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.