From the August 1997 issue of Entrepreneur

Recently,Iwas participating in a roundtable discussion on entrepreneurship when one of the speakers introduced himself as "an expert, especially since I am now more than 50 miles from home."

Sure, we've all heard that definition of expert somewhere before, but it really does have a kernel of truth to it. Frequently, people who know you locally forget that you might be one of the most knowledgeable people in your field on a regional or national level. It therefore becomes your responsibility to toot your own horn, wave your own flag, or do whatever it takes to let others (especially in the media) know you exist and are an expert source of information or advice.

Being regarded as an industry expert can do wonders for your business. It's surprising how being quoted in the newspaper, in a trade journal, on the radio or on television elevates your company in the eyes of customers, prospects and the general public.

A friend of mine, who is the promotional director for the National Onion Association, is a one-person brain trust when it comes to onions. She can tell you more about the varieties, uses and benefits of onions than almost anybody on the planet.

Because she outlined a plan and executed it faithfully, she has ignited plenty of interest in onions and gleaned lots of attention for the association. And although she is not a business owner, any entrepreneur can learn from her example.

The first thing she did was to make absolutely certain she was knowledgeable, current and conversant on every onion angle she could think of. She also contacted people who were highly visible experts in other fields. She quizzed them on how they achieved this distinction and what they did to cultivate their expert status.

Next, to distinguish herself from her competition and set herself up as an industry leader, she talked to as many groups as possible. She developed a dandy presentation, complete with professional visuals and lots of onion samples, and contacted key organizations, service clubs, business groups, convention planners, and so on. She offered to do a program for them free of charge, giving it a spin that made her topic sound fun, useful, entertaining and timely.

She also wrote articles, opinion pieces, industry columns and a newsletter that demonstrated her level of expertise. She parlayed this information into seminars that addressed the various health aspects of the onion and offered tips for the busy working person to use when preparing a meal.

In addition, she networked like crazy, joining professional associations, civic groups and organizations that would improve her visibility. She also looked for causes where she might donate her services or products.

In short, before contacting media people to offer herself as an expert and present a number of fresh ideas for features, she wisely established herself with a variety of audiences as a true expert in her area.

When it was time to introduce herself to the media, she was prepared, professional and cheerfully indestructible. Rather than going after national coverage right away, she called local and regional radio and TV stations and print media. Letters were written, packets were mailed and phone conversations were abundant. She contacted feature editors, business and food writers, and people assigned to health and agricultural beats. Talk shows, cable programs and regular news formats were all fair game.

She made sure she knew the names of the key players, researched the best times to contact them, and had several concrete suggestions in mind that might fit their medium and schedule.

Finally, she made sure she didn't let any of these key people forget her. She kept them posted on new findings and made sure they knew how to reach her. Plenty of thank-you notes went out, as well as voice-mail messages that expressed her gratitude and willingness to contribute again.

Being prepared, focused and persistent pays off when wanting to be viewed as the expert in your subject. Believe me, you won't be shedding any tears over the amount of time and effort you put forth to get your information to the press.

Leann Anderson is the owner of Anderson Business Resources, a Greeley, Colorado, company specializing in customer service, marketing and business etiquette. E-mail her at landerson@ctos.com.