6 Ways Writers Can Avoid Pissing Off Sources

  • Sumo

We need each other. Let’s just put that out there because we all know it’s true.

But, if you're new to journalistic work (original reporting, interviewing, quoting, researching) it can be a little too easy to get absorbed into what you need to do to make an editor happy. Don't forget to also keep your go-to sources in good graces as well. Or, next time you have a deadline, you might get the cold shoulder.
If you’re new to journalistic work (original reporting, interviewing, quoting, researching) it can be a little too easy to get absorbed into what you need to do to make an editor happy. Don’t forget to also keep your go-to sources in good graces as well. Or, next time you have a deadline, you might get the cold shoulder. Image Credit: Flickr

Writers need sources to create balanced articles. Sources need writers to tell the world about their products, services, achievements and agendas.

We’re in this together, so let’s play nice, ok?

But, if you’re new to journalistic work (original reporting, interviewing, quoting, researching) it can be a little too easy to get absorbed into what you need to do to make an editor happy. Don’t forget to also keep your go-to sources in good graces as well. Or, next time you have a deadline, you might get the cold shoulder.

So, Let’s Take Care of Those Sources. Here’s How.

1. Set reasonable deadlines. We’re all human and like to sleep at night and enjoy some time away from our desks. If you ask a source to comment on a topic within a few hours (on an initial request) you’ll likely get a polite “No, thank you.” email back. As a guideline, give them at least 24 hours to respond, but a few days to a week is preferred.

2. Clarify anything you’re questioning. If you don’t quite understand a concept your source discussed or your interview recording got fuzzy and made it hard to distinguish what the person said, tell them. Ask follow-up questions. It’s best to clear up any lingering concerns before the article publishes rather than dealing with a retraction or public apology.

3. Offer to help them. Working with sources is a give and take. They provide expert insight to strengthen your writing, you give them a little free public promotion. If the publisher will allow it, try to include a link back to the source’s website or social media to help them grow their audience.

4. Thank all sources. This may seem like a no-brainier, but in the world of online communications, it’s easy to pass over an email or instant message. Even if the person who took the time to respond to your questions isn’t a great fit for your article, thank them for their time. Be courteous because they may be a perfect source for an upcoming project.

5. Connect on social media. While you’re working with your sources, connect with them on social media to build relationships. This makes it easier to connect during the revision process and to tag them when you share online content. And guess what? They’ll share it out to their networks too, which makes your publisher happy!

6. Share the article. You know that excited-mixed-with-anxious feeling you get while you wait for an article to publish? Your sources also feel that. As soon as your piece is available to the public, let them know! Share a link if it’s online or tell them the publish date if there’s a hard copy.

How do you take care of your sources? Tell me your tips and ideas in the comments below.

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