You’re on a deadline. You’re writing a story and need an industry expert to weigh in, but don’t know anyone who can comment on the piece. You posted on Twitter and LinkedIn, but can’t find anyone who fits the bill. What should you do?
Finding credible sources is hard. That’s why a number of online tools, designed to help you with this process, have sprung up. Let’s take a look at the most commonly used ones, and how they can help you.
Launched in 2008, HARO allows you to submit a free query for a source, which is then sent to thousands of potential sources via email. Sources reply to a blind email with their pitch, and if you like what they have to say, you can respond and start a conversation.
However, when you do start a conversation with somebody, it will be wise to do some digging and verify their identity. HARO has not changed at all in over a decade, and has no way of verifying that the person is who they say they are. This has caused some problems in the past.
EllisX prides itself on curating both expert sources and a network of high-quality media professionals. You need to create a free account (a 2-min process) before you can submit a ‘call for experts’ on EllisX. Once you do, your ‘call for experts’ will be displayed to verified experts who will reach out to you, if they fit the criteria you outlined. Then, you can look at their profiles and decide whether or not you want to talk to them for your piece.
It’s important to keep in mind that all experts join EllisX by invite-only, and their identity has been verified by the EllisX team. In addition, experts tend to reach out only if they fit the criteria you outlined in order to maximize their chance of getting selected.
However, if your writing focuses on topics that do not fall in the business and tech realms, your success with EllisX might be limited. The platform is relatively new and currently all experts are on the founding teams of tech startups, which may make finding certain types of sources challenging.
Qwoted can be described as a hybrid between EllisX and HARO. Their product is a free online platform, which is much more user-friendly than HARO. Once you have an account, you can submit a ‘request for a source’ in order to get pitches from relevant experts.
While Qwoted does have a large volume of experts, verifying their identity still falls on you. The information in their profiles is relatively sparse and doesn’t allow you to establish that a person indeed has credibility in a given area. In addition, you will find a large number of PR professionals on Qwoted, who will oftentimes try to pitch you on behalf of their client, as opposed to you hearing directly from the source (no pun intended).
Last but not least, if you do start a conversation with a source, Qwoted would not allow you to even see the content of the messages without logging in. Expect a lot of notification emails that don’t contain a clear indication if the message you received adds value.
SourceBottle is very similar to Qwoted, except that the profiles of potential sources contain a lot more information. Founded by a PR professional in 2009, this tool allows you to submit a ‘call for sources’ without creating a profile. Your request will then be forwarded to potential sources who will go ahead and contact you, if they see a fit. In addition, they will also suggest potential sources to you as soon as you submit your request.
Just like most other platforms, however, SourceBottle does not do any verification of its sources. At a price point of $25 a month, virtually anyone can sign up. And while the long-form profiles sources need to fill out reduce the chance of them misrepresenting their identity, they do not eliminate it completely.
Last but not least, while SourceBottle has global reach, it is very heavily focused on the English-speaking world, and Oceania in particular, which can limit your reach and the diversity of your sources.
All of these tools have their pros and cons. Deciding which one is right for you depends on the nature of your writing, your geography and the level of certainty you’d like to have in your sources' identity.
P.S. If you have a bias towards identity verification and write about business and tech, sign up here.