As someone who works in public relations, I frequently receive queries from reporters seeking a SME, or subject matter expert. Of course, like most in PR, I also have a ton of other responsibilities. I can choose to view the request as a burden. Or, I can choose to see it as an opportunity.
If I view it as a burden, I may simply provide the reporter with the name of a colleague who could answer the reporter’s questions. I also would provide one means to contact the individual.
This approach however, does not provide the reporter with enough information to decide whether it’s worth it to speak with the source. If I only provided an office number, the reporter may not even reach the expert.
I prefer to view the requests as opportunities and, as such, I want to ensure the success of the interview. Not only will this make my expert look good, it also reflects well on my organization. And the reporter will be more likely to contact us in the future for other stories that might benefit the organization.
Here are some things you can do to ensure a media request becomes a success:
- Contact your expert and confirm his or her expertise in the topic. Also find out if the expert is willing to speak with the reporter about the topic and has the time to do so.
- Take notes while speaking with your expert and compile a few sentences on the topic to share with the reporter. If the reporter is pressed for time, he often may use the quote verbatim in his story. The quote also provides the reporter with greater context.
- Find out the best times for the reporter to contact the expert. Also find out the best ways to do so. An office number is useless if the expert is not going to be in the office. If possible, provide an email and cell number (or at least a number that can be used after hours given that reporters have round-the-clock deadlines.)
- Respond quickly. Reporters are on deadline and often they will use the first source they reach for the story.