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To Maximize Your PR, Get in 'the Rolodex'

By Rusty Cawley
Posted Saturday, October 23, 2004

If you had to choose just one tactic above all others for gaining consistent and positive attention from the news media, here is the one you should choose: Get your name in the Rolodexes of the reporters who can do you the most good.

Why? Because if you can position yourself as an informed, reliable, interesting source of information, then you become a reporter’s best friend.

You see, reporters must have “third-party experts” who can provide commentary on the event or the issue that the news media is covering.

From the outside, this might seem an easy task. It isn’t. Often, a reporter is on deadline and is scrambling to find a third party. You will often find reporters frantically surfing the Web or making phone calls to find a third party who is informed and available.

Often reporters will ask their peers, “Do you know anyone who knows anything about this?” If your name is in the Rolodex of any of these reporters, then you win.

You get the phone call. You get the interview. You land the pithy quote in the news story that will position you as an expert with the prospects you want to make your customers.

But this will not happen spontaneously. You must get into those Rolodexes. Here is the PR Rainmaker’s method.

First, you must identify the reporters who can help you.

These are the reporters who are most likely to be read and to be trusted by your future customers and clients. Some are reporters who cover your industry for the mainstream media. Others are specialized columnists. Still others are writing for the trade media that focus entirely upon your business.

If you don’t know who these folks are, then make it you business now to find out. Ask your current customers whom they read and trust. Odds are your future customers value the same reporters.

The quantity of names on your media list is not nearly as valuable to you as the quality. Stick to reporters who reach the audiences you want to reach.

Next, choose an issue for which you want to be known as an expert. Don’t start with what you know. Instead, isolate the issues that reporters are covering and your audiences are reading. In other words, sell what they are buying.

If you don’t know the subject thoroughly, then educate yourself. With the ready access to educational materials through the Internet, you can become an expert on virtually any subject within a matter of weeks. You simply must apply yourself.

Try to become an iconoclast. If everyone else is zigging, then you should zag. Remember, the news media are attracted to the unusual. If you are saying the same thing as 20 other experts, then what good are you to a reporter? You don’t want to be a crackpot. But you do want to offer an opinion that is significantly different than conventional thinking.

Once you have staked out your position, it is time to print Rolodex cards that include your name, title, company, phone number (direct dial, if possible), email, mailing address. Also, include a line or two about your qualifications.

Above all, the card should say something like: “Expert in (fill in the blank).” Don’t include your position on the subject. You don’t want the reporter to jump to conclusions. Just market yourself as an expert in a particular subject.

(Now, this doesn’t mean your card should be say, for example, “Expert in Accounting.” That is far too broad. Instead, narrow the focus enough to attract attention from the reporter, while keeping in mind that the focus must match up with the audiences you want to reach.

For example, if you are a CPA who wants to attract phone calls from law firms and companies engaged in legal disputes, you may want your card to say: “Export in forensic accounting for civil lawsuits.” )

Print your Rolodex cards in at least two sizes, large and small. Your printer can give you some guidance on the most popular sizes. If you can afford it, include a tab on the top of the card that announces your expertise. This tab will not only make it easy for the reporter to find your card in a sea of cards, but also will constantly remind the reporter of your presence in his file.

The next step is obvious: Get your cards out there. They do you no good sitting in a drawer. Mail them out. Hand them out. Whatever makes you comfortable. But get them into the hands of reporters who can use them.

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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