Playing the Expert Game
Generating media coverage isn't easy. This can be especially true for up-and-coming companies. In fact, entrepreneurs are sometimes greeted by reporters with a skeptical eye. Combine that with the competition for reporters' attention from companies large and small, and it can become very challenging for a young company to get noticed.
One of the best ways for an up-and-coming company to distinguish itself and generate media coverage is by cultivating and presenting "experts" from your organization to the media on a variety of subjects relevant to the business and industry in which they operate.
Playing the "experts game" requires a bit of imagination and creativity. The following five steps should allow you to develop and market a cadre of experts who help serve to position your company as a leading voice in its field.
Step 1: Perform an 'Expert Audit'
To the media, the most desirable experts are those who can provide a different angle on a topic, who are somewhat different in their perspective, who are willing to speak candidly with a reporter, who are unflappable, and importantly, those who will be available to the media when an interview is requested. For an up-and-coming, entrepreneurial company, identifying individuals with those qualities is usually not difficult. In fact, in many instances, small companies have an advantage over their larger brethren because there are fewer corporate filters with which to contend.
Step 2: Play Reporter
Public relations, in many ways, is a sales solicitation. You're asking the reporter to "buy" what you're offering. Therefore, try to view the world from a reporter's perspective:
- What topics are of interest?
- What angles are fresh and provocative?
- Which experts in your organization and what level of expertise would make an article a really interesting read?
Step 3: Become a Matchmaker
Having examined the world through the eyes of a reporter, now play the role of matchmaker. Ask yourself:
- Which individuals within my organization can satisfy the needs of our target reporters?
- Whose presentation style will be most persuasive?
- Who can electrify the story?
Step 4: "Experts On Call"
Profiling key spokespeople on your organization's website or in widely available expert databases which reporters search regularly provides easy accessibility to your experts. It's also recommended that when issuing a news release, you choose a service that enables your experts' profiles to be accessed directly through the release. This provides more in-depth information on spokespersons to reporters reading your news. If you make the process as simple as possible for a reporter, that reporter will be much more likely to contact you and use your expert.
Step 5: Anticipate the News
Keep close tabs of events impacting your industry, and, when possible, offer potential scenarios that your experts can discuss. The 24-hour news cycle has made journalism an extremely competitive business. If, through your expert, you're able to offer an angle that has yet to be covered, not only will you create an opportunity to showcase your company in a unique and compelling situation, but you will further cement your expert as a go-to source for future stories.
Proactively marketing your expert for news-related events significantly increases the likelihood of him/her being quoted. Consider sending out a media advisory alerting reporters to the availability of your spokesperson and his or her position on the topic. This is especially helpful when targeting daily publications whose reporters must file stories on extremely tight deadlines.
Step 6: Being a Thought Leader
Developing experts and creating platforms from which they can provide opinions is one of the most important tactics to securing lasting media coverage. While getting a foot in the door can be a challenge, once a foundation of performance and trust is established, your expert will soon become a reporter's "best friend." And experts who are clear, yet passionate about their topic, will have a greater likelihood of being quoted.
The result: Your company, by virtue of a quote here, or a statistic there, will be recognized by the competition, potential customers and the public as an important influencer and true leader in your space.
Mark Nowlan is Entrepreneur.com's "PR" columnist and senior vice president of marketing & communications at PR Newswire. Nowlan is a frequent lecturer on media relations, strategic communications and crisis communications at industry conferences around the country. Get more information about PR Newswire and public relations with their PR Toolkit for small businesses.