Thought leadership: it’s vital to brands big and small, established and new. Whether you work in a large company or as a sole practitioner, knowing how to position yourself and colleagues as industry experts is a necessity.
Yet it’s no secret that the influencer landscape is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. With so many seasoned subject matter experts available to speak on a given topic or trend, it’s a challenge to distinguish yourself when pitching journalists and other media professionals.
Being aware of the push-and-pull of pitching (responding to existing opportunities while also proactively advocating for experts) is only the first step.
Not quite sure how to follow through? Here are some tips to consider the next time you’re pitching your expertise.
1. Connect your expertise to the current news cycle.
For the best chance of exposure, aim to link your subject matter expert’s knowledge and experience with relevant world events happening right now. Not only does this demonstrate your attention to timely topics, it also translates to wider audience interest.
For example, if you’re a financial expert who can address common mistakes people make on their taxes, it makes sense to pitch around tax time. In addition to the news cycle, consider holidays and other events on an outlet’s editorial calendar when thinking about media opportunities.
If nothing poses a direct connection, try to find a different angle to a current issue and see if your expertise offers a unique perspective. Journalists are always looking for a fresh approach, especially if an issue seems one-sided on the surface.
Try to avoid gratuitously pitching yourself and your accomplishments, such as a recently published book or article. Even if it’s tied to a current event, you may come across as self-serving. Instead, speak to the broader issue and tie it to the relevant knowledge you can share.
2. Keep your pitch informative and concise.
This goes without saying, but always clearly state what makes you qualified to speak on a particular topic. Use specific industry experience to reinforce your credibility.
Clarity and confidence go hand in hand; once you decide on an angle, stick to it. Presenting a defined point of view on a topic strengthens your pitch and sets the tone for your conversation.
A good pitch should be succinct and explanatory – around 3 to 5 hearty sentences. If a communications professional is pitching on your behalf, make sure you include a personal quote about the issue at hand, and always provide the appropriate contact information.
While some people have a go-to elevator pitch for themselves and their expertise, it’s sometimes more appropriate to switch it up and tailor your pitch accordingly. A good rule of thumb is to have a standard pitch you can reference for incoming journalist inquiries, and then create custom pitches when connecting your expertise to current events or reaching out to a specific media outlet.
3. Be conscientious of deadlines and procedures.
If you’re responding to an existing media opportunity, respect any time parameters the journalist is working with and don’t attempt to haggle with them over deadlines (they’re there for a reason!). Typically, the sooner you respond to a media inquiry, the better.
If you’re proactively pitching yourself as an expert source, try not to get discouraged if a journalist is unresponsive or disinterested. Above all, do not pester or bully them into a response. Be as flexible and gracious as possible, as it will reflect on you (and your company) in any future communication.
In these types of situations where you’re “pitching blind,” it’s essential to conduct research beforehand. Is your expertise on theme with their specific outlet? Can you accommodate their preferences if they work with you (for example, phone interviews only)? The more information you have when approaching a media contact, the smoother your prospective pitch will be.
4. Include a link to a professional portfolio.
No matter how you’re submitting a pitch, you should always include a link to a professional profile.
This can be a LinkedIn profile or something similar. For instance, PR Newswire members who subscribe to ProfNet use its free community site ProfNet Connect to create custom expert profiles and interact with other users.
At minimum, your profile should have the following:
- A professional headshot
- An outline of your industry experience
- Any notable accomplishments, awards and accolades
- Links to published works/list of publications where your work has been featured
- Appropriate social media links
- Contact information
Your portfolio should complement your pitch, and be engaging, comprehensive and polished. No need to detail your life’s story, but be sure to include any noteworthy experience that’s relevant.
If your profile is too extensive, people may not read it; too sparse and it may look like your expertise is lacking. You can find an example of a well-balanced profile here.
5. Always leave them wanting more.
Be available to provide additional resources and answer any questions a media contact may have. A successful pitch should pique enough interest for a follow-up conversation, so don’t focus on telling your whole story out of the gate.
This plays off of the way you craft your pitch and your professional profile link. Don’t bombard journalists with an exhaustive list of why you would be a great expert source; if they are interested, they’ll get in touch and continue the dialogue.
When done right, pitching your thought leadership can be an easy way to land quality media pickup. Download our white paper Redefining Newsworthiness: New Opportunities to Earn Media for more tips on connecting your brand’s story and experts with journalists, bloggers and other influencers.
Author Emily Stulock is a product advocate at PR Newswire, assisting clients with ProfNet and PR Newswire’s other platforms. For more than 20 years, ProfNet has helped match communications professionals and subject matter experts with the media. Visit prnewswire.com/profnet to learn more.