The Value of Pitching to Trade Publications

Many clients or organizations think landing a mainstream media win will make a heap of difference. However, as news choices become more tailored for consumers, specialized outlets—also known as trade media—can make more of an impact. News for specific interests finds a hyper-engaged, knowledgeable audience, which can deliver far more worth than a media placement that results in millions of people seeing your name—because only a small percentage of those readers really care.

“Trade publications should not be taken for granted when building out media relations plans,” says Erin Weinstein, EVP, SKDK. “They can quickly reach target audiences...and offer a valuable platform to establish clients as thought leaders in an issue area or topic.”

Pitching trades is similar to pitching mainstream media, but the process includes other nuances and best practices. PRNEWS talked to several communicators who work with trade journalists to provide a deeper knowledge about working with trade media.

What Is a Trade? 

First off, it’s important to know the definition of a trade publication.

Adam Cormier, Principal, JAC Comm, has worked with B2B companies and trade media since the dot-com days. He says they fall into one of two categories.

"The category that covers a company directly and the category that a company services,” Cormier says. “Think about a martech company that sells to the education market...[that] could be martech trades OR education trades.”

Cormier also notes the importance of defining the audience when looking at trades.

“Trade publications have a focused audience that is looking to read about news, trends and industry events,” he says. “If you are the PR pro for a company selling to this segment, then you’re pitching stories aimed at raising awareness or encouraging an action from high-value readers. If you pitch for a company in the market segment, you aim efforts at attracting talent or potential investors.”

Jess Saba, Founder, Good Point PR, defines the genre by looking at the reporters doing the work.

“Good trade journalists are not writing listicles, round-ups or soft stories—they are covering news from the companies leading their industry,” Saba says. “Trade journalists work really hard to provide industry insights, trends and ideas that help their readers make more informed business decisions. Mainstream stories appeal to readers outside of their role at work.”

Trade or Mainstream Media? Identifying an Outlet

Next, how do you decide whether to go the trade or mainstream media route? Becky Vonsiatsky, Practice Leader, Earned Media at Real Chemistry, works with a 60-person dedicated healthcare media team. The team works with everyone from biopharma trades to digital health to medical devices—and every trade in between that reaches healthcare professionals, from dermatology to rare disease.

While her work may seem suited for B2B products, there is a lot to be learned from this pitching process when identifying a trade-worthy story. Because of an increasingly crowded and complex media environment due to shrinking newsrooms, shorter attention spans and faster news cycles, she looks to be a resource to reporters—not a drain.

“If it’s a message specific to HCPs, that’s for sure a story for clinical trades,” Vonsiatsky says. “If it's late-stage clinical data that will have a wide impact for patients and HCP decision-making, that allows a trade story to take on more mainstream media legs, especially when the story is connected to a larger public health trend.”

It’s also important to decide if the story has value for industry decision-makers.

"Would the CEO of the top company in this industry find value in this news?” Saba asks. “Would the HR director, employees, suppliers or service providers find this story helpful as they make daily decisions and navigate changing market forces? Will this information help them be better at their job?"

Weinstein, who also works with healthcare clients, says trades go deeper on specific topics or issues than mainstream publications, making them better targets to pitch on certain stories.

“Trades are seen as trusted messengers on issues for specific industries,” she says. “If you want to reach healthcare executives or members of Congress who are following a niche healthcare issue, focusing on [placing a story] in a healthcare trade may be more advantageous than a national daily paper, since the story has a better chance of reaching your [desired] audience.”

Pitching Differences

While pitching can follow typical PR best practices, the process does include specialized differences.

Alex Rosenwald, Senior Director of Communications and Talent Relations at The Hill and NewsNation DC, says the timing of pitching varies quite a bit.

“Mainstream pitching has more of a sense of urgency, while trades—I feel like we can take our time a little and be more strategic,” Rosenwald says.

Because he works with media properties, when there is a breaking news moment in a 24/7 news cycle, the team may find itself a little more rushed in placing content or talent. With trades, he says, they can slow down.

“I think we are given a much bigger lane to be more strategic with our planning, and really think about how to tell our story in the best way,” he says. “Trade reporters are very unique in this way, so I’m a huge fan of their space with brand building.”

Vonsiatsky says just like pitching mainstream, it’s important to understand your outlet’s audience and what kind of content resonates.

“Make sure the “why does this matter to your audience” portion of your pitch is clear, succinct, and customized,” she says. “This shows the reporter you understand their readership.”

Trade Benefits

All PR pros PRNEWS interviewed made it clear that trades should not be ignored.

Aaron Mays, a freelance professional who has worked with trades for over 10 years in food, energy, mining, tech, aerospace and manufacturing industries, says it’s a common mistake among PR pros to de-prioritize trade publications.

“By pitching mainstream media in an effort to land the first story in a major outlet…. we make trade seemingly second-rate,” Mays says.

He notes the importance of explaining the value of trade to clients.

“While clients often have tunnel vision about garnering top-tier coverage, communicators should advise them about the value of earning both trade and mainstream press,” he says. “In actuality, a niche publication may have a bigger impact on a client's target audience."

And trade media may also provide unique opportunities from clients besides the written word with emerging editorial products.

“Trade media are at the forefront of capturing a specialized audience’s attention… by paving new paths for specialized webinars, events, podcasts, op-eds and beyond—and are a critical component of the broader storytelling ecosystem,” Vonsiatsky says.

This trade editor tends to agree, and welcomes your future pitches at [email protected].

Nicole Schuman is managing editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal