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Become an Expert and Attract More Customers

By Rusty Cawley
Posted Saturday, October 23, 2004

A reporter seeks four basic qualities from a third-party expert. To succeed, you must master all four. 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 with reporters.

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 an expert.

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 or 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 talking points.

One other point: You must be ready to reposition yourself with the times.

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 to you.

And that’s OK.

The PR Rainmaker considers “change” to be just another word for “opportunity.”

Copyright 2003 by W.O. Cawley Jr.

About the Author
Rusty Cawley is a veteran journalist who now coaches executives. For your free copy of the ebook “PR Rainmaker: Three Simple Rules for Using the News Media to Attract Customers and Clients,” visit (


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