He's been quoted in hundreds, maybe thousands, of publications, from Time to TV Guide. You've seen him on The Early Show, Good Morning America and Today as well as 60 Minutes and 48 Hours. He's known for being articulate about anything from O.J. Simpson to The Simpsons. Which makes sense-after all, Robert Thompson is the founding director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, as well as the author of several books about TV. How can you be quoted in the media as an expert (maybe not as frequently as Thompson)? We questioned this expert on being an expert.
A lot of entrepreneurs want to appear in the media to promote their companies. How can they make that happen?
Robert Thompson: I am not a PR person for any kind of product or service. I see myself as an educator trying to teach whatever constituencies or audiences I can reach, and that's how entrepreneurs should see themselves. You have to demonstrate you're the person who knows something about this topic. Journalists are a savvy bunch, and they can tell in about five seconds whether you're simply the creation of a press release, or whether you can help them understand whatever they're writing about.
How can entrepreneurs become known as experts-so the media will call them rather than the other way around?
Thompson: What leads you to expertise is often a passion or vision or love for the subject. If you have a successful company, you're almost by definition an expert.
One thing you have to do is look at the landscape: If there are numerous entrepreneurs in your field being quoted in the media, you need to assess what isn't being talked about, what niches haven't been filled yet.
You're known for being very quotable. Do you have any tips on giving a good quote?
Thompson: It's important to be able to say what you want to say clearly and quickly. You have this big sophisticated body of knowledge, but you have to be able to translate that to people who don't have an hour and a half to listen to your whole spiel. You shouldn't necessarily think of sound bites as a bad thing. You can, in fact, make some good, valid points quickly, without going into all the details. You may have to educate people one or two short sentences at a time, but it's better than being reduced to silence.
- Center for the Study of Popular Television, New House School, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.