By Jim Farrell
One great outcome of a public relations effort is when you, the owner or executive officer of a business, become a sought-after source by the news media. We’ve all seen examples of it: the wealth manager or stock market expert who is on every TV station when something prominent happens affecting the market … or the attorney who seems to get quoted every time there’s some issue dominating the news. You might scratch your head as you see these favorite sources quoted again and again, and ask yourself “What have they got that I don’t?” Simply put, they have well-established relationships with media sources. But this didn’t happen overnight. They worked – and worked and worked – to build relationships with sources, establishing themselves as authorities or thought leaders. What they all have in common is that they make themselves available, often on a minute’s notice. When contacted, they deliver worthy commentary and they do so on deadline. They are knowledgeable … and available. You probably have as much knowledge of your industry as they do of theirs. So, maybe you just haven’t been “discovered.” Yet. Before getting to the “how” of becoming a go-to source, consider the “why.” Why put yourself out there? Suppose that you are a CPA, the head of a prominent Cape Cod or South Shore firm, and there’s (practically) nothing you don’t know about the new tax laws that took effect this year. Whether we love or hate the new tax code, most businesspeople are smart enough to know what we don’t know – which, for us non-CPAs, is tax law. And those of us who don’t know the intricacies of the new code look to the experts to guide us. As a CPA, you counsel business owners on what they should do (and shouldn’t), to maximize their benefits under the new tax codes. Wouldn’t it be great if writers from the region’s daily newspapers, business magazines, and occasionally a radio or TV producer contacted you to be part of their ongoing reporting on this topic? Imagine all those business owners (translation: potential customers), who may have never heard of you, seeing you quoted as an authority on the new tax laws on Channel 5, or NECN, or quoted in a number of newspapers. When you as an expert source have been vetted by media outlets, it gives you “street cred,” as the kids say. And news media people are often on the lookout for good reliable news sources who can add informed comment to the discussion. Being a quoted expert establishes you as an authority in your field (which should help in your quest for new business). Posting these interviews and/or quotes on your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms means when people search your name they’ll see good things. And, when it comes to positioning you as a solid choice for that new customer, the positive publicity can’t hurt! A second way to be seen as a thought leader is by contacting area magazines and websites and offering to contribute an “expert” article on a subject that you can address with authority. Again, following the earlier example, offer to write an article, “Ten tips every business owner should know about the new tax codes.” What business owner could resist reading an article with that title? And, in addition to querying the media outlets in your geographic market, look to the industries where you have clients – or would like to. There are magazines, websites, and blogs for every industry imaginable – and if your firm specializes in construction, or working with banks, contact those outlets and offer to contribute an article. How do you get started? For the do-ityourselfers, begin with an Internet search. Google the names of the magazines and newspapers in your area; and, in visiting their websites, most will contain “contact us” information which should lead you to the right source. In seeking outlets for a specific industry, you may have some initial success with a web search, “Construction magazines in MA” or “Banking magazines in New England” and it should lead you to some outlets and their websites. It’s worth buying a few copies and reading either in print or online to familiarize yourself with what the magazines cover. When ready, contact these media outlets by email with a straightforward subject line and message. Write simply, directly, and tell them what you seek – i.e., contribute an article (and suggest a few topics), or be considered as a resource if they are working on stories or features in your area of expertise. Offer a brief description of why you believe you’d be a good source: background, years of experience, industries you’ve worked with. Be objective, not promotional. Be persistent, but respectful. Don’t call them on deadline. Don’t email them every day. Stay in touch periodically. Send them industry news that may interest them. Offer to have a meeting in person or an informational interview over the phone. And, should one of them take you up on your offer, respond quickly. Good things take time, so don’t give up. There is real value to being seen as an expert by the right people. Good luck!