Put Your Expertise Into the Media
Most media outlets already have a cache of regular experts they call on. But,
they're also open to interviewing new ones.

Unless an outlet says “thanks, but don’t contact us again” a little gentle,
occasional persistence, combined with speed and timeliness is fine. Just
don't go overboard. More on that in future issues of The Insider.


BE QUICK AND BE TIMELY


Being a media outlet‘s regular “expert” on a topic most often occurs in one of
three situations. Breaking news, a planned event or activity, or a regularly
scheduled appearance/column. One of the keys to being asked to offer your
expertise is to be quick.

Breaking News….

Five hikers stranded on a mountain… temps tonight in the 20’s; Congress
votes to create a new business tax exemption; New report touts health
benefits of a certain exercise; Computer security experts say reports of a
super-virus are surfacing… etc.

  • Get your statement/tips out to the press as soon as possible and you’
    re much more likely to get a call back with an offer/request for an
    interview.

  • Your tips/advice should be bullet-pointed, or written up in short
    paragraphs of 3 to 4 sentences at the most.

  • Journalists are moving quickly to respond and need to be able to
    quickly assess whether your tips/advice is/are relevant to what they’re
    looking for.

  • Long-winded paragraphs won’t cut it. Keep it to one page at the most
    and ideally less.

You can briefly mention your expertise in your opening paragraph, when you
explain why you’re e-mailing or faxing a newsroom.


Example:

Sue Smith, head of network security operations at Computer Technologies
Inc, and a computer virus expert with 10 years of experience in
computer/internet/anti-virus security, issued the following security tips for
computer users, following today’s reports of the new “total destruction” virus
that’s expected to strike in the next two days.

Tip/advice
Tip/advice
Tip/advice
Tip/advice
Tip/advice

About Sue Smith: Sue Smith has served as head of network security
operations for Computer Technologies Inc for 10 years, and has more than 20
years of experience in the field of computer security. Smith’s past employers
in this field include _______, ________, ________ and ________. Her duties
and responsibilities include designing and implementing network security
systems such as firewalls, identifying and remedying bugs and cracks in
network security systems for Computer Technologies clients, and monitoring
anti-virus security networks for current and potential virus, malware threats.
Previous relevant experience and responsibilities include _____, ________,
and _______.


Insider Tip: You don’t need 20 years of experience. You can present yourself
as an expert with as little as 1 to 2 years of experience. Being able to offer
relevant information and insight in a way the audience can relate to it is just as
important.


Planned Events and Activities:

Anything from monthly home sales, unemployment rates or other economic
indicators: to St. Patrick’s Day party ideas; graduation (or any planned holiday)
gifts; tax season; holiday recipes; summer travel and vacation planning; back
to school; national ______ day, week or month; etc.

The key here is to think a week or two in advance for radio and television, a
month in advance for newspapers and websites, and 2-4 months in advance
for trade and special interest publications. Do your research to find out
who/which journalist typically covers the topic for the outlet  The information is
typically available on the outlet’s website, which also allows you to scan for
articles similar to the topic you’re pitching, and determine which journalists
wrote them.

If you don’t have a relationship with the outlet you’re pitching, a quick polite e-
mail introducing yourself, offering a few tips and short bio is still a fine start.
Use the example above, as a guide. If you’re e-mailing, politely ask the
person to forward it to the appropriate person, in the event they don’t cover
the topic you’re pitching.

If you already know the journalist/reporter, or another one at the outlet you’re
pitching, use that relationship to make your pitch. You’ve already got a foot in
the door, so go for it, (in a business-like manner, of course!)

Phone calls are fine, and it doesn’t hurt to call in advance to find out who’s the
appropriate person to pitch. Don’t expect a reporter or editor to call back if
you get their voice mail. They simply get too many calls every day. If you do
get them on the phone, they’ll most likely be short with you. Don’t take it
personally… they’re simply very busy. Leave a brief message with your name
and number telling them you’ll be sending an e-mail, and then send it in the
next day or two. Depending on the size of the publication/newsroom,
gatekeepers can often be an excellent source of information on who to pitch.
Make friends with them.


Insider Tip: Avoid calling broadcast newsrooms before 9:00 a.m., between 11:
30 and 12:30, or after 3:30 p.m. They’re totally focused on their current
newscasts at those times of day. Call between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. or 1:00
and 3:00 p.m.


Regularly Scheduled Columns/Guest Appearances

The same basic rules and pitch tactics apply here, as with planned
events/activities. The big difference is that there’s a lot of competition. If you
get turned down the first time, be patient and occasionally reach out to the
outlet if you’re still interested. Also, some trade and special-interest
publications will give preference to advertisers, unless they think you‘ve got a
great angle and no one else is coming forward. .

For print/web publications, plan to submit two or three columns in advance for
the editors to review. Since you’re ideally pitching a publication/website you’
re already familiar with, you’ve had a chance to read previous columns they’
ve published, and should have an idea of the style the editors are looking for.


Insider Tip: Give serious consideration to whether you really want to commit to
writing a column on a weekly or monthly basis. This is an investment of time
and effort on your part, and once the “newness” wears off, it can seem more
like a chore than an opportunity.


THE BOTTOM LINE


Gentle persistence, patience, being quick, thinking in advance, and
navigating your way to the right person are the keys here. Take advantage of
staff directories on a media outlet’s website, read its online columns, articles
and news stories, for clues about whether it’s an appropriate outlet for you to
pitch. Act immediately in breaking news situations, and pitch well in advance
for planned events/activities. Don’t expect calls to be returned, and don’t take
it personally if a reporter/editor/journalist is short and to the point with you on
the phone.


Related articles:

Calling All Experts   
part one   
Calling All Experts   
part two


Posted on 3/11/10
Ithaca Public Relations   159 Snyder Hill Road   Ithaca, NY 14850   607-280-3840   info@ithacapr.com
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