“Publicity expert” questions usually come from high school or college students, but sometimes from people who want to become publicists or PR pros.
“How do become a publicity expert, or an expert in PR?” they ask.
If I worked in another occupation and wanted to do that, here’s how I’d do it:
1. Learn about what it takes to become an expert in anything.
I’d start by Googling “how to be an expert” and read what’s on the first page.
2. Do things publicity experts do.
Expertise isn’t only about what you know. It’s about what you do. One of my favorite resources is The Expertise Imperative, a White Paper published a decade ago by five top speakers in the National Speakers Association, one of my professional associations.
Even though this document is written for speakers, remember that speakers come from a wide variety of backgrounds. NSA includes humorists, teachers, authors, management experts, futurists, mountain climbers, marathon runners, therapists, magicians, social workers, nonprofit executives, entertainers and many more professionals who, as part of their job, speak for a living.
So what do publicity experts do?
Many of them speak, either for free or for a fee. Local groups like Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce are always looking for free speakers. You don’t to be at the top of your game to be able to share helpful information. If you know more about publicity than the average person knows, you can share helpful tips.
3. Learn about how journalists and broadcasters do their jobs.
Many larger cities have press clubs, and their events are usually open to the public. Attend a lunch and ask lots of questions. Ask a newspaper reporter or broadcaster if they’ll let you tag along for half a day while they do their jobs.
The Public Relations Society of America has many chapters throughout the United States. Attend several meetings as a guest and talk to members.
4. Learn all you can about social media by creating profiles and joining the conversation.
You can’t become an expert only by learning about this. You must do it, which is the best way to learn it.
Sites like Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn are great for getting in front of people who don’t know about you. Facebook, on the other hand, is better for existing customers.
Understand that social media isn’t about promoting. It’s about building an audience, sharing helpful content, bringing people into your fold, and THEN marketing to them after you have given them time to know, like and trust you.
5. Read the best social media blogs to stay on top of what’s new.
Also see the Top 10 Social Media Blogs: 2013 Winners from Social Media Examiner.
6. Start blogging on the topic of publicity and write two or three times a week.
You don’t have to be an expert to start doing this, and you can do all your research online.
Blogging takes discipline. It will force you to learn a lot quickly. Start by reading other blogs on publicity and public relations. Consult these lists for the best ones. They include publicity blogs, like this one:
7. Join LinkedIn Groups devoted to publicity, PR, broadcasting and social media.
See How to Find the Best 50 Groups to Join on LinkedIn. It’s a short excerpt from a webinar I hosted with LinkedIn expert Wayne Breitbarth.
But don’t just join these groups. Participate. You can stay active in three or four groups every week or two, and turn off notifications from all the rest. Join 50 groups. This makes it easier for people to find you if they’re searching. It also lets people within your group communicate with you even if they aren’t a first, second or third-degree connection on LinkedIn.
8. Follow me, and read what I share.
I’m one of the top publicity experts on Google. Subscribe to my ezine, “The Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week.” After you confirm your subscription, you’ll receive my free cheat sheet “89 Reasons to Write a Press Release” and my Top 10 Tips for Free Publicity.
Also follow some of the blogs you like from the lists in Number 6 above.
9. Learn the basics of search engine optimization.
You want the search engines to be able to find your blog posts, articles, website, press releases and clients. Knowing SEO is imperative. Start by searching Google for “the basics of SEO.”
10. Donate your services to a nonprofit or charitable group.
Learn by doing. Find a group in your community that needs PR and publicity. Introduce yourself and offer to take them on as a pro bono client for six months. That’s about how long it takes for a PR campaign to build steam.
11. Attend webinars, online training and in-person classes related to PR and publicity.
You must never stop learning.
If you conclude that this is way too much trouble, then pick a topic you’re passionate about and read this list of 21 reasons you must become an expert.
If I missed something on this list, share your advice in the Comments. Which publicity or PR experts do you follow? What blogs do you read?