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

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Michael Smart

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.”

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