Despite technology advances, journalists say finding qualified, articulate experts and securing interviews with them remains a difficult task, according to a new survey. That hunger for expert sources creates an extraordinary public relations opportunity.
Journalists need to improve the process of discovering and securing expert sources to help develop stories, according to the Expert Sources Survey completed by ExpertFile in conjunction with The Associated Press.
“Expert sources are critical to the reporting process. The need for credible experts that reflect diversity has never been more important for newsrooms,” said Dwayne Desaulniers, AP’s director of corporate news and data services.
“While we have seen many new technology advances in newsrooms, the process of discovering, vetting and connecting with a diverse set of media sources remains a tedious process,” said Peter Evans, CEO of ExpertFile. “Having access to a large, searchable network of credible experts who will respond to tight deadlines is becoming increasingly critical for journalists.”
Research Highlights a Media Hunger for Qualified Sources
More than half (55%) of journalists and other media professionals in newsrooms say they start with a Google search, but finding experts remains cumbersome. On average, a journalist takes two hours to secure an expert for an interview.
News organizations want greater diversity in the experts they interview, but most journalists (67%) still rely heavily on personal contacts.
- Promoting company subject matter experts offers a potent media relations tool. Promote company experts on the organization’s online newsroom by posting their bios, headshots, and links to published articles and media mentions.
- The average acceptable response time to an interview request is 14.5 hours. It’s imperative for PR to respond swiftly to media requests and promptly arrange interviews with company experts. The average response time to an interview request is 14.5 hours. Journalists often need a response within two hours.
- Video is a major factor in determining who gets media coverage: For three-quarters (76%) of broadcast and cable media professionals, access to video assets is an important factor in choosing an expert source. Apparently, skill at articulating one’s expertise is as important as the expert’s credentials. Posting videos of experts speaking on their specialties can attract media interest. Training can help improve experts’ speaking and presentation skills.
- Many, but not all, journalists consider press releases valuable for finding experts: 34% called news releases valuable or very valuable, and 38% said they’re somewhat valuable. News releases are not obsolete as a PR tool. Offering interviews with subject matter experts in press releases and media pitches can increase the chances of media coverage.
More Recommendations for Positioning Experts as Media Sources
There are many other ways PR can help position the organization’s experts as credible media sources:
- Journalists often look for experts on Twitter. Encourage your corporate experts to open Twitter accounts to comment on events in their specialty and express their opinions.
- Help experts write op-ed pieces for trade journals – and make the placements.
- Create a corporate speakers’ bureau and promote your experts for speeches at industry events.
- Enlist your best corporate experts in national speakers’ bureaus.
- Encourage your corporate experts to serve on boards of industry associations – and to participate in the association’s speakers’ bureau.
- Identify executives and managers who are active in national not-for-profit organizations and help them gain publicity for their activities.
- Submit your corporate experts for industry awards.
- In every product announcement, feature a technical expert to talk about the overall landscape for the product category.
- Circulate your organization’s list of experts to your best media contacts.
- Watch the news; notify your media contact of a company expert who can comment about an on-going news event.
- Publicize any awards your organization’s experts receive or publications they produce.
- Be more willing to take some risks by featuring your most outspoken experts.
- Sign up to be a source on Help a Reporter Out (HARO). “Subscribe to HARO,” says Kyle Peterson, partner at Clement|Peterson, a tech PR agency. “The free service will send you three emails per day listing articles that journalists are currently working on – and the sources they’re seeking to complete the story. Just be sure to respond quickly when a request fits your area of expertise (and HARO covers just about all industries), since there could be plenty of competition.”
- Answer questions on Quora. “Quora is a great place to share content in the form of answers to questions,” says Quincy Smith, marketing manager, Visiple, a video conferencing platform. “If you post and answer enough, you will get more credibility and people will not only ask you to answer questions but will also visit your site.” Make sure your business name and Twitter handle are in your account bio, and and include a link to your business in your posts, if or when appropriate.
What additional ways can you suggest to help your experts become valuable sources for the media?
Bottom Line: Promoting company experts as media resources is a crucial PR strategy. Journalists face challenges as they strive to identify credible experts, complete interviews before deadlines, and develop a more diverse range of expert sources. PR can help by promoting their company experts as media resources and preparing them for interviews.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.