value like:

  • Social media and email newsletter content to increase audience size and engagement.
  • Website content that will keep prospective clients, investors and partners coming back.
  • Proof to investors that what you’re doing is having an impact.
  • Proof to media outlets that you’re an emerging and credible thought leader. This is especially important for major outlets which want to make sure you’re legitimate, and TV outlets which often want to see prior media placements for proof that you can handle their platform.
  • Improved SEO.

Only you and your communications team can determine value. Once it’s been identified, don’t take your eyes off of it. Remember, many of your competitors are probably fighting tooth and nail for the bigger outlets. By aiming slightly lower, you’ll have a better chance of getting your unique message placed, and then using your marketing strategy to drive people down your sales funnel.

Dustin Siggins is a business columnist and founder of the publicity firm Proven Media Solutions.


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