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PR Tip #19 – Focus on the Customer Journey

December 18, 2015

 When working in PR, it’s easy to get stuck in telling the story only from your client or company’s perspective. In my last blog, I wrote about “Finding the Story,” a critical thought process in developing a compelling narrative for an ongoing PR program. Finding the story can be a challenge, especially if you only focus on the protagonist’s narrative in the story (your client/company) and how what they make/sell/deliver will impact the market. This is the trap that many PR people fall into, and is endemic in the tech industry, where the industry press often focus on a product or technologies capabilities instead of what these technologies enable the customer to do.  


One way to help step outside of a story that focuses too much on what your client or company does, is think about targeting the vertical press associated with a key customer’s market. For instance, we had a client this year that was in the e-mail security market. There was a big issue with a specific type of cyber-attack that targeted the financial sector called Drydex. We used this threat, and our client’s ability to address it, to have a much larger conversation about how cyber-terrorists were using this type of attack, along with some sophisticated social profiling to find gaps in the security programs at major banks. While we were able to talk about the company’s technology in terms of how it could address these types of attacks, the narrative was firmly rooted in the issue facing a specific market vertical, why they were being targeted and why e-mail was the perfect attack vector. We used this pitch to secure conversations with American Banker, Compliance Week and several other publications that cover the financial vertical.


The good thing about vertical opportunities is that there are usually several specific news cycles each year when reporters are looking for interesting angles for stories. The retail vertical is always looking for a new narrative about Black Friday and holiday shopping. The education vertical and education reporters are more broadly focused media outlets, They want to write about issues impacting back-to-school and trends impacting how students learn.


There are also opportunities that come up organically based on new trends, government regulation or holidays/events. Sometimes, these trends or events give you an opportunity to adjust a pitch by thinking about it a bit differently. Take the Drydex example I wrote about earlier. A major bank suffers a cyber-attack that compromises the personal banking information of its customers. How your company can help banks develop a better security profile could be interesting to a reporter that writes about personal finance.


Having a customer available to talk with reporters definitely gives you a leg up as you reach out to vertical media outlets as it lets the reporters talk with someone from the industry they cover about the who, what, when, where and how of whatever it is your company provides. Many times, they won’t want to talk to the vendor at all as your company won’t be able to provide the specific point of view they need to write a story that appeals to their readers. Remember, their readers work within the specific vertical so while as interesting as your CEO or VP of product marketing might be, he or she doesn’t work in retail, finance, healthcare, etc.


Some folks might think that vertical publications lack the interest or power of the business media but I disagree. If your company is having success selling into a specific vertical, isn’t it more likely you will find additional customers if you can let them know about how your products solve problems for other people in their industry? My thought is a lot more of the people you’re trying to influence read the verticals than the business press on a regular basis, giving you a higher percentage of turning interest into revenue.

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