Be the expert that media love

Establishing yourself as an expert that journalists want to interview isn't as hard as you might think. It simply requires a willingness to get your news out, and finding a way to do it effectively.
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By Jenni Dow

Establishing yourself as an expert that journalists want to interview isn't as hard as you might think. It simply requires a willingness to get your news out, and finding a way to do it effectively.

A quick way to establish yourself as an expert is to hire a public relations professional to work with you. He or she knows what the media is looking for and can help you communicate proficiently. I realize, however, that for many retailers or small businesses hiring a pro may not be feasible. In that case, you may not feel as polished but you can still become an expert on your own that media will love. Just remember the Five Bes:

1. Be passionate. Your enthusiasm will carry over, and media will likely be intrigued.
2. Be accessible. Take media calls and make time for interviews.
3. Be respectful. Time, knowledge level and personalities of media vary.
4. Be prepared. Know your subject, and know what media want from you.
5. Be concise. Get to the point quickly.

1. Be Passionate:
Your passion about your work, your company and your products breeds enthusiasm in others. It works with your customers, it will work with media. Journalists love talking with people who are really devoted to what they do. Send a one-page fact sheet to media about your store or your products and tell them why your stuff is cool (and it better be cool, or don't waste your time). Make your story compelling and include a product sample if your media contact asks for it.

2. Be Accessible:
Accessibility shouldn't be an obstacle. Make it a point to be available when an interview opportunity strikes. It's your chance to sell not only yourself, but your company and your products. Many retailers and manufacturing company execs are wary of working with the media. But getting publicity gives you, your company or store credibility and credibility leads to increased sales.

3. Be Respectful:
Working successfully with media requires an understanding of how media operate. Media work under deadlines and tend to know a little about a lot of subjects (unless they are trade media or specialize in a certain beat, like footwear, for example). Media are looking for news. News generally includes conflict, timeliness, uniqueness, proximity, human interest and impact. Whatever you communicate to media should contain one or more of these elements. Remember, too, journalists are not your friends. Their job is to report news. While over time your relationship with a particular reporter may become friendly and trusting, never lose sight of the fact that what you say and do reflects you, your business and your products.

4. Be Prepared:
Preparation is a little trickier. Oftentimes, potential spokespersons don't think they "know enough" about a specific subject to even answer the media's questions. But if you're passionate and have been in your position long enough to know your business or your products, chances are you really do know the answers. Take the time to find out what information the media are after. You may have some of the answers but not all of them. Don't try to fake your way through it. There's no shame in referring media to someone else, or in saying, "I don't know that, but I will find out for you." Just make sure you do it and get back to them with an answer.

5. Be Concise:
Think of a pyramid and make your point first. Media like succinct answers. Start at the top of the pyramid with your point (that's your key message you want as a sound bite). Sound bites (statements that get quoted) are about 10 seconds long. Then you can move through to the base of the pyramid with your details or examples that support your point. If you run on and on without making a point immediately, media will have to guess what it is. Don't make them guess! That's how things get quoted out of context. State and restate your key messages clearly and concisely. And by all means follow up those points with examples.

Following the "Five Bes" gets easier with practice. Remember them and you will become an expert media turn to again and again.

Jenni Dow is the president of Dow Marketing Communications Inc., a marketing public relations and media coaching firm. Dow helps clients transform their media opportunities into marketing successes. She coaches executives and managers to overcome their fears and use media interviews and speaking engagements to their advantage. Reach her at JenniDow@aol.com.

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