Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > Becoming an Opinion Leader

Becoming an Opinion Leader

Other help sheets in the Media & Marketing Centre have looked at how important it is to have good media contacts, and, through them, a strong presence in the media.

One advantage in building this type of profile among journalists and reporters is how it can help your group become an opinion leader.

Providing the media with quotable quotes is a two-way street. Your community group or organisation certainly benefits from coverage in the media through developing strong contacts.

But the media outlets themselves also benefit. If your contacts in the media know that you have someone in your group:
  • who can be tracked down at short notice.
  • who will be willing to offer a comment on topics in the news, and.
  • who speaks fluently and interestingly.
you will be offered chances to have your say, as well as a lot of handy and free publicity.

It is this sort of publicity which feeds on itself. The more exposure you get, then the more accessible and "expert" the media perceives you as being. Because of this, they will contact you for further comments – which provide more exposure.

Ultimately, your group will be called upon time and again by the media to pass comment, to express your viewpoint or to offer a quote when an issue arises – resulting in you becoming an opinion leader.


Why Becoming an Opinion Leader is Important

So what's so important about your group becoming an opinion leader?

The answer comes back to one word: exposure.
  • Being willing to be an opinion leader means more media coverage for your group.
  • More media coverage means your group gains more exposure.
  • Having more exposure – particularly through the media - means your group or organisation is seen as "important", "influential" and "authoritive".
This has a number of benefits.
  • It creates greater opportunities to attract members, supporters, donors, etc. and to achieve your aims because of this support.
  • It helps your message "cut through" and be heard which helps you have more influence on community views and community opinion.
  • It allows you more "sway" to influence and lobby decision makers in your field of interest.
  • It builds a level of familiarity and knowledge of your group among the public. They have a basic knowledge of what you stand for or advocate. This can mean they are more willing to respond to requests from your group if you follow them up later on and that you don't have to introduce yourself to them – meaning you can spend more effort communicating your message.



Towards Becoming an Opinion Leader

Awareness and Preparedness

Two key concepts behind becoming an opinion leader are awareness and preparedness.

Awareness is vital because, before commenting on the issues and passing opinions, your group needs to know what they are.

Your group – and who is has in place as its media spokesperson – has to be more than just aware of what issues are in the news on any given day. You need to also be aware of the details of those issues.

Preparedness flows from being aware of what is in the news. If your group knows what is coming, it can be ready for it.

And - when becoming an opinion leader - "being ready for it" means having a reply, response or argument on standby when the media comes calling.

When working with the media, your group should prepare so it appears that you are "one step ahead" and have a response, remark or comment to almost anything the media can throw at you.

Being aware and prepared helps your group or organisation to become convenient – the final key concept of being an opinion leader.


Convenience

Convenience is vital when it comes to working with the media. Your group needs to be convenient to the media – close at hand and easy to access.

Convenience should be one of your group's main "selling points" to attract the media and encourage them to approach you and seek out your group's opinions and views.

What you have to offer them is wisdom or truth or the public good. What you have that they want is reliable content on tap. The media want to be able to draw from this tap again and again because it is convenient and reliable.  

Knowing the issues and being ready to speak about them when contacted (being aware and prepared) are two vital cogs towards your organisation being convenient.

Another is to make it as easy as possible for the media to contact you in the first place when they are looking for an opinion or viewpoint.

This means is it worth confining your media contacts to one main person at your organisation; not only is that convenient for everyone, but it means you can offer the media a known quantity they can grow to have confidence in and can contact quickly and easy.


Tips on Becoming an Opinion Leader

  • Be contactable and available for comment.
    • This means ensuring the media have your group's contact details, and also means having a designated spokesperson with whom they can get in touch quickly and at short notice.
  • Limit your spokesperson/people to one or two people.
    • This sees the same face, name or voice representing your group. It encourages a consistency of image, and sees your group's name and that of your spokesperson/people linked.
  • Provide good talent.
    • Ensure your opinions are communicated through sharp, incisive, meaningful quotes.
    • This means your spokesperson needs practice and also needs to prepare sound bites, important quotes, statistics and background information – and have them ready for use (or able to be tweaked for use) at the drop of a hat.
  • State your group's opinion fairly and honestly.
    • Make sure what is communicated on behalf of your group or organisation is representative of its stance or opinion. That means your spokesperson needs to know your group's position and needs to be able to communicate it clearly and concisely.
    • If your spokesperson needs to clarify a point before being quoted by the media, don't be afraid of saying you will ring back in 15 minutes – and then going and clarifying the point. Of course, make sure you DO then ring back.
  • Don't just wait for the call, contribute as well.
    • Write to the Letters to the Editor page of the newspaper (local or metropolitan), and consider contributing to the Opinion pages of the newspaper – though you might need to check with the editor to see if they'll accept your contributed piece.
    • Similarly, keep an ear on talkback radio and any discussions about subjects relevant to your group. If something comes up that your group would like to have its say on, have your spokesperson ring in an offer your group's view.
  • Get into a routine of developing opinions.
    • It is good practice to be able to "rough out" opinions on issues that might arise in the future.
    • Then, if that issue does rear its head, you have an opinion ready, polished and agreed on by the group.


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