When the severe acute respiratory syndrome disease hit Canada a decade ago, the Rolling Stones and AC/DC agreed to throw a benefit concert.
The Canadian brand had taken a beating as SARS killed its 42nd victim in that country. Reporters wanted public relations experts to comment on whether images of 400,000 people packed in a rock concert might help convey the message that it was safe to visit.
As often happens, journalists phoned the Canadian Public Relations Society looking for an expert to quote, says Executive Director Karen L. Dalton.
But what if reporters or organizations looking for a speaker could search a CPRS database for someone who meets their needs? To that end, CPRS is preparing to launch its speakers bureau on ExpertFile, which bills itself as “the expert marketing platform for thought leaders.”
ExpertFile functions like LinkedIn for enterprises, creating multimedia profiles in place of dull, text-and-mugshot pages featuring Our Leadership Team.
The platform should make it easier for CPRS to promote speakers and sources from among the roughly 100 fellows who are part of its bureau. Eventually, all its members will be allowed to create profiles.
Calls looking for sources
“If we have a situation that is a breaking story, I invariably get a call from the major media outlets looking for a quote,” Dalton says. “Is this organization handling this properly? Will this person’s reputation survive? Do we have any comment on the strategy that was used?”
Universities and hospital groups are particularly interested as the search for ways to promote their executives, says Peter Evans, ExpertFile’s founder and chief executive. ExpertFile boasts a global directory of 10,000 experts in 90 countries.
The need to draw attention to an organization’s experts is growing, and corporations are shifting spending to promote their expertise, he says.
The platform creates a single page for each bigwig or poobah who is being promoted. There they can locate what Evans calls “snackable content”: a bio, speeches, YouTube and Vimeo videos, SlideShare presentations, Amazon book covers, and other information.
Because profiles are hosted on the client’s website, the platform “allows you to move a lot of content that is currently a yard sale of rich media, social media, biographies that are all over the Web and move them into the ExpertFile,” Evans says.
Evans compares the platform to LinkedIn (which he says he likes), except with richer content possibilities and content that is hosted on one’s own network as well as Expertfile.com.
“We seem to be working at cross purposes in some ways when we’re building our [LinkedIn] profile, which is fundamentally focused on job search, and in updating my resume, when in fact the employer is looking for content that’s going to drive more discovery of the organization,” Evans says.
ExpertFile launched in 2012 as Speakerfile and rebranded in 2013, says Cara Posey, chief marketing officer.
Within organizations, people dubbed “agents” (usually someone in PR or public affairs) manage profiles and receive emails from people seeking a source or a speaker.
ExpertFile helps organizations in “managing an expert’s digital presence, making sure that it is aligned with the organization’s brand,” Posey says.
Expertise becomes currency
The platform offers an answer for organizations seeking to boost their experts-be it an executive with thoughts aplenty or a professor with research that reporters ought to know about.
“What we’re seeing now is expertise within the institution and corporation is becoming massive currency, and it’s the next wave of marketing,” Evans says.
The platform has proved to be a boon for Indie Ink Publishing in Saskatchewan, Canada, a firm that works with subject matter experts who publish to promote their business ideas.
Director of Sales and Marketing Megan Evans (no relation to Peter Evans) says the platform is ideal for a publisher. “If you want to sell your book, you need to be promoting your authors, and this for us is a really good way to do that,” she says.
ExpertFile’s search engine optimization brings in unexpected contacts, she says. “The requests we get are completely out of left field,” she says. “We’re reaching people that I wouldn’t have the capability just from my desk to necessarily find and grab.”
ExpertFile “is trying to democratize expertise to enlist larger groups of subject matter experts that can actually help the brand tell a better story,” Peter Evans says.
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