To pitch or not to pitch the New York Times: Strategically choosing your media targets

I hear it all the time.

Not directly from the PR pros I serve. But indirectly – when those PR pros pass along their bosses’ or clients’ most consistent request:

“We need to be in the New York Times.” (The Journal is mentioned almost as much.)

So I wasn’t surprised last week when I was filling out this “Ask an Expert” Q&A that one of the questions was:

“Bottom line, how do I get my client in the New York Times?”

But I was really impressed with the insightful follow-up questions: “And do I even want to get them in the NYT? Is there a new outlet that’s more influential?

I didn’t have enough space to give my full answer, so here it is:

I’m not here to talk you out of aiming high. Shooting for almost-impossible targets (and a lot of failures in the attempt) is how I developed many of the techniques I teach today.

But because your bosses or clients are usually smart business people, they’ll understand strategic thinking.

And being strategic about choosing media targets goes like this:

“What outlets will likely achieve the most influence on our key audiences given the amount of resources we have for outreach?”

A few hours after writing this I’m going to interview a top agency exec with many mega-wins under his belt who can get budgets in the millions for his campaigns. In his case, depending on the client, the NYT is often a sound answer to that question.

Same with those wonderful times when you conjure a really compelling angle that you KNOW is newsworthy and shareworthy.

But for many of the issues and events we’re tasked to promote, even for the Fortune 500 clients I work with, the NYT or the WSJ does not present a good effort-to-reward ratio.

Usually there are trade pubs, niche web sites, or new online properties that are much more desperate for relevant content and still influential among key audiences.

For example, one of my clients, for whom the NY Times is typically the Holy Grail, landed coverage on a new niche web site she had only heard of within the previous year that was shared 9,900 times on Facebook alone.

Remember, don’t shrink from ambitious expectations – embrace them because they push you further than you can go on your own.

Just make sure that ambition is motivated by strategic thinking, not personal vanity or keeping up with the Joneses.

“NYT or not?” was just one of the insightful questions I puzzled over when drafting my responses. Some of the others were:

What is the single most important thing that public relations practitioners should do before they begin a media pitching project?

What do you predict will be the biggest evolution in media engagement in 2015 and how can PR pros adapt to the change?

With so many pitches coming in from so many potential sources, how does one differentiate themselves in 2015?

What is the most difficult, but worthwhile media engagement you’ve ever worked on?

You can check out more of my answers on the Ask An Expert column on the PRSA blog.

This article was originally published on March 5, 2015

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