Thought Leadership Resources

#79 5 ways to get your ideas into media your clients trust

One of the best ways to make sure your ideas get in front of the people you want as clients is to be where they’re looking.

Sure, it’s important to publish in your own media such as your own blog or YouTube channel, but that gets you mostly traffic from people who already know you. What you need is an effective way to reach out to people who don’t know you yet, and then bring them back to your own platform. Then, you can start to own the relationship.

To use a metaphor I really, really don’t like – it’s like fishing. You need to cast your line out far from you, and then draw the fish back to you (I just don’t like to think of anyone as a fish).

So, where do you cast your line – i.e. put your ideas where they’ll be seen by your ideal clients?

If they’re in specialized markets, they rely on niche media for their information – principally trade magazines and their associated websites, professional and industry association websites, and widely-read online media such as blogs and newsletters.

In this post, I’m going to focus on trade magazines. Some people consider them to be dinosaur media, but this is one category that still succeeds at providing quality information in a financially viable way. These publications make money, which gives them an edge on some of the newer media like, well, Twitter.

This longstanding business model involves paid editors and journalists creating specialty content, which is published as ink on paper (many with a lively online presence too). Money comes mostly through advertising in the print publication, with some ad revenue from the website. Aside from the online aspect, this model hasn’t changed much over the past century or so.

In addition to that, trade publications are widely read – as seen in the audited circulation figures that they publish. I’ve helped my clients get their ideas published in media with more than 70,000 circulations, which is a LOT of eyeballs. More to the point – consider that these media, with their high production costs due to salaries, paper, printing and mailing are financed by advertising. And they charge what I consider to be stratospheric prices for their ad space (more on that below)….

I’ve checked the rate cards of many of the publications in which I’ve been able to get my clients published at no cost at all from the magazine, and the publication is charging thousands of US$ per page – in many cases, over $10,000. And there are a LOT of smart companies that pay these rates, with repeated insertions annually, and year after year.

So yes, despite what you’ve heard about “the death of print,” these media are one of the best ways to reach your ideal clients (for more on how to find niche publications reaching your market, see my blog post #34).

There are five ways you can get published in these media, not all of which will be practical for you, based on your circumstances.

1. Getting quoted in a journalist-written article

One way to get into the pages – and their online equivalent – is through being interviewed and quoted by a journalist. In an interview, the journalist asks you questions, and you respond, based on your knowledge. The journalist incorporates your ideas into their article, quoting you as a source.

The upsides to this are:
  • It doesn't take a lot of your time – maybe a 20 minute interview
  • It can lead to a long-term relationship as you become the go-to person in your field – from my own experience as a reporter, I know that they tend to rely on sources who have shown themselves to be reliably good for a quote anytime
  • This gets your ideas into the news articles of the publication, which are often the most prominent, most widely circulated on social media, and very likely to come up in online search results on that topic.
The downsides are:
  • You have no control over what the journalist writes – and again from my own experience as a reporter, they often don’t quite get it right (and sometimes, very wrong)
  • The amount of space your 15 minutes of fame occupies is tiny – maybe a few paragraphs, at most, in the entire article
  • It’s not easy for a potential client to get in touch with you, if they want to learn more – they would need to try to find you online, and many people won’t bother
  • Journalists don’t want to be part of your marketing campaign. Again, having been trained as a reporter and with many years in the trade, I can say that the best journalists have almost a phobia against helping promote a commercial, political or other interest. They’re not your friend (and the civil-society enthusiast in me rejoices at the obnoxiously independent streak in many journalists; we need that independence).

How to get on journalists’ radar

Journalists are looking for “sources” – that’s their word – who are credible, knowledgeable and available. You need all three.
  • Credible: Build this by getting published in respected publications, giving speeches, having a well-followed platform such as your blog, podcast or YouTube channel
  • Knowledgeable: As seen in your academic and professional qualifications, and experience in your industry
  • Available: Many times as a reporter, I’d get an assignment and would start calling sources. I’d generally write the story that day and file it. Sometimes, a source would call back a week later, expecting an interview – and were surprised to find the story had already been published. If you want to get quoted, you need to commit to fast response – within an hour. It’s a lot easier these days, with smartphones.
How do you get noticed? Start by getting to know which writers cover your topics and your industry. Get in touch by email or phone to offer them some news they can use – maybe a new regulation, standard, legal decision or other bit of niche-oriented news. Sites like Help A Reporter Out can connect you with journalists looking for people with expertise.

