Some of your most important assets for securing interest in the media as well as educating your buyers are the experts who work at your organization. As a part of a virtual newsroom or other appropriate place on your site and blog, highlighting your employees is a great way to generate attention.
When reporters are looking to quote someone in a story, having a name, photo, bio, and examples of content makes it much more likely they will want to conduct an interview. This is especially true when you are newsjacking.
Similarly, when buyers are exposed to the smart people employed at your company, they will be more likely to trust and want to do business with you. Yet most companies feature only the senior management team on the site, not those with particular and interesting expertise.
University of Ontario Institute of Technology shines spotlight on faculty researchers
For example, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), a public research university located in Oshawa, just outside Toronto, was founded in 2002. That makes it one of Canada's newest universities. With an enrollment of more than 10,000 students, UOIT offers a range of undergraduate programs, plus graduate programs in science, engineering, health, and information technology.
But because it is such a new institution, the marketers and public affairs people at UOIT have to work extra hard to make sure that potential students, donors, partners, and other constituents know about the school. Unlike other universities, UOIT cannot rely on decades of families that send their children and grandchildren to the institution and support it with financial contributions. So one way the school reaches out to new audiences is by promoting with the media the many faculty experts who teach and do research at UOIT.
“We focus on the experts within the institution,” John MacMillan, director of communications and marketing at UOIT told me. “We have very few resources, but we have a lot of really interesting people who are focused on very exciting things, like using big data and looking at issues of disability and how it relates to the insurance industry, among other things. We are able to reach the media and people who are organizing conferences or booking speaking engagements.”
MacMillan uses the ExpertFile software platform as a way to easily showcase UOIT thought leaders in what they call their Expert Centre. He publishes, promotes, and measures the expert content as a tool to engage business prospects, media, and conference organizers. “We needed to have a way of getting out those important stories that we know are of interest to media, to producers, to editors, but also in many ways to partners, to institutions that might be interested in working with us,” MacMillan says. “And we needed to have a way that did a better job of telling our story to those various groups.”
MacMillan started with 26 profiles for faculty in the Expert Centre, and is steadily expanding to a planned goal of 200 profiles. He says that an ideal expert is one who is already comfortable with digital technology. “We’re amplifying the presence of each of those faculty members—whether they are involved in multimedia, whether they have their own websites, or whether they have their own followings—and presenting them in a way that gets some response. Part of their success as faculty members lies in establishing their bona fides with granting authorities or with the government or with others. The Expert Centre augments their legitimacy.”
Adding credibility to your newsjacking efforts
Having profiles available to the media also helps your newsjacking efforts. When you comment on something that’s newsworthy and a reporter finds it via search, they often want to know biographical information on the person before they quote them. Having a link to the bio of the author of that timely blog post is a great way to add credibility and to increase the liklihood of being quoted.
As an example of the action that can come from an Expert Centre profile, MacMillan cites Dr. Isabel Pedersen, an associate professor at UOIT and Canada research chair in Digital Life, Media, and Culture. “She focuses on a sociological perspective of wearable computing devices,” he says. “Her research looks into questions like: ‘When we wear gadgets on our body, how will that shift the reality for us? How will it change the way we interact with other people? How will it allow us to participate in digital culture?’ She is one of the early profiles that we created because she is one of our Canada Research chairs, a distinguished researcher who is working on an area of particular national and international importance.”
Dr. Pedersen’s Expert Centre profile contains her bio, photo, links to her Twitter and Google Plus feeds, and a list of past speaking engagements, as well as video content, previews of her book Ready to Wear, and articles she has published. The profile attracted the attention of a reporter from IEEE Spectrum magazine, the publication of the world's largest professional association dedicated to advancing technological innovation and excellence. “They were working on a story about wearable technology, and they wanted to interview her,” MacMillan says. “That’s a magazine from the U.S. that has a much broader readership than anything we’d be able to position her for, and it came along as a result of somebody seeing her profile and deciding that they wanted to speak with her. That’s an example of where we’ve been able to use our resources in a very efficient way, in a manner that gets a story out well beyond our own physical boundaries and that tells about the uniqueness of the work that’s going on at this university.”
A lesson learned from the early days of the UOIT Expert Centre was the importance of having the profiles appear in a consistent voice. “When we started out, our assumption was that the individual faculty members or individual experts would develop their own profiles,” MacMillan says. “We realized that would result in a lack of consistency, so we hired a writer, and her job was specifically to interview our experts and to create a story for each of those experts so that when someone does look at this, they’re looking at a consistent story, a consistent tone, and a consistent brand for the university. I’ve learned from creating our Expert Centre that I share some one of the same challenges as faculty members: if you don’t manage your digital presence actively, someone will do it for you. I like to think that our Expert Centre has helped our faculty to curate their digital content as much as it’s helped our university to strengthen its brand.”
The ExpertFile platform
Your employees are a great resource for generating interest in the media as well as a way to show potential customers and partners that you are doing interesting work. Showcasing them is easier with the ExpertFile platform, a SaaS application that helps organizations make their experts more visible. In my mind, ExpertFile is to showcasing people what HubSpot is to showcasing content.
What’s traditionally held many organizations back is that until now, there hasn’t been an online platform to simply organize the growing base of expert content that is being produced across organizations every day. Yet this content is what many audiences are looking for. They want to easily reference everything from biographies to speaking engagements, to social feeds and multimedia assets.
“Experts are a great way to humanize an organization and make it more approachable, yet many marketers struggle with how to best showcase these people online,” notes Peter Evans, founder and CEO of ExpertFile. “Adding expert profiles to various sections of your website such as your media room is an ideal way to create more engagement on your site and drive valuable speaking, media and customer inquiries. Experts are quickly becoming the new frontier for content marketing.”
Disclosure: I am on the advisory boards of both HubSpot and ExpertFile. Peter Evans, ExpertFile CEO, is a friend.