Posted on: May 14, 2021
For better or worse, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust crisis communications into the spotlight.
In the midst of a national emergency, Americans are being exposed to all kinds of new spokespeople with deep expertise in public health, small business trends, economic growth and other issues. For many of these experts, they could never have imagined being interviewed by CNN or The New York Times about a novel virus, but here they are. Here we all are.
Now more than ever, we are witnessing the impact of thought leaders who can communicate important messages to the general public. But the importance of thought leadership, when it comes to media interviews, transcends even the pandemic. Whether you’re an expert on public health or wild blueberry picking in Maine (one of my favorite activities), the time may come when you will be called upon to be a spokesperson. You need to be ready.
This begs the question: How do you position yourself as a go-to expert for the media? Here are eight useful tips:
1. Connect with media members on social media. From LinkedIn to Facebook and Twitter, there are numerous platforms that attract potential media contacts, such as reporters and producers. Introducing yourself to them and demonstrating your grasp of a given topic will go a long way in garnering interest. In today’s world, networking online is a surefire way to get noticed.
2. Update your LinkedIn profile. For professional interactions, there is no better social media platform than LinkedIn, where people go to “check out” their colleagues and the competition. Neglecting your LinkedIn page does nothing to convey thought leadership. Remember to keep it updated with your specific area of expertise so media members can identify you as topical and newsworthy.
3. Carve out your own niche. Speaking of subject matter expertise, you need to figure out what exactly that means for you. Don’t make your expertise too broad, since it may come across as unbelievable. However, you shouldn’t make your expertise too specific either, since media members appreciate versatile interviewees. Identify your top strengths and promote them.
4. Write bylined articles. From op-ed columns to letters to the editor, publishing articles under your name is a surefire way to get noticed by the local and national media. There is a sense of legitimacy that comes with writing bylined articles, especially when they have to do with your specific area of expertise. Media members may even stumble across them organically and reach out, without your even lifting a finger.
5. Pitch stories to relevant media. In addition to publishing articles, you need to find the media members who are on your “beat,” covering stories that are directly relevant to your specific area of expertise. Point them in the direction of breaking news, proving that you are attuned to their interests. Show that you care and that you can help.
6. Follow HARO for free daily leads. HARO refers to Help A Reporter Out, the free daily service that media members use to identify potential sources for interviews. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of it. Being active on HARO ingratiates you with journalists in need, especially when they are on a deadline. Prove yourself once, and you may create a connection for a lifetime.
7. Share “As Seen In” news outlets on your website. If you’ve done interviews before, you need to promote them online. A track record of media appearances validates you in the eyes of media members, who never want to interview the wrong person. Like attracts like — the more interviews you do, the more comfortable media members will be reaching out in the future.
8. If you get a call, call back immediately. Media members are often scrambling on deadline, and they don’t like to be kept waiting. Being responsive shows that you are reliable. And, of course, say thank you after the fact! The little things matter: Kindness and gratitude go a long way, and you will become popular in media circles by nurturing those relationships.
Unlike the early days of my career, we can now post our own content online and create a body of work independent of the news media. However, being quoted as an expert by a professional journalist still carries credibility that you just can’t get on social media and your own website.
Even Google acknowledges the authority of journalistic websites like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. So follow these steps, and your contact info will hopefully be included in top journalists’ databases as a go-to expert or authority in your field to be quoted time and time again.
This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in January 2021.