This is a guest post by Shelly Cone.
I absentmindedly drummed my pen against my keyboard waiting for that elusive muse to grant me some much needed inspiration. I had just accepted an assignment for a large trade magazine about what’s new in construction and manufacturing machines. Big machines. The extent of my knowledge of machines is what I’ve seen on Bob the Builder cartoons.
I needed an expert to tell me what the latest new thing in equipment was, but who is an expert in that?
Every field has its experts. When you read, watch or hear a news story the reporter isn’t the expert, it’s the person being quoted. But even then that person isn’t always the expert. A lot of times that person is simply the person who was consistent at building a relationship with that reporter, who got on their radar.
Most likely there is someone who is more of an expert than the person being interviewed, but when you are a reporter with a deadline looking for an expert for your story, any schmoe with enough knowledge about the subject to speak authoritatively can be an expert. As long as they are available for interviews.
I’m not knocking reporters by the way. After all, I’ve been one for many, many years. But let’s face it, when you are on deadline, the best source is sometimes the first one that comes to mind. That someone should be you.
How This Applies To You
Don’t discount the importance of offline media relationships to increase your exposure both online and off.
Media loves to use experts, so establish yourself as one. In my situation, I knew I could contact some construction company or any manufacturer or even the president of a contractors board or union — all of these people would know about their industry but they couldn’t tell me a thing about trends, or maybe they could but I wouldn’t have any specific questions to ask. I’d be fishing for information. And worse, I wouldn’t know exactly what information I was seeking.
Essentially the conversation would go like this:
“Hi, President of the Contractor’s Board. I’m Shelly Cone and I’m a reporter covering trends in machinery for a magazine. So what are the latest trends?”
And he’d say, after rolling his eyes and sighing in frustration, “What kind of machinery?”
And I’d say, “Big construction-type of equipment.”
Then, he’d want to hang up. But since he is the President of the Contractor’s Board, he’d say, “Well, it depends on the machine. And what do you mean by trends? I only work with front loaders.”
So instead of having this long drawn out conversation I knew I needed someone that I could ask that question to and wouldn’t be wasting their time. Someone that could fill me in, allowing me to ask some specific questions of the frustrated Contractor’s Board President.
My expert was someone in the field but someone also up on the latest buzz. Turns out ergonomics was the latest trend in machinery, in all types of manufacturing and construction equipment. You know, things like push buttons instead of levels and comfy seats. It was a great angle and when I talked to the manufacturers and board president, I had some very specific questions to ask.
So How Do You Establish Yourself As An Expert?
Call and introduce yourself to a reporter that covers your industry or a related field and offer to be a source whenever they may be doing a story on your industry. Make the call short and let them know you’ll follow up with an email with all your contact info. Then follow through.
Build a relationship. Become someone they can lean on on short notice. Someone they can feel comfortable with when they don’t know what questions to ask but need information about a subject. In short, be a friend and someone they trust.
Check in on a regular basis. When you come across an exciting bit of information that you and everyone else in the blogosphere is buzzing about, give your reporter friend a heads up and let them know how important the issue is to the industry. A lot of times a reporter can’t spot the trend or its significance. It usually takes someone with knowledge of the field to point it out.
These actions let the reporter know you are the person to go to when they are writing about issues in this field. And every reporter loves a go-to person who is accessible, full of information, and has lots of story ideas about their industry.
How That Benefits You
It would be great if the reporter decides to do a story about you specifically or your service, but even if he or she doesn’t, being quoted or used as a source in a story positions you as the expert above others in the field. You’re seen as the best. And everyone wants to do business with the best in the industry.
Shortly after my equipment story came out I was approached by a wine magazine publisher who asked me if I had any ideas for stories. I pitched them the same story I had done, only focused on winery manufacturing equipment and yup, I went back to my experts for the article and they got exposure once again. And, both articles also ended up online which increased links to their sites.
Cultivating a relationship with the media takes a little effort and time but can pay off big in terms of repeated exposure and credibility. What are you an expert in online that you can pitch to the offline media?
Shelly Cone is owner of Beach Betty Public Relations, offering press release and content writing services, article marketing, and social media management. She has been a print journalist for more than 15 years and recently released The Perfect Press Release: A Guide to What Reporters Want