Earning media coverage remains a potent strategy to boost brand awareness. Media placement in a key outlet yields unmatched third-party credentialing while driving awareness and preference. In a world of branded content, earned media is still the gold standard for value.
Generally speaking, the importance of earned media coverage for brand awareness and credentialing is not debated, but the particular media targets a brand should pursue often is. One question we hear from clients is: which type of media should we spend our time pitching? For B2B brands, the choice lies between industry-specific trade media (e.g., PYMNTS.com, Retail Dive, American Banker) and national business media (Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Forbes). There are key considerations to note when pursuing either type of media, as well as expectations for what each will drive for your brand. Below, we explore both:
What to expect with trade media
Trade media covers one industry and one alone. This singular focus allows trade media journalists to be much more thorough and nuanced in their coverage of industry issues and your news announcements. Trade media is where you’ll have the opportunity to deeply explain your service offerings, competitive differentiators, new partnerships, etc.
Trade media coverage is also faster to earn because these journalists possess a strong familiarity with your industry and what you’re selling. Trade media journalists will speak the same language as you and understand trends and topics circulating in your industry. These writers are also likely to show up at the same industry events your team attends – whether annual conferences or awards shows – which means you’ll generally have more access to them beyond cold pitches.
Trade media often gets a bad rep because circulation numbers are smaller than those of national media outlets, but don’t assume a smaller readership means a smaller impact. With trade media, you can trust that you’re speaking directly to your industry or a particular prospect you’re targeting. While the readers are fewer, they are more relevant to your business objectives. You can expect this media segment to be the best avenue for speaking directly to your prospects.
To oversimplify, we like to say that trade media is the ideal target for driving pipeline.
What to expect with national media
National business press covers the national – and oftentimes global – business landscape. This means they are broadly covering the public markets, identifying trends cutting across industries, and focusing on the global and household-name brands that all their readers will know. Writing about business on a macro scale means that these journalists do not have a deep familiarity with most B2B brands.
Simply put, national business press is harder to earn than trade media. Many B2B businesses don’t have national business writers’ attention to begin with and these journalists seldom have the time or interest to deeply explore a niche industry. Smaller industries exploding with innovation have risen to prominence on the national business scene and become mainstays there, industries like crypto or AI, but these are the exception, not the rule.
We never expect national media to show interest in covering B2B news like partner announcements or new hires. Even product announcements are a hard sell unless they represent a true groundbreaking promise for the business community at large. Instead, we must approach this media differently. B2B brands can supply context and insights for the trending stories journalists are researching – offering thought leadership on the bigger business topics they care about. This could be in the form of original research or just key quotes from your leaders. Keep in mind: to make it into national business press, it will be for talking about what you know, not what you sell. You must also remember that this coverage will reach a large swath of readers that are of no strategic importance to you because they are in totally unrelated industries.
Despite the difficulty of earning national business coverage, the appeal is evident. National brands are the media names that everyone knows, regardless of the industry they work in. Appearing in national media helps these brands achieve status as industry leaders and being industry leaders means the national business media follow your story. It becomes a feedback loop.
For this reason, we like to say that national business media is for driving prestige.
Finding the right balance
For most B2B businesses, the best approach to media relations strategy is to directly align media coverage goals to specific business objectives. For example: is your focus on supporting your sales department with meaningful, detailed coverage that will help nurture leads? Trade coverage is the ticket. Are you on the verge of going public or selling and need some top-tier visibility to wow potential investors? National business media should be the priority. There may be many different combinations of goals at play for your business, and you need to be able to pick your priorities and map out how you’ll realistically achieve them. Working with a savvy PR partner can help you strategically leverage both national business press and industry trade media for maximum impact.
The media landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Inserting complex B2B storylines into the news is not an easy task. But media coverage remains one of the most powerful endorsements for your business. As your B2B brand endeavors to earn media coverage, be sure you’re carefully considering the pros and cons of approaching both trade and national business media. Each comes with its own benefits and considerations for pitching. This is a key element to discuss as you build out a comprehensive media relations strategy.
Note: a version of this article appeared in PR Daily on September 13, 2023.