Working as a reporter, not a marketing copywriter, levels up your content. It allows audiences to view your brand as a trusted resource for valuable information, not a product-hawking promotional engine.
The first step? Think outside your company.
Third-party sources can elevate the conversation with multiple and diverse viewpoints, examples, and experiences. In turn, the audience is more likely to consume and engage with the content because they recognize the publishing brand as an independent media resource, not a vendor of products and services.
Let’s explore five paths to inject relevant and helpful external sources into your articles, infographics, videos, podcasts, and any other kind of content:
- Ask industry-, role-, or geographic-specific organizations.
- Connect on interactive platforms.
- Seek non-human sources.
- Use Qwoted as a brand journalist.
- Build a source network.
Ask industry-, role-, or geographic-specific groups and associations
Tens of thousands of professional and trade organizations exist in the United States alone. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) reports over 7,400 member organizations, and estimates show that the total number in the United States is more than 56,000. At least one of them likely connects to your content’s subject matter.
To find knowledgeable sources in these organizations, check out their websites:
- Identify senior leaders and their specialty areas, then email or call the one most relevant to your content topic.
- Review board members to see which companies they represent and contact those who represent brands your audience will recognize.
- Attend the organization’s in-person events to connect with potential sources. Go to the annual trade show and talk to some attendees to get a better understanding of their expertise. Ask them if you could reach out in the future when you’re creating content where their input would be helpful.
This article, from Dassault Systèmes’ The DELMIA Blog, about closing the gender gap in the workplace includes an interview with the CEO of a relevant national organization.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Teniel Jones is president and CEO of Base 11, a national organization dedicated to helping women and Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) blaze a trail in STEM industries.
I think the most apparent challenge female students face in the education system is sexism, said Jones. There is an ill-conceived perception that women can’t learn or study in the same fields men can, and these perceptions start at birth. We set up different gender expectations for boys and girls, which translates to STEM.
Connect on interactive platforms
Use your brand’s social channels to elicit input from your existing audience. This works well for reaction-focused or crowdsourced content because it lets you incorporate many voices in your piece – and you can do it quickly. (Don’t forget to mention in your social post that you may use their responses in an upcoming article, video, or podcast.)
But don’t limit your outreach to your social channels:
- Tag your request for sources using relevant hashtags.
- Post to topic-related LinkedIn or Facebook groups.
- Use crowdsourcing sites like Quora and Reddit to identify contributors to posts about your topic, industry, or content angle. Reach out to them individually.
TIP: Incorporate relevant existing content from social media – with the poster’s permission – into your content. For example, Kate Parish recently incorporated a Twitter conversation started by Elna Cain into this article about AI detection tools:
Seek non-human sources
Industry and professional organizations, as well as other brands, also can be a great resource for research, white papers, and other media coverage. If you can’t get to the right person to interview, the next best thing may be a blog or other media coverage quoting that person – just make sure to cite and link to the original source.
Paycor, an HR platform provider, cited a statistic (98% want to work remotely for the rest of their career) from the State of Remote Work research by Buffer (a third-party source) in its article about remote work reimbursement rules.
Here’s the excerpt showing how they included the statistic:
It’s probably safe to say that remote work is the new normal for many Americans. Today, more than 27.6 million people work from home as opposed to the roughly 9 million people in 2019 (American Community Survey). And, those who don’t would like to. 98% of respondents in Buffer’s 2023 Remote Work Survey of 3000 would like to work remotely for the rest of their careers (Buffer).
Remote-first organizations can make big savings on real estate—but are they required to instead pay for remote employees’ expenses? When employees work from home, they use their own electricity, internet and (often) office supplies. What portion of these business-related expenses are, or should be, reimbursable?
Be a brand journalist on Qwoted
Qwoted is a relatively new service used by the marketing communication/PR world to connect the brand’s experts with the media. But content marketers can use it too – taking the journalist’s role to seek sources for their content. And it’s free.
TIP: Be specific and succinct in your query. Include what you need AND what you don’t need. “Query: Seeking phone interview with trucking industry expert on the impact of fuel prices. Already have sufficient responses from fuel brands or individual truck drivers.”
Go through the responses with a discerning eye. Delete those that don’t meet your needs. Then go through to see who has the most surprising or interesting relevant responses. Use the submitted responses or follow-up to interview those responders to generate that fresh content your audience wants.
In this article about the role of Twitter in marketing after Elon Musk’s acquisition, I received a dozen or so responses to my query on Qwoted and picked a handful to include:
Build a source network
As you cultivate new sources for your content, make sure to document their participation and contact information. Create a master spreadsheet for your team. Include the person’s name, title, organization, contact information, and social handles, and note their areas of specialty. Then reach out to them when you want their input on the content being created.
Also, add a column for links to content where your company included that source. That way, your content team isn’t using the same source over and over. (It’s really tempting to reach out too frequently to a great source you can depend on.)
There’s no single best way to incorporate external sources into your content marketing. Whether you connect more with your industry trade group, look for existing external references, use online communities, or put a query out to Qwoted’s database, you’ll create more credible content to position your company as a go-to media brand for your audience.
How do you develop your source network? Please share in the comments.
Updated from a January 2020 post.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute