The thought leadership industrial complex churns out an endless stream of articles full of advice about how to become a thought leader. One nugget invariably is to get quoted in the media. But these articles never tell you how to do that.
The funny thing is, it’s not that hard.
In truth, getting quoted in the media is an excellent way to build your reputation as a thought leader. Oh, sure: You can blog and tweet your flashes of insight, your compelling and unique views on the subjects that most interest the audience you want to reach. You can publish them on your website and post them on LinkedIn. But there’s nothing like the validation that comes with being quoted as an expert in the media. And once you’re quoted in one story, other writers will find your quote and either repeat it or find you so they can get their own. You are, after all, an expert. If you weren’t, why would you have been quoted in the first place?
So how do you do it? How do you get reporters to quote you?
Say your desired audience is technology executives. Then you want to be quoted in Information Week, Network World, Wired, or CIO.
Here’s what you do:
- Go to the websites. See who’s writing about what. If you want to become known as a Big Data thought leader, check out who’s writing about Big Data.
- Find the email address of the reporter. Most websites, magazines, and newspapers publish the reporter’s email address under the byline, or at the end of the story, or link to it when you click on his or her name.
- Email the reporter. Say something nice about their most recent article. (Flattery works.) Then ask if they’ve considered whatever it is you have a point of view about. Cite an example illustrating your point, and mention, in passing, why you might actually know something about the subject. Don’t promote yourself. Don’t tell the reporter how smart and accomplished you are. That’s a turn-off. Simply mention that you’d be happy to talk to him if he’d like to.
- Keep it narrow. Big Data, for example, has been written about to a fare-thee-well and there are bigger and louder voices than yours. (Tom Davenport comes to mind.) The reporter is not interested in your big thoughts about Big Data; he’s looking for examples and angles on the margins of the Big Data story. That’s where you come in. That’s where you can help.
- Wait. If you don’t get a response, move on to the next reporter. Nobody likes a nag.
If you really have something new to say, and you really have a background that indicates that you’re not just talking through your hat, there’s actually a good chance the reporter will reply.
Why? Because she needs you more than you need her.
And that’s a beautiful thing . . . for you.
Reporters need sources. They can’t do their jobs without them. Reporters are generalists, not experts. Over time, if they’re any good, they learn their beats pretty well, but they never know their subjects as well as the people who actually do whatever it is for a living, who spend all their time on the subject. No matter how knowledgeable a reporter becomes, he will always need sources to explain things, to tell him what’s new, and what’s relevant to his readers. And being able to quote someone is always easier for the reporter than having to explain it himself.
Several years ago, I went to work for CFO Magazine and CFO.com and I knew very little (probably less than that) about corporate finance and the stuff CFOs do. So I was constantly looking for people who did. When I’d get an email from a reader who seemed to know what she was talking about, I’d respond. I’d engage. And if she was helpful, I’d quote her. In fact, I’d call the most helpful people regularly for their take on whatever it was I was covering. Some of these sources turned into consistent CFO contributors.
They helped me; I helped them, and that’s how you get quoted in the media.