Finding Quality Sources for Your Writing Assignments
As a freelance writer, you’ll cover lots of interesting topics. Sometimes you’ll write about something in which you’re well versed, but other times a topic will land on your plate that you have absolutely no background in.
Either way, it’s important to find quality sources to contribute to your article. Experts, such as professionals in the field or academic leaders, will add credibility and value to your words; regular people who have lived the experience will add warmth and a human connection to your article.
Particularly with a topic that’s foreign to you, it may seem difficult to find the right people. But the good thing is that most people love to talk and share what they know.
Whether you’re on the hunt for a neo-natal specialist or a bicycle accident survivor, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to find them. Here are some of my favorite methods:
Hospitals and Universities – Most have well-staffed public relations departments whose job it is to get their brand’s name in the media.
Tweet out your need during prime time and see what type of responses you’ll get.
Clearly indicate what outlet you’re writing for, provide a brief but accurate description of your topic, and assure them you’ll quote them with anything you use. You’ll often have a 24 hour turnaround from inquiry to interview.
- Twitter – Tweet out your need during prime time and see what type of responses you’ll get. Twitter provides access to every type of person, from academic experts to regular people with real-world experiences to share. Another approach: search out the type of specialist you’re looking for, then contact them directly to see if they’re interested.
HARO – Post an inquiry on this web site, designed to link journalists and sources, and you’ll quickly receive a bundle of responses. In addition to experts, this is a great way to find those ‘real people’ who have lived through what you’re covering.
Most responses will be what you’re looking for, but keep watch for those trying to bend their background a bit to fit your needs. A quick background check will weed out the real from the wanna-be’s.
LinkedIn – With LinkedIn’s Group feature, you can find groups of individuals focusing on everything from pets to college alumni to science.
If you’re not a member of a group, it’s good etiquette to introduce yourself as a journalist to the group moderator, and ask if you can enter a post looking for sources. Or, even better, maintain an active presence on groups within the niche area you frequently cover.
Your own contacts – Your personal connections grow each year, so with a good way to keep them organized, you’ll have quick access to your own pool of resources.
Each time you work with a helpful person, thank them and ask if you can call on them again someday. Keep careful notes so you don’t overuse anyone.
Hit the street – With the rise of the internet, not many reporters walk the streets looking for resources. But it’s not such a bad idea, especially if you’re in a time crunch or if you’re looking for comments from everyday people.
Think of where your target audience might gather, such as the local farmer’s market, ice cream stands, or athletic events. Grab a notebook, and get out and see if anyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame.
With the rise of the internet, not many reporters walk the streets looking for resources
Finding and talking with sources is a nice balance to the sedentary, quieter side of writing.
At first, it may seem daunting to locate the right individual for your story, but once you’re familiar with how to draw them out, you’ll often end up with more input than you can actually use.