One of the first things I do each morning, even before my shower and shave, is check my newsfeed. What’s the news of the day?
An hour or two later, depending on the day, I do the same thing when I get to the office.
The thought is simple: Do we have an expert who can comment on the news of the day – whether it be on the national level or as a source for local media trying to localize the national news – when we know the media is going to be looking for experts? Put another way, can we leverage our experts to help the media do its job?
College campuses are ripe with experts on all kinds of topics. Here are three ways to better insert your experts into the breaking news conversation.
Build and Educate Your Roster
Some faculty and staff members love dealing with the media. Others don’t. Chances are, you already have a good idea of where key experts stand. Do those who enjoy working with the media know what it takes to assist on breaking news? Educate your experts, mainly stressing that time (and availability) is of the essence. If they’re interested in commenting, there seldom is time to wait till the end of the day: Reporters have moved on. Spend five minutes on the phone with your expert and get a couple quick sound bites on the breaking news. Double (and triple) check to make sure they are available to comment, including being flexible to take a few minutes out of class time. Or find out when they will free up.
Don’t Wait for the Phone to Ring
It’s very possible media members will check in with the communications office or with a faculty member because of a prior relationship. But on breaking news, it’s crucial to be proactive. If you’re fortunate to have a media list pre-built on a topic, like a list of Supreme Court reporters, start working the list immediately. If not, use news searches to quickly identify which reporters are working on stories and which outlets are using their own reporters or wire services.
Give the Reporter a Point of View
When sending that breaking news pitch, go beyond saying you have an expert and pasting in their bio. Remember that the reporter is working fast and there are others like you offering experts. Be relevant, and try to stand out. Start with the subject line and try something like “Expert on” and the breaking news topic. Concisely, introduce your expert with a quick line or two at most from their bio. Offer two or three quick quotes/soundbites so the reporter has an idea of what the expert’s perspective is. If possible, include the expert’s email and cell phone so the reporter can go directly to the source as needed. Remember that the reporter may not need to call – if you’ve included quotes, he/she may use them verbatim and attribute your sources without talking with them.