8 Useful Ways For Journalists To Find Expert Sources
If you’re a journalist or content writer writing without sources, then you’re like the Hulk – incredible. It also opens up your writing to heavy scrutiny, and diminishes the overall authority of your article online.
This is why journos go to great lengths to find sources that will back up what they’re saying. However, finding good sources can be quite a hassle, so knowing which resources you can tap into to get to those sources is of vital importance.
And, with that, we come to the main topic of our article – 8 ways for journalists to find expert sources! Let’s check out some of the tricks our fellow journos and content creators have up their sleeves when it comes to reaching out to experts, as well as some of the tools they have at their disposal!
Browsing for Experts
Most writers often choose to do their own research. Sure, their publisher might sometimes include sources they can scour for info, but that doesn’t happen very often, and most journos tend to look for their own experts.
This is where the browser comes in! It might seem a bit crude, but browsing the net through Chrome or Mozilla can give you a lot of insights and little clues about where to find credible sources for your article.
One of the things that pop up in browsers are blogs! Reading other writers’ blogs can be a great inspiration, as well as an invaluable resource of expert sources you can reach out to for yourself. Even better if one such blog belongs to an expert in their field – now you can ask them if they’d be kind enough to let you quote them directly!
Finding Experts on Social Media
Another resource journos commonly employ are social media platforms. Due to their nature as social hubs, there are many stories to be found there, and many experts to contact so you can pick their brains.
Facebook comes to mind when we think of social media. Facebook is a good start for some light research and brainstorming, as there are plenty of groups, posts, comments one can use for story ideas, and for clues on where to find experts.
Like: The Social Media Geek Out, Engaged journalism, Photojournalism, #Mojofest community, The Solutions Journalism Network Group.
Naturally a good deal of said experts have a profile on Facebook, so you can use the platform to contact them and quotes.
However, if you’re interested in people more than their work, and would like to pursue their knowledge directly, then try LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a platform specifically designed for industry professionals to convene at and share their accomplishments.
The platform also recently introduced a Find an Expert feature so you can find people that might lend their expertise pertaining to the piece you’re writing. So if you need an expert from one of the top big data companies you’re researching, you can go to LinkedIn and find them there.
Finally, there’s Twitter. Another great place that can serve as both an inspiration and a place to find good leads, the platform is designed for people that share their thoughts and experience with the rest of us.Using Twitter, you can scour for posts that pertain to your article, or see what your favorite experts have to say about a hot topic of the day.
Going to the Officials
When it comes to finding credible sources, you can’t go wrong with scouring official websites. Whether it’s a government website, a website for a scientific journal, or a statistics website, you can always count on them to have the best and most up-to-date information.
Most .gov and .edu websites are credible, as the government or legitimate educational institutions own them; however, to make sure, check their sources as well. Check also the authors of their blog posts, and see if you recognize any names.
Finally, you can run a background check on who owns the domain, and you can even find out if their IP belongs to the country of the organization’s origin, or another country altogether.
For example, if one is to look for statistics, then Statista might be a great option, as they’ve got stats on every subject imaginable, and all from other reputable sources. You can even find the sources they were using, if you want to go directly to the source (pun fully intended).
It should also be mentioned that many brands freely publish their research data or statistics to promote their products/services. If you’re writing about something that pertains to such products, then you can always make use of those posts.
However, all this requires time and effort, as well as excellent networking skills, to be effective at extrapolating good, authoritative sources.
Luckily, today we have a good bit of tools purposefully created to facilitate the connection between writers, experts and sources.
This is because the relationship is quite a beneficial one for both parties. Journos writing articles supported by expert data gain credibility and authority online, and, as such, are more read and more respected. This, in turn, offers a good bit of exposure to the source and the expert(s) behind it.
HARO - Help A Reporter Out
HARO comes to mind as one of the best source-acquiring tools out there. HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out, quite conveniently, and the tool is set out to do just that.
HARO’s primary service is getting hold of reputable sources and delivering them right into a writer’s inbox. Yup, it’s that easy! With a few clicks of your mouse, you can find all the experts and experts’ quotes you need for your article.
HARO works on a subscription-based module. This means that, for you to use their service, you’ll have to subscribe to one of their payment plans. Their subscription plans range from $19 to $149, and they even include a free plan for those willing to only dip their toes before taking the plunge.
