Using Online Smarts to Become a Media Source

Last Updated Oct 28, 2010 1:16 PM EDT

If you're a startup CEO, becoming a reliable source for your customers, your partners, and the media should be one of the most important aspects of your public relations strategy.

When I talk about being a good "source," I'm talking about commanding authority, being the "go-to" reference point above all others. When the time comes to make a purchasing decision, cast a vote, or get a quote, people come to you.

Traditionally, the strategy for becoming a preferred source has involved landing a prime spot in your major media outlet of choice. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. It continues to be an important part of public relations outreach.

Except for two things.

First, there's really no guarantee that it will be the golden ticket that brings in new business or generates other desired results. It could just as well be an exercise in vanity.

Second, there's absolutely no need anymore to rely solely on the mainstream media to become a source. In fact, I would argue that if you haven't built any credibility on social media platforms, you're not yet a good source. Why? That's where a lot of your potential customers are and that's where many journalists are looking for good story ideas.

So, how do you start to establish yourself online as a media source? Here are three ways to get started:

Blog. Yes, this means you have to focus on what you're going to write about, and yes, you should establish some kind of schedule or publishing calendar to make sure you're populating your blog with fresh content on a regular basis.

No, it is not going to drive business immediately. What it will do, however, is gradually catalog your content online. Which means that, as long as your blog has some decent SEO and you pay attention to smart writing that makes use of good keyword research, you will start popping up in searches for your area of expertise.

Twitterchat. If you've never participated in a Twitterchat, now would be a good time to start. Check out this regularly-updated list of Twitterchats, and find one (or more) that pertains to your industry or area of expertise. Make it a point to join and participate in the discussion at hand on a regular basis (I've written a couple of primers on Twitterchats that you might find useful). You will find that over time, other participants will become more familiar with you and not only will you build your circle online, you'll find that they'll start to suggest you as a source... not just for media opportunities, but for speaking engagements, potential business partnerships, and so on.

Almost like your own personal circle of publicists!

Go offline. I wonder, sometimes, if, as we have grown more gregarious online, we are becoming more introverted offline. It has become so easy to write, work, do practically anything from anywhere as long as you have a laptop and a wifi connection.

But the connections you make online are rarely going to translate into relationships of value if you don't make the effort to meet the people you tweet and Facebook with offline.

One way to start doing this is to find meetups in your area. Check out Twtvite, where you can search for local tweetups -- which are essentially meetups organized via Twitter -- in your area. When you get there, write your Twitter handle on your nametag, if the organizers haven't already set them up as such. Chances are some of your local media may be there (you can look at who's registered for the event), and if they aren't, you'll probably meet local bloggers, who can get you one step closer to getting published.

You'd be surprised at how many business and media opportunities come your way by becoming a source in this somewhat lateral fashion. Yes, you will have to be patient, and yes, you may have to go through several "small fish" before hooking the big one.

But if you keep at it, you'll do it. You will become "the source."

Shonali Burke is Principal of Shonali Burke Consulting where she helps turn businesses' communication conundrums into community cool. She's considered one of 25 women that rock social media.
Flickr photo courtesy of Mai Le, CC 2.0