Print Posted By Sunrise Health Communications on 09/05/2019

Six Reasons Subject-Matter Experts Should Invest Time in Media Interviews

Six Reasons Subject-Matter Experts Should Invest Time in Media Interviews

Subject-matter experts are busy people: They are experts, after all, so clients seek them out to solve problems. Their time and attention are both scarce resources, and saying no to stay focused is a top piece of advice from no less an expert on the subject of success than Warren Buffet.

Media relations professionals working with subject-matter experts (SMEs), then, have a challenge: Making the case that it is worth the time for a SME to do media interviews. To do this right, the time commitment goes beyond 15 or 20 minutes on the phone with a reporter. The SME has to invest time in helping to develop pitches, in training to hone their interview skills, and prepping for specific interviews to learn about the reporter and their outlet.

Here are six reasons to use when your SMEs are skeptical that media relations is worth their time – three of them tied directly to business development efforts and three tied to their professional development as an expert.

Turbocharge business development

Reason One: There are conversations in the industry on topics that are important to your business, and subject-matter experts need to be part of those conversations.

Yes, the firm has a full suite of materials that convey its position on important topics – website, white papers, sales brochures, one-pagers, digital campaigns (email marketing or social media), and even web and traditional print advertising in trade publications. All are important and necessary.

Yet they lack one thing: the expert’s voice. Potential clients want to hear from the expert, not from the marketing team. Smart quotes in an article let potential clients hear an expert’s voice and envision her solving their problems.

Reason Two: Media mentions also drive prospect behavior at all levels of the sales funnel. This survey report (PDF) from ARPR, a tech-focused public relations agency, shows the value of earned media at the top of the funnel – 40 percent of respondents said earned media was most helpful at that point in the sales cycle. Nearly one in five said media mentions are useful during the demo/presentation phase of the cycle. About one in six respondents said media mentions are useful at all levels of the funnel.

Reason Three: Coverage in an independent outlet – a newspaper, a magazine, a blog or an online news outlet – confers the most credibility among media types used by companies to reach purchasing decision makers, according to a recent study in the Journal of Promotion Management. The study involved 1,500 consumer panel participants who were showed an earned news story, a newspaper ad, a native ad, a blog by an independent author and a company blog, as the authors wrote in summarizing their study for the Institute for Public Relations.

The earned media story was judged the most credible of the five pieces. Readers tied the credibility of the information in an article directly to their perceptions of how independent the outlet was and how thorough the reporting was. (That suggests weighing both audience size and credibility when choosing media outlets to target.)

Subject-matter experts also can use media relations activity to strengthen their professional development – here are three ways to accomplish that.

Sharpening skills as an expert

Reason Four: Preparing for an interview requires a subject-matter expert to stretch their mind and refresh their thinking. It provides opportunities to dig in and think deeply and broadly about solutions to problems that they may not have encountered yet for clients: Reporters, especially in trade outlets, are usually interested in emerging trends, after all. Offering expertise in an interview disciplines their thinking in a way that is lacking when they are just pondering a problem that they read about.

Reason Five: Interviews are an excellent chance for experts to hone their presentation skills. Instead of speaking only to their peers within the industry, they are forced to think about how to describe the situation clearly without resorting to jargon and industry shorthand. If they can explain it to a reporter, they’ll be better at explaining both diagnosis and prescription to clients and potential clients – across all levels of the organization and not just with those focused on their area of expertise.

Reason Six: Media interviews are an opportunity to give back to the industry.

With general interest media (e.g., local and regional newspapers), explaining the landscape companies in your industry face contributes to greater understanding of the industry among the public.

With trade media, a subject-matter expert is sharing ideas with colleagues and deepening the understanding of the reporter. In my 11 years as a healthcare trade media reporter, probably three-quarters of what I learned about the industry came from these conversations with subject-matter experts. They broadened and deepened my thinking, provided deep historical perspective and pointed me to resources that enriched my understanding of how the U.S. healthcare industry works.

And if all these reasons don’t sway your SME, perhaps pledging your undying appreciation for their time will help.

(A tip of the hat to Sword and the Script, a veteran-owned public relations agency in Atlanta, for the research in this excellent blog post, “Earned Media: 3 PR Studies Quantifying the Impact of Media Relations on Sales.”)

Image by Mohamed Hassan via Pixabay