How to Get Valuable External Content Sources

External Content Sources

Valuable External Content SourcesTo be seen as a valuable information resource – not a product-hawking brand – treat your content marketing like a media outlet.

The first step? Use more than your corporate in-house voices (i.e., the ones paid by your company) in your content.

Brands must use more than in-house voices to be a valuable info source for their audience, says @AnnGynn via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

Including new voices and experts entering the public arena can be very refreshing for the audience, Loes van Dokkum, content marketing consultant, said in a recent CMI Twitter Chat on the topic.

Ashley Ashbee, who operates a lead-focused communications firm, explained in the chat: “As a reader I like to see such credible sources instead of (brands) parroting ignorant influencers or faulty evidence.”

As a reader, I like to see credible sources instead of (brands) parroting ignorant influencers or faulty evidence, says @cartooninperson via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

Third-party sources can elevate the conversation with multiple and diverse viewpoints, examples, or experiences. In turn, the audience is more likely to consume and engage with the content because they recognize the publishing brand’s goal as an information provider, not as a seller of products or services.

Let’s explore a few paths to inject relevant and helpful external sources into your articles, infographics, videos, podcasts, or any other kind of content:

  • Ask industry-, role-, or geographic-specific organizations.
  • Connect on interactive platforms.
  • Seek non-human sources.
  • Use HARO 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 7,200 member organizations, and estimates show that the total number in the United States is more than 70,000. At least one of them likely connects to your content’s subject matter.

Interview an industry @ASAEcenter for third-party perspective, says @AnnGynn via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

To find knowledgeable sources in these organizations, check out their websites to:

  • Identify senior leaders and their areas of specialty, 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, 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, includes an original interview with the president of Women in Manufacturing.

Delmia Blog Article


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.)

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 crowdsource sites like Quora and Reddit to identify contributors to posts about your topic, industry, or content angle. Reach out to them individually.


I quoted this tweet from Loes earlier in this article.

TIP: If social sources aren’t responding to a direct request to be quoted, ask for their permission to include their comment in your content.

Seek non-human sources

Industry and professional organizations as well as 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.

Can’t get the person for an interview? Quote their comments from other coverage, says @AnnGynn via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet


Achinta Mitra, founder and president of Tiecas Inc., wrote this first-person reaction post on the Industrial Manufacturing Today blog based on CMI’s Manufacturing Content Marketing report (a third-party source):

Industrial Manufacturing Blog


Be a brand journalist on HARO

Cision’s Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is used by the marketing communication/PR world to connect the brand’s experts with media. But content marketers can use it too – taking the journalist’s role to seek sources for their content. And it’s free.

Use @helpareporter to seek sources for your #content, says @AnnGynn via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

TIP: Make sure your brand journalism fits within the detailed HARO guidelines.

Here’s how HARO works: Content creators (journalists) submit queries about what they’re seeking and spell out any requirements responders need to know. Take a look at this query I did a couple of years ago. In the query box, I detail the type of responder needed (marketers) and the content I need them to share. Then in the requirements box, I share the must-haves. In this case, I asked for basic identifying data.

Haro Query

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 impact of fuel prices. Already have sufficient responses from fuel brands or individual truck drivers.”

HARO compiles those requests and sends them by email (three times a day) to its database of over 850,000 sources. The email separates the requests into categories, from business and industry to lifestyle and fitness. It also has a general category. Interested sources then respond with pitches to the journalist through the HARO direct email system.

You’ll receive an email each time someone responds, but you also can use the My Queries section at www.helpareporter.com to scroll through all the responses to your query.

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.


Over 90 people responded to my query about tips to get out of a creative slump. I picked 27 of them to create this article:

27 Ideas Break Creative Slump

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, social handles, and note their areas of specialties. Then reach out to them when you want their input on the content being created.

As you cultivate new sources for your #content, make sure to document their participation and contact information, says @AnnGynn via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

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 HARO’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.

Grow your source database at Content Marketing World this October. Connect with your fellow marketers working at brands that could have valuable sources for your content. Register today.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute


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