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Bill Bennett

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How to be a taller poppy

Being good at your job helps. But to get the best jobs in some sectors you also need to work on your profile.

When top-flight companies hire executives, the first question they ask is ‘who is the ideal person for the role?’

The first name that comes to mind is usually someone with the right skills set and a high-profile. One sure-fire way to build a higher profile is to become a media star.

An expert source

Reporters and editors are only as good as their contacts. Although stories appearing in newspapers, magazines and online or broadcast via radio and television are increasingly manufactured – many are not.

Journalists need expert sources to explain things or to put them in context.

Because journalists need source fast, they turn to the people they know first. For example, if a military coup erupts in a third-world country, reporters will hunt for citizens of that country or at least someone who has more than a passing knowledge of the country.

Specialist knowledge

This process gets granular – particularly with the trade and specialist press. If a computer virus infects government computers, most general news reporters will look for online security experts. More specialist technology reporters will determine the operating system and hardware concerned and look for, say, Windows Server security experts.

And that is the opportunity.

No matter how obscure your area of expertise, if you are a knowledge worker you are an expert on something and a valuable resource to journalists and editors.

In fact, the more obscure your expertise the more valuable you are as a contact.

Be ready to comment

It’s no good just being an expert. You have to let journalists and editors know you are there and available for comment. They are not going to find out about you through psychic power. This is the hardest part of building your profile.

If you work for a big outfit, use your company’s public relations agency or marketing communications person. Make sure that they circulate your name to editors and key journalists as a possible expert contact.

Don’t forget to include online news sites, TV and radio stations on your list.

Running a blog centred on your expertise will also help you develop a higher profile. Or write in-depth specialist articles for Linkedin or Medium.

Another approach is to wait until something happens and issue a statement. For this to work properly you need to anticipate the news and prepare your statement in advance.

If you really are a subject expert this won’t be that difficult. But you’ll have to move fast. Journalists tend to work around the clock and time waits for no-one.

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