A crash course in becoming an expert in your client’s niche

A crash course in becoming an expert in your client’s niche

Become a subject matter expert for your clients.

As any ventriloquist can tell you, speaking in someone else’s voice isn’t easy.

In public relations, we often find ourselves speaking on behalf of, or even instead of, our clients. We’re expected to present their informed and insightful opinions on a range of subject matters, via quotes to the media, editorials, blog posts, tweets, Facebook statuses and sometimes even interviews.

The problem is, we are not our clients. While you may represent someone in the oil industry, a humane pest-control business and a car parts company, you probably do not have any background in those areas yourself. This can be problematic, because you need to have some expertise in the area you represent to do your job well.

The smartest thing you can do is to try to become a subject-matter expert for your client, even if that means putting in the effort during your own down time. Here are four smart ways to do it.

1. Keep up with industry publications. Ask your client to send you everything they’re reading about their industry on a regular basis. This might include:

  • Magazines
  • Blog posts
  • Social media feeds
  • Specialty publications

Read through the material and make notes about things you have questions about or find confusing. Make sure to ask your client for clarification on those issues so that you don’t find yourself addressing something publicly that you don’t understand.

2. Read what your client has written. Most companies have a portfolio of industry-related copy their client has written or contributed to. Track down as much of those as you can in order to get a fuller picture of not only your client’s industry but also where he or she stands on certain issues and the company’s voice.

For instance, say your client is an aquatic therapy equipment supplier. Chances are you’ll be receiving a lot of questions about the benefits and uses for aquatic therapy. You’ll need to be informed about your client’s opinion on this matter and be able to answer questions from that perspective.

3. Don’t be easily offended. Let your client edit your work, then study those edits and ask why they were made. You’ll come to a much deeper understanding of what your client wants when the changes have been explained to you. This is especially important to do for the first few pieces you write for the client, as you become more familiar with the field and their company.

4. Use social media to get informed. Undoubtedly you follow a number of PR bloggers across social media and you belong to LinkedIn groups focused on public relations. It’s time to get involved in your client’s industry, too. Join groups, peruse pinboards, follow prolific names on Twitter and chime into Facebook chats. Steep yourself in your client’s world, and that knowledge will become second nature.

All this research will pay off as you become a more adept and smarter representative of your client’s brand. 

PR pros- what other tactics have you used to become a subject expert for your company or client? Share in the comments below.

Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for WebpageFX and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her work has been published by the Association for Business Communication, Business Insider, and Spin Sucks.

Photo: Expert nametag via Shutterstock

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