The number of female sources we hear, see and read in the media does not correlate to the number of women in managerial positions in Australia. So why aren’t we being heard? Why aren’t women commenting more in the press? Why aren’t we being asked for quotes? Are our voices loud enough?
Last week, a panel session at a Network Central cocktail party provided a few answers to the above questions. The panel covered a range of expertise including Kim McKay, founder of Cleanup Australia and Director of Momentum 2, Joanne Gray, editor of BOSS Magazine, Dee Madigan, digital marketing expert and the Julianne Dowling from Asset PR.
It has been suggested that the reason why we don’t hear from more female sources in the media is because women are not as forthright as men and therefore do not put their hand up or consider themselves an expert in an area.
So how do we increase our share of the media voice?
- Become a thought leader
Many women don’t appreciate their brilliance. I can name a number of women who are clearly experts in their field but just do not see themselves that way. The panel argued that American women seem to be more adept at putting their hands up as it is a more competitive environment. Australians may be a bit more complacent. This is a generalisation, of course, but could a Tall Poppy Syndrome doing more harm than good? Shouldn’t we be looking out for ourselves and each other to ensure that people with a story to tell are heard?
It was agreed that pure luck and being in the right place at the right time can power you along in business and propel your media profile, but you need to be aware of these opportunities as they come up and act on them quickly.
Writing a book can also help position you as an expert, as long as it’s current. You can always pull sections of a book and repurpose it to current discussions and keep the media angle fresh.
- Teach our daughters and young women around us to speak up
Panellist Dee Madigan, a former English teacher, suggested schools should encourage girls to speak up in class and even offer presentation training. I couldn’t agree more! Any training in confidence and presentation is going to be valuable in later life, for both boys and girls. Any opportunity for young people to take the lead and centre stage will help them in the future. It takes a village to raise a responsible and confident adult and we are all part of that village.
- Learn how to structure thoughts so we can comment easily and effectively
In the age of 140 characters, getting your point across in a concise manner is now more crucial than ever. More and more communication is written rather than spoken and the media are watching. They are involved in social media, are following on Twitter and pick up on discussion trends and those actively involved. On the flip side, knowing how to structure your thoughts in a live environment, whether it be in a team meeting or a major presentation, will set you apart from the rest. You can never have enough practice. This is such an important topic that our next event in Sydney focuses on this very point.
- Be consistent and leverage newsworthy stories
There is a media story in everyone, whether you’re a business owner or a corporate employee. Defining your message and point of view is the first step. Research media stories and follow themes to work out how your overall point of view fits in. Find your unique voice rather than repeating those already talking. Take a look at Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg for inspiration. She has built a profile around social activism through her book Lean In. Find your point of view and be consistent.
So how do you get your ideas to the media people who count? Social media is a great starting point and a good way to connect and begin building relationships with relevant journalists. If you have something expert to offer, then a coffee with relevant journalists or an invitation to a relevant event can be gold. Whatever you decide, and this also applies to the standard media release, keep your pitch short and to the point and back it up with facts.
- Be ready for the media and say ‘yes’ even when you want to say ‘no’
Joanne Gray offered a fabulous story about a senior woman who declined a significant media interview due to her workload and available time. We all get busy, but these opportunities don’t come around every day. By making yourself available to the media you could open the door to something bigger. Furthermore, your relationship with the journalist is strengthened which can lead to further media opportunities. Have to hand some professional photos, your short bio and some comments that you can draw on if short on time.
Structuring our thoughts and defining our message is the first step, getting it out there is the next. Let’s raise our voices just a bit so we become a consistent and regular sound in the ear of the media. Let’s support each other to get in front of relevant journalists and understand each other’s messages.