Thought leadership? Stand on this mountain

When I’m not training PR pros I love hiking in the mountains around my Utah home. There’s something about the mountain air that clears my mind and helps me think.

On a recent hike I paused to admire the scenery below and thought, “I can see this valley better than anyone else.” And being the PR nerd I am, I realized how that relates to placing expert quotes (humblebrag photo below).

You’re trying to establish your subject matter experts as thought leaders. Ask yourself this question: “What part of the world can my expert see better than anyone else?”

Whether academic scholars or rags-to-riches entrepreneurs, your experts have unique perspectives that make them a valuable asset for reporters.

Too often we focus on impressive credentials and qualifications. My experience has shown that while your expert needs to be qualified, it’s the content that reporters care about most. What is your expert going to say? And, more importantly, how will it be different from what other people are saying?

Look for the slice of knowledge or experience that your expert understands better than the competition. Instead of jumping into the melee of tax pitches with a generic offer of “CPA can share tax tips,” one of my Inner Circle members offered “Tips on building a diverse professional services firm from one of the five percent of CPAs who are Black.” By zeroing in on something her expert could see better than most, this PR pro earned big coverage.

Sometimes your expert’s view from the mountain can start narrow but be broadened to suit your audience. One PR pro’s client specialized in “sleep disruptions among children with cancer.” To better position her for a TEDx event, the PR team expanded the focus to “adolescent sleep” in general.

What if you have a source who is too busy hiking to stop and talk about the view? Consider sending target journalists an email with quotes instead of offering a full-fledged interview. Then work to show your source you understand which outlets have the best ROI. With time most will see the value of taking a break to share their insights.

What if your expert likes to meander slowly down the mountain? If your source won’t respond fast enough, follow these steps:

  1. Predict news that will likely happen.
  2. Draft insights for your expert.
  3. Get approvals in advance.
  4. When the news breaks, include a reference to the news at the top and send it out.

Work to define a unique and valuable view for your client, and then find a way to share it. As I tell my kids, one of the perks of hiking to the tops of mountains is the bragging rights.

P.S. Thanks to Brad Plothow for inspiring the idea behind this message.

This article was originally published on May 25, 2022

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