Credit: Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

All journalists can relate: you are on deadline for a story and your interviewee is not returning your calls. Or maybe you are organising a journalism conference and you are looking for the ideal keynote speaker.

This is where ExpertFile can help. It is a expert marketing platform with a range of services. Among them is the free-to-use, carefully curated database of specialist who are, essentially, on speed dial.

How does it work?

Simply head to the ExpertFile search engine and punch in a few terms for what you are looking for - there are around 40,000 topics you can choose from. The search will generate a list of potential sources with profiles and you can get in touch with them directly.

"One of the big areas of our mission is to help local news outlets source experts faster," said Peter Evans, co-founder, Expert File.

"We see a lot of friction and unnecessary work done by journalists today, both bookers and chase producers, all those people who are trying to source experts. There's a lot of frustration there because of people not getting back to them fast enough or sometimes not at all."

You can also use filters to narrow down a topic with more specific areas of knowledge, location and materials they have published - including presentation slides, videos and published works.

A search result of 'data journalism' in Expert File

When you visit an expert's profile, you can access all of their attached content and send a media request straight to the press office - so no messing around with friend requests. ExpertFile research conducted in partnership with the Associated Press found that, traditionally, it can take two hours to secure an interview, but ExpertFile claims to get an average reply time of 15 minutes.

Who are the experts and how are they verified?

Experts are invite-only and can either be brought onto the platform by applying personally or if the company proactively reaches out to a particular individual. In the vetting procedure, social networks like LinkedIn are used to get a sense of their professional accomplishments, but formal qualifications and published works are also part of the quality test.

Crucially, profiles are cross-referenced to university profiles so it is also quicker for journalists to verify the expert themselves.

"In an era of fake news, we want to make sure that we’re talking to the right people and vetting experts is a time-consuming process," said Evans.

Since expanding service to the UK in 2018 from the US, ExpertFile has focused on securing university staff and recruiting its professors and lecturers on an institutional basis, including those from University of Bristol, Birmingham City University, University of East Anglia, Aston University and Warwick University.

"The academic community is a ready-made population of experts both because they’ve spent most of their professional lives [in a particular field] and because they study the subject matter all the time and are refreshing their expertise," said Justin Shaw, managing director of Communications Management, who looks after UK operations.

What benefit can this bring?

But they have a problem to overcome in terms of reluctance from academics to speak to the media. ExpertFile-sponsored research suggested 90 per cent of UK academics are avoiding collaboration with the media, either because of the lack of confidence or being simply unsure how to.

"We want to champion the message there is an opportunity that working with journalists brings many benefits to your knowledge and expertise," said Shaw.

The research also indicates that, particularly with government-funded research, those involved often feel they need to amplify their findings to the wider public - ExpertFile is one method of doing that.

Of course, the bigger benefit this platform brings is diversity of quoted experts and representation at journalism events. The platform said that clients they work with have to share their values towards increasing diversity, but it is ultimately the journalist's choice who they contact.

"We never tell the journalist who to quote, but if you put as many people in front of that journalist or conference organiser as possible, it allows them to make an informed choice for their objectives," Evans concluded.

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