Many companies will invest considerable effort seeking positive publicity via influential media sources—and then fail to benefit from the masthead value of that exposure.

Masthead was originally a seafaring term for the brass plate attached to a ship's mainmast that memorialized its owners and builders. A publication's masthead lists the names of current editorial and production staff. The industry term "masthead value" can be defined broadly as the level of stature, credibility, and influence associated with a specific media source. The Wall Street Journal, for example, has high masthead value; the Wall Street Transcript... not so much.

Masthead value can be relative. A respected trade or professional publication in a particular industry may have greater masthead value—in terms of its influence with a particular audience—than high-value publications such as the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. For example, physicians are likely to assign the New England Journal of Medicine greater masthead value than the Journal or Times on topics relating to the clinical care of patients.

Masthead value should drive your publicity strategy. A placement from a single highly respected source can be far more valuable than a dozen placements from a low-masthead value source. Because gaining inherent third-party endorsements is the ultimate goal, quality always trumps quantity.

Here are four ways to get the most from media placements with strong masthead value.

1. Put high-value placements directly in front of your target audiences

Even if coverage of you appears on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or makes the cover of Fortune magazine, don't assume it will be read by clients, prospects, referral sources... or even your employees. Too much offline and online noise means you can't ensure that any media exposure on its own will gain the attention you're seeking.

If you've developed an internal customer relationship management-driven discipline to communicate directly and regularly with target audiences, then you're well prepared to apply that distribution capability to increase the chances that decision-makers will notice, remember, and respond to your high-value exposure. (If you lack that discipline, your time may be best spent building an effective distribution capability before seeking additional publicity.)

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Gordon G. Andrew is managing partner of Princeton, NJ based Highlander Consulting and blogger-in-chief at Marketing Craftsmanship. He can be reached via