Above all else, personalities make for good media coverage. It’s much more impactful to put someone forward rather than a media release of facts.

That’s why you need to identify subject matter experts (SMEs). Any good journalist or media outlet will always look for the human angle so it’s time you thought about who you have around you as your way to engage more authentically with your audience and communities.

Not only are people better than facts and figures but a broad selection of people is always more preferable than always putting out the one person - who is usually in charge. People will get more of a feel for your agency if they hear voices with different experiences. 

Internally, people are more likely to be able to use these experiences as part of their career development and feel more included and valued.

Here are our tips on how to find great people, support them through their role and ensure you’re getting positive and proactive stories out there. 

Seek out the experts

In the public sector there are no end of people that really specialize in what they do. When you’re looking for inspirational content look no further than down the hall. Look in all the specialist departments to find people who can support your campaigns. Lend their voice to what you’re trying to achieve, particularly when it comes to citizen behavior change. You can send out a call for interested parties or you could look for particular issues you are dealing with and see if there is someone who you believe who has specialist knowledge who can help.

Get buy-in from leadership

You need to be supported throughout this process otherwise it will never work. It’s important to sell the benefits to leadership and ensure they are confident in the process and potential outcomes. It does take time and so you want to make sure that the people who become SMEs are also supported by their management to do so. It could mean they take time out of their regular duties and this shouldn’t be a cause for conflict.

Background check your subject

It may sound like it’s an unnecessary step to take on someone you work with but it’s exactly what any journalist would do. You need to be sure that this person is a good representation of your agency and that there isn't anything on their personal social media that could inadvertently drag you into a whole different type of media attention. Same goes for if there has been a history of any internal investigations or actions that could be detrimental.

Are they good with being in the limelight?

Sometimes a person may want to do a great job for you and the agency but they really need to be aware of what could happen if something you work on goes viral or gains more attention than you expected. It’s only fair to make them realize that attention isn’t always good. If they show any hesitation at that, they shouldn’t be forced into being a subject expert. They can still help you but you can present their expertise in a different way.

Work to their strengths

Some people really shine in media interviews, some are great on social media and others are better at writing content. You want people to feel comfortable and be their most authentic selves so instead of trying to fit an expert to a platform, look at where they would do best and give them the appropriate training and support.

Make sure it aligns with your comms strategy

There’s no point in just choosing people for the sake of it. This still needs to be a strong part of your comms strategy, so be sure to keep in touch with those primary goals and values and make sure the person you are putting forward is part of the bigger picture.

Know when to put them forward

Always be clear from the onset who gets to go forward for media interviews. This will be different for every agency but think of the circumstances when only the Chief or Commissioner will do - such as significant events that require public trust or when it’s something like a proactive educational campaign. That’s when your subject matter expert should be included in your comms strategy as a great tactic.

Want to know more?

We are soon to be launching a quick academy course on how to run a subject matter expert program. Make sure you join our mailing list to find out more.

Posted 
July 26, 2022
 in 
Resources
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