But having your thoughts get a fair hearing seems to be only accessible to “experts” who are already well known in the marketplace of ideas.
Here are my thoughts on four different ways you can get potential clients to hear what you have to say. Think of it as a pyramid with four layers, and your choice should be driven, as I said in post #38, on the medium your prospective clients prefer.
Top layer: Journalist-written content: wide reach for your message, but no control
The tip of the pyramid includes the narrow world of publications that are written by trained and paid journalists. This type of media is vanishing as fast as the climate-changed snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro, but still retains its power.
The causes for the decline include the rise of online media written by people willing to write for free. Think Huffington Post, which rarely pays its writers. But still, there are journalists producing well-researched, balanced, reliable content. More to the point, there are still people willing to pay for it.
For example, I subscribe to a national newspaper online, as well as online media like Slate. And I pay for several print magazines including Fortune, The Atlantic and The Walrus (which is Canadian).
These full-time journalists – and I used to be one of them – are often looking for what they call “sources” that they can quote and interview, and that’s where the opportunity lies for you.
Note that these publications generally don’t accept content that you just send to them, so there’s no point sending them an article in the hopes they’ll publish it.
They might take an “opinion” article, written by people with established expertise, with knowledgeable opinions to share. OR, they might take a “letter to the editor” or a “comment” provided it’s interesting to their audience.
But most of the information in these “top layer” media – newspapers, news websites, magazines and their associated websites, newsletters, commercial television and radio, is prepared by journalists, based on interviews. What are they looking for in the sources they interview?
• Acknowledged expertise and knowledge – academic, professional and experience qualifications
• The ability to explain complex issues in a way that can be understood by the readers or viewers
• Availability – responding quickly so they can meet their deadline
The final point, availability, is often the most important from the journalist’s viewpoint. Many times as a daily newspaper reporter I’d start a new story, and put out some calls to possible sources, leave messages, and wait to see who called me back. Who got quoted in my story? Generally, the sources who got back to me first. Usually, I’d file my story the same day I started it. Journalism is “history in a hurry.” It has to be “news” not “olds.”
Then invariably, a few days later I’d get a call from one of the missing sources, who’d finally decided that getting some media coverage was a good thing. Often, that person was surprised to hear that the story had already been published, and that I’d moved on.
Later, when I was working in Media Relations with the accounting/consulting firm KPMG, I’d often get calls from reporters looking for expertise on a particular topic. I’d always jump on these requests right away, leaving messages with people with those areas of expertise, and working hard to find someone who would respond in realtime.
I soon learned which members of the firm would get back to me quickly, and those were the people who got the coverage.
So how do you get onto the call list of reporters?
• Reach out to them on social media – direct messages on Twitter, comments on their stories, “Liking” and forwarding their stories
• Send emails with story ideas about trends and new developments in their field
• Register with a site like Help A Reporter Out ( http://www.helpareporter.com ), a site where journalists post questions about stories they’re working on – you register under the topics you can discuss, monitor source requests under those topics, and then send a note to the reporter when you’re willing to be interviewed
The upside of this means of publicity is that you get your ideas into major, high-impact media. It gives you bragging rights that add to your credibility – “Quoted in the Wall Street Journal” will do that.
One downside is that the amount of coverage you get may be tiny – a few paragraphs in a print or online text publication, or a few seconds in electronic media. As well, you have no control over what gets said about you. There may be errors in the story, and it’s hard to get corrections noticed as well as the original story.
But I’d emphasize – don’t try for this kind of coverage unless you’re able to respond quickly and be flexible as to what you’re interviewed about.
Second layer: Professional media that accept ‘expert-written’ content
Many business and professional media are eager to publish content authored by business professionals with expertise to offer. Since these publications are mostly in print, with some online presence, they prefer text contributions. But I’ve seen increasing interest in their publishing webinars, video, and audio recordings, provided by external subject-matter experts.
Many of these publications are narrow in their focus (see post #34 for more on how to find publications reaching your market). Post #4 goes into detail about how to get buy-in to your article idea from the editor, before you sit down to write the article.
These publications offer you some good ways to reach narrowly targeted markets. That includes industries (retail, oil & gas, green energy …) and professions/occupations – some have relatively wide readership (lawyers, architects …) and some are narrow (forensic accountants, food inspectors).
One good thing about these publications is that if there is one reaching your market, it means that it’s a financially healthy market. These publications depend on advertising revenue for their income, and if advertisers don’t want to reach the readers badly enough to buy ad space, the publication folds.
The downside is that often, the way the publication sees the world is not the way you see the world. For example, imagine you’re an engineer focusing on barrier-free design. Your work applies to just about any kind of building. So it may be hard to convince the editor of a niche publication in an area like foodservice, retail or government why your topic matters specifically to their readers. So, work on getting that industry-specific angle.
Third layer: Guest blogging and podcasting
One way to reach narrower markets is through guest appearances on blogs and podcasts that are already established.
Many bloggers are interested in taking a break from their publishing schedule, and many podcasts base their show around having a guest appearance each week.
In most cases, it needs to be a gradual approach. Read or listen to what it’s all about first. Maybe post a comment on what you’ve read or heard. In podcasts, go onto the platform (generally iTunes or Stitcher) and post a review or comment. That’s hugely valuable for most podcasters, as it increases the prominence that the podcast receives.
In this, bloggers and professional editors are very different – your relationship with the editor will be more transactional and professional; with bloggers it’s about developing a personal relationship.
When you have a clear idea of what the focus is, send in some ideas for coverage, about which you can generate a guest post, or be interviewed for a place in the podcast.
The upside of this third layer of content is that some blogs and podcasts reach large audiences. For example, engineering.com accepts posts from a wide range of engineering professionals and those with something to say to the profession; see one of my latest posts there, here.
Others are more niche in their focus, and if their market accords with the people you want to reach, this can be a good way to reach your audience.
Fourth layer: your own media
Finally, we come to where many business professionals start – their own blog, podcast, SlideShare or YouTube channel, or their own Pinterest platform.
This can be lonely. You may find yourself slogging away, producing good information regularly, and not many people are paying attention. Building the subscription list can be hard.
The good part is that you can say what you want, and you can target the people you most want to reach.
One of the keys to success is social media leverage – put your posts out on Twitter, add them to your LinkedIn profile, drop them into your LinkedIn groups, and add them to your Pinterest presence.
Choosing the platform that’s best for you
Going back to the “pyramid” idea, you’ll see that the media at the top tend to be higher in reach and influence. The top layer also tends to be more general, with more specific, niche markets addressed towards the bottom of the pyramid. And, the amount of control you have over the message tends to be greater towards the bottom, less towards the top.
I suggest that the best way to reach your market is through a combination of the four media types above.