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Publicity Tips: Using expert image to increase sales

How To Be An Expert:
A Higher Profile Can Lead to Increased Sales for Your Company's Products, Services

by Karen Raugust (ARA) -- Company executives who become known as experts in their field not only burnish their own reputations; their higher profile can also boost their company's sales and profits by association. Many veteran businesspeople possess vast amounts of knowledge and wisdom about their industries, but relatively few earn reputations as experts.

The first key to becoming perceived as an expert is to raise your visibility among your colleagues and the general public. The second is to become a source for useful, credible information rather than for overtly self-promotional public relations. While the first factor is understood by most executives, the latter can be difficult for some. They tend to feel that their public profile must be accompanied by direct publicity about their firm. In fact, the association of your name with opinions and data about your industry as a whole lend credibility to you and your business. Self-promotion has the opposite effect.

Be Quoted

Getting quoted in trade, business or consumer publications puts your name in front of readers' eyes and makes them remember you. The article in which you appear does not have to be a profile of you or your business; a simple statement that sheds light on a topic of interest within a larger context raises your profile and that of your company.

Sending out regular press releases about new products, financial results, or other company developments will help keep your business in editors' minds. Even if they choose not to cover the story highlighted in each release, they will be likely to think of you for future articles on your industry or area of specialization.

In this age of online research, one quote begets others, as editors search databases of past articles for potential sources on a given subject. To increase your chances of being quoted, make certain you respond to reporters' calls right away and try your best to accommodate their deadlines. It is surprising how often companies send out media releases containing contact information that invites follow-up interviews, but then do not respond to reporters' requests for further information on that or another subject.

Do not attempt to control the interview or steer it toward topics you want to promote, and avoid trying to work in the name of your company or its brands into every sentence. One astute observation in the article is publicity enough. Simply listen to the questions and answer them directly and completely. Remember to use complete sentences; "yes" or "no" responses are not quotable.

Commission Research

Journalists and authors are always on the lookout for statistics and research that will strengthen their stories. Sponsoring research, therefore, can be a method of getting your company's name published frequently. Each time the research you have commissioned is cited in print or on air, your organization should be credited.

The data your firm sponsors should address an unfilled niche so that it avoids competing with respected data from established sources. Offbeat, humorous research can serve a purpose by generating significant media play over a short period, but serious, useful information will have a much longer shelf life and will apply to many different types of articles over time. Its use is not limited to trade magazines; it can accompany articles geared toward broader audiences as well.

The research can be conducted in-house, if you have staff with the expertise to compile meaningful data, or outsourced to an independent firm. You should be prepared to update the information as often as necessary to maintain its significance.

Speak Publicly

Appearing on panels or as a highlighted speaker at industry events is an effective method of increasing your company's profile among peers. It is best to focus on industry trends, how-to information, business forecasts or other topics of interest and, as always, to avoid self-promotion. If you address the subject at hand in an organized, interesting fashion, you and your company will gain recognition by association.

Some speaking engagements, particularly those for general business audiences, can generate high speaker fees. The primary reason for saying yes to public appearance opportunities, however, is to keep your company in the minds of your business colleagues.

Once you have gained a reputation as an expert through some of the other methods outlined here, you will probably be invited to speak at industry events. If you are less well-known, you or your publicist can contact the organizations that sponsor forums of intrest. Send a letter stating your desire to be a speaker and outlining some potential topics, along with a biography. This process may not lead to engagements right away, but will help build a foundation for future appearances.

Even if you are pressed for time, preparing your remarks in advance is recommended. Some executives practice delivering their speeches beforehand, with or without the assistance of consultants who specialize in improving executives' public image.

Write an Article

Authoring an article in a magazine or newspaper is another effective way to gain the aura of expertise. These efforts most frequently appear as opinion pieces or guest columns in trade magazines, but some businesspeople write how-to or other styles of articles-or even regular columns-in business publications or local newspapers. Writing such a piece creates the perception among readers that you know what you are talking about, as long as the work is well-researched, accurate, and to the point.

To submit an article, send a one-page letter to the Editor, Managing Editor, or Articles Editor listed on the publication's masthead. Succinctly propose your idea and outline how you will support your points, who you will interview, and why you are the right person to write the piece. (Send along a copy of your resume as well.) Be familiar with the publication to which you are submitting and slant the article toward its needs.

Once the piece is accepted, most magazines will supply writers' guidelines and editorial assistance to contributors.

Write a Book

Writing a book is perhaps the ultimate path to becoming recognized as an expert. Some books by executives contain information and advice pertaining to a specific industry and are therefore tailored to a narrower audience, while others are memoirs or general business books that appeal to a wider readership.

Check bookstores for titles that you respect and that are compatible with how you envision yours. Approach the publishers who released these books. Send them a proposal containing a brief summary of your idea, a description of the target audience, a list of books that could be considered competition, a general idea of how long it will take you to complete the book, and an outline of the planned content.

There is no need to send the finished manuscript or to write the book before submitting your idea. The act of putting together the proposal will help you hone your thoughts; if your concept cannot be easily explained in your proposal or if you do not have adequate information to create an outline, either you have not given your idea enough thought or your concept is inappropriate for a book-length work.

Investigate Using a Collaborator

Executives often find they lack the time, inclination or expertise to prepare a speech or to write an article or, especially, a book. If so, they have they option to seek out an independent contractor such as a ghostwriter, collaborator, publicist, consultant or speechwriter. Some businesspeople may find that completing the project on their own is more fulfilling personally but, in many cases, these professionals help speed the process. They may even represent the difference between simply hoping to become an expert and actually becoming one.

Karen Raugust is a Minneapolis-based independent business writer. She contributes to more than 20 trade and consumer publications, ranging from Publishers Weekly and Animation World to Produce Business and American Artist. She has also written five books, including Merchandise Licensing for the Television Industry (Focal Press), and has contributed chapters to several books by other authors. Her company, Raugust Communications, provides editorial and marketing consulting services to entertainment companies, artists, nonprofit groups and other business organizations.

Courtesy of Article Resource Association, http://www.aracopy.com

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