Thought Leadership

Why The New York Times Shouldn’t Always Be Your Media Relations Target

I hear it all the time. Not directly from the PR pros I serve, but indirectly – when those pros pass along their bosses’ or clients’ most consistent request: “We need to be in The New York Times.”

So I wasn’t surprised when I was fielding questions about media relations at a so-called “Ask the Expert” session that this query came up: “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 The New York Times? Is there a new outlet that’s more influential?”

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?”

On one hand, there’s a top agency exec with many mega-wins under his belt who can secure million dollar budgets for his campaigns. In his case, depending on the client, the Times is often a sound answer to that question. Same with those wonderful times when you can conjure a really compelling angle that you know is newsworthy and share-worthy.

But for many of the issues and events we’re tasked to promote, even for the Fortune 500 clients I work with, the Times and The Wall Street Journal don’t present encouraging effort-to-reward ratios.

For these clients, there are trade publications, niche web sites and new online properties that are much more desperate for relevant content and still influential among key audiences. And sometimes, the result is better than if they had gotten coverage in a mainstream outlet: One client, who valued the Times as a Holy Grail for exposure, landed coverage on a new niche web site that was shared 9,900 times on Facebook alone.

The takeaway is: Don’t shrink from your ambitious expectations, as they can inspire action and effort. Just make sure that your ambition is motivated by strategic thinking and not personal vanity or a desire to “keep up with the Joneses.”


Michael Smart teaches PR professionals how to dramatically increase their positive media placements. He’s engaged regularly by organizations like General Motors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Georgia Tech to help their media relations teams reach new levels of success. Get more media pitching knowledge from Michael here.

Want to dive deeper into Michael’s tips for landing more media coverage? Check out his Secrets of Media Relations Masters workshop or his Crafting the Perfect Pitch online course.

6 Comments

  • I appreciate how Smart encourages people to look into trade, niche and smaller publications. As a new PR professional, advice like this is very beneficial. Strategic thinking for placing pieces is crucial and, if successful, can be a great return on investment for the PR or media pro and clients alike.
    -Stephanie Zielinski, writer/editor for Platform Magazine

  • This has been going on for decades. In the 1980s, the golden ticket for clients was getting an iconic hedcut illustration in the Wall Street Journal. It’s our job as PR professionals to counsel (and educate) clients on the best communications strategies — not the most glamorous — to achieve their business goals.

  • I appreciate this article. So often in the PR world it feels as if you don’t succeed unless you score press with one of the ‘huge’ publications. However, focusing on smaller mediums that are more relevant to your field or focus can actually be more beneficial for clients in some cases. It is important to not stop ‘reaching for the stars,’ but its also crucial to be realistic with your goals. Very well done post!

  • Carolyn, ha! I can see that. I’m vain enough to wonder how I would look in one of those illustrations 🙂 Thanks for your input, and you too Stephanie and Kate.

  • I appreciate your focus on smaller publication and outlets since the PR industry is consumed by the influence of big name publications. In this instance with the New York Times, targeting outlets that can better suit a client’s audience is a much more effective form of communication-rather than just a big name publication. This is not always touched upon, so this was very interesting.

  • Readers should have an appreciation for what Smart has to say about media exposure in this article. As an up-and-coming PR professional, I wonder where I can find the niche websites that would give my content the exposure it needs. Once I am on those sites, what kind of content would get the most exposure on these sites? I would also ask, what kind of content is good for getting exposure through The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal? These are thoughts that many fresh PR students and employees have when it comes to creating and publishing content. All too often great content is created but then lost in the abundance of posts across the internet. This article helps inform content creators about what medium is best for their content.

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