Narrowcasting: The Future of PR Placements

If you were to visit any travel media website, the most popular format of article doesn’t answer the question “where should I go?” or “what should I see?”, but some form of “what should I do?” For the modern traveller, the driving force has shifted from ticking off a bucketlist item, to using travel as a form of self expression and a new environment in which to engage in their passions and interests.

The impetus is clear; Successful travel marketing requires storytelling about how travellers can get involved in the activities that they love.

While broadcast and syndicated print media continues to offer huge reach and readership numbers, which do have impact (and look fantastic in reports), but often the message can be quite generic, to cater to such broad markets. Contradicting established logic, placing stories in small, niche, and specialised media is where the future of travel PR is heading. Why? Because the energy to drive action is far more potent the more targeted the story can be. Narrowcasting is where the conversion lies.

Mass awareness broadcasting has certainly not become irrelevant, and still has an important place in the media cycle. In the initial phases of a brand breaking the local market, creating mass awareness drives incredible momentum for a brand in the public eye. But narrowcasting gives us the opportunity to move a consumer along the funnel from thinking “what can I do in this destination?”, to “how can I do what I love in this destination?”

Narrowcasting does exactly that; targeting PR placements to environments where audiences are engaged, informed, and most importantly, ready to buy. If the name doesn’t give it away, it is the opposite of broadcasting; moving away from mass-reach, low-impact PR placements to targeting small segments of the population who are hungry for content that relates to their lives. It’s putting away the drag net and getting out the spear-gun.

In July 2018, the California’s Pacific Coast Highway was reopened to the public after months of repairs following a devastating landslide in 2017. To celebrate the reopening, Visit California hosted a “Dream Drive”, with over 80 historic vehicles driving in convoy along a 200 kilometre stretch of the coast.

One of the drivers invited for this trip was Australian V8 Supercars legend, Craig Lowndes, who had recently announced his retirement from the sport. Aside from the broad newsworthiness of the reopening of the highway, Lowndes’ participation meant that there was keen interest in the event from both sporting and motoring media, delivering the key messaging directly to audiences where it would have the most impact.

Gate 7 was able to lock in coverage for the event in titles as broad as Fox Sports, to niche non-travel publications such as SpeedCafe, and RedBook. Further, a partnership with Channel 10’s motor-sport program RPM, secured nearly 10-minutes of niche, passion-focused television coverage directly to enthusiasts who would look to drive the iconic stretch of coastline; far more coverage than we could have hoped to garner through traditional wide media distribution.

In this new status quo, where there’s a more balanced focus between mass reach and narrowcast placements, the challenge of measurement and ROI becomes a lot more complex than measurements of reach and readership. How do we weight the increased impact of more targeted placements? In digital publications, understanding engagement levels through analytics that point to page-dwell times, bounce rates, and comments is already commonplace, but of course quantifying these sentiments in print presents a more difficult challenge.

It’s not an easy challenge. Together with our clients, we are looking for ways to correlate specific brand messages to the level of context in the publications where placements are achieved. Travel PR, after all, is the art of leveraging media relationships to build a public image, which drives tourism to a destination or product, not simply to accrue large reach numbers for the sake of hitting quotas or besting previous goals.