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5 great ways for PR pros to utilize an expert

Plus: Huffington Post’s Media Editor discusses how your expert can become a HuffPost blogger

You represent a product, service or brand with a person who is an expert in his/her industry. Beyond quoting them in your latest press release, how can you leverage his/her expertise in your media relations campaign?

Last week, my fellow CisionBlog blogger Jay Krall and I spoke at the PRSA Digital Impact conference in New York. One lunchtime panel was “Build Your Blogger Relationships.” Five well-known bloggers discussed what they cover and how they would like to be pitched.  Huffington Post Media Editor Danny Shea mentioned that many of the site’s featured blog posts are written by outside contributors. Here’s a really quick video on two ways your expert could be a HuffPost blogger (please pardon the video quality):

So basically, sometimes PR people can suggest to a section editor that their expert write a HuffPost blog post, and other times the PR pro may just request an interview and the section editors recommend a blog post from the expert’s own voice. What a great opportunity to position your expert as a thought leader in his/her field!

After listening to Danny, I started thinking about other ways that media relations professionals can utilize an expert. Without further ado, here are 5 great ways to leverage an expert:

  1. Expert Interviews. This one is often a marathon, and not a sprint. Find journalists who frequently cover a topic that your expert knows inside and out. Contact them and ask if they are interested in interviewing your expert. One thing to bear in mind: rarely do journalists do a profile of just one expert… frequently, they will keep what they learned in the interview on file to include as part of a larger story when the time is right. I represented an outsourcing company about 10 years ago when working for a PR agency. The president of the company had worked in outsourcing for decades – before outsourcing was even a common term. I noticed that BusinessWeek had a correspondent in India who was writing about outsourcing on a fairly regular basis. I set up an interview between the two of them. Although the interview went well, I was dissapointed every week when I flipped through my copy of BW and saw nothing about my expert. It was a full five months later that he had numerous quotes in an extensive article. The important thing to remember is that you are building relationships and reputation – sometimes that takes time.
  2. Bylined Articles. Many publications and websites (particularly in the trade sector) will publish articles written by an industry expert. The key thing when pitching, writing, editing and submitting a bylined or contributed article is to remember that these articles are not a platform for product placement or sales pitching. Articles need to address a broader industry topic and can include personal examples, but need to benefit the audience. Also, each outlet will have different guidelines on whether they want a completed article, an abstract, a pitch, etc. first so do your research beforehand.
  3. Blogging. First of all, I am not suggesting that all experts should be bloggers. I may even go out on a limb and suggest that most experts should notbe bloggers. To keep a blog active with great content over a long period of time (which is exactly what’s needed for a blog to grow a community), bloggers must be excited about the blog and passionate about their subject matter. Many experts and executives who are pushed into blogging aren’t enthusiastic and eventually, posts taper off. However, if you do have an expert who loves talking about or writing about their area of expertise, whether or not they are great writers, you could have a goldmine of thought leadership on your hands.
  4. Tradeshows. If your brand, product or service has a booth at a major tradeshow and you have set up some media briefings beforehand, your expert is a great person to introduce journalists to your brand. Journalists LOVE speaking to people who have an in-depth knowledge of the brand and industry as a whole. Again, be careful that your expert does not offer a sales pitch, but insight into the brand and future landscape of the industry.
  5. Social Media Involvement. Like blogging, social media involvement isn’t for every expert. Depending on your brand’s involvement in social media, the type of chatter about your brand and how comfortable your expert feels with engaging the community, there are a variety of ways to get your expert involved. On the most basic level, if you see chatter about your brand within a larger industry context, consult with your expert to determine if they have any insights on how to respond. If they are more comfortable with getting involved directly, your expert can become a great resource to your target community by sharing ideas, articles and trends in a larger context that positions him/her as a thought leader and brings awareness and respect to your brand, product or service.

What other ways have you, as a media relations professional, utilized an expert in your industry?

About Heidi Sullivan

One of PRWeek’s 40 under 40 in 2012, Heidi Sullivan is Senior Vice President of Digital Content for Cision and a self-proclaimed social media metrics nerd. She leads the company’s digital and broadcast content teams, the global research team for Cision’s media database, Cision’s social media community team and the company’s content marketing strategy. You can find her on Twitter @hksully.

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