Sourcing is one of the main areas where content marketing is different than traditional journalism. If you are working on an article for a consumer publication, then it is a given that you will get quotes and information from people in the industry. Typically, the publication’s main criteria for sources are that they are reputable and respected on the topic.
But with content marketing, the sourcing can be tricky since you must make sure that all sources are not competing in any way with the brand you are writing for. And most clients (if not all) won’t want you to use sources affiliated at all with any other company in their industry. This can make it challenging to find the right sources. Since there is also typically some subtle messaging involved in content marketing, you want to make sure that the sources are representative of the brand’s image and positioning on the topic.
- Ask your client. Your first step should be to ask your client if there are any sources that they want you to use. While this would typically frowned upon when writing for a consumer publication, it is actually acceptable if not expected in content marketing writing. Some clients will ask you to use their own internal experts while others might ask you to use specific customers in the deliverable. I have also had clients who requested that I used specific industry experts with whom the company had a relationship.
- Contact industry associations. Almost every industry has a professional association whose mission is to promote the profession. There is actually even a Pigeon Racing Association. I didn’t even know that pigeons raced, but I digress. Do a web search to see which organizations exist for your topic and then email the press contact. I have found associations to be very responsive and the quality of experts to be very high. Typically, association representatives are also product neutral and respected in the field.
- Search for Universities that specialize in your topic. Professors can be fantastic sources. Look for universities that have degree programs (especially graduate programs) in the area that you are writing about and then search for specific professors with experience on your topic. The more well-known and respected the institution, the better. Some universities also have institutes or centers on specific subjects which can be great resources as well. The only downside is if your deadline is over a college break or during the summer, you may have a hard time getting a timely response.
- Look for industry experts. You have to tread carefully here, but some industry experts can be great sources for content marketing. Look at conferences on the topic as well as other articles to see if you can find experts that are regularly relied upon for their knowledge and are respected in the industry. Make sure that they do not have any relationship with competitors, and have not work for competing companies in the past. Be sure to disclose up front to the expert that you are working for a specific brand to make sure that they do not have any other conflicts as well.
- Use source finding services. I think that journalists should for the most part find their own sources, but there are times when time prevents or we are coming up short on our own. In these cases there are several free services available that help connect journalists with experts. However, especially with content marketing, you should always cloak the name of the brand so that competitors don’t steal ideas and you don’t violate your NDA. With HARO and Profnet, you can put out a call for experts and then receive replies back from people who are interested in being sources. I actually prefer a service called Source Sleuth which finds qualified sources willing to be interviewed and then emails you the contact information for one or two. I’m going to write more later on about using source finding services for content marketing writing, but wanted to throw these out there.
Where do you find your sources for content marketing deliverables? Any experience with any of the methods that I described?