Posted At: April 23, 2010 12:50 PM
by Madeline Reeves
While mass media publications have widespread readership, the targeted nature of trade publications make the information that appears within them even more influential. What makes trade publications so valuable, and how are they being utilized in the field of public relations?
In our field, “trade journal” is a regularly used term, but more often than not, PR professionals and businesses alike overlook how trade publications are fundamental, how they function as a communication tool and why they remain an indispensable asset to our industry. It is important that we, as public relations professionals, understand that trade journals are in fact the blueprint to becoming informed, effective and successful communicators.
What is a trade journal?
A trade journal is a publication used to target a specific industry, profession, trade or business. The underlying foundation of trade publications is their ability to effectively deliver information that’s of value to those who work in a certain industry. In effect, all content found in trade journals, from the advertisements to the articles, directly pertains to the industry in question.
Unlike general interest consumer publications, trade publications already have an established niche audience and produce corresponding subject matter for that target audience. Therefore, trade publications can cover an industry in more detail than mainstream consumer publications can.
Although trade journals maintain a specialized focus, they offer an extensive range of useful and accurate information regarding a certain industry. Trade journals publish specialized content on various topics including: the latest industry news, noteworthy case studies and research, educational surveys and statistics, special reports, opinion and feature articles and in-depth discussions of new developments and practices within a field. Additionally, if any laws that affect the industry are passed or are currently under debate, a trade publication will usually discuss those laws and the implications for those in the industry.
A unique feature that separates trade journals from other consumer-based publications is their tendency to operate under what is called “controlled circulation,” as opposed to paid subscription. Controlled circulation means that the publishers of trade journals will often send out issues free of charge to qualified individuals within an industry. Additionally, numerous trade publications are also often included with memberships in professional industry organizations.
Trade publications and you
Trade publications present considerable benefits for both individuals and businesses that cannot otherwise be found in major mass media publications. The primary value of trade publications: they are a certified and trusted source of information, they are the largest industry-specific advertising market place for products and services, they contain industry-specific job notices and they provide a system of networking and communication among industry members and organizations.
One of the defining advantages of a trade publication is that the content published within them is generally written by respected, leading members of an industry. Additionally, trade journals often feature contributing writers and expert consultants who provide fresh insight and cross-disciplinary advice. This allows trade journals to be a diverse, yet credible and trusted source of industry information, analysis and perspective.
Another advantage of trade publications is their ability to act as the advertising marketplace for all goods and services within an industry. Trade journals offer advertisers a high level of certainty their target audiences will receive their advertisements.
Maura Jacob, a managing editor at Handley Business Media, which produces more than 30 business trade journals every year, stated that trade journals are not only designed to educate the professionals involved in a given industry, but they also generate a great system of networking.
“Trade publications provide practical information in all areas of an industry, from the best practices and educational policy changes, to new available products and technology. But most importantly, trade journals are key for developing a sense of community among the members of a certain trade,” said Jacob.
A final benefit of trade journals is their tendency to contain industry-specific job notices and opportunities, which is a highly pertinent aspect to most readers. Once individuals start working in a specialized field, it is important that they familiarize themselves with the trade magazines in their industry and subscribe to a number of these to keep up-to-date with any developments in their field. Although some trade journal subscriptions can be costly, the valuable information that lies within them makes the expense worthwhile.
Jacob agreed that individuals should definitely seek out trade journals in their industry. “No matter what trade or business someone chooses to go into, it is important that they actively read trade publications serving their field. Trade publications tend to be the forefront of information within an industry and they are going to keep individuals informed about their particular field; it is something they can use frequently for their benefit and to promote themselves,” said Jacob.
Trade journals and PR
As for the field of public relations, one leading trade publication in the U.S. is PRWeek. As stated on the PRWeek Web site, http://www.PRweekus.com/, “PRWeek has established itself as a vital part of the PR and communications industries in the US, providing timely news, reviews, profiles, techniques, and timely research for in-house and agency professionals.”
Roy Kotcher, CEO of Ketchum Public Relations, could not offer a better testimonial about the benefits of trade publications, PRWeek in particular. “It has never been more exciting and important for those of us in PR — or other businesses, for that matter — to closely follow our industry,” said Kotcher. “PRWeek, through its reporting of industry news and examination of emerging trends, is a must read. Whether it’s spending time every day on PRWeek’s Web site or with the monthly magazine, it helps communication professionals — at all levels — keep up with the profound change and seize the opportunity in our dynamic and important sector.”
Dr. Meg Lamme, a public relations professor at The University of Alabama, says keeping up with trade publications are essential for PR students and soon-to-be PR professionals. “PRWeek and PRSA’s two resource publications, The Public Relations Strategist and Public Relations Tactics, give students a leg up in understanding and preparing for upcoming trends in our field,” said Lamme. “These resources are a good reality check. They teach students that what they learn in the classroom isn’t just an exercise – it’s applicable to the real world and they should leverage the opportunites they receive in the classroom.”
For PR firms and professionals looking to establish themselves within the industry, trade journals can act as good leverage to climb up the market share ladder. Trade journals allow organizations the opportunity to establish themselves as industry connoisseurs and directly communicate with other members of the trade. Business and individuals alike can gain name recognition on a national level with top industry leaders and organizations. Not only can organizations establish themselves as masters of the industry through the use of these select trade publications, but they can also generate awareness and drive traffic to their businesses.
Trade magazine publicity can be a vital part of an overall public relations program. Trade publications not only provide growth opportunities, but they can also supply organizations with new and innovative ideas, strategies, statistics and tools to maximize its communications efforts. The expansion of a public relations program through the use of trade publications can result in the creation of a positive reaction to a company’s product or service from its target audience.
Trade publications have been and will remain an invaluable asset to the public relations industry, due to their unique characteristics. Savvy PR professionals should not overlook the value and opportunity provided by trade publications; in fact, it is important we utilize trade journals to better understand and service our clients and for our own professional growth and development.
How else can trade publications be used to our advantage in PR and what should we expect from trade publications in the future?