How to become a media expert – if only the answer to that question was easy. Well, in some ways, it is. The route to becoming a media expert isn’t particularly complicated, and it’s certainly not some magical dark PR art. It is quite simply a combination of some or all of the following:
1. Spotting the real story
I’ll examine the five elements here:
1. Spotting the real story
Sometimes a story breaks, and it’s easy for everyone to see what the story is. However, sometimes the skill lies in getting underneath its skin, to examine how the headline might provide opportunities to talk about many other aspects, almost like an orange separating into segments.
For example – COVID19 (sorry, I promised myself I wouldn’t go there)
COVID is the headline story (still). However, the segments or secondary stories include – employment law: can employers force employees to get vaccinated? Immigration law: can countries close borders to their own citizens and can children with parents living in different countries travel for contact? Medical negligence: can cancer patients sue the NHS for delayed treatment or diagnosis resulting in a more serious prognosis than would normally be expected.
The list goes on.
Anybody with an ability to segment a story, and work out where their narrative or angle fits in, is already miles ahead of the competition.
Go and look at the news today, and see what your story is.
Sometimes opportunity just comes knocking. It certainly did for Ayesha Vardag
when she represented Karin Radmacher in her divorce back in 2010. Ms Vardag now carries the tag of ‘Britain’s most expensive divorce lawyer’ and is often in the press (albeit ‘cardigan-gate’
perhaps undermined the adage that any press is always good press). Why? She got a great client, won an impressive case, and capitalised upon that success to create a powerful media brand.
See also, Nick Freeman AKA Mr Loophole
; former driving offences solicitor to a certain Mr Beckham; and Fiona Shackleton, divorce lawyer to Paul McCartney (and recipient of a jug of water over her head courtesy of an angry Heather Mills-McCartney back in 2008).
You could rename this section ‘luck’ and still be correct. That said, many people have amazing opportunities to PR-themselves with these sorts of matters, but let the chance pass. Don’t be that person.
You must have confidence to become a media expert. Arrogance doesn’t usually go down too well with journalists, but equally, you need to be able to discuss your area of expertise in a confident, clear and accessible way.
If confidence is something you struggle with, our top tips for handling imposter syndrome
are worthwhile checking out.
If you don’t have a multi-million pound divorce to manage or footballers who keep you on speed dial, what’s to be done? There are still many, many opportunities to build a media profile. Keep up with the news agenda, look out for media opportunities, and don’t be afraid to push your expertise.
Also, start small and don’t be snobby about the trade or regional press (for example). It is pretty rare to get straight onto the TV or radio (if that’s your aim), without putting significant effort first with smaller publications, and getting a name for yourself as an expert in your field.
Also, remember that the media isn’t there to make you famous. It’s to report on whatever events are happening on any particular day in question.
You will be ignored, turned down and sent away with a flea in your ear… Don’t take it personally, it happens to everyone – particularly the flacks (as the hacks like to call us).
If you are able to secure opportunities, be nice! Keep in touch with the journalist / editor / producer you’ve dealt with. Be available, be helpful and be polite. We all know that it’s relationships that really make the world go around, so guard and nurture them. You never know where the editor of a tiny one-man-band publication will end up.
Victoria Moffatt is the founder and managing director of LexRex Communications, and a former solicitor.
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