Becoming known as an expert

The first step to becoming a local expert is just to become one. It can be done in several ways and all should be attempted simultaneously. It is easier to become a local expert by supplying comment and opinion pieces than it is to stir a reporter into chasing you for comment.

Many companies in New Zealand (and elsewhere) pay public relations companies (the euphemism is ‘communications consultants’) to place their names before editors and decision makers and politicians as often as they can without appearing to pester. Any slight progress in a project, advancement in a product or change of business relationship is accompanied by a press release. The press release always states what happened and ends with a standard paragraph or two, describing the company, its mission and its alleged pre-eminence in its field of expertise. A prominent logo is always included.

These releases are issued often without expectation of making it into editorial content. It’s name repetition leading to recognition they’re after as editorial staff (and politicians and influential people) are the target of these releases, not the wider public. If an event happens that may well be worth editorial coverage, the PR people make personal approaches, they don’t rely on press releases.

Reporters read newspapers and watch television and attend conferences. Business leaders and public servants do too and they also attend Rotary meetings and they shovel horse manure into bags for Jaycees and they belong to sports clubs and charities. Exposing yourself (editorially speaking) to the places where these people will notice you is step one in becoming a local expert.

Rotary holds two meetings weekly and requires speakers for each. Imagine being the person designated to attract an interesting speaker with that frequency. Many professional groups hold an annual conference at which a featured speaker is often a highlight. You don’t need necessarily to aim for the Law Society or the National or Labour Party first up but even local groups hold these meetings and it’s a start.

Some conferences seem to happen merely because a professional conference manager thought up an interesting topic and went out and promoted the idea. These managers are always looking for experts. They stage a conference, attract speakers and then sell tickets at around $1,700 for the 2-day event. They feed off fresh talent and expertise and they can place you in front of their audience, an audience to die for – it’s paying serious money to listen to people with your experience.

Maybe you have such an engaging personality that you will become a media darling. The so-called Mad Butcher pops up on television and radio frequently commenting about rugby league games. I don’t know that stuffing sausage meat into skins qualifies anyone as an expert on the game but I enjoy watching his antics and I’m sure the exposure he receives helps him sell his product to people who would otherwise have passed by his shops.

Put it this way. If you had millions of dollars to spare then you too, as Watties has, could buy the 3 minutes before TV One news each night and become a household name. The cook they use is well known because her employer paid for her to be. Do you think she would be well known if she stayed at home thinking up new ways to make canned, processed foods taste different for her kids?

If Watties is prepared to spend that much money then presume they are onto something that you should be thinking about too except, as a small business owner, you are going to have to get there by dint of skill, personality or cunning, not through your cheque book.

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