Once you’ve subscribed, as a writer, you can post queries related to a topic you’re working on. HARO’s team will post your question and ask experts to contribute, and send them to your email. You can also pose direct questions, and get answers directly from experts that also use the service.
All the queries are answered 3 times a day, Monday through Friday. That means that you’ll be receiving sources 3 times a day directly to your inbox.
As a brand or expert, you look for queries you want to answer and pitch your articles or answers. This way, you have an excellent opportunity of obtaining backlinks on potentially reputable writer’s blogs.All around, HARO is a top-notch service, designed to eliminate the frustration of creating a network of contacts. By using Help a Reporter Out, you can obtain a vast number of sources in a timely fashion. On the other side of the coin, you can potentially obtain a lot of backlinks and improve your website’s standing greatly. However, as a brand, be aware of some of the rules of conduct link to their conduct page here on the platform to avoid pissing journos off. Don’t just be content with HARO, we use Terkel and offer concierge service for that platform and it’s a solid HARO alternative. which experts (including us) predicting it will overtake HARO in 2023.
While HARO is the absolute authority when it comes to connecting writers and sources, they aren’t without competition. ProfNet also aims to deliver a similar service with competitive pricing to ensure journalism across the globe stays up to snuff.
Essentially, ProfNet works almost the same as HARO. You have your journalists posting queries, and your experts pitching results. Just like HARO, they also have a subscription-based model, with pricing depending on your niche as well as the number of accounts you have (this is more directed toward brands/experts).
However, unlike HARO, they’re not as thorough and not as all-encompassing. You won’t get 3 alerts a day, but you’ll still get enough material that you’ll be able to pick out some excellent sources. On the brand side of things, there are plenty of writers that use ProfNet in addition to HARO, so you still stand a good chance of getting those precious backlinks.
Request a Woman in STEMM
Previously known as Request a Woman in Science, RWS is a platform more inclined to scientific topics than anything else.
On the surface, the platform works pretty much the same as the previous two, but, this time, the queries are usually pertaining to scientific topics, like engineering, medical, education, architecture and other similar scientific pursuits.
On top of that, the website is more geared toward female experts (as the platform name itself suggests). Request a Woman in STEMM invites journalists and writers to find female, gender and race diverse experts in fields of natural sciences & humanities, and use their knowledge in publications.
We all remember Google Scholar from our university days, don’t we? An absolute treasure trove of sources related to any and all topics you can think of. There is nothing you can’t find in this magnificent library, as long as you’ve got the patience, and the research skills.
And that’s just the problem with Google Scholar. While the library might contain countless scientific articles, these articles need to be scoured, processed, and the relevant info extracted.
This means that you’ll spend a lot of time getting to the info you need, but you can rest assured that that info is of the highest quality. If you’re not that good at performing research, or you don’t have the time, Google Scholar is probably not going to provide a very pleasurable experience.
Finally, let’s mention Sourcebottle. Much like HARO and ProfNet, they offer journalists and experts a place where they can exchange ideas, and ask and answer questions.
One of the major drives to use Sourcebottle is that it has a free subscription model for both the journos and the experts. This means that it is, potentially, the cheapest such service out there, making it another solid HARO alternative. We can build you links from Sourcebottle, and if you are an Australian company then it would be sacrilege not to already be using this site yourself!
However, this does come with its downsides. The queries are responded to twice a day, so you’ll be getting plenty of research material, but that material is hardly filtered. This means that you’ll have to do the vetting yourself, which might take you more time and effort than if you’d just gone to HARO or ProfNet. Note that few requests have to be local and if people are interested in .com sites, only be aware that .com.au ones are common on this platform as it is Australian.
Even so, Sourcebottle is a great service that, more often than not, proves quite useful to both writers and experts in the long run.
And that’s all we have to say about that. Writers have a tough job – not only do they have to write the truth, they also have to back it up. Because, without sources to back the claims in your article – well, you’re just a tabloid writer!
This is why services like HARO, ProfNet and RWS exist – to enable journalists to find respectable sources to support their writing, and expose those sources to a wider public and encourage further research.
Harold Ader is a digital marketing specialist and freelance blogger from Manchester, writing exclusively for DigitalStrategyOne. In his spare time, you can find him in the garden or kitchen.