A New Year’s Resolution for PR: Media Hits and the Importance of Asking WHY

If SHIFT had a dollar for every time a client or prospect said the following, we’d likely be living in the lap of luxury by now.

“We want to get media hits in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR – those type of tier one media outlets.”

When pressed on the “why” behind this ask, these same clients and prospects often point to the goal of broader brand awareness.  Clearly this is an important endeavor for many businesses and a goal that public relations is well-suited to help achieve.  Nonetheless, often broad brand awareness actually isn’t what many businesses need or what helps move the dial and achieve even more mission critical things, like surpassing sales target goals. Which is why in 2017, we at SHIFT are making one very specific resolution – to ask why when it comes to client and prospect asks, particularly those that don’t seem to be grounded in business goals and therefore are more complex to measure when it comes to actual influence and impact at a business level.

Instead, when we receive requests like – “We want a feature story on NPR” – we plan to ask why.

To be clear, SHIFT knows how to get media hits in these tier one outlets.  We’ve spent years building relationships that matter with media targets and, as a result, we know what they need to bring a story to life.  But we’ve also spent years securing those hits and having follow-up conversations about why they were not as impactful as our client had hoped.

To illustrate the importance of asking why, let me provide a recent client example regarding a tier one media hit.  We recently secured a tier one hit on Marketplace Tech by American Public Media.  Their content is often featured on NPR and their local radio affiliates.  Our client expected a broadcast hit of this caliber to have massive impact – from increasing downloads of their app, to upping traffic to their site.  And while there was undoubtedly an impact – it wasn’t nearly as expansive and impactful as the client had hoped.  Alternatively, a trade media hit in Medgadget had much more influence.  Again, let’s ask why – why did the media coverage in Medgadget have more impact than the one in Marketplace Tech?

Right Audience

The audience that reads Medgadget is primarily doctors.  Doctors are a key audience for the aforementioned client and the end-user for the technology they provide.   The audience for Marketplace Tech is more broad and consumer-centric.  Consumers don’t really have a personal need for the type of technology that was featured in both stories.

Right Message

One of the key messages in the Marketplace story was why consumers should care about what technology and training their doctors are privy to.  While an interesting idea, the reality is that consumers really don’t have a say in what technology their doctors have access to or the type of training they receive.  At heart, there’s no real call to action for the consumer at the end of the Marketplace Tech story.  On the other hand, the Medgadget story speaks directly to doctors and outlines the benefits of the technology – from availability of anytime, anywhere training to accreditation.  The Medgadget story speaks to the end-user – the doctor – and specifically outlines why they should care about the technology and how to access it.

Right Time

The Medgadget article appeared well before the holiday season, whereas the Marketplace Tech piece appeared in the midst of holiday revelry.  Clearly, at this time of year it is more difficult to grab the attention of all people – be it consumer or doctor – as many are focused on family, friends and a chance for respite and relaxation after a hard fought year.

As you put the final touches on your PR plan for 2017, don’t forget about the importance of asking why you want your agency to focus on a particular media targets to ensure impactful media hits.  More importantly, when it comes to all your marcom endeavors in 2017, be sure that the strategies you pursue are data-driven and grounded in your broader business goals – and that before you agree to any strategy, you know your plan to measure its success.

Katie McGraw
Vice President


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