Why Credibility Matters
Credibility matters in life, but it especially matters for journalists. Whenever a person pitches a story idea to the media, the journalist is going to subconsciously measure the value of the person’s integrity and experience. If the reporter or producer is going to invest time and energy pursuing a story, he wants to make sure the idea has credence from the start so he’s not wasting his time on false leads.
A lawyer pitching a story on corporate fraud or a teacher pitching a story on education reform will always have more credibility at the onset than a retired citizen who works part-time at the public library. The journalist will assume the lawyer and teacher have insider knowledge or expertise, which will lend credibility to the topic. Everyone knows teachers see and hear things inside of the educational system that parents never see. The fact that teachers live and breathe education will give them better insight into scandals and problems within the system. Likewise, a corporate lawyer specializing in corporate taxes will see documents that give him an insider’s perspective into potential corruption. A reporter will weigh a person’s experience as he listens or reads your story idea pitch.
The credibility argument works for every story idea—not just scandals involving corporate fraud or education reform. If you are pitching a story on a jeweler designer, you will need to establish that jeweler’s credibility in the pitch. The reporter or producer hearing or listening to your story idea is going to want to know what makes this jeweler qualified to speak about jewelry trends. Don’t assume the reporter will know why or how the person you are pitching is qualified to speak on the topic.
So how do you determine whether you are credible enough to speak about the topic you are pitching? Here are a few questions to ask yourself when trying to establish your credibility for a story.
Q) What makes you qualified to speak on this topic?
Q) How many years of experience have you spent in the industry?
Q) What part of your daily routine is spent reinforcing your expertise?
Q) What do you know as an insider that others would want to know?
You may possess a limited amount of expertise, but that shouldn’t stop you from continually trying to establish more credibility. Websites, op-ed articles, trade magazines can all lend credence to a person in search of credibility. So can writing a book, blog or article for your community newspaper. Remember, the media needs experts for nearly every story because it lends credibility to their reporting. Even the salacious stories require insider knowledge.
So before you pitch your next story idea, take a minute to make sure you have the credibility to talk about the topic. Your news release should state why you are the person with insights into the topic you are pitching. If you can communicate this expertise in the news release, you will have a better chance of convincing a journalist to pursue your story idea.
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Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.