Ever read the news and think, “Why does that person get quoted all the time?” Here’s your answer: that person, like other savvy experts, worked a smart strategy to get in front of journalists covering their field. Then they became invaluable by having something insightful and relevant to say most of the time and being willing to help all of the time.
If you have expertise and can express it clearly, ideally with a bit of flair, you can become that person. Developing a comprehensive PR strategy is the first step; next, adopt these practices of go-to media sources:
Have opinions and share them. It’s not enough to know what’s going on in your field—you have to have opinions that you’re willing to express publicly. Reporters appreciate information but opinions get quoted. What’s important about X? Why should we all be looking at Y? Is this a trend? And don’t wait to be asked. Write articles for publications in your field, LinkedIn, and your blog; do video interviews and podcasts. These pieces serve as calling cards that demonstrate your expertise and voice and give interviewers an idea of your perspective.
Further your field, not just your mission. Share your insights on issues affecting your entire field, not just your organization. If you focus too narrowly on the challenges and solutions that absorb your own organization, your efforts will come off as a sales pitch rather than a thoughtful contribution. The more helpful and relatable your advice and ideas are, the more quotable you will be.
Be a 101-level educator. If your enterprise is a pioneer in its field, your work may not be widely understood by media or the public—in fact, the problems you’re attempting to solve may not even be visible to others. Quotable thought leaders are prepared to offer a crash course on unfamiliar concepts, use analogies to help people understand, and answer entry level questions with grace. No reporter returns to an expert source who’s impatient and hard to follow.
Know the facts. Never wing it. Stating as a fact something you’re pretty sure you know, but haven’t confirmed, is a bad idea. If you’re wrong and the reporter checks facts, you become an unreliable source—the opposite of a go-to expert. And if the reporter doesn’t check facts, others are likely to point out the error, embarrassing both you and the reporter—the worst possible situation.
Share your sources. You probably won’t have something to say every time a journalist reaches out. But you probably know someone who does, or an organization or other resource that’s a great source of information on the topic. Be generous—provide as much help as you can, even if it gets you no ink. It demonstrates your expertise and encourages reporters to keep coming back to you.
Answer questions that aren’t asked. Point reporters in directions they haven’t thought of, and if they’re not asking all the right questions, ask and answer them yourself. Even better, reach out now and then with a “Hey, here’s a soon-to-be hot topic you might want to jump on.”
Be available. Return media queries immediately. Your PR team should jump on media requests and track you down to brief you. Most journalists are on deadline and will really appreciate a person who respects their time constraints and gets back to them quickly. If you are a reliable and timely source, reporters will make you their first call.
Of course, the more high-profile your company is, the easier it will be to get on reporters’ radar. But if you have the goods, the patience and the right strategic foundation, these secrets can put you on the path to becoming a quotable thought leader.