Many writers today find everything they need on the Internet to put together an article. But expert sources add validity to your points and professionalism to your story. If I find myself stuck on beginning an article, it’s often because I don’t know enough about the topic, or I don’t have enough information in front of me to find that perfect lead or –if it’s a longer article -- to outline the story from beginning to end.
How do professional freelance writers network with expert sources? Several ways.
Social networking makes it easier than ever before to find expert sources. Peter Shankman’s popular “HARO” network connects reporters to PR people who can connect you with experts or even experts themselves. Tweeting a query on Twitter will also connect you with people, or try Facebook. Perhaps a friend of a friend is an expert in the area you need.
You can find experts on message boards and forums, but people may be turned off if you just sign in announcing that you’re a writer and asking questions. Spend some time lurking on the forum, learn the rules of the land, and connect with the regulars. How long does this take? There’s no rule. You should know when you feel comfortable enough to start approaching members with questions for your article. You might do this through private messaging or, if you feel comfortable enough, start a thread asking for comments.
Finally, you can often find experts by doing a Google search on your topic and looking over the more popular blogs. Contact experts who write blogs via e-mail if you can’t find a phone number. Again, it helps to become an active member of their community, by reading and commenting on their blog, but chances are good they will want the positive publicity a reporter can offer, so they might be more than happy to speak with you even if you are a new reader.
Keep a file in your computer, listing the names of different expert sources. As this file grows, you may want to break it up into several categories—public officials, technical directors, teachers, historians, or whatever categories best suit your needs.
List the person’s name, when you first spoke to them, and regarding what, their area of expertise, and any personal details that will help jog your memory so you can connect with them on a personal level. You may want to add a JPG to their file, too, because some editors request headshots of interview subjects.
Ping your sources.
As your writing experience grows, so will your file. Keep in touch with your expert sources on a regular basis, asking them what’s new in their industry. Soon, you’ll be the first one to hear about ground breaking news. “Pings” don’t take long. Simple notes on Twitter, Facebook or an e-mail once a month works. Some people prefer phone calls. Make a note in their file of each expert’s preferred contact method so you don’t intrude. You can also include special notes about the best times to reach them, like “always reachable by cell,” or “works from home Mondays and Wednesdays.”
Of course, these are just the basics. If you trust in synchronicity and the law of attraction, experts will come your way when you need them. These tips help that process along. If you would like to learn more about how I've been using the Law of Attraction to help in my writing career, please check out The Secret Abundance Files.
Writers: What’s the oddest way you ever found an expert source for an article?