Be the Expert by @Rena_Tom

Contributor post by Rena Tom

print by linda ketelhut

I want to be able to get myself mentioned in more publications as an expert and possibly some TV spots. I also want to know how get the word out about my services--that's been really difficult as I can't really afford traditional advertising, but even with my strong social media network, it hasn't been enough to pull in local clients (who aren't necessarily using Twitter/Facebook, etc.).

-- Alejandra, commenting on a previous post

Today I want to talk about something that makes a lot of people uncomfortable: tooting your own horn. You may make great products or provide a much-needed service and feel that people should be able to recognize you on merit alone, but these days your skills are not enough; those who are *also* successful marketers are the ones who will get the accolades. Telling the world that you know what you are doing and that what you are doing has value is a huge trust and reputation-builder and great for your business.

New media like Twitter and Facebook are good for quickly communicating short bursts of information and establishing your voice, but it is hard to share expertise in one or two sentence bursts. We still need longer articles, tutorials and interviews. To that end, working with traditional journalists still matters. A feature article in your town’s magazine or 30 seconds on a TV broadcast can quickly drive sales and interest your way.

Here are a few tips for polishing up your expert skills and presenting them to the non-social media press.

Be well-spoken. Know your audience and what tone is appropriate. This doesn’t mean you must be stuffy and formal, but at the least, in your long-form communication like blog posts or tutorials, be grammatically correct and proofread before you post. An extra set of eyes reviewing your writing always helps.

Be confident. An expert projects authority, and you should write or speak from that position. For small business owners, sometimes the blog is a place to express doubt, especially when your work blog comes out of your personal writing, or you are documenting new processes. Try to turn even your doubt into a learning experience. You are human, after all!

Be forward. Approaching the press, whether that means print, TV or online, is scary, think of it - you are helping them do their job, which is reporting on the new, cool, or relevant. I like this article that gives you the journalist’s perspective and encourages you to just do it.

Make it easy to talk about you. Have a really great About page on your website - this is one of the most important pages. Have photos ready for publication and a media kit for download. Know your strengths and make sure people know you are ready to talk about them.

Make it easy to find you. There are some great new ways to advertise your expert status and to let journalists and bloggers find you. Here are just a few of them. Some are rather niche but others cover the gamut:


What are some other ways to market yourself?

Work your connections. Talk to your friends about your work. Attend talks, book signings, fun events, and conferences when you can. Dust off that LinkedIn account and use it. Ask for help or advice - I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like to help small business owners succeed.

Think of a fun project and then do it. Enable people to participate in your dream. Partner up, raise some money, or learn something new, and let people follow along. For example, I just wrapped up a travel and shopping experiment called I Shop, You Buy. I made it up one night, posted about it the next day, and then promoted it on my site, Facebook and Twitter. People thought it was fun and signed up and eventually I had to turn people away because my suitcase wasn’t big enough! It was an experiment that worked and I’m encouraged to try it again and make it even bigger. I’ll have traction to do this if my first batch of buyers enjoyed their goods (in the mail now) and tell their friends.


Rena Tom is a retail strategist for creative business owners. She previously owned Rare Device, a boutique and art gallery with locations in New York and San Francisco that was renowned for its carefully edited collection of design objects, books, housewares and accessories, and for supporting small, innovative designers and artists whose work was not easily found in stores. Rena blogs about personal projects as well as retail trends and small business tips at She lives in San Francisco with her husband and baby boy in an apartment filled with too many laptops, Sprecher root beer, half-finished craft projects and overdue library books.

Jan Halvarson


Emily said...

Thought this was a really helpful article! Had one question - what do you typically include in a media kit for download? Thanks!

Ruth said...

The tip I took to heart from this article was "Make it easy to talk about you" - it made me realize I need to revamp my about page, which has barely anything on it...maybe a trade is in order with a local photographer for good head shots?


rena said...

Ruth - great idea! A small business thrives on interpersonal relationships.

Emily - a media kit should have one or two pages (a PDF is fine) about you and about your business. You can include customer testimonials, press mentions, well-known retailers who carry your work, etc. Have good product photos and perhaps a photo of you, hard at work, available.