For starters, we all have different interpretations of what an expert is. Oxford Dictionary defines an expert as ‘a person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area.’ In almost all cases, ‘expert’ is not a title that can be self-imposed it needs to be bestowed upon you by another group or individual. Whether you are a subject-matter expert, guru, thought-leader, speaker, authority, specialist, master, genius, oracle or a professional, the media is a very good platform to amplify your messages.
Those who shout the loudest about their expertise generally are those who are the least qualified to take on the title. There are those experts who we should be hearing more from but we don’t, perhaps for personal reasons or because they don’t get the opportunity.
Academics hold a very interesting position in the expert status credentials. While very knowledgeable, academics tend to lack the practical, real-life and hands-on experience that business people have. For some it is hard to call an academic an expert, if they haven’t used their knowledge outside of a lecture theatre. However, the disciplines, research and the knowledge aggregated by academics does in most cases warrant the ‘expert’ label.
So what kind of expert are you? According to Media Stable observations there are five types of experts in business today.
1. The ‘Reluctant Expert’ is not that keen to carry the title but will be rolled out when asked or requested to. The reluctant expert is generally not an imposing figure or character and has issues with being regarded as the expert, mainly due to confidence and a reserved nature. They can be quite frustrating for media, as they take time to come to the party, which is generally time the media doesn’t have. Many academics sit in this space, much to the frustration of the communication teams of universities.
2. The ‘Imposter Expert’ is the real problem for media and we all know one. It is the expert prolifically quoted and featured in media, but they really shouldn’t be there for lack of knowledge, experience or skill. Somehow they have established a strangle-hold on the media but nobody from that industry knows how or why. The answer is simple – they have been better at engaging and building media relations than more worthy candidates and they have held that position. They will more often than not get found out but it can take time.
3. The ‘Proactive Expert’ is close to the ideal expert as they are ready and willing at all times to respond and action any media inquiry that comes in. The Proactive Expert is very active in providing content to media in the form of releases and story ideas. They deliver well, they are punctual and consistent in delivering high quality content to media. The only negative is that you can be a little too proactive and get to the point of saturation or being a nuisance, but this can be controlled with good communication management.
4. The ‘Passive Expert’ might be the most frustrating category to be in – they should be called up for media engagements but no one knows who they are. They have sat back and watched others respond to journalists questions of the day in the past and found themselves asking, “Why didn’t the media ask me to comment on that story?” The major failing of this group is that they lack a communication strategy, resources and an understanding of what the media wants from them.
Many of us are looking for the title ‘Expert’, and the ultimate title is the fifth kind the ‘Trusted Expert’. We want it to be used by others from our industry or organisation in reference to what we do. This title will come in time, developed alongside your skills and knowledge and is symbiotic with how well you are prepared to communicate and amplify your opinions, views and messages to the media. Over time your reputation grows and you become a Trusted Expert, cementing yourself as the expert of your field in the eyes of the media and your markets.
Media, whether it is new or traditional, is a wonderful vehicle to fast-track expert status and engaging with the media is a lot of fun along the way. It’s not the only way to develop expert status, but it remains the most effective.
Nic Hayes is the Managing Director of Media Stable, an expert directory for Australian media to source content and experts from across all subjects and industry.