If I get you on the cover of Forbes Magazine…

…what will you do with that exposure?

I often pose this question to prospective B2B clients when they ask me if I can generate exposure for their company in Forbes, Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, CNBC or some other influential media source.

They typically respond, “Isn’t just being there in Forbes (or wherever) the goal?”

My answer to their “being there” question is always NO, and here’s why:

The intrinsic value of beneficial media exposure, particularly from a B2B marketing perspective, is based on the inherent endorsement of an objective and respected 3rd party. Nearly everyone understands why positive media exposure is a good thing; it provides current and prospective clients with some comfort that they are making a smart, informed decision. The assumption: if Forbes has covered your company, it must be legitimate.

But most companies don’t understand that – even with secondary online exposure – the likelihood that clients, prospects or referral sources will take notice of the Forbes coverage, recognize their company’s involvement in it, and actually do something about that exposure…are pretty close to zero. This is never encouraging news for a company paying a fat monthly retainer in exchange for a pile of press clippings that get hung like trophies on its website.

Media placement is “credibility tool” generation. It’s a single, albeit important step in a multi-step process that BEGINS with defining a very specific business outcome the media placement will help to achieve, if the 3rd party endorsement is properly merchandised. (Proper merchandising simply means taking steps to ensure that the company’s target audiences actually receive the credibility tool, in the proper context, and with an appropriate call to action.)

Smart marketers understand this concept: that media placement is simply a means, not an end result. And here’s the toughest part of this reality for those enlightened practitioners: telling their CEO that a bylined article in an obscure vertical trade publication may yield a greater return – in terms of practical marketing application and tangible business metrics – than being mentioned in an industry round-up story in Forbes.

Business metrics notwithstanding, some CEOs would prefer the cachet of being included in Forbes. And most CMOS would prefer continued employment.


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4 responses to “If I get you on the cover of Forbes Magazine…

  1. Rob Russo

    You asked the question… what’s your answer? What would you do with the cover of Forbes magazine if they wanted to put you on it?

    • Hey Rob…thanks for your reply.

      “What would you do if ‘they’ (I assume you mean Forbes) wanted to put you on the cover?” is very different from the question that I’m asked by clients. Most companies are never asked by Forbes to be featured in their publication, and if they are asked, it’s not always for things that they want publicized. Unfortunately, the media is not in business to make companies or people look good, so if a Forbes reporter calls you, it’s best to assume the worst…and tread carefully. If you’re interested in that topic, I’ll send you an article I wrote a few years back entitled, “When a Reporter Calls.”

      The question posed in this post relates to the flip side of that equation, involving clients who ask me to get THEM into Forbes. In those situations, the challenge involves digging for something that may be of interest to Forbes readers; identifying an appropriate Forbes reporter or editor; presenting the pitch in an interesting manner; attempting to distinguish my pitch from the 250 other pitches sent to Forbes on that day; being respectfully persistent; hoping that the moon & stars are properly aligned; and if Forbes agrees to cover the topic, praying to the gods that the reporter doesn’t decide to take some cheap shots at my client in the story.

      The point of my post was that “Can you get me on the cover of Forbes?” is the wrong question for a CEO to ask, and the wrong place for anyone to start if you’re looking to leverage the marketing potential of beneficial media exposure. You need to begin with a tangible business objective, and then determine (among many things) if, where and how media exposure can be applied as a tactic to help achieve that objective.

      Deciding upfront that you want to BE in Forbes is akin to selecting a Audi A5 as your mode of transportation for a trip…in advance of deciding where you’re going, why you’re going there, what route you intend to take, and what you’ll do when you arrive. You may discover it would have made more sense to take the Lexington Avenue Express.

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