"How can I get experts to be more responsive to reporters' interview requests?" might be the most commonly asked question from participants in my June 19 workshop for communicators, 'Be an Expert on Working with Experts.' Here are some of the tactics we'll be talking about to handle the expert who balks--or just disappears--when reporters call:
- Figure out the difference between a delay tactic and a real need to hold off: If you haven't had a heart-to-heart about your expert's feelings about and attitude toward the news media, including any valid concerns or fears, you won't be able to tell the difference.
- Make sure she knows the media's methodology: Reporters' deadlines and the need for quick turnaround are part of your bread and butter, but not necessarily known to your expert. Have you emphasized that it's preferable to communicate "I can't do the interview this time" quickly, rather than ignore it altogether? Make sure you're not assuming too much about what your expert knows about responding to reporter requests.
- Find out whether someone else is discouraging her participation. In some corporate cultures, there's a general taboo against "showing off" by talking to reporters. Is your expert just going with the flow in not responding?