High-Value Targets: Are They Worth It?
In the world of public relations, clients want HVTs – high-value targets – which is just a fancy way of saying, “Something my family and friends would recognize.” An industry trade may actually do a better job of scaring up business leads, but it doesn’t matter. My clients want the New York Times and FOX News. It may be for legitimate business reasons, but usually they just want to see their names in the brightest lights. Take caution, publicity-seekers: Don’t chase after HVTs pell-mell. Instead, consider the following:
- Is the return on investment worth it?
- Even great opportunities aren’t perfect.
Return on Investment
HVTs are harder to secure, because these publications have a much bigger pool from which to draw, both in terms of sources and topics. That makes the barrier to entry considerably higher than a trade magazine focusing on point-of-sale technology, for example. Unless you’re a big name, your clients are big names, or you just unlocked the mystery to cold fusion, seeing coverage in a high-profile magazine, newspaper, blog, radio show or TV program will require an investment of time (and patience).
That doesn’t mean that mainstream publications don’t have value. Of course they do. They reach more people (though not necessarily the ones you want to sell to), and often there is prestige associated with them. In an industry where perception is the mortar with which everything is built, prestige is priceless. The problem is that pricelessness is, well, pricey. If endless amounts of time are poured into securing an HVT, it may not be worthwhile when you consider how else you might have marshaled those resources. All the time spent chasing a unicorn could have been used tending to a stable of thoroughbreds.
Securing an HVT doesn’t mean you can control that HVT. As PR pros, we do our best to limit the variables, but here’s the thing: You can’t. Not completely, at least. This isn’t advertising. I can’t pay an editor or a producer to cover my clients. Well, maybe I can, but that practice would compromise my ethics and the firm’s reputation. No, I have to convince these people – usually smart, shrewd, objective people – that my client is relevant and worth their time. Even when I manage that, journalists are going to do their homework. They’re going to ask questions, poke holes, do research, speak to competitors and the list goes on and on.
The point of all this is that is that with credibility comes risk. An article is credible, because it is objective (relatively speaking). The trade-off is that you lose a certain amount of control when you gain third-party validation. Of course, that’s the essence of PR, but it seems to be magnified by the promise of HVTs. Clients want them so badly that when these opportunities finally arrive, they’re disappointed to find that they’re not perfect.
So How Do I Secure HVTs?
Simple. You don’t. Or you do. If you’re still asking yourself this question, you kind of missed the point of the last 500 words. Instead, ask yourself, “What is the most cost-effective way to reach my target audience?” If HVTs fit into that equation, then you need to position yourself as a resource and be prepared to invest time building and nurturing relationships with the respective journalists and reporters who represent them. In my opinion, whichever media outlet helps you achieve your PR and marketing goals most efficiently is your HVT, independent of the glitz and glamor.