Kaitlyn Kotlowski January 10, 2014 | 12:01:08

PR Pros: Turn Your Client Into a Subject-Matter Expert (SME)

Smart PR practitioners know that it’s integral to strategic communications to have a client you can confidently and consistently put forward as a subject-matter expert (SME). Whether you’re trying to pitch a fresh story, “newsjack,” or prep a conference speaker proposal, having a go-to SME with the right background is key to many a PR campaign’s success.

Executives who can demonstrate superior understanding of issues, trends, etc. can earn the profile of a trusted industry insider – which only helps PR pros garner publicity on a client’s behalf. In short, if you’re client isn’t an SME already, it’s time to make him/her one!

Here are some ways to establish your client as an SME:

Home in on a topic and own it. Subject-matter experts are people who know a subject inside and out. Figure out precisely the topic on which your client can shine. Sometimes, the more arcane or obscure, the better. For example, there are a lot of retail marketing experts, but perhaps your client is an online retail marketing expert who specializes in imported footwear? Be as specific as possible.

Encourage continuous learning! Truly great subject-matter experts are eager to amass even more expertise, and good PR pros can help. Set up relevant conversations with other industry folks for your client, share applicable videos to his/her industry, recommend networking events to attend, etc.

Develop authentic, useful content. Subject-matter experts can create more of a name for themselves by publishing timely, useful, in-depth content. Whether this content is shared via a personal blog, the company website or through byline articles in key outlets (ideally a combination of all), it’s important to get it out there.

Don’t be selling. The expertise you’re sharing should be relevant to the brand, with credit to the client company, but it should never come across as a sales pitch. Content that’s overly commercial will hurt your case rather than help.

Take advantage of speaking opportunities. Speaking opportunities on panels and seminars, particularly at major industry conferences, are a great way to get your SME out there and “strut their stuff”! The majority of conferences have reporters in attendance and this is an excellent opportunity for the SME to get the recognition they deserve.

Keep it social and keep it current. As an SME, your client needs to be on company and other social media platforms putting his/her POV out there. Be mindful about keeping it fresh. Nothing says “no thanks” quicker than a stale blog post from last spring. Although time-consuming, it will raise your client’s profile and keep them at the top of the must-have industry source list!

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