Quotes from voices of authority can lend credibility and depth when writing articles.
For every article I write I consult five to 10 experts. It normally depends on the length, type and complexity of subject, in saying that: domestic violence, mens mental health, womens empowerment and child protection are not your most superficial of topics.
Including voices of authority on a subject allows me to formulate the core message of a piece by describing, summarising, predicting, interpreting and breaking down difficult topics.
Unlike other forms of research, experts are available for interaction and are also looking for avenues to share their research, theories and findings with a deep passion to create a wave of change —I’ve never had issues asking the questions for clarification.
3 Types of Experts to Consult When Writing Articles
To identify these subject specialists, I search relatable discussions in relevant leading publications. I source data and publications from respective associations, and read lots of prominent blogs. My bookcase is full of memoirs that depict personal experiences and theory books that back up social constructs. But it is my hard drive that stores what would be tones of paper.
The more technical the article, the more experts I try to engage. Each perspective and opinion is as important as the others and leads to seeing things from all 360 degrees.
Those I seek generally fall into three main categories:
The Respected Authority (a person who has the credentials or publication credits)
The Position Holder (CEO, an officer, board member, government official, etc.)
The Representative Voice (a person whose voice embodies a particular segment relevant to the article)
As an example, for an article on volunteering, I contacted:
- the author of a book
- a volunteer co-ordinator,
- a leadership professional,
- two organization CEO’s or managers,
- a non-profit executive director,
- a marketing manager or publisher,
- an representative or relationship manager
- and writers in the volunteer space.
They are either acting as Authorities, serving as Position Holders. Others from the the front line and with a deep understanding Representative Voices. Each one cover unique aspects, resulting in an article in which all points converged
How I Approach Experts
I usually approach experts as follows: “I’m working on an article for [insert publication or project name]. I like to talk to you about [Subject}. Do you mind if you ask a few questions on [insert subject], when would be a suitable time?”
Most are pleased to be asked and willing to participate, some requiring little time to prep. When I get a positive response, I continue the dialogue and promise to let them know if I use their quotes.
How I Incorporate Expert Advice
When drafting an article, I pair experts’ words with core themes and topics I intend to write about. I plan by piecing the narrative together like a puzzle.
I find the experts that act to validate, illustrate, deconstruct or lead the reader toward the core theme. I take the ideas they articulate from an experience, their insight and wisdom. Sometimes I might have to re-contact those experts with additional questions, in order to refute or clarify so that readers come to their own understanding or conclusion. I use their quotes that best drive the conceptualised ideas forward.
Depending on the demographic I’m writing for, I’ll also seek experts from various geographical locations. That might include large and small entities, or the alternative points of view. I’m never quite sure until I’ve had those conversations what will be most intriguing quotes will be but you’ll always find them in the first and the last paragraphs.
Most articles are limited in word count making trimming quotes to be a challenge—even painful. They are commonly referred to as kernels and the rest of the material is filed, especially for that follow up article or a development in legislation. I love compiling those bonus sections that often answer the questions that readers are left with.
Once I decide which quotes to use, I call and tell the expert, “I’d like to use this comment you made….” and follow up with an email sharing the paragraph with the quote in context.
Whilst it’s not a lawful requirement to run quotes by experts, there’s a professional ethic when communicating complex issues and technical materials. It’s helpful to ensure I’ve understood the quote accurately and that it’s supported in the proper context. It also gives them an opportunity to review and formally approve their contribution. I also confirm name spelling and title.
I don’t necessarily share the entire article with them until it’s published, but I provide a link so they can use it on their media page, website or newsletter.
There are a lot of other kinds of experts
The “non-expert expert” is the witness, the consumer, the friend, the bystander, or the relative. They play a very important role as they are the expert in the experience or relationship. For sensitive pieces I seek memories and recollections from the people who were taught by them, were present or were present the conversation. They are able to provide a personal account and describe their interactions, attributes and characteristics. Capturing the effective techniques, significant influence or amusing anecdotes that no one else could.
Though not ‘experts’ in that traditional sense, they are still authorities on the article’s topics or subject. They have a point of view that is an integral consideration in discussing the topic and trajectory of the story I am writing about. Often I find these experts add a dimension to the piece in ways I would never find from google.
If you are interested in positioning yourself as an expert and develop your personal brand as an authority in your industry or field, learn the 5 simple steps to take.
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Read about Stacey Tryon, a Ageing Well specialist who’s university research was welcomed by an industry leader and published in their newsletter. The assignment included point of views from the consumers and she has gone on to reach out to other experienced experts in the space to extend her article life.
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