Become an Expert in Expert Commentary
November 15, 2018
Group Gordon’s Nick Bonavolonta shares tips for getting your spokespeople quoted in the news.
No matter what your company or organization does, your team is bound to include experts on topics relevant to your industry and beyond. One way to translate their knowledge into building your company or organization’s brand is through expert commentary. This means connecting your spokespeople to journalists as a source to weigh in on relevant news or trends. But just because your spokesperson might be highly qualified to discuss a topic doesn’t mean journalists will be breaking down his or her door to speak with them. Successful expert commentary pitching requires lots of elbow grease, and a touch of serendipity. Below are a few tips for expertly pitching expert commentary.
- Be prepared to move quickly. When a story is breaking, time is of the essence. Reporters are racing to cover it, which means you and your spokespeople need to match their pace to keep up. Wasting precious minutes confirming availability or determining the right spokesperson can mean missing your window with a journalist. Make an advance plan that matches spokespeople with their unique topics of expertise and availability for media opportunities. Being prepared also means doing your homework and knowing the outlets and corresponding journalists, producers, and editors who cover your spokespeople’s topics of expertise. Shaving time off of the pitch process can improve your odds of success.
- Prioritize quality over quantity. When time is short, it might be tempting to fire off a pitch to a long media list you pull from a database. Resist the “spray and pray” approach; it’ll do more harm than good in the long term, even if you hit the mark with a few journalists. Take the time to review each journalist on your list to see if they’ve written about the topic or similar ones in the past or, at the very least, that they cover a relevant beat.
- Get to the point. There are times when it makes sense to painstakingly craft the perfectly eloquent, witty, compelling pitch email. In most cases, expert commentary is not one of those times. Journalists covering a breaking story have no time to read a 500-word essay explaining why they must hear from your CEO. What they really need to know is: A. You are offering a spokesperson who is available to comment, and B. He or she is credible. Make it immediately clear what you are offering by using a subject line like, “expert available: Disney-Fox merger.” The email should only include a few lines about the spokesperson’s qualifications and what he or she could speak to, with a more detailed bio linked to or pasted under your signature. Other information can wait until a journalist has bitten.
- Close the deal. Congrats – a journalist wants to interview your spokesperson! But don’t celebrate just yet. The most important thing you can do now is respond quickly to let the journalist know you’re on it. Remember to ask about any deadlines and details about the specific topics or questions to be addressed in the interview so that you can prep your spokesperson effectively. Once you’ve confirmed a time that works for both parties and determined how or where they will connect, send around a calendar invitation with the details.
- Follow up and keep watching. After your spokesperson has connected with a journalist, always follow up to thank them for their time. It’s also helpful in this email to spell out the attribution details for your spokesperson, including full name, title, and a brief description of the company or organization. Watch out for the story’s publication, and, once it’s up, you can celebrate the success of your expert commentary pitching. But be sure to keep an eye on the story! If a new development breaks, send a note to the journalist who spoke with your spokesperson to see if a follow-up piece is in the works.
No matter how perfect your spokesperson is for a story or how quickly you get a pitch out, there’s no way to bat a thousand. But, by following the tips above, you can increase your average and score valuable placements that position your leaders as the experts they are.