This is a lot easier if you’re seeking to get quoted in niche media. Most magazines have only three or four paid writers on staff; the rest of the articles are written by freelancers. The editor may be glad to point you to the writer who’s covering a specific topic, if you show that you’re credible, knowledgeable and available.

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2. Advertisements – the Don Draper approach

For marketing agency executive Don Draper of the “Mad Men” series, the answer to any marketing issue was simple – buy an ad. It’s not so easy these days, as more people consume media online, willing to put up with slow response in order to avoid advertisements entirely.

Advertising seems to be more viable in niche publications – and many companies agree, given the high prices these publications can charge. In niche media, the advertisements are often an important source of information for buyers. If a building security company launches a new user interface, for example, leaders in the building-management industry will want to know about it.

Some professional services firms run advertisements in niche media – generally less than half a page in size. I see very few full-page ads by even the largest firms.

The upsides are:

  • You get to say what you want to say – recognizing that you can’t cram too much information into the space you’ve bought
  • You control how often the message goes out, where it’s placed in the publication (within limits), and when it’s published

The downsides are:

  • Expensive. Like I said, several thousand dollars a page; less for the smaller spaces most professional firms tend to buy
  • You need to repeat, and continue this year after year – getting a customer to take action often requires numerous repetitions of the message

I don’t think that advertising in niche media is viable for most independent practitioners or small firms. Midsize and large firms, more likely, if you think differently on that, I would welcome your ideas in the comments below.

3. Advertorials: the worst of both worlds

As a mix of “advertisement” and “editorials,” advertorials are the print equivalent of infomercials. They’re paid space, generally several pages long, and are intended to provide detailed information to promote a point of view.

Publications like “Fortune” area awash with advertorials. It could be from a city, state or national government that is trying to be seen as a good place to do business.

The upsides are:

  • They allow you to say what you want to say, and where your message appears
  • People who are really interested in the topic (such as potential clients) will read what’s in the advertorial
  • They help keep publications afloat, and provide space for you to publish your own articles (more on that below).

The downsides are:

  • Expensive – you’re not just buying the space, you need to come up with the text, and the images, and the design
  • Low effectiveness – I just flip right past the things. Reputable publications will always put advertorials in a different typeface and page design, compared to its “real” articles, so as to signal to the reader that what they are reading is paid content.

4. News releases –helping create the news

Trade publications welcome news about key new hires, new offices, new service lines and other developments, preferably at larger organizations in their niche. Sometimes this information is published towards the front of the periodical, although it’s more likely to go on the website.

The preferred way to distribute this information is by news release – just short, factual account of the news. My golden rule for news releases is to write them in a way that it can be published directly as-is – with the name of the company spelled correctly, with titles of all people mentioned, and without any flowery language: “This firm is the leading provider of soil remediation solutions in the region” – this sort of thing will likely cause the news release to get deleted or ignored.

The upsides are:

  • It’s how journalists prefer to learn about new developments that may turn into longer news articles
  • Niche publications like news releases about companies and people within their area of focus – they keep readers coming back to the print publication, and cause them to add the publication’s website to their regular route through the Web

The downsides are:

  • There are a LOT of news releases published every day – many companies will produce news releases even when they have nothing to say, just for the Google juice, and so your ideas can get drowned out (so, send the news release to the individual e-mail address of journalists covering your niche)
  • What’s news to you won’t necessarily be newsworthy in the media’s viewpoint – and it’s their viewpoint that matters

5. Contributed articles – a lot of work, but worthwhile

The best way to get your ideas into trade media and in front of your potential clients is this fifth option – writing your own articles and getting them published as guest content. It’s the option that takes the most work, but it has the biggest payoff. There are a lot of articles in the collection of “Your Expertise Edge” blog posts, such as #72, “5 gremlins that can stop your articles from being published” and #71, “Are you squeezing all five benefits from your case studies?”

The upsides are:

  • You can show your thought leadership and expertise in a significant way – readers get a clear idea of what you’re about
  • There’s no charge from the publication – you don’t pay for the space as with advertising; it’s a no-money deal
  • Articles can cover two or more pages – a LOT more real estate than most professional firms can cover with advertising
  • You have control over the message
  • You can include links to your own website (just remember that, as above, editors are not interested in being part of your marketing campaign)

The downsides are:

So there you have it. Five ways to get your ideas into media your clients trust. Which methods work for you? Have you been able to make advertisements and advertorials work for your firm, in a way I’ve been missing? Please share your ideas in the comments section.

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Carl Friesen

Carl is the Founder of the Thought Leadership Resources and helps business professionals gain the skills they need to build their profile as subject-matter experts and thought leaders.

You can connect with Carl on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter

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