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When the "Expert From Afar" Canít Get Hometown Publicity

by Marcia Yudkin 

According to Robert Ringer, author of Winning Through Intimidation and other books, "people, for some illogical reason, are usually more impressed with someone from a distant city than they are with an expert who might be readily available to them right in their own town." Ringer even found that the farther he had to travel for a business consultation, the more highly his expertise was valued. 

In an inverse of this "expert from afar" phenomenon, many experts have complained to me that they easily get featured in national magazines and major metropolitan newspapers far from where they live, but they canít seem to get their name printed in their local paper. Why does this happen? And is there a solution for the problem?

Explaining attitudes about experts is a bit tricky, since the people who behave in these ways usually deny that they are doing so. In addition, this phenomenon doesnít hold true across the board. Some experts have no trouble getting local publicity. However, based on my knowledge of the media and human nature, I have two guesses to explain why hometown publicity avenues do sometimes get blocked, along with three suggested remedies.

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First, there could be a subtle sort of jealousy influencing the hometown media people: Someone like them has made it big! In the media gatekeeperís mind, the expert resembles them because they live in the same community. This generates an uncomfortable mental tension, as the journalist or broadcaster would rather duck the question of why they did not achieve fame or prominence when someone like them did. This tension is most easily resolved by deciding to avoid thinking about the local expertís eminence. Giving the expert publicity would heighten that tension instead of lessening it.

Second, if the local expert is making news on the national or international level, then the media person may have trouble seeing the relevance of the expert to the hometown community. Itís as if a national reputation whisks the expert out of the local scene even though the expert actually lives locally. As with the first explanation, this dynamic isnít rational, but it may still be real.

If the "expert from afar" phenomenon seems to be thwarting your efforts at hometown media coverage, choose one of these three tactics.

One, schedule a local event. Better yet, get a local organization to present you in a local event. When youíre going to speak at the public library or to the Chamber of Commerce, the local media canít ignore you.

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Two, get involved in a local charity project. Help humbly, the same way a non-famous person would. If youíre ladling pumpkin soup at the homeless shelterís Thanksgiving dinner when the camera crew comes by, they are certainly not going to skip over you. Likewise, if you write a letter to the editor as vice-chair of the Save the Majestic Theater committee, theyíll print it. Either scene would most likely take you out of the "expert from afar" category and make you more like a hometown hero.

And three, you can wait for a new editor to come on the scene who may be less susceptible to the dynamics weíve been discussing. That may mean a long wait, however. Just the other day, my hometown paper announced that its editor was moving on Ė after 22 years.

Copyright 2009 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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