The American Press Institute lists several components to consider when trying to make a ‘good story’; relevance to the audience, strong central characters, capturing emotions and providing context.
The easiest way to ensure each of these factors is touched on is to gather quotes from sources, either through expert opinion or a case study. Finding someone who is a voice of authority on your chosen topic or has lived the story personally will bolster the credibility of your content to your audience, making it more relevant, personable, emotional and contextual.
But where do you turn to find these missing pieces of your content puzzle? And how do you successfully execute them?
What makes a good expert?
When you’re looking for a subject-matter expert, these are the questions we’d suggest you ask before and during your communication with them to determine whether they’re the best person for the job:
- Do they have experience in the topic? What are their credentials?
- Would they be willing to help?
- What is their availability?
- Do they have a positive influence in their field?
- Are they going to charge to give you a quote?
Tips for approaching an expert
When you’re on the hunt for the perfect source, you’ll most likely be searching across various platforms reaching out to a range of characters with different backgrounds. With this in mind, it’s important to know how best to approach certain people in the right context.
No matter where you’re searching, when you send a message, make sure to show that you’ve done your research on what the person you’re contacting stands for. This shows that you’re serious about your intentions and have chosen them based on their experience.
Here are some things to consider depending on the type of communication and the source:
- Social media: this is an informal method, so a chatty tone is usually welcomed. Perhaps take a look at what they’ve spoken about before and how they communicate on social media themselves to inform how you go about speaking to them.
- Email: this form of communication requires a slightly more formal tone. Make sure you include a good amount of detail about what your project is and the purpose of it, so they fully understand from the start why their input would be helpful.
- Experts and academics: due to time restraints on their part, it’s wise to keep your messages concise and to the point. They may take a little longer to come back to you due to the nature of their busy work, so plan ahead, and be ready to give them a friendly nudge if you haven’t heard back in a while – sometimes it will have completely slipped their mind.
- Case studies: these are usually members of the public who have lived the experience, so a degree of empathy and understanding of their situation – especially if it’s a sensitive subject – is important.
How to find an expert
There are myriad ways to search for sources, but here are just a few of our preferred, tried-and-tested methods.
Including the hashtag #JournoRequest in a tweet on Twitter is a fantastic way to reach out to the social media community to arrange collaborations, interviews, comment and insights from people who are both in-the-know and compatible with your content. Often, Digital PRs will scour this hashtag for journalists writing relevant articles about a topic in the hope that they will be interested in contributing to the angle. Kristina has written a helpful breakdown of how this works here.
Let’s say you were creating some content around vintage teapots; you may want to speak to a teapot collector. Jump on Twitter and post “Looking for a passionate teapot collector to discuss their acquisitions for a piece on vintage teapots I am writing #journorequest #prrequest”.
Then watch the responses pour in…
You can then either ask them to email or Direct Message you to continue the conversation and ask them their thoughts on the subject in more detail before using them in your content.
Below are some responses we gained from a #JournoRequest asking experts to comment on a story about the careers of world leaders.
Thanks to the internet, online news and the debates around them are easily accessible. Following conversations related to this discourse across the most-used platforms is a good way of finding people who feel passionately about topics that may be related to your field. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Hashtags: search relevant hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to see who has made their views known and who is highly engaged in certain areas of debate.
- Reddit: starting your own conversation on Reddit in a relevant subreddit could reveal some interesting answers and potential leads for case studies.
- Twitter: using Twitter search to look for conversations around your topic, or searching a hashtag in Twitter bios can reveal campaigners, advocates or even opponents of the topic you’re looking to understand more about.
The beauty of the online world means anyone is just one DM, tweet or email away from being involved in your discussion further.
We recently ran a campaign on body confidence and found several extremely helpful contributors using the methods above.
With millions of books for sale – many of them academic or with hefty pieces of research on niche topics – Amazon has proven to be the ideal place to find thousands of experts who are happy to provide a quote in the form of authors. Not only are they extremely knowledgeable in their area of expertise but they’re also very keen to bring attention to their work (and increase their book sales).
Conducting a quick search in Amazon should reveal several authors who have written relevant works on your topic. Once you have their name, find their contact details through Google or social media and get in touch to begin a conversation about them possibly offering insights to your piece.
The authors you find could likely be busy academics, university professors or doctors, so allowing a little more time for a response would be sensible. Arranging a quick call may be the easiest option for them, as they sometimes don’t have time to write all of their thoughts on their life’s work out.
This technique can give some of the most useful additions to a piece of content due to the authority and credibility of the author’s research. Here’s an example of it in action.
These three tactics have and continue to work well for our campaigns, either by adding to our existing research, changing the angle of a story or widening the breadth of appeal to different publications.
Using expert comment to gain coverage
While expert comment is mainly garnered to boost the colour of your content, having that extra bit of commentary can really help when pitching to gain coverage for your campaigns. Including a snippet of the expert’s quote either within your press release or email gives the journalist further context and shows the level of detail that has gone into the piece, especially if it’s alongside quantitative data.
Here’s an email that was pitched to a journalist, which included a quote:
And here’s the coverage that was published:
You can see that by following these steps, the expert insight you gain from online contributors will add relevance to your readers, hold up strong central characters from case studies, capture emotions from personal accounts and provide context so you can gain that all-important coverage.