Media Relations: Building a Stronger SME Pool

podcast interview

One of the biggest challenges in media relations is not only having the right spokesperson on a given topic but having enough subject matter experts (SMEs) to go around.

Not every organization or every media relations program can be solely reliant on one spokesperson for everything. No matter how large or small your organization, it may not be fitting for that one person to try to speak to everything.

Still, the challenge is that even if you have good SMEs for various media relations topics, those experts may not want to talk with the media, they may not have time for it, or they may not be very good at it…for now.

In larger organizations, public relations staffers may not even know who all of the qualified potential SMEs are. On the flip side, those SME candidates may not even realize there is an opportunity for them to help the organization put its best foot forward in front of the media.

Here are some tips to help change that:

Identify Hot Media Topics – Work to identify all of the subjects on which your organization could and should address through your media relations program. Make a grid. Identify those topics where the media has interest, where your organization has expertise and credibility, and then start to drill down within staff, membership or others affiliated with the organization. The key here is to identify subject matter experts by subject.

Analyze the SME Candidate Pool – Do a critical analysis of the spokesperson capabilities and potential interest of those you’ve identified as possible media relations SMEs. Who’s willing, able and ready? And who’s not?

Approach Your SME Candidates – Once you’ve identified a promising group, approach each with your plans to integrate them into the large organization’s media relations program. Explain how you plan to do it and what resources you will offer to make the experience a fruitful one for them. This could include media training and media coaching, research support, and of course, media relations support.

Overcoming Resistance – Resistance can take shape in many forms. Some may openly decline the opportunity. If it’s clear you won’t get anywhere with them, move on and save yourself and the organization the trouble. Others may want to help but express concerns over availability or ability. They may not feel up to the task. The key is to make it clear to them how the media relations effort will be structured, what support will be provided and what to expect when the media comes calling. It’s very important to manage expectations so that each potential SME understands that the media does not operate on their timetable and very often, you have to work within their tight deadlines. Be open and honest, while reassuring them that they can do it. Remind them it can help their careers, and at the very least, it’s for the good of the organization.

Leverage Results to Attract New SMEs – Success breeds success. In the context of growing your SME pool, this means that the more people you involve in the media relations effort, the more successful it will be, and the more visibility they will receive both internally and externally. You want everyone inside the organization to see who its most effective media relations SMEs are and what they’re talking about. Psychologically, this can work to cause some potential SMEs to want to be a part of this winning effort. They don’t want to be left out. They don’t want to go unrecognized for their own expertise.  They want to enjoy the rewards and attention that they see others getting.

If you want to grow the number of SMEs who are actively involved in your media relations program, the most important thing you can do is to promote its success internally and making it clear who the SMEs are driving that success.

What media relations topics are on your mind? Let me know.  I’d love to chat.

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