New outlets aim to follow the money

A variety of new publications target wealthy Americans, giving PR pros a direct line to them. But pitches still must be customized to hit close to the mansion.

A variety of new publications target wealthy Americans, giving PR pros a direct line to them. But pitches still must be customized to hit close to the mansion.

Several recent reports might have trumpeted a waning of the so-called "wealth effect," but the number of media outlets geared toward the most affluent Americans continues to grow.

American Express recently rolled out a custom-published magazine for Centurion black-card members, and CurtCo Robb Media, publisher of the Robb Report, has expanded its core brand to include Robb Report Home Entertainment, Robb Report MotorCycling, and Robb Report Luxury Home.

CurtCo also purchased and re-launched Worth in 2003.

These magazines feature a mix of product reviews and lifestyle coverage that are the hallmark of many titles, but they are also less obsessed with celebrity, says Robb Report editor Larry Bean.

"People think that if they attach a celebrity name, it has some cachet, but for us it's not relevant," he says.

Bean also stresses that new products are given more than snapshot attention - so there also has to be a compelling story behind them.

"When people tell us 'This is a great product,' I tell them, 'Well I just got pitched 50 great products - I'm looking for the one I can tell a great story about,'" he says. "Because we're not just showing pictures and captions, we're trying to put together interesting, well-written stories that the readers will enjoy."

Laura Davidson, whose eponymous agency represents several five-star resorts, notes that you don't necessarily need a different approach when pitching these high-end outlets, but you still need to know your audience.

"You do have to remember [that] you're not just pitching a product or destination; you're pitching a lifestyle," she says. "We recently did a story on Mustique that focused on a very wealthy family that owns a villa, so it was more like a family profile than a traditional travel piece."

Reaching the right audience

Targeting the highest economic strata is not quite as easy it seems. "There are a lot more people getting rich, but there's a lot of invisible wealth," notes Helen Sevier, president of Stratos Publishing, which publishes the controlled circulation magazine, Stratos, that's distributed on private jets.

"There's the wheat farmers in Eastern Washington who are multimillionaires, and I don't see them reading luxury magazines," adds Maryann Aarseth, director of PR for NetJets, which allows clients with at least $10 million in net worth to own part of a private jet. "They could be reading hunting or golf magazines, and our challenge is targeting media that will reach a base that may have never even flown on a private jet, even with all their money."

Sevier adds that this wealthiest audience can be just as interested in the unusual as it is in the most luxurious items.

"We've covered collector cars worth millions of dollars, but we've also covered $200 pens, which were very unique and difficult to find," she says. "Our readership is really stratified by the means of transportation, and, while we look to help them get the most out of this investment by talking about destinations and places to go, we also talk about lifestyle and products."

Talking about price

John O'Reilly is president of LNC Communications and has successfully pitched client Hansgrohe and its line of decorative faucets and shower systems to outlets like the Robb Report Luxury Home.

He suggests that it's a myth that the very wealthy aren't interested in price points. "Regardless of the audience, there will always be an interest in the price, though perhaps there's a little less emphasis for some of the most affluent magazines," he says.

Bean agrees that price is usually included in most product coverage, but he stresses that readers aren't so much looking for bargains as they are for value.

"We do not say whether $200,000 is too much to pay for a car, we just highlight its features and any faults it may have, and the readers can make that assessment," he says.

In addition to a growing number of national titles, Davidson notes, PR pros can also reach the wealthy elite through regional publications, such as Palm Beach Illustrated.

But Davidson warns against using the same pitch for every outlet catering to the very rich.

"The reader demographics for a Robb Report tend to skew a bit older, but a lot of more regional magazines that reach this group don't," she says. "There are some very wealthy young people on Wall Street who just want to brag that they spent $5,000 a night on their hotel, so you need to customize your pitch for each title."

Pitching... the affluent

  • A celebrity angle might impress an aspirational audience, but not the truly wealthy. Pitches should focus on the product, not the spokesperson
  • The rich can buy whatever they want, but what they're truly looking for is the unusual and exciting, so highlight the unique features of your client's product or service along with its cost
  • Don't automatically assume the rich are only reading outlets specifically geared to them. There are plenty of vertical enthusiast outlets for activities like golf, sailing, and fishing whose readership includes the very rich

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