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Offering your wisdom to the media is a great way to further your brand.
Using your organization's representatives as expert commentators in the media is a great way to gain exposure for your brand and position your organization as a thought leader in the industry.

But marketing your contacts or executives as experts requires a different set of disciplines and reporter accessibility. For instance, how are you to know when a reporter is facing a deadline and in need of a source that ideally suits your spokesperson? What is the best approach to make your experts visible to reporters when those reporters are researching a story?

For a firsthand, in-the-field perspective of the opportunities and challenges available to small businesses in marketing expert sources, I spoke with Lorrie Thomas, who heads a boutique online marketing agency, Web Marketing Therapy. We discussed how she was able to increase exposure for her clients by positioning them as experts to the media.

Rachel Meranus: What qualities does a good expert source possess?

Lorrie Thomas:
We work with clients in all industries who make their passion their profession. This quality helps to distinguish them from their competitors, and we use this principle when we design and execute marketing campaigns. We realized that the people who are responsible for bringing the passion to their profession make naturally compelling sources not only because they are most informed about the industry that they're working in but also because they truly enjoy what they do, and it shows.   

Opportunities to position clients as expert sources need not be limited to their profession. If a client has had success as an amateur athlete, has an interesting hobby or a unique personal background, these traits can provide additional opportunities to gain exposure for the talent behind a brand.

How did you begin working on getting your clients' names out there as experts? Though our clients were leaders in their space, we needed the tools to translate that expertise into positive exposure. We researched various strategies and techniques for publicizing expert sources and realized that the only way we would be able to produce significant and repeatable results is if we employed tools that were recognized by the PR industry as best-in-class. Based on these criteria, we decided to sign up for ProfNet, a service that links journalists and other professionals seeking sources with experts.

Using ProfNet, we were able to immediately search for media queries that were appropriate for our clients. We signed up for alerts so that we would be able to respond as quickly as possible to relevant queries. In addition, we built profiles for all of our clients in ProfNet's expert database in order to help journalists search and connect with each source.

How do you prepare your clients for their first interview?
Fortunately, our clients are experts in their field and are very gifted communicators, so there is never a need for formal media training. What we do to prepare our clients is get a list of questions to them in advance so they are prepared. We also gather information about the audience our clients are speaking to. We understand the market, needs, wants and educational level.  It is our goal to have interviews that educate and add value to the target audience--so we plan ahead.

As a marketer, what do you see as the key benefits for building expert exposure?  Were your clients generally receptive to the strategy? An expert in his or her field can become an authority with an exposure plan. Once an expert achieves authority status, it takes marketing to a whole new level. The media is more interested in our clients, their target market trusts them more, company morale goes up; the benefits are endless.

Generally, our clients understand that they need marketing to build brand and boost business and are very willing to be catapulted to high expert status to grow their companies.

Has this new service helped your business as well? Yes, it has added depth to our boutique agency's suite of marketing services and enabled us to take our marketing programs to a new level by securing quotes, placing feature articles and providing our clients with the same access to the media that a large agency would boast.

Even though my company focuses exclusively on web marketing, using ProfNet as a way to make our clients "weblebrities" has been a huge asset to our marketing suite and our mission to serve, support and sell our clients' products and services

Rachel Meranus is's "PR" columnist and vice president, public relations at PR Newswire. Get more information about PR Newswire and public relations with their PR Toolkit for small businesses.

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