The digital environment makes it easy for anyone to create a profile that appears legitimate, credible, and authoritative. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Journalists, freelance writers, content creators, and others must ensure that they’re appropriately reviewing and vetting sources they’re considering citing in their work.
This blog highlights insights from marketers who share how they boosted their odds of finding genuine experts. The best practices for finding and vetting sources ensure they represent them and their brands well.
Vetting Sources: Once Burned, Twice Shy
JJ Lee handles digital PR at Digital Funnel, a digital marketing agency with offices in Cork and Dublin, Ireland. Before serving in that role, Lee worked as a journalist and editor for local newspapers. Today Lee also compiles, edits, and publishes content. That content includes commentary from sources worldwide and recognizes the importance of ensuring those sources are legitimate and credible.
Be Wary of Imposters
According to Lee, reaching out to sources via the internet can be “a legitimate minefield.” He speaks from personal experience. In a previous role, he says, “I received information from a source who wasn’t who they made out to be.”
While he had done his due diligence, he says, it wasn’t enough. Despite checking the source online, he discovered the person he was dealing with had created a false Gmail account. This person posed as the individual he wanted to use as a source.
“I became suspicious of some of this individual’s answers and then reaching out to them via Twitter DM,” Lee recalls. When he did, he says, he learned that the actual person had never emailed him before.
This is an important lesson and an example of how deceptive the online landscape is. It’s also an example of how easy it is to pose as someone else!
Fortunately, most content marketers won’t face this level of dishonesty. Still, it’s important to take steps when vetting sources and not to be blindsided or unduly impressed by a flashy online presence.
Vetting Sources: Bloggers and Podcast Guests
In the online environment, it’s common for those wishing to establish or build their online presence to offer guest blog posts to more authoritative online individuals or businesses. Here are scenarios where experts outline the importance of vetting sources for blogs and podcast guests.
Simple Steps for Vetting Sources
Elizabeth Kraus, a marketing expert and content producer at Fit Small Business, says it’s common for her to be inundated with emails from people who want to provide guest blog posts. When that happens, she recommends following some simple steps to establish their legitimacy and credibility:
- Determine, specifically, the website they want you to link to
- Use a tool like SEMrush to check the website’s domain authority
- Ask for a link to other articles/blog posts the person has previously published online
- Check out the author’s online following on sites like Instagram or LinkedIn
Podcast guests are another type of expert that content creators must vet to ensure they have both the knowledge—and the presentation skills—to reflect well on brands.
A Little Research Goes a Long Way When Vetting Sources
Pam Harper is the host of the podcast series Growth igniters® Radio, now in its eighth year. She says that while most of her guests are thought leaders, she and her co-host Scott Harper already know these individuals or who recommends them.
Occasionally people they don’t know approach them wanting to be guests. With an audience of CEOs, C-suite, and corporate director listeners, Harper explains that ensuring that these guests are a good fit is critical.
When vetting potential podcast guests, Harper says she:
- Listens to them on other podcasts that target a similar audience. “A little Google research on this can easily turn up episodes,” she says.
- If they have a book, ask for a review copy to see if it complements her podcast’s point of view.
- Invite them to a Zoom prep call.
During the prep call, Harper says, she looks for how well the individual understands their business and their listenership, if they can create a high-quality conversation and if they can deliver their message without being too self-promotional. “Having been burned several times, we will turn away ‘experts’ who only ant to promote themselves and their books,” she says.
Vetting Sources Involves Going Where the Experts Are
Many content marketers use tools like ProfNet and HARO when vetting sources for projects they’re researching and creating. Going directly to expert sources also can be a good way to boost the odds that the leads you connect with are legitimate.
Example: Vetting Sources From Universities
Kristine Maloney works for TVP Communications, a media relations agency focused exclusively on higher education. She says, “Academic experts—faculty from colleges and universities—are fantastic sources because they have the academic credentials and real-world research and industry experience needed to provide current, accurate, and informed insights on issues in the news.”
In addition, Maloney notes, academic experts also often have recent book and article publications. They’re readily available and verifiable online and often supported by campus media relations professionals.
Maloney says faculty are also increasingly showing interest in and savvier about working with the media. “This wasn’t the case even 15 years ago, but the university faculty I work with have a growing interest in serving as expert sources for media and feel a sense of responsibility to help inform the public about issues impacting all of our lives,” she says.
In addition to universities, other potential sources of credible experts include large organizations that also often have media relations departments and authors of books or journal articles on relevant topics.
The Bottom Line: Do Your Due Diligence When Vetting Sources
All that glitters is not gold, even though it’s very easy to present a polished digital presence today. When vetting sources, be sure to do your due diligence. That includes checking them out on Google and LinkedIn, for instance. But also consider the added steps above to ensure that your sources reflect positively on you.
This post is by nDash community member Linda Pophal. She’s a content marketer and business writer with expertise in HR, healthcare, digital marketing, social media, and SEO.