Stop Obsessing Over Top-Tier Media. Your Startup Needs Industry Press First.

A bigger audience isn’t necessarily a better audience.

Published on Apr. 05, 2023
Stop Obsessing Over Top-Tier Media. Your Startup Needs Industry Press First.
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As the CEO and founder of a PR and media relations company, it’s my job to understand how the media works in all its forms. In an average week, I am emailing, texting, or meeting face-to-face with journalists, producers, and editors at a variety of news outlets — including broadcast, consumer, and industry — building a strong relationship and learning what I need to do to get their attention on my clients and their projects. I have to stay up-to-date with what’s a priority for the newsroom or other editorial changes that might impact how my clients engage with the media — and get press coverage.

When I speak to founders and their teams about publications they not only want, but expect to be featured in, the responses tend to be The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, WIRED, and Fortune. Now, I’ve secured coverage in all of these top-tier outlets without a news announcement, but it was difficult to do, took time, and isn’t something that happens on a consistent basis. A startup with a low press presence needs to build up a steady drumbeat of earned media opportunities to increase their brand credibility, visibility, and industry point of view. That’s not always possible with top-tier media. But it is with a trade publication.

What Is a Trade Publication?

A trade publication is a news outlet that publishes information and resources of value targeted to a specific type of individual, profession, business or industry.

That doesn’t mean that PR professionals don’t strive for that flashy feature article in a very well-known news outlet, but top-tier media is only one feature of the entire landscape. Trade media is the most overlooked, but can oftentimes be the most impactful, and even result in top-tier opportunities later on. 


What Is a Trade Publication?

A trade publication is a news outlet that targets a specific type of individual, profession, business or industry, and there is a trade publication for nearly every industry including HR, marketing, sustainability, IT, finance, crypto, education — the list is long. Essentially, trades deliver information and resources of value to those who work in a specific industry. And because of this, one of the benefits of trade publications is their established niche audience, which allows for more in-depth features, content, surveys, case studies, than a mainstream news outlet could. The reason why is simple: The reader has already bought in, and writers and editors of trades can assume an interested, informed audience will be reading their pieces. That means that engaged readers have a likelier chance of potentially acting on their interests than a site with massive readership where your news could get buried amongst other “sexier” topics.


Benefits to Publishing in Trade Press for Startups

Startups are so resistant to embracing the benefits of trade press and have a misguided idea that their customers, potential investors, and target audience only read top-tier publications. Even though trade media focuses on specific interests, the coverage is vast and tapped into the latest industry news, whitepapers, laws, et cetera. Startups need to start seeing the trades as a fundamental asset to get insights, data, and stories told from a certified and trusted source. Getting your comments or company news published in a trade outlet should be a priority for startups since it is essentially a stamp of approval from a credible third-party outlet. Doing so helps position your brand and key spokespeople as go-to subject matter experts.

For B2B startups especially, trade press needs to become your north star for a number of reasons. For one, It has an accessible community and networking aspect to it that most mainstream publications don’t offer, which allows you to connect, engage, and interact directly with other thought leaders and companies in your industry. It’s a great tool to learn about the latest developments happening in your industry since the information within tends to be current — the trades want to stay on top of trends as much as their readers do. Trades tend to publish opinion pieces, in-depth Q&As, and other types of commentary on their particular subject more frequently than a news outlet with a ton of readership outside your field would. For thought leadership and increasing your presence (not to mention prestige) in the market amongst competitors, nothing beats trade press. 

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Trade Press Coverage Can (Sometimes) Catch the Attention of Bigger Outlets

All that being said, I rely heavily on trade publications, and that’s something that has resulted in top tier media opportunities and coverage. What most startups don’t realize is that specific beat writers at top-tier news outlets read and tune into the trade press to help write and craft their stories to appeal to a wider audience. Instead of always rushing to pitch a top-tier journalist on a niche announcement or industry point of view, startups should target trade outlets first to try to gain buzz and traction — which will eventually lead to top-tier outlets paying attention and inquiring about your “news.” That’s why there should always be a build up of different story angles to pitch to trade press in your PR plans and campaigns to help boost awareness

Trade publications hold a ton of value and will continue to for years to come, especially as audiences are craving personalized and curated content more than ever before. If startups are only targeting top-tier media for campaigns, announcements and opinion pieces — then the chances are that those same startups will end up paying thousands of dollars to post their news over the wire or on a Medium page that no one reads after being told “no” or “pass” from a top-tier news outlet that didn’t consider a “product update” worthy of a story. But a trade would. Startups need to be way more savvy and work with PR professionals that embrace and prioritize trade media in their ongoing campaigns or continue to miss out on impactful press coverage that resonates with a wider audience, and that just might appeal to that top tier media outlet you’ve always wanted to get featured in. 

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