Every business owner dreams of seeing his or her press release on the front page of The New York Times. But did you ever stop to realize that as ego-gratifying as an above-the-fold placement in a major newspaper might be, it might completely miss your target audience?
Thirty years ago, consumers received their information differently than they do today. Back when there were only three major TV networks, all an advertiser or publicist had to do was get onto the major networks to reach most viewers. When a daily newspaper and weekly magazines were the only choice for news, the strategy was simple—get in the paper and magazines.
But times have changed. The proliferation of cable channels, satellite radio choices, online news magazines, and mobile phone applications, as well as the demise of many long-running newspapers and magazines has completely changed how consumers consume information. “Mass media” is now not nearly as “mass” as it used to be. So making the front page of a major newspaper won’t help you sell products or services if your target audience doesn’t read that newspaper. Welcome to a whole new world of niche marketing.
Niche Marketing Gets Results
Does the shift in consumers’ media preference mean the end of mass media? No—or at least, not yet. However, that shift has dramatically reduced the effectiveness of mass media to reach the same kind of broad audience they once dominated. Believe it or not, “mass media” vehicles such as The New York Times, CBS and FM radio stations have become niches themselves. Since they can’t promise to reach everyone, even such long-lived media vehicles now emphasize the profile of the consumer they do reach (in other words, their niche).
Am I saying that mass media no longer plays a valuable role in promotion? No—but its role isn’t what it used to be. The big newspapers, the three major broadcast networks and big city FM radio stations can help a major advertiser saturate a market, but they reach a shrinking audience base at a very high cost per person compared with New Media alternatives. If you’ve got a couple of million dollars to round out your promotional campaign, go ahead and spend it with the traditional media. If you’re looking for a better, more focused and less expensive alternative, keep reading.
Refocus your idea of PR to take a broader look at the opportunities that exist for you to reach your target audience. Many people are so obsessed with having their press release picked up by a big newspaper, a major magazine or a network TV show that they have not bothered to study those media vehicles audience profiles to assure that the message is reaching the right consumer. Sure, you get bragging rights if your release is picked up by a big paper, but will you get sales? It won’t hurt—but how much will it help? Not only that, but what’s the value of a one-shot media mention versus developing relationships with more targeted venues that provide the potential for you to reach your ideal customer over and over again?
Here’s something else to consider: how often can your company generate news that is truly worthy of national attention? For most mid-sized companies, having national-caliber news might happen once or twice a year—a new product launch, an IPO, landing a huge company as a client. For solo professionals and small companies, even a once-a-year national news item might be a stretch. Publishing a new book with a major publisher would qualify, as would winning a national award or being named to a national board of directors, but beyond that, it is difficult to imagine too many opportunities that would tempt a national reporter to cover your news.
Now re-think that question, with your focus on regional/local news as well as the information sources that reach your profession or industry. Picture your ideal client and think about the blogs, Web sites, podcasts, Internet radio shows, online/offline specialty magazines, newsletters and member organization publications that speak directly to their interests and needs. I bet your mental wheels are turning, helping you envision all kinds of news that would be interesting and valuable to the audience most likely to buy your products or engage your services. Why not focus the majority of your effort where it is likely to make you the most sales?
Excerpted from 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success, coming in November from Career Press and available for pre-order now on Amazon!