You’ve been given a media relations challenge: Raise the profile of an executive within your organization. OK, fine, but how?
One way involves the “expert quote,” getting your executive (or client) quoted as an expert in trend stories that are sure to be read by your target audience.
In a service industry like mine—real estate—the “expert quote” is a key strategy to show that one service provider is more qualified than the other. This kind of coverage is invaluable, because it says an informed third party—the newspaper or publication—needed a leader in the field and chose your guy.
Some executives and clients, by nature of their stature in the industry, get called by reporters on a regular basis to weigh in on trend stories and breaking news. But what if that phone isn’t ringing? What if your competitors are getting those reporter calls and are being prominently featured on the front page of the daily business section?
That’s when you need to quit waiting and get proactive. Instead of pitching your guy as an expert for a trend story, pitch the trend story itself.
Here’s a recent example: I work in the retail real estate industry, and our Dallas-based company handles services related primarily to grocery-anchored shopping centers throughout Texas. So, I follow the grocery industry as a matter of course.
A lifestyle blog did a small item about a Kroger grocery store in Houston that had replaced self-checkout lanes with staff-operated express lanes. Sensing this might signal a shift in strategy for grocers, I e-mailed the story to a reporter I work with at Texas’ largest daily newspaper. Her reaction was somewhat less than overwhelmed.
A week later, I saw workers removing the self-checkout lanes at the Albertsons in my neighborhood. “We’re replacing them with express lanes,” a checkout clerk told me. Express lanes operated by living, breathing people.
I emailed the reporter again, letting her know about the neighborhood grocery. This time, she ran the idea by her editor. The next morning, she contacted me, saying she was on deadline and asking if I could put her in touch with someone who could comment.
She didn’t have to call me, of course, but because I had spotted the trend and then pitched it to her gave a strong indication that our organization would provide the most knowledgeable person to weigh in with a quote.
The story ran the next day on the front page of the business section. The online version generated 57 comments, far and away the most of any story that week.
The story then took on a life of its own and got picked up by publications and news feeds around the country. Every version featured the quote from our executive.
As always in media relations, not every pitch will result in a story. So, you need to pitch a trend story like any other—make sure you pitch to the appropriate reporter, one whose beat makes the trend pitch a natural fit.
So what do you need to successfully pitch a trend story?
• Be a student of your industry. By knowing that self-checkout lanes became a widely adopted industry standard about a decade ago, I understood immediately that their removal was newsworthy.
Ian Pierce is director of corporate communications for The Weitzman Group, the leading retail-focused commercial real estate brokerage firm in Texas.
• Realize that one example is an incident, two examples is a coincidence, and three examples is a trend. In other words, if you’re going to pitch a trend story, have a good idea of how widespread it is and be prepared to present examples before you pitch the story.
• Understand it is not going to be all about you. In the self-checkout article, our executive’s quotes didn’t run until the middle of the story. But there is a lot of value in showing that, when reporters need an informed, knowledgeable expert, your guy is the one they turn to.