Women, Spirit & Money: Spirited Exchange – How to Be a Great Expert Source
By Sherri L. McLendon
Top 10 Tips for Feminine Leaders Who Want to Leverage Professional Leadership and Expertise Through Building and Establishing Their Reputations as Quote-Worthy Sources
In today’s “New Media” world, one of the ways dynamic feminine leaders leverage their expertise is through building and establishing their reputation online. But with the lines between news and publicity becoming increasingly blurred in print, television, radio, and Internet versions of the same, it’s sometimes difficult to know the unwritten rules associated with serving as an expert source for a professional article, which may be loosely translated as any content for which one does not pay.
As former journalist and editor who is frequently sought out as an expert source, I’ve been both interviewer and interviewee, placing me in a unique position to see both sides of how the expert source world works. If you want to further your work through articles in any medium, here are my Top 10 dos and don’ts for becoming a great expert source that writers, reporters, and editors, and publicists will want to work with more than once.
1. Expect the writer to do the fact check by phone.
Writers are not duty bound to do a fact check before they run a story, particularly in the fast-pace, deadline driven world of newspapers or the speed of lightning return expected online. The general demise of the copy editing desk in news rooms doesn’t help. So if the writer extends the courtesy of a fact check, you’re already getting special attention. As an expert source, you’ll likely to be asked to verify the content of your quotations or the context. Reading the entire piece to do your own edits, even if it concerns your agency, program, or business? Most likely won’t happen if the writer is a pro.
2. Don’t add content the writer didn’t request.
Writers work under clear guidelines. Editors often hand them the word count and the frame or slant for the piece they are writing in advance. Then, they are bounded by the content of the interview you gave them. If they are kind enough to ask for your suggestions, don’t ask them for promotional considerations for yourself, donors, partners or supporters. It’s not good form. However, if you know of something they should have asked but didn’t, it’s appropriate to ask the reporter if they want to know more.
3. Don’t ask to see an advance copy so you can fix their mistakes.
Writers are a little insulted by this one, especially if they feel it’s insinuated they’re irresponsible, or you know how to do their job better than they do. Outside the book world, editors normally won’t allow the sharing of advance or proof copies, online or off, with anyone except the writer, due to copyright considerations. Plus, growing financial restrictions have changed the print industry. If you get ink at all, it’s really quite a compliment. In many cases, online syndicated news is really just as good if not more advantageous, if you wish to drive the national dialogue. Once you give a great interview, it’s better to let go and trust.
4. Use talking points.
To give that great interview, stay on topic and increase relevancy, refer to talking points. This bulleted list of key facts and figures allows you to say what you need to say clearly and cleanly, using the language that is appropriate to framing the work that you do (without using industry jargon). You’ll also want to be mindful of getting off track. If you give away too much information as an expert source, then what to you was a digression may become a key part of the final story to the interviewer.
5. Think in terms of sound bytes.
The best quotes are short and decisive and express your thinking about the topic in a compelling way. Think in terms of short answers in complete sentences, not one paragraph mini-essays. Remember, the chances of the reader wanting to know as much as you do about the topic are slim to none. While some details will end up synopsized in the background “nut” graph or peppered throughout the piece, generating seven pages single spaced worth of interview material for a 500 word piece isn’t helpful. Instead, focus on what you want others to know, learn, or understand.
6. Don’t ask for advance copies of the questions.
In some cases, a reporter will use a pre-fabricated set of questions, such as for a question and answer feature that’s repeated in a monthly magazine. But it’s not appropriate to ask for advanced copies of the questions, unless offered. The exception to this rule may be if you as the expert are unavailable due to a scheduling conflict. A writer or reporter may then consider sending the questions to receive the answers prior to an impending deadline.
7. Watch what you say online.
The reporter’s job is to report, not to make you look good as an expert source. That’s up to you. The advent of Internet journalism means that young reporters may cut corners, using social media to gain information for their stories. Pre-FaceBook, you’d rarely see a reporter use personal comments of regular persons gathered online as quotes However, it does happen – particularly if you are a public figure, such as a government official or a book author, or have omniscient fame, like a rock star. As a rule of thumb, if you say it online via social media, and there are more than two people who can read your comment, it’s “published,” and therefore fair game. Same goes for email interviews, which are traditionally considered lazy journalism by the pros, even for a “Q&A.” Keep it short, sweet, and carefully constructed, so that your personal comments are mindfully aligned with your professional persona.
8. Speak from the heart.
Sincerity and passion begets trust and respect. If you speak from your heart and truth rather than from a need for attention, you won’t make mistakes.
9. Express gratitude.
Thank the writer for thinking of you. Tell them you enjoyed the interview. Offer to be of service in the future. Send a thank you note to the writer or his/her editor for his consideration of you as a source, excellent work and professional manner. If you can’t think of anything nice to say, don’t complain. Find something you can be sincere about, and say thank you. If there’s a mistake, it happens. Don’t correct it if it’s not serious. If a correction is needed, ask politely.
10. Share your experience.
Share that you’re to be interviewed. Celebrate after the interview occurs. Self syndicate the published piece via your blog, social media, or other means. By whatever means is appropriate, share your experience with others. But remember, humility and joy beats bragging and posturing every day of the week.
Sherri L. McLendon, M.A., owns and operates Professional Moneta International, specializing in mindfulness approaches to marketing public relations and feminine leadership.