How to Become Invaluable
to the News Media
By Rusty Cawley
All news reporters need third-party experts to help them explain
issues, events and ideas to their audiences. A truly valuable expert
is hard to find. Here's how to become one and thus raise your value
A reporter seeks four basic qualities from a third-party expert.
To succeed, you must master all four.
First, be informed.
This is more than being educated. You must keep abreast of changes
in your field of expertise by reading the top periodicals in your
line. Know what is happening. Stay on top of the news. If the reporter
knows more than you do, then the reporter will not consider you
Second, be reliable.
When the phone call comes from the news media, respond immediately.
Tell your staff that responding to the media is the top priority.
You should move heaven and earth to respond right now. Reporters
call on deadline. They cannot wait for you. You must call back immediately.
If you fail, odds are the reporter will not bother to call you again.
Third, be interesting.
You must be different. If you offer the same old stuff that the
reporter can get anywhere, then you aren't worth calling again.
But if you consistently offer a point of view that is slightly askew
from the norm, you enhance the reporter's story. And that means
you will get called again and again, not only by that reporter,
but by reporters who read that story in print o online. If you want
an example, study the architect Rem Koolhaus. He has build his career
by being an active iconoclast. You don't have to go as far as Koolhaus,
but it wouldn't hurt at all.
Finally, be quotable.
You must learn to speak in sound bites. In the world of journalism,
less is more. If you give the reporter too much to work with, the
chances are you will be misquoted, taken out of context or simply
lost in the shuffle. Keep your answers brisk, pithy and sharp.
Don't be afraid to pause while you organize your thoughts. Better
yet, try to operate from a one-page set of prepared talking points
that stake out your iconoclastic position. No matter what question
you are asked, you can always steer the conversation back to your
One other point: You must be ready to reposition yourself with the
We live in a rapidly changing world. Whatever issue you seize, over
time the issue with mutate or vanish. You must be ready to stake
out new territory when the opportunity arises.
For example, in the 1980s, many marketers staked out a position
as experts in what was then known as "voice text." These
were the phone numbers that you could call to get voice messages
on stock quotes, sports scores and other brief helpful items.
Then came the Internet. "Voice text" vanished and is now
hardly remembered at all. An expert in this field was forced to
find a new field.
This eventually happens to everyone in every field. It will happen
And that's OK.
The PR Rainmaker considers "change" to be just another
word for "opportunity."
Copyright 2003 by W.O. Cawley Jr.Rusty Cawley is a 20-year veteran
journalist who now coaches executives, entrepreneurs and professionals
about news strategy. For your free copy of the new PDF ebook "PR
Rainmaker: Three Simple Rules for Using the News Media to Attract
New Customers and Clients," visit www.prrainmaker.com.
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