During the recent Mediabistro panel in New York, I had the pleasure of meeting Shirley Brady who was community editor at BusinessWeek. Shirley explained that her role at the magazine ranged from running point and connecting readers with journalists to connecting journalists with stories.
It was a comment from a professional participating in the event that brought about a rich discussion on crowdsourcing. Journalists started using this device more frequently to source additional information for a story they're writing. Often that looks like a question put out on Twitter or another social network.
You can find a great example of the use of crowd sourcing by journalists on The Guardian site where readers can investigate the MP's expenses. To sift through 40,000+ pages of material the Guardian asks for the cooperation of readers who are also citizens with a vested interest in learning more.
In a news environment where a reputable newspaper, the Post, is letting another publication do the fact checking for them, the Atlantic [hat tip Jay Rosen], it's not difficult to grasp the importance of having your act and facts together when speaking to the media.
Back in June, Vadim Lavrusik shared 10 ways journalism school are teaching social media at Mashable. The ideas no doubt come from his exposure as a student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
For the purposes of your subject matter expert preparation, you should pay attention to how journalists and news organizations are starting to interview, do their news gathering and research, build source lists, publish with social media tools, and integrate their blogs to the news sites.
Some ideas on interviews.
Preparing for the interview
Preparation cannot be stressed enough. This is especially helpful for a subject matter expert who's not used to speaking to the media. It is also key when the interview is with a more mainstream publication than the trade press you're used to dealing with.
The interview could be conducted by email. In that case, you need to learn to convey meaning within a short space. Often reporters prefer bullet point responses to essays because they're working on collecting broader commentary than your specific points.
In that case, decide where you stand on an issue, or what your top advice is and prepare to back it up with data and examples. Since the interview or quote could come from a Twitter or Facebook chat, be prepared to be pithy in your response and still pack it with value.
Doing the interview
Skype deserves a special mention, because it's starting to be used more for video interviews. That's because video is one of top traffic attractors in a site or newsletter. Having a high level script to keep you on track works, being personable and looking comfortable adds a nice touch to video.
The best way to prepare for that is by shooting videos with your subject matter experts and let them see/critique themselves. This can be done fairly inexpensively with a Flip camera. The only addition many who use the camera would make is that of an external mike.
Since journalists use real time search tools with increasing frequency, it's also a good idea to perform those searches on your company on a regular basis to learn what comes up. If you use a social media monitoring tool, you're already doing that.
Follow up after the interview
When you're helpful with additional background material, share links and resources about industry trends and stories, a click of a button may add you to the journalist's source list.
Another way to continue the interview is to participate in the story via links and blog posts that extend the conversation in live streams, comments to blog posts, and building on the story with an example at your company's blog.
This part could also become attractive for your customers and partners to participate in part of the interactive experience by offering anecdotes and additional information or data. It's also easier for employees to track the progress of your company's coverage by sharing links on internal communities.
I've done a couple of video interviews on Skype and I can tell you that it's easy to shift your eyes and body around without realizing. I saw the video of a recent talk I gave and almost got dizzy with myself - I was pacing the room too much. We're all learning all the time.
What else could we add to these ideas? What other tips have worked for you and your team?
[image by Steven Parker]
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