Becoming an Expert

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YOU DON’T NEED A DIPLOMA

We’ve all seen people giving advice on the news and said to ourselves, “What makes them experts?” Well, I’m about to let you in on a little known secret: They’re on TV.

When the news crowns you with the title “expert,” you are one. And how do we decide who is and isn’t one? Do we require your résumé, references, and report cards from grade school? Nope. We use the term “expert” very loosely.

The truth is, all of us are experts on something. Have a large rare coin collection? You’re an expert on coins. Eat out a lot? You’re a restaurant critic. Handy with hammer? You’re an expert on home repair. See what I mean?

THE PLANE TRUTH

Texas travel agent Tom Parsons has become a national expert on the airline industry. It all started in the early ’80s when he began giving radio and TV interviews about the ticket bargains the airlines don’t like to talk about. And Parsons probably hasn’t turned down a media request since. Today, his small one-room travel agency has grown into a nationally-known discount travel company, Bestfares.com, which takes up several floors of an Arlington office building. “And you know what?” Tom said with pride. “I’ve never spent a nickel on advertising.”

How did he do it? Well, whenever Dallas reporters need a quote on anything related to the airline industry, we all know that Parsons is ready with an answer. He’ll talk about everything from flight delays to how a recent merger will affect fares.

In fact, he’s so accommodating to us he’s practically the only airline expert in my Rolodex. Why? It’s because he never, ever turns down an interview. And if he doesn’t have the answer when you call, he’ll have one by the time you get to his office.

He’s such a reliable source of information that, now, even the national news media have discovered him. He often appears on the network morning shows and is regularly quoted in the largest newspapers in the nation. But radio is where Parsons really works his magic. He does so many radio interviews these days, he had a studio microphone and special radio-ready phone line installed at home, so he sounds like he’s actually at the radio station.

Every day before he heads for work, he spends about an hour talking to DJs and radio reporters all over the country. And every time he’s interviewed he mentions Bestfares.com, which drives more people to his Web site.

SOME EXPERT ADVICE

There are thousands of travel agents in this country and yet, Parsons is the one getting most of the free publicity.

Want some expert advice? If you know a lot about something, become an expert, and use it to your advantage. TV morning shows and radio hosts all over the country are dying for segments to fill time. Give them a hand.

Think hard. What are you an expert in, and how can you develop that expertise into something that would be good TV, radio, or newspaper?

BOUNCING BABIES

A couple of moms from Denver have become nationally known fitness gurus all because of one very simple idea. Deidre Halacy Byerly and Lisa Stormes Hawker became frustrated with all the fitness videos that were on the market. They all seemed to feature beautiful models working out in thongs. “Who looks like that?” the mothers asked themselves. “And besides, who has kids who will leave them alone long enough to work out?”

So they hatched an idea. Why not make their own video and hold their babies while they exercised? Not only was this a unique form of resistance training, but it made for a really cute video. These moms cradled their babies in their arms while doing squats and lifted them over their heads while working their shoulders. There were no models in this video, only real workouts for real mothers.

The ladies started marketing their video by getting free publicity in the Denver media. And soon they discovered they had a hit! The media loved them. Before they knew it, they were on cross-country tour, appearing on TV stations from New York to New Mexico.

What made them experts on fitness? Nothing, really. They had kids and had figured out how to do exercises with them. Just being on the air gave them all the credibility they needed. And every newspaper article printed about them became part of the press packet they handed to the next reporter covering their story.

 

DRESSED FOR SUCCESS

Dana Mayeux of Dallas learned long ago she had an eye for fashion and a mouth to match. “I’ve always been able to tell what colors and styles work for people, and I have to bite my tongue when I see someone wearing something that just doesn’t work!” So Dana decided to become a professional image coach. She knew turning her fashion sense into dollars and cents wouldn’t be easy. She had to establish herself as an expert.

She started by volunteering to teach an adult education class on the subject. As a former model and school teacher, she had no problem being approved to teach others about image.

Then, using the class to establish her credentials, she began booking herself on the local TV morning shows. She went from station to station giving the anchors on-air wardrobe advice. And the viewers loved it. Before she knew it, she was appearing on network news programs. She had arrived!

But she didn’t stop there. Dana wrote a book called 101 Image Inspirations, knowing that the book would give her even more credibility. Now there is no question that Dana is an image expert. Just look at what she did to reshape her own.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

Opportunity for free publicity is banging at your door every day, but most of us aren’t listening for it. Read the paper, watch TV news, and listen to the radio. Are they talking about something that you know a lot about? Call in and offer your “expert” advice.

Suppose you run a car repair business, and the rising price of gas is in the news. There’s an opportunity for free publicity. Call the local TV stations and offer to help with a segment. Outline how you could give viewers cost-cutting tips to save money on fuel, from keeping tires properly inflated to changing the oil to debunking the myths about super-unleaded gas versus regular unleaded.

Or let’s say it’s tax season and you’re an accountant. Tell the stations you’d like to help with a segment called “The Top Ten Things Most People Forget to Deduct.” They’ll probably take you up on it because most accountants want only publicity when they have time (i.e. after tax season, when the media isn’t interested!) Tell them you’ll bring props into the studio to keep the segment from being just a bunch of “talking heads.”

Who knows? You just might be so good that a station will offer you a regular weekly segment on your area of expertise. Just flip the channels. Every TV morning show brings in guests to fill time. How do you think all those doctors, fitness instructors, and fashion experts got on those shows? Don’t wait for the media to find you.

NEWS YOU CAN USE

  • Use your expertise for free publicity. Everyone is an expert on something.
  • Be available. As I said in the last chapter, reporters are lazy. We’ll go back to the same sources over and over again as long as they deliver.
  • Jump on items that are in the news. The media will be more excited to talk to you if you’re trying to lend your expert help to a story they are already working on.
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