Can Vertical PR Fuel an Ad Agency’s Growth?

As a PR firm specializing in working with advertising agencies around the world, rarely do they say they want to be on the cover of Automotive World Magazine or Credit Union Insights. Instead, we hear how they’d like to see themselves more frequently in Adweek and Ad Age, maybe even the New York Times. Fair enough.

This leads to a conversation about strategic press targets, and an opportunity to elaborate on the value of getting that Automotive World story via vertical public relations.

Vertical press is exactly that: publications that cater to a specific business category of the industry that are related to your business. So, if, for example, you’re an agency that works with many financial clients, a story in American Banker may be more meaningful to your new business efforts than one in Ad Age. And, there is quite literally a publication for everything: most recently on our radar, a media outlet for amusement parks. While arguably less sexy than an editorial placement in the Wall Street Journal or a quote in Adweek, vertical press for the advertising agency can be most meaningful as it puts the CMO directly in the agency’s new business crosshairs. You know the CMO gets their industry trade publication dropped off weekly on their desk by that mailroom cart guy.

At double e, we often look at vertical public relations as the neglected stepchild of PR. But, while PR is very much still driven by the press release and the goal of getting the most prominent press coverage one can possibly get, we see vertical publicity as the closest connection between an article placement and snagging that new business opportunity.

Key Considerations:

#1 Lubricating the new business process:

Here’s the scenario we love (and made happen): our client was pitching a global athletic shoes and apparel company, and their Achilles heel was the lack of any footwear-specific experience. Our PR objective was to offset this challenge with a carefully placed contributed article in Footwear News Magazine. In this case, we were able to time the piece to appear in conjunction with a date near to the client actually meeting the agency (those planets don’t always align so easily).  The prospect saw the piece, and as the agency walked in the door to their first meeting, he said, “I saw your story, it was good.”  

#2 Market Knowledge Fuels Category-Specific PR Opportunities:

What some ad shops don’t realize is they have rocket fuel in their tanks when it comes to a successful vertical PR effort. Because it’s the agency’s ongoing mission to develop research-driven insights and observations for brands. This category-specific intelligence can be parlayed into PR pitches to reporters that cover those vertical markets. Other industries don’t routinely generate that much industry intelligence and consequently don’t have this natural leg up with vertical reporters. Ad shops were literally built to enable a successful category-specific press endeavor. 

We encourage our agency clients to use general trends, insights, and observations for thought leadership articles in trade publications while also making sure they don’t give away their strategic thinking or proprietary research. At the same time, agencies will want to make sure that the topic and the research they’re using in the thought leadership piece are synced with new business objectives. 

#3 Targeted and useful:

Advertising at times can be an ego-driven industry, and short-sighted customers only value “cool” publications with a slick UX. 

There is a common misconception that aesthetics equals effectiveness. While not as popular with agency clients, vertical titles focus on usefulness and efficacy while addressing head-on the main challenges faced in marketing departments by CMOs or the C-Suite.

We encourage our agency clients to challenge their reservations and trust that the right audience reads these vertical publications. Moreover, being featured in a magazine that targets a smaller, but engaged and passionate audience, can bring more value to your business than an outlet with a large circulation or UPVM. Did that auto CMO new business prospect you’ve been tracking see your agency mention in BusinessInsider? Maybe, maybe not. But she’ll definitely notice it if it’s in Automotive World.

When is vertical PR not right for a creative agency? Stay tuned for my next blog to find